From Russia with Love
Hello All and greetings from Russia!
Grettle is on splendid form and its wonderful to be back on the road at last! Roman, Milash and I have made it to Barnaul in Russia, and have covered about 1600km since setting off from Amigo Hostel last week!
Egor was a star, and put Grettle back together as fast as he could. It turned out that the new engine parts were in fact from a different model of Vespa, but luckily they all fit in and should work fine and dandy which is super! I am told that the parts are all in great shape and good condition and so with any luck, will get me to Mongolia and beyond!
A complete Vespa!!
We have had a super time camping through Kazakhstan, and spent our nights in a mix-match of weird and wonderful places. The first was a nice hill top about 300km from Almaty...
The next day was not QUITE such a good view it has to be said. We aimed to reach a splash of blue on the map, but dreams of camping on the shores of an idyllic lake were thwarted as we arrived at destination, to find no lake, a hell of a lot of mosquitoes, and marsh land that seemed to go on forever. We wound up in a not so pleasant parking lot with an interesting new friend....
Night 3 was really super...as things tend to do when one is not looking for them, the idyllic lake of our dreams on day 2, appeared out of the blue as we drove into the north eastern part of Kazakhstan. We found a dirt track and wound our way through mud and long grass until finally reaching a stunning opening to the shore of the lake, where green grass parted to reveal clear blue water, a wonderful view of the mountains, a family fishing, and a pastel pink sunset that melted into the lush greens and yellows of the surrounding hills.
Milash had his doubts somewhere along the dirt track that we would ever find an opening to the lake, and so he sped off in search of another place, leaving Roman and I on our mission to find the perfect camping spot.
Grettle and I had our first topple into a muddy bog in the process, and arrived at the lake in desperate need of a wash. As soon as we reached the opening, I dived into the water, Roman lit a fire, and we cooked up some eggplant and onion for supper- well- we tried, but just as the vegetables were beginning to sizzle nicely, a black cloud swallowed up the surrounding landscape, and a horrific storm sent the pots and pans clanging off into the distance. We took shelter in the tent and woke to clear skies and wonderful weather. Roman did some writing and I sketched a fishermen the in themorning, before reuniting with Milash and hitting the road once again.
Grettle with Pillion at a gas station in Kazakhstan...
Night four was spent just before the Russian border in a field filled with marijuana! We had aimed to cross into Russia that evening but Roman had a problem that needed fixing on his bike, and so the three of us found a camping spot in a pretty forest, and set up the tents for the night....
Roman set to work fixing various bits and pieces of his bike - now referred to as Trevor, Milash wondered off for an hour or so and appeared later holding a ginormous mushroom that he chopped up and made some slightly ominous looking soup with, I cracked open a brew or two and polished off some sketches from the morning at the lake, and once Roman was finished with his work, we ended the evening eating pot noodle soup with a healthy sprinkling of fresh marijuana for supper!
Day 5 was awfully exciting and we crossed the border into Russia!
Excited at the prospect of a shower and some good food free from old mushroom and marijuana, we stepped on it, and drove the 400km to Barnaul. Poor Grettle was rather exhausted after the long drive at top speed, and so yesterday she was rewarded with a day of rest.
We arrived in the city early evening the day before yesterday, and spent the night celebrating my first experience of Russia. We found 'bikers bar';a large underground pub, the entrance to which is marked by a huge sculpture of a motorbike intact with a shining head lamp. We drank a few too many shots of something blue lit on fire, and played pool until the night drew to a close, and we stumbled off to bed.
Yesterday was great fun, Roman and I feasted on french cuisine at a small cafe near our hostel. We had roast beef salad with blue cheese, and chicken cordon-blue, lovely garlic bread, and my first taste of white wine for several months- sublime!
We wondered down to the river port after that to do some sketching, and soon found ourselves in the midst of a huge celebration. Hundreds of Russian special forces officers were dressed in hats and stripes, waving large flags around, cooking barbecues, drinking vodka, singing loudly and listening to music playing from a port building nearby.
They all got wildly overexcited when we approached to ask them what the celebrations were about and before we could quite get to the bottom of the answer, they planted plastic plates of barbecued shashlyk, shots of Russian vodka, and mugs of beer into our hands, so I'm afraid to say I can't tell you exactly what it was all about, apart from that it was an annual celebration and one not fit for the faint-hearted! We were introduced to the chief, who proudly showed us the medals hung from his chest, whilst another man, looking a little worse for wear, wearing nothing but an apron and brandishing a sharp carving knife above his head, crashed to the floor as he toppled off his chair; the whole lot of them were completely trolleyed!
The celebrations soon turned violent when a discussion about god knows what turned sour, chairs started being hurled around, brawls broke out, police officers arrived, and finally the appearance of an ambulance marked the end of the chaos- at least for us anyway- we took our queue to leave whist limbs were still intact, and took refuge in a beer station were we sat and talked late into the evening, munching on fresh olives and feta picked up from the local supermarket.
So all in all, its been a splendid and strange time in Russia so far! I write in haste because we are hitting the road in half an hour and I have yet to pack up!
I'm not sure where or when I will next get the internet, but I will update you when possible. We will be in the midst of the Altay Mountains for the next few days, and hopefully will cross into Mongolia by the end of the week! HURRAY!
Until next time- Adios.
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