Passing Russia again
We cross the last of Kazakhstan without too much trouble the roads are reasonable for most of it. We line up for the Russian border and cross in 2 hours and head into this more remote part of Russia. When we stop at a garage to check a route Mike has a very funny chat with the attendant in Russian but we can hear he is listing off all the Irish things he knows especially music U2, Enya and Riverdance. He also asks us if we have had any trouble with bandits saying this is a very poor part of Russia. Mike tells him no people have been very kind to us, he says Russian’s have big soul. We are cautious to hide behind a big hedge in a field for our evening campsite off the road in otherwise open countryside.
Next day we pass through Barnaul stopping so Mike can get a new printout of a border document we need that Gohelp have emailed him He has fun in a local post office with internet and many different queues, while we get supper in a shopping mall crepe cafe across the road using the pointbook (picture book for travelers that Spike lent us) much to the amusement of the staff.
Then its on to get some distance behind us on the best roads we’ve had for the night before finding a campsite in the more affluent tourist areas we are heading into. We are hot and Finn spots some river swimming but we can’t find how to stop but are all thrilled when Mike spots a sign to lakeside camping. We have a great swim and use the now hot solar shower for a wash and enjoy a campfire.
The next days drive is amazing through the mountains and following a wild and wide huge river. We are in a popular Russia tourist area and it is easy to see why it is stunning. The mountains are alp like and go on forever. We stop at a market and look through wood carvings, crafts, honey, and fur hats before continuing through huge valleys and towns that remind me of ones I saw in the mountains of Colorado. We pick up supplies at a supermaket but also stop at a roadside lady and get freshly dug potatoes and and some other vegetables. When we produce a big rouble note she laughs and says she cannot give us change for it. We dig out all our smaller stuff which doesn’t seem like enough, but she insists that it will do and wants us to have the vegetables.
After leaving the tourist areas, we get a puncture on a steep hill but Mike and Eli manage to get the rear wheel high enough to change it and we continue on finding a wild west type town in which we spot a tyre repair place. It doesn’t take long and costs 7euro. While we wait for the repair we watch a boy about Sammy’s age come and go from the garage with friends on a motor bike.
The mountains begin to spread away from us in wider and wider valleys until we are on a flat steppe again bordered by mountains heading for the border. We pass by a few more Russian towns with eagles circling their windswept streets, we counted 20, wondering what they are like in winter in this isolated area. Then taking the best road for days we speed across the landscape to the Mongolian border, just making it as the sun is setting behind us again.