Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Snoqualmie

27th December 2010 by Helen

It was with much sadness we left Seattle behind, having renewed friendships and made new friends, all of whom we look forward to keeping in touch with in the future.  But we are on a journey and sooner or later we would have to pick up the mantle and move on again.

And so it was, on Boxing Day (in the UK), two months after we first arrived on these shores, we packed up the car and headed off, as we had planned, back to Snoqualmie, where we had been with the local Land Rover club the previous week.  By the time we arrived daylight was fading so we headed straight for a spot where we had seen some campers the previous week and put up our roof tent.  It’s a long wide space, and just ahead we can see the signs indicating there is a closed road here.

It was cold and snowing.  We realised we were right underneath some power lines.  Looking up the lines glowed a faint green in the gloom beneath the stars.  The electrical buzzing sounded like a waterfall was only a few metres away.  Less pleasant, the ground below us was very wet with lots of puddles.  We decided we’d find somewhere better in the morning and so did not bother to put up the ground tent.

We ate a traditional Boxing Day meal – left over chicken from Christmas dinner, followed by mandarins and chocolate mousse desserts – accompanied by the twinkling lights of Landy’s very own Christmas tree, a personal gift to him from Carl.

Snuggled up in our sleeping bags under the duvet we were warm and comfortable, lulled to sleep by the sound of the artificial waterfall above our heads.

CLANG!!  CLANG!!  CLANG!!

evidence of snow overnight in Snoqualmie

evidence of snow overnight in Snoqualmie

We were being roughly woken by the sound of someone banging hard on the aluminium roof ladder.  Paul peered out to find a torch being shone in his face.  “Washington State Police.  You are trespassing on a private road that belongs to the electricity company.”  A few exchanges later and we go back to sleep.  We’ve agreed to move in the morning.  No problem, we’d planned to anyway.

Next morning we wake to see six inches of snow has fallen in the night.  The trees are bowing under the weight and occasionally drop their load of snow and spring back into place with, if you believe trees have feelings, some relief.  We cook breakfast and chat with a local man who is out walking his dogs.  Three border collies, one black and white retired search and rescue dog, two brown and white.  He later emails us with his contact details, saying that if anyone is passing this way in future he is happy to share a beer and offer a bed for the night.

Eventually we move on.

Campsite – Snoqualmie

Distance travelled – 50 miles

A day at the border

14th September 2010 by Helen

Tuesday 14th September

A boring day spent at the Mongolian / Russian border

Come morning I awoke from a lovely night’s slumber.  Paul is bleary eyed from sleeplessness, the wind only having apparently abated while the rain beat down.  He says that the protector in him won’t let him sleep deeply if he fears the tent may be weather damaged.  After a breakfast of apples we headed off for the border again.

Today’s border crossing was both easy and tedious.  The easy bit was the absence of any hostility or antagonism from the various border guards and customs officials.  One ‘charge’ of 100 roubles to process a form might have been seen as a bribe but the exchange rate suggests this was only a little over £2.00 and so not something we baulked at too much.

The tedious bit was that the whole process took eight hours.  Our longest border crossing yet!!

Having parked so close to the border we had arrived easily at 10.00 am on the Mongolian side.  There were a few cars and small trucks already there but significantly nobody seemed to be moving.  Occasionally a car or a truck might be called through, however not necessarily in order of arrival.  There were lots of people walking around, and we were pestered quite a bit by money touts trying to get us to buy Roubles from them.  We didn’t want any Roubles as we already have about £60 which is enough to last us until we get to the next main town and an ATM where we will undoubtedly get a better rate.  Several dogs were also running around, stopping beside cars to sit and watch the occupants.  Sometimes they were successful in persuading the car occupants to pass on some crumbs or tastier morsels in this way.  We donated two biscuits, one to a young female dog who looked as though she had not long had a litter and another to an older dog on the grounds that most people fall for the puppy appeal.  A much younger puppy was running around drinking water from the puddles and playing, not yet having learned either the art of or need for begging. 

Finally we were called forward and we drove through the first set of gates.  Our passports were checked and we joined another queue.  And so it went on, first through passport control and customs on the Mongolian side and then through passport control and customs on the Russian side.

No doubt some of today’s delays were because it is only possible to exit Mongolia at the same rate as cars are processed entering Russia as there is in effect no no-man’s land.  With only about 20 metres separating the two border controls this has to be the narrowest no-man’s land we have seen so far, and in complete contrast to the Russian/Mongolian border in the west which at about 25km is probably the longest we have encountered.

But eventually we were through and once again we were driving through Russian countryside.   We later work out it has taken about 8 hours to get through.  Unfortunately neither of us has a working watch any more and all certainty about time has gone.  The battery on my watch died a few weeks ago, whilst Paul dropped his in the shower at the Oasis and he proved the ‘virtually’ element of his virtually indestructible watch!!

The scenery is so different here in Russia.  So quickly we have left the barrenness of Mongolia and are now surrounded by trees and small forests that line the road.  The signs of autumn are much stronger now, there are trees of gold amongst the green, while smaller bushes and shrubs of bronze line the roads we travel.

Although the sky is grey and overcast in the distance there is a small patch of blue sky through which the sunset is beginning to be visible.  As we turn a corner the hills ahead of us are bathed in a deep rich redness, reflecting the setting sun.

Although we are heading for Ulan-Ude where we need to stop for a couple of days to register our visas, we are planning first to visit the enormous Lake Baikal, to honour a commitment we made while we were in Astrakhan to take some photos and email them to someone we met who helped us.  We have entered Russia on the A165 but plan to cut west across between the A165 and the M55 (which runs alongside a part of Lake Baikal), following some of the secondary and minor roads on the map.  But it’s a long drive and eventually as the darkness is enveloping us more we finally pull over to camp for the night.  It’s cold but not windy or raining and for that we are grateful.  Paul at least is hoping to sleep better tonight than last night.

Campsite – Gusinoye Ozero

Distance travelled – 132 km

Toilets and more interesting people

12th July 2010 by Helen

10th July 2010

Ploughing on to Almaty today.

The scenery is changing.  We are leaving behind the deserts and savannah and today the Tien Chen mountains opened up before us as we approached Almaty.  Despite the heat we have seen roadside stallholders selling winter clothes and whole animal pelts.  Fruit is much more common among the roadside stallholders.

Toilets have been an interesting experience over the last few weeks.  We first came across the latrine over which you have to squate way back in Ukraine.  Whilst Russia was mixed, throughout Kazakhstan the toilet you can sit on has been a novelty.  Why should we think this is about being poor or a bad thing.  Many of these toilets are clean.  This is a far more appropriate system than wasting gallons of water where water is precious, particularly in the desert, and where water has to be collected from a well or tap out in the street.  I am slowly learning to balance on my heels (an essential skills, trust me).  However, today we came across two sets of public toilets that have been different in the extreme.  First, at a large cafe, very modern in many respects, the toilets were also modern, and had a charge of 30 Tenge.  The toilet itself still requires the ability to squat but this time over a china bowl.  And the water is flushed from a cistern with a pull chain.  But whilst there was small partitions between the toilets, there were no doors!!  Then tonight, being so close to the city of Almaty we were in the suburbs, we opted to camp in a TIR park.  All well and good, except the toilets here were so vile as to make the option of one’s buttocks being tickled by the grass (or insects or who knows what) a much more prefereable option than the privacy of a wooden hut emitting a smell that could be identified from 30 feet away.

Apart from that the lorry park held a new experience.  Drinking tea in the back of an empty container, Paul, in a combination of French and English managed a lengthy and informative conversation with a French speaking Turkish lorry driver.  We know his wife has died, he has two children, where he was brought up and where he has travelled, which is extensive to say the least, and how old he is.  How much he knows about us we’re not so sure.  The dogs roaming the park were happily playing together until it was time for us to be going to sleep, when they all began arguing, barking, fighting and generally creating a racket for much of the night.  Not that I was aware of any of this – I only have Paul’s word for it!!

(sorry no photos yet – not downloaded – but we have a lovely one of Landy nestling between two Turkish lorries – will post later hopefully)