Back in the USSR
I woke up incredibly excited this morning at around 5:30 so eager was I to cross the border into Russia. My previous day’s conversation with the guard at the first gate of the border left me knowing that it wasn’t going to be a simple case of just wheeling the bike through. The good news was though that the guard on the gate now was a different guard and therefore it gave me the opportunity to simply play dumb.
There was once again lots of smiling on my behalf and shrugging of the shoulders. A couple of phone calls were made and I was eventually taken to a large administrative building and told to wait there. After about five minutes a soldier came back and told me to go and collect a piece of paper and my bike and head down to the next check point. I’d obviously been granted permission to cross with my bike.
Like with all borders I’m guessing it’s very much a question of who you know as a number of expensive vehicles seemed to jump the line and those in the cars subsequently then made their way to the front of each queue. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid.
I joked with the man behind me that he’d picked the wrong queue as waiting behind me would inevitably lead to a longer wait as customs officials scrutinized my ‘foreign’ passport, he didn’t understand me and I wasn’t wrong. Waiting patiently at borders though is essential and once again I’m a firm believer of just smiling at everyone whenever they look or ask a question to you.
In no time at all I was eventually through the Kazak side of things and riding my way downhill the half kilometre to the Russian side. Once again I was straight to the front of the queue and handed two slips of paper which thankfully were also written in English. As the trucks waited the young Russian soldier at the gate waved me through and it was off to the final booth for the final check. The whole process took less than half and hour and was in stark contrast to the border with Uzbekistan and just like that, I was in Russia.
Russian side of the border
So long my good friend Kazakhstan
It’s always strange when you cross over a border, in some ways I feel like there should be some small celebration, someone letting off some party poppers and presenting you with a small glass of bubbly but this is never the case. For me it was simply a case of removing my slightly tattered Kazakhstan flag on the side of my handlebar bag and replacing it with a nice new pristine Russian flag.
I looked back, waved farewell to Kazakhstan, turned around, clipped in and started my new ride in Russia which incidentally started with a ride uphill!
I’m not sure what to expect from Russia naturally I’m hoping the roads will be better. I suppose the biggest difference will be seeing more people and more life. The last three weeks I guess saw me cover some very remote places and it will make a nice change to be around civilization once again.
First Russian village......spot the tourist!
My first impressions of Russia are more trees and a huge amount of sunflowers. I rode about fifty kilometres before stopping at a roadside café. I’m not sure what is good to eat here so when it doubt it’s always best to go with the option of Borsch.
The roads aren’t too bad but are also far from perfect. They are very narrow and I’ve noticed that the density of traffic has increased considerably. I’ve been used to the luxury of almost having entire roads to myself but now I find I have traffic passing on both sides at the same time. I need to keep my wits about me for sure.
I can’t really judge Russians so early into the trip but in Kazakhstan I could always be sure of a toot on the horn or a wave, in contrast people here seem totally nonplussed at my presence.
I rode for about 130 kilometres before tiredness finally got the better of me. I stopped at one bus shelter for a short break and knew it was time for me to find a place to camp as I was doing that thing you so often see people on the subway do, they sit there and their body slowly sags from one side to another as the start to nod off. Well this is exactly what happened with me. A further ten kilometres down the road I managed to push the bike down a grassy embankment and find myself a nice tunnel for the night. It was clean and big enough for me to also wheel my bike in. I was so tired in fact that I didn’t even bother to put my tent up correctly and just choose to use the tent as a kind of sleeping bag. I had to do this because at least then I still had the protection of the fly net. I think I dozed off to sleep at just gone seven.
A single or double tunnel sir?
I’m happy to be in Russia and looking forward to arriving in Samara tomorrow not least because I know I have a ‘proper’ hotel booked there. The adventure continues!