2nd July 2015:
We only had 4 days in Russia … But filled with some unique experiences. (Between 25 June to 29 June 2015)
We got excited to see trees again … Within 100 km from Mongolia, but clearly still in the same geographic region ( the Altri mountain range ) the valleys started to have trees and then the hill sides started to be covered in conifers. The tallest mountains still covered in snow. With streams gushing with snow melt waters (that frosty pale blue colour .
We stayed at nice little guest house and were stoked to find supermarket which had a great mix of produce ( after remote Mongolian villages and towns). We ate BBQed marinated port(cooked by the restaurant owner) and made fried eggs and tomato in the share kitchen for breakfast. Barry and I had very enjoyable early morning walk along a nice stream and through a pine forest. And did maintenance on the cars.
We met a young couple with great English (who work in the auto sector) and some guys from an All Terrain Vehicle club testing some new ATVs . They where all keen on checking cars out and president of the club spoke great English . Check ATVCLUB.RU
We drove further north to Biysk and had little challenge finding a hotel …. again.
We where helped buy a local at service station who led us back the way we came and found a place we had driven past. And after some negotiation we had rooms and to satisfy Russian hotel paper work we all became engineers for our stay ( because the need occupation filled out on the form or in the computer). We ended up staying two nights. We all needed a rest day. Got the cars washed and vacuumed … Which was fun exercise in itself. The first challenge was finding our way around a set of one way streets for kilometres when we could see the place one 200 m from the hotel.
The layout of Biysk was a little odd ( or more correctly different ) to my urban planners eye. Wide streets and big street blocks … No real opportunity for intensity of action to happen. Although there where a few people hanging out on a couple of corners. Also the shops mainly have a very internal focus , almost defiantly because of the cold, cold winter months and double door systems mean that actual shop front starts a few metres in from the street. And we had difficulty finding a restaurant …. But we always do. … A little sign language all works. One interesting thing was that within the street blocks are significant clusters of apartment blocks. And there where nice gardens and spaces ,play equipment and the opportunity for some “community” to happen.
I was amazed also at the public transport. A city of around 200 to 250,000 people and it has tram service, with a mixture of vehicles … Some maybe as old 1940’s according to assessments of a couple of pictures I sent to Peter Newman. And bus service at better than 5 minute service with an amazing array of bus types and sizes. No bus stops I could see … Just stand on street corner and pick the bus with correct number ( a card about 30 c.m by 20cm stuck in the front, side and rear windows).
Then it was off to Rubstvock …the main town near our boarder crossing to Kazakhstan. An uneventful days drive ( apart from a couple of freeway interchanges where we messed up the clover leaf / round about and needed to do the famous u-turn in a safe place and double back. And then finding a hotel again. The fist place we stopped at looked just right … But although they seemed to have lots of keys on the shelf they said they had no rooms. We found a place Pocket Earth suggested next to the train station. A very clean little guest house type place …. Where the people where not real welcoming, but it was clean and cheap … You pay extra for a shower !!! We think it was some sort of Christian run guest house .
Barry and I start checking things on the car and Peter takes a drive to look for some shopping …. Including looking for a grease gun ….( yes the grease gun saga continues … See earlier story – the flexible hose which we replaced twice already has exploded again !!!!). Barry needed to carefully bend the aluminium tube one we had to get it to be able to access hard to get at grease nipples Leckie (Pete’s car).
Anyway, Pete comes back from the shops and we have been invited to Russian families home for dinner!!!!
And what an experience this was. All I will say here is that it was a fantastic experience. We a writing another story just about that experience.
Next day of to the boarder ….getting out Russia and into Kazakhstan was much easier than getting in …but that is to be expected.
All in all 4 our 4 days in Russia where quite a treat. …so thank you Russia … “To Russia with love !!!”