Posts Tagged ‘visas’

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 ( 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 and – 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.

Staying in one place

29th July 2010 by Helen

Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th July & Monday 26th July

2010 07 26 - working on Landy (10)

maintenance and repairs

Saturday morning the inevitable checks on the car turned up some more jobs to be done – the radiator had worked loose in its mounting, which explains the light rattle that’s started over the last day.  The water hose had also come loose and, along with other hoses, and been rubbing against each other, causing a small leak to the water hose.  And so it was on Monday that Paul had the front off the car and spent about 12 hours fixing these things, along with also sorting out some wiring that had needed finishing off and we now have a horn that works.  Means we can join in the tooting with all the other drivers!!  And a couple of jobs ticked off the to do list.

Paul creating our new front number plate

Paul creating our new front number plate

We also have a ‘number plate’ on the front bumper as well.  It’s been amazing but we have driven many miles, through loads of police road checks, and not once have we been pulled over for not having a front number plate.  Still, with the application of some white spray paint and black permanent marker pen, that’s another job ticked off the to do list.

At night we can hear what sounds like a bird calling, however there are virtually no birds in this barren place and we think it might be a small burrowing creature a little smaller than a rabbit.  There are quite a few insects here, a few spiders, plenty of flies, quite a few moths and some butterflies.  Not much in the way of mozzies or midges although I have managed to gain a few more bites while here!!  Again!!

This has been the perfect spot for Paul to tackle the job of downloading and editing videos now we’ve got the new laptop.  Progress has been slow and not without its problems.  The main one being that we have found some of the recordings have corrupted and we have lost valuable and unrepeatable footage.  He’s still finding his way around the new program on the computer but things are looking up.

For me it’s been a chance to catch up with some of the domestics, doing the washing, that sort of stuff, as well as getting on with some writing and trip admin.

2010 07 25 - campsite - sunset (22)

photos just don't do this sunset justice

We’ve seen some lovely sunsets and experienced changes in weather from burning sunshine through to chilly thunder and lightning.

We finally left quite late Monday, which is a shame because now we won’t have any time to explore Semey as our visas expire on Tuesday and we don’t know how long it will take to actually get through border controls, and so don’t want to take any chances.

Distance travelled 118

Getting sorted in Almaty

13th July 2010 by Helen

12th July

Thanks to the amazing help of Zaure we secured our visa extension and now have until 24th July before we need to leave Almaty.  She was an absolute powerhouse leading us into the Immigration office, writing a letter on our behalf requesting an extension of 15 days (the maximum we are allowed to extend) and explaining our situation.  The immigration officer was friendly and laughed at our letter (Zaure had written the letter based on what we had told her).  Once again the way people who do not know us have gone out of their way to help has been beyond anything we could have expected.  Max and Zaure’s staff have been helping us find computer cables and Land Rover parts (although the task continues tomorrow), but the greatest relief is having the visa situation resolved.

Paul has particularly marvelled at how by  chance we should meet a couple who run their business along the same principles as he has been teaching and promoting through his work in the UK, and there has been much common ground.  In a land we have already fallen in love with I suspect there will be continued contact in years to come.  I’m sure Paul will have more to say on this subject in one of his more reflective blogs later on.