4th July 2015:
Arriving in Rubstovsk, not only was it necessary to find a hotel for the night it was becoming increasingly necessary to get access to a grease gun to enable us to grease the steering nipples of the 504. The steering was getting very heavy as a result of the heavy work the 504 had been during driving across Mongolia.
Having found lodging at a small guesthouse, I set off to see if a good find a place to buy a grease gun. (The flexible hose of the grease gun Barry had purchased in China had failed and the rigid hose did not allow access to the 504’s steering). It was late in the afternoon and whilst I did find a place it was closed and not re-opening until 9.00am the next morning.
On the way back to our lodgings I stopped to pick up some supplies at a Mini Market that I had noticed. Coming out of the shop there were a throng of people round car inspecting the car and reading the messages. A number of people wanted to add their messages including a delightful young girl of about 12 who was accompanied by her Mum. Allowing her to choose where she would write her message she intuitively chose to write it under the messages from my young neighbours Oli and Char. Like the young Russian girl Char is about 12. A delightful coincidence.
I was then approached by a young lady and her husband who turned out to be Natalie and Artem; with an offer of lodgings and a meal. Natalie has a reasonable command of English so it was a delightful conversation with other bystanders joining in. I explained that I was travelling with two companions and would have to consult with them. They promised to wait at the Supermarket for 15 minutes whilst I went back and spoke with Barry and Mike. Arriving back at the lodging I found Barry had solved the problem of the grease gun by bending the rigid nozzle and was servicing the cars. Greasing the 504 was really necessary and would take another hour or so. I raced back to Natalie and Artem and explained the situation and that we would be delighted to accept their hospitality of a meal that evening. I then followed them back to their apartment so that I would know the route to take later that evening. It was agreed that it would perhaps be better if Artem came to our lodgings at 6.30 pm and take us back to their apartment. In this way we would not get lost.
We shared a most delightful evening with Artem, Natalie, their daughter Yana and Artem’s sister Olga.
This evening is going down in the memory bank as one of our all time classic experiences of this trip.
It’s actually very hard to pay full gratitude to the fantastic hospitality we received. Our meal was fantastic and included smoked fish, stuffed capsicum, a meat loaf wrapped in cabbage and potato- bake, also with a mince and a salad. For sweats we had home preserved apricots preserved by Natalie herself.
To top it off we were served a local organic local beer; it was superb, much better than a lot of the other beers we had drunk during our travels.
The whole meal was served over a number of courses. The most amassing thing is that all this lovely food materialized in the matter of a couple of hours ….oh yeah and the fine china cups came out for a very nice tea.
Our conversations where delightful with Natalie doing most of the translations . This was also aided by the use of translator on the computer. We shared information about the cost of living in Australia and Russia and shared stories about our travel and showed some photos of our journey. They in turn shared photos of their holiday and camping ( including pictures of some very large bear tracks they had encountered in the woods) in a national park not that far from where we had been a day or two earlier.
Barry and Mike also became the subject Olga’s portrait drawings. We understand Olga is studying design and she is a very fine artist. In about 20 minutes she had prepared a very good likeness of Barry and then moved on to Mike. We hope these portraits will be in Olga’s next portfolio for her studies.
We are so grateful to this lovely Russian family; Natalie, Artem, Yana and Olga for their most amazing hospitality.
Artem has since told me that someone wrote a Russian proverb on our cars: “Ни гвоздя, ни жезла” – “No nails, no wand” – means “Do not puncture the tire, and did not meet the police.”. We hope we can live up to this proverb in the next stage of our travels through Kazakhstan.