Posts Tagged ‘lorries’

In the footsteps of the famous

4th October 2010 by Helen
our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Well, after our departure from Khilok we headed off to Chita, as you know.  We’ve spent about a week here, camping alongside various lorries outside a cafe just outside of town.  It shows up well on the route map if you zoom in.  We’ve been told by one of the young women working in the cafe that a few years ago Rosie Swale-Pope (www.rosiearoundtheworld.co.uk) camped outside their cafe when she passed this way during her five year run around the world.  In the footsteps of the famous, eh!!  And we’ve introduced the cafe to the idea of lemon and sugar pancakes.  It took a bit of miming and they had to watch us eat them as they’d never heard of this combination before!!  Pancakes are usually filled with either savoury (meat – see also below) or a thick stodgy jam or served with mayonaise.

 

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Sadly, we’ve had to call of our Road of Bones section.  After the delays in Kazakhstan, then Mongolia and now Siberia, our visa times have got tighter and tighter.  We have to be out of Russia by 27th October and it’s just not possible to get to Magadan and then down to Vladivostok in the time we have left available. 

Paul in particular is gutted, it was his primary reason for travelling in this part of the world.  However the incident with the horse was the final straw.  Hopefully he will have the chance to try again in a couple of years time.  Only trouble is, with the new road having been built the old road is getting more and more impassable with time and we don’t know for how long this will be achievable.

We’ve divided our time between our ‘campsite’ and the city centre, catching up on writing sponsors reports, working on our next round of sponsorship negotiations, refining our schools project to take into account what we have learned so far (and expanding to include additional schools who want to take part), taking a look at some of the sights, such as Lenin Square, and doing a bit of shopping for a second pair of warm trousers each as we head off into still colder climes.  Doesn’t solve my general misery at finding myself clumping through a fashionable city in my hefty walking boots though!!  Young Russian women have got keeping warm and stylish down to an art.  The older ones look more stereotypical though, so maybe I should just accept my age and go with the flow!!

We have been delighted to find a Coffee-Mall with free WiFi.  The food’s not particularly cheap but it is good quality and for once it is possible to order a meat dish and get something that hasn’t been chopped up and processed into something else.  Paul is also delighted to have found decent coffee as well.  Unfortunately the service is largely desultory, but, hey, you can’t have everything!!

We have had many conversations along the way about our different approaches to food: Paul enjoys good food well cooked and lovingly presented.  He is surely the darling of the true chef, fully appreciative of their art.  I enjoy this too but as Paul will point out I have a much higher tolerance to the whole Central Aisian ‘food is fuel’ approach: meat (don’t ask what sort, the answer is usually ‘meat’, they don’t know), processed into some kind of burger, possibly wrapped in pasta, often served in some kind of stew (goulash), often with assorted arteries still visible in between the gristle and fat – served with either pasta or mashed potato, and a couple of slices of cucumber and tomato.  Virtually everything comes served with mayonaise.

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Anyway, even if the food isn’t exactly cheap the free WiFi makes up for the cost as we’d have to pay even more for the amount we’ve been using in the local Post Office provision.  At least we can use our own laptops, which is usually quicker than the ancient computers otherwise available, which makes updating blogs, sending emails, etc, etc, so much easier.

We did have a bit of excitement on Friday.  We were approached by a young man called Simon on Thursday asking us if we would be interviewed for a Russian TV programme about extreme travel.  Simon is involved in www.baikaloffroad.asia and www.club-diversant.ru – we could probably have done with knowing them when we were stuck

view through Lenin Square, Chita

view through Lenin Square, Chita

in the forest!!  One of the staff, Julia, at the station speaks good English and acted as an interpretor for us.

The weather varies between very cold and almost balmy.  In the city it can reach mid 20’s.  Outside the city: overnight it can drop below freezing and

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

sometimes we have woken up having to scrape the ice off the inside of the tent.  Reminds me of the days before central heating when my mother used to coax me out of bed to look at what ‘Jack Frost’ had painted on the inside of the window!!

We’ve been told (by Julia) that although English is the official second language, here in Siberia Chinese is much more useful for business and trade.

Through numerous emails and phone calls Paul is currently negotiating to ship Landy out of Vladivostok, probably to either Vancouver or Seattle, possibly via Japan or not.  Our plans to ship straight to Anchorage have been foiled by no-one shipping to there at present (it varies year by year).  Either way Landy’s journey will take about six weeks and so he will arrive sometime around the beginning/middle of December.  In the meantime we will be flying (we are not allowed to travel on the boat with Landy) to Anchorage, from where we will make some kind of combination journey using public transport and the ferry down to Billingham (just north of Seattle), from where we can get to the port so we can be reunited with Landy again.

I’ve missed my proverbs so had to slip one in, just in case some of you haven’t got anything better to do than ruminate on the meaning of these things!!  Rational animals of the genus Homo who have ceased to exist also ceases to recount connected narratives.

Motorways Ukraine style

22nd June 2010 by Helen

Friday 18th June

Another day of Ukrainian roads.  Ukrainian drivers are renowned for their kamikaze overtaking but rather than signs telling you how many deaths there have been over the last so many years, wrecked cars are mounted on poles high above the road as reminders of the consequences of dangerous driving.  Like the British signs these don’t appear to make much difference.  Perhaps it’s the strange mix of old soviet style lorries, coaches, and battered cars, mingling with modern TIR lorries, modern cars, and the occasional family going off to market with their horse and cart, that is at the root of this national pastime of kamikaze overtaking.  Ukraine has a good road network coverage.  By far the vast majority of roads are classified as ‘A’ roads, with a few stretches of dual carriageway and a few kilometres of motorway.  Although motorway is open to definition.  The one we drove on today had zebra crossings, bus stops, a tram line running down the ‘central reservation’, and locals selling their produce along the roadside.  That’s when there weren’t shops and cafes, where drivers could pull up outside to buy their wares.  It was as bumpy and rutted as any of the other ‘main’ roads.  The definition of dual carriageway is a normal bumpy road with a lane of grass growing down the middle.

We think we have worked out the rules for the traffic lights system.  Red means stop and green means go.  However amber, which can remain on permanently, show between red and green, be static or flash, seems to mean: do what you like but do it with a bit of caution because no one has right of way and everyone else will be doing what they like but probably with less caution than you might use.  Occasionally traffic lights are apparently turned off.  Roadworks require no bollards and we have seen only about a dozen in the whole country so far.  The sign for roadworks starts where the roadworks start.  Sometimes roadworks are being carried out without any signs or warnings and work vehicles mingle with the traffic going in both directions.

The distinct lack of both CCTV and so called safety cameras has been refreshing and something to marvel at ever since we left the UK.

Tonight we reached the border with Russia and opted for a kip in the cab (again) in the absence of anywhere really suitable (read that as pleasant) to camp.  But first we bought a rather dubious supper of some kind of ham (read ham/spam/fat/not sure what else), cheese (read tasteless rubber), dry sweet breakfast pastries, bananas, yoghurt and coke.