A Travellerspoint blog

Russia

sunny 24 °C

22nd June Yekaterinburg
Another scorcher. 34deg. Took the car down to the wash & valet this morning and it looks bright and sparkling, didn’t realise it was so dirty. Having a lazy day as it is too hot to be traipsing the streets. Reading books is the order for the afternoon, in the coolness of our room. Mike had a little adventure this morning. After dropping the car off Steve, Tony and we two went to fill in time and had a coffee at the huge shopping Mall in the central city area. There are some amazing shops and the food hall was a bit like Harrods , some fantastic foods. Yummy!! I stayed on to sus out the rest of the place and Mike & the boys went to pick up their nice clean cars. Well Mike got left behind at a set of traffic lights and then his adventure started. 9This is from memory). He could not find the petrol station and ended up quite some miles away. After trying to make sense of maps and hotel names with a Romanian who spoke no English and a Russian who spoke no Romanian he aborted the efforts there. Drove to a hotel (by chance) but nobody at the desk spoke English, so plan B into place. He found a young mother out for a walk with her 1yr old child. Well to cut the story short, she came with him in the car and issued navigation advise and got him back to our hotel. She wouldn’t take any money for her troubles so Mike stuffed some Roubles in the kid’s hand. I was home from my shopping spree and walked to the hotel about half an hour before Mike was back. Later in the afternoon we went for a lovely walk in a pleasant park just down from the hotel, then a group of us found a great Grill & hamburger café to eat dinner. Fabulous ‘Ribs’ and Steaks and freshly made Apple Pie and Ice-cream. Another yum meal.
23rd June Yekaterinburg to Perm.
8am start this morning and it was a bit cooler with a bit of rain early on. Passed and stopped by the Euro-Asian Border monument and had photos, ie, one foot each side, Ha! Easy driving today through the Ural Mountains. They are not much higher than the Bombay Hills but full of minerals and oil. Not that we saw anything much of that from the road we were on. We got a bit lost getting to the Kungur Ice Caves and had a local guy escort us there. How nice was that. A guided tour for an hour through the caves. Quite cold and were glad of our goose down jackets. Not so many icicles about at this time of the year but interesting. Nicely lit in places and pretty lakes etc. Came out to a drizzle then it started to pour. Ate our lunch in the car then on our way to Perm for the night at the Hilton. Rained all the way and very heavy at times. Very posh and a good nights sleep. The whole group ate in the hotel as it was too wet to go out and find a café. Good meal but a bit more expensive than our usual haunts.
24th June Perm to Kazan
We had 700kms to travel today so were on the road by 6am. The hotel had made us all a packed breakfast which we had at about 9am. Boy were we all ready for that. Good roads today and not so much traffic as it is Sunday. Everything started to go wrong. Delays because the Bentley was misbehaving. Then the leaders took a wrong turn and we went round in a big loop. All making our early start good for nothing. Then Mike gets pulled over by the cops as he, and ‘lead’ and a local car had passed a truck on no passing lines. Mike talked quick English and the cop babbled in Russian. I wish I could have heard that conversation. Eventually arrived at 2pm, but was in fact only 4pm, as we have crossed another time zone. But, good sides appear as we were in time to watch the Grand Prix. Ate at the restaurant round the back of the hotel, and ate well, even though some turned up their noses at the food an went into town for a meal. It has been a LONG DAY and are ready for bed after a most excellent bottle of French Wine. Good Night.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 19:58 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Mike's Thought on Siberia

sunny 36 °C

Mike’s Thoughts on Siberia
Having travelled over 4000kms across Siberia this land is nothing like we expected. It is vast and a country of contrasts. You can forget the images of Siberia that we have grown up with, probably prompted by stories of being sent to the Salt Mines. As we approach summer we have travelled through vast cultivated areas growing grain, stretching to the horizon, and massive forested areas which according to Lonely Planets, only the migrating birds, know where they finish. This is a land of huge resources, which include the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal, 640kms long and 1650m deep. It holds nearly 1/5th of the planets unfrozen fresh water. The forests have 25% of the world’s timber resources. In the west approaching the Urals they have huge oil & mineral deposits and the land is beautiful in the summer. Obviously the winter is one of the major contrasts and we haven’t seen that. Lake Baikal is frozen over for almost 8months and they run roads across it.
The people are another of the contrasts. Siberian/Russian men all appear rather plain and many are ideal candidates for gangster roles in ‘B Grade” movies. They take little care with their appearance. The young women are another story. They are beautiful and obviously make an effort with their appearance. Sure the temperatures are high but we have never seen so many very short miniskirts and 4” stiletto heels. Oh to be 30 and single again!!!!! Another contrast is the state of the roads. We have experienced highways that would rival the best motorways in NZ, and some roads that are downright atrocious. The grooves and potholes are suspension breakers. The nifty little BMW can swerve around them well but some of the boys are having real difficulty with the roughness. Petrol is cheap in Russia, roughly $NZ1/litre for 95, and we haven’t had any ‘crook’ fuel to date. Eating out is interesting and the beer is generally cheap (except in our 4 & 5star hotels). Today is a ‘layover and maintenance’ day, and the car had its first treat—a visit to the car- wash and valet. All set to leave Siberia, cross the Urals and heading for the Volgar.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 00:41 Tagged siberia Comments (2)

The end of the Siberia Trail

Russia in a couple of days.

sunny 38 °C

19th June Ishim to Tyumen
Today was a short drive, only 287kms from the worst hotel to what is possibly the best. Same scenery, more miles of grain fields, some forestry and the usual little villages. Roads getting a bit better but you still have to keep an eagle eye out for the potholes which are quite capable of breaking suspensions. Nice meal in the hotel tonight and an early night to catch up on some sleep after partying last night.
20th June Tyumen to Yekaterinburg
9am start today as we have 330kms to do. It was hot even then and got worse as the day progressed. Grain fields once more surrounded by the Silver Birch and the Taiga. Had yet another lunch stop at the side of the road. No nice laybys like at home and when you find somewhere it is usually quite rubbishy so you have to spray on the insect repellent, eat reasonably quickly and get on the road again. All part of the adventure. Arrived in Yekaterinburg about 3pm to heavy rush hour traffic. But all managed to get to the hotel really well in convoy. Often it’s a disaster as people can’t keep in close enough convoy, what with light changes and cars barging infront of you. Mike does well negotiating the traffic. Walked out in the 30deg heat and found a meal. Always a challenge as we need English menus or ones with pictures!! We don’t do so badly and we haven’t lost any weight.

21st June Yekaterinburg
Well it has only been 28deg today so we are pretty wrung out, especially after a City Tour in a bus with no air conditioning. Yuk! Saw a few things though. The pop is 1,4 million so quite a big town as it were. We also did walking this morning so has been a full day. We have a maintenance day tomorrow, not that we need to do anything to the BMW. So may see a few more sights if the temps are not so fierce. We have a great huge room, the aircon is marvellous and the washing dries in a day. I had not been expecting the temperatures to be so high so am having to wash our shirts daily but no probs!! We brought too many warm clothes and a few less cool which we should have had more of, who cares we are all in the same boat I think. Finding a meal shouldn’t be a problem tonight as there seems to be plenty in walking range.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 05:24 Archived in Russia Tagged siberia Comments (1)

More Siberia

It goes on forever

sunny 28 °C

Krasnoyarsk 14th June.
A beautiful sunny, hot day. Had a good sleep after yesterday’s long drive. Mike & I walked around the city centre this morning, just looking and watching. Quite a busy town, trams and busses and plenty of people and traffic. It is easy to cross the road, no motorist wants to run you down (maybe the threat of the salt mines!) and it is all very polite. The whole group got a bus at 1pm and were taken to see a hydro dam on the river up stream. A bit of a busman’s holiday we thought as not an exciting trip and it was stinking hot in the bus. Temperatures today must have been into the 30’s. It has cooled for the evening thank goodness so we wandered round the square in front of the hotel. We have had an interesting meal if kebab lamb, tomatoes & cucumber fresh onions and cool slabs of potato. All for about $15, plus a couple of beers. All served on frail disposable plates and frailer cutlery. We did a lot of people watching. All the young folk are smoking like chimneys, even the girls who smoke some very skinny variety. The fashion is all over the place. Some women look so smart and the rest just wear what they like. I suppose it is much like teenagers the world over. Another 5am start in the morning so will try to go to sleep with the sun still up. The hotel is kindly parcelling up 18 breakfasts for us all as we are off so early. They will be ready to pick up at 4.30am. So that’s pretty cool.
Diary Entry 15th June. Krasnoyarsk to Novesirbrisk
Well it was a very long day for us. An hour longer than everyone else. Yes of-course I set the alarm on the i-Pod!!. And yes I set it fir 4.30am. Except I had not readjusted to the time zone so we were up at 3.30am Ha Ha Ha…… Anyway we were on time for a 5am start. Driving through rolling hills with the Taiga (forest) one moment then through the wheat fields. A really good day as the roads were much better. I am getting more confident at passing huge trucks and slower cars, and with the help of my navigator I manage to slide through ahead of the pack. Must admit it is a bit hairy at times. Ask Mike!!! Just as we hit the city we were treated to thunder, lightning and torrential rain, boy was I glad that we had changed drivers to drive into town. All over in about an hour but man was it impressive. Eating out in the evenings is getting easier as we travel west as it is a bit more western food. Not that we have starved mind you. We covered 878kms today, what a good effort.

16th June. Novosirbirsk
This morning we have spent at the local Zoo. A huge area and quit a nice Zoo, as they go. The Polar Bears have the same disease as the on at the Auckland Zoo—viz.. walking up and down the enclosure and shaking their heads and repeating the process. It Must be a symptom of being in a Zoo !! poor things. Apart from that we enjoyed the garden areas and it was interesting. Being a Saturday it was packed with families, a delight to see smiling kid’s faces. We will no doubt find ourselves another cheap meal later. (5pm now). A goodly meal at the Beer House, Shishkebab & Salad, beer & wine. (posted)
17th June Novosibirsk to Omsk
A 7.30am start today and it is hot already. The Steppes go on forever. Wheat fields as far as the eye can see again. Some wheat is brown and ready to harvest but most is still small and green. It is not an unpleasant journey, calming green fields. There are thousands of kilometres of wide flat land, and as we have travelled mostly in this road line. How lazy of us not to go out to find a meal but when Pizza’s are offered to be delivered to the hotel we are staying in we go for it. And they were OK pizza. Strolled round the inner city afterwards but we were both tired after a long days drive and a previous night with not much sleep due to a ‘Rage” at the building opposite all night.
18th June Omsk to Ishim
Allowed an extra hour sleep this morning and were on the road by 8am. Lucky we were early off, as Brian and Colin had some Brake shoe problems that had to be fixed. So we ahd an early morning-tea stop while the local welder and mechanic could solve the problem. Made good time and were in Ishim by 2.30pm. More of the same scenery today, it just keeps on keeping on. Ishim is a small town and a bit grubby. We waited on the side of the road till ‘Lead’ found the hotel and then proceeded to it. A couple of the cars had a spot of trouble with the local rabble, who wanted to sit in their cars and then wouldn’t get out. One of the chaps had his cap stolen and they were also demanding money with sign language menaces, ie, running the finger across the throat!! The first time we have felt uncomfortable in Russia. We just have to be very vigilant about these things. We have crossed another time-zone so have an hour up our sleeves again. Means we have to drink more beer as an aperitif. Bad luck!!! The meal is organised here at the hotel as there doesn’t seem to be any restaurants, so will be interesting to see what is on the menu. In the meantime a shower is on the cards as it has been a very hot day again. The meal turned out to be OK and with a few bottles of wine on the table and a couple of Vodka chasers we all had a pretty good evening. Our room requires a special mention !! it included a small lounge, complete with china cabinet and bone china cups, an extremely large (plastic) leather couch and a drop-leaf table. In the bedroom were two single beds complete with bedspreads with hearts design with matching pink towels and flannels. The crowning glory was a (plastic) fireplace which lit up the silver birch logs and on the mantelpiece was an ornate (plastic) mantle-clock. A mixture of décor that has to be seen to be believed. See photo gallery.
19th June Ishim to Tyumen
Today was a short drive, only 287kms from the worst hotel to what is possibly the best. Same scenery, more miles of grain fields, some forestry and the usual little villages. Roads getting a bit better but you still have to keep an eagle eye out for the potholes which are quite capable of breaking suspensions. Nice meal in the hotel tonight and an early night to catch up on some sleep after partying last night.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 08:29 Archived in Russia Tagged siberia Comments (1)

Siberia still

sunny 24 °C

Krasnoyarsk 14th June.
A beautiful sunny, hot day. Had a good sleep after yesterday’s long drive. Mike & I walked around the city centre this morning, just looking and watching. Quite a busy town, trams and busses and plenty of people and traffic. It is easy to cross the road, no motorist wants to run you down (maybe the threat of the salt mines!) and it is all very polite. The whole group got a bus at 1pm and were taken to see a hydro dam on the river up stream. A bit of a busman’s holiday we thought as not an exciting trip and it was stinking hot in the bus. Temperatures today must have been into the 30’s. It has cooled for the evening thank goodness so we wandered round the square in front of the hotel. We have had an interesting meal if kebab lamb, tomatoes & cucumber fresh onions and cool slabs of potato. All for about $15, plus a couple of beers. All served on frail disposable plates and frailer cutlery. We did a lot of people watching. All the young folk are smoking like chimneys, even the girls who smoke some very skinny variety. The fashion is all over the place. Some women look so smart and the rest just wear what they like. I suppose it is much like teenagers the world over. Another 5am start in the morning so will try to go to sleep with the sun still up. The hotel is kindly parcelling up 18 breakfasts for us all as we are off so early. They will be ready to pick up at 4.30am. So that’s pretty cool.
Diary Entry 15th June. Krasnoyarsk to Novesirbrisk
Well it was a very long day for us. An hour longer than everyone else. Yes of-course I set the alarm on the i-Pod!!. And yes I set it fir 4.30am. Except I had not readjusted to the time zone so we were up at 3.30am Ha Ha Ha…… Anyway we were on time for a 5am start. Driving through rolling hills with the Taiga (forest) one moment then through the wheat fields. A really good day as the roads were much better. I am getting more confident at passing huge trucks and slower cars, and with the help of my navigator I manage to slide through ahead of the pack. Must admit it is a bit hairy at times. Ask Mike!!! Just as we hit the city we were treated to thunder, lightning and torrential rain, boy was I glad that we had changed drivers to drive into town. All over in about an hour but man was it impressive. Eating out in the evenings is getting easier as we travel west as it is a bit more western food. Not that we have starved mind you. We covered 878kms today, what a good effort.

16th June. Novosirbirsk
This morning we have spent at the local Zoo. A huge area and quit a nice Zoo, as they go. The Polar Bears have the same disease as the on at the Auckland Zoo—viz.. walking up and down the enclosure and shaking their heads and repeating the process. It Must be a symptom of being in a Zoo !! poor things. Apart from that we enjoyed the garden areas and it was interesting. Being a Saturday it was packed with families, a delight to see smiling kid’s faces. We will no doubt find ourselves another cheap meal later. (5pm now).
Thanks to all who have commented on our story. We hope you enjoy it. Special thanks for the botanical info Kirsty & Jim. We will look for that as we rush by, or stop for lunch.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 03:24 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

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