Monday, July 19, 2010
Chelyabinsk to Samara
Rules here it seems can be bent and broken to suit the needs of those who inforce them.
Waiting in the lobby, in front of reception, for a taxi to take us to 78 Karla Marksa so we can sort out our registration problem, the receptionist calls us over to take a phone call. The caller is 'the Specialist' who we are to meet this morning to sort things out. She informs me they have decided to wave the fine, there is no need to come and meet with her and to have a nice day.
You could have knocked me over with a feather, this is not what I or J'ean expected because there is always a fuss about being registered. Not being one to argue the reason, we just saved one hundred dollars, I inform J'ean its all sorted and head for the door before someone changes their mind.
J'ean wants a hair cut and its the first thing we look for before going to much further. With a little help from people on the street we find a hairdresser. For most guys getting a haircut is a 10 minute affair and 10 bucks, end of story. For the first ten minutes I found it hard to contain the laughter as I watch the hairdresser get J'ean ready for a haircut. After having his hair washed, upstairs, it takes another 45 mins to cut and trim his hair, one hair at a time I am thinking. Its only when the hairdresser produces a cut throat razor that my brain snaps to attention, trimming the sides and back of his neck with this lethal tool. So much time, so much entertainment and a haircut all for less than 10 bucks!
Chelyabinsk has a casual aura about it, like nothing is to much problem and time is of no real concern. It could be compared to island life in the pacific. Checking out some of the local attractions in the city centre like the life sized bronze statues and souvenir stalls we find our selves at the the other end one of the main streets (ul. Kirova) in front of a large green topped church. I have never really felt comfortable in churches but it is while standing in front of the main doors that an elderly woman motions for us to enter. The interior is collection of paintings on the walls and ceiling, we would have liked to take photos but it just didnt seem right somehow, so we are content to just look and wander around in silence.
Leaving the church and entering the open market next to it is the complete opposite. No solitude here, laughter, loud conversations, the clatter of merchants moving things and smells that sometimes make the nose wrinkle up in distaste. It is amazing the things you find in these markets, alot tools, untensils and things that for me are from a bygone era.
Walking back in the afternoon sun and enjoying the surroundings we notice something not quite in character for a Russian city - Subway. Need I say more......yum, yum, yum!
29 June Tuesday Chelyabinsk to Ufa
This morning is another great day for riding but for some reason the ride is a real drag. I have heard that this happens to riders and travellers who move constantly for extended periods of time. For me, I thought the time we spend in the places we stop was enough, obviously I am wrong.
The road to Ufa is scattered with road side souvenir stalls and small stands with jars of honey for sale. Not even the shiny strange looking thnigs at these places can encourage us to stop. There would be an exception if we had the room and that is for the fresh fruits stalls of summer fruits.
As we ride over the lower end of the Ural Mountains, more like foot hills if compared to New Zealand, the scenery is green and lush and easy to compare to the some of the roads back home. As we creast one of the hills and look ahead to the up and coming road, my only thought is....Shit!
There is bumper to bumper traffic and most of it trucks.....stopped. It would not be an exaggeration to say a couple of hundred vehicles queued and waiting, for what we dont know. Creeping past this line we notice a cafe off to out left and decide if we must wait for something we may as well do it while enjoying a cold drink. We loose the hot sweaty jackets, gloves and helmets and replace them with an ice cold beers and a cool place to sit in the shade while we watch we the other drivers cook in their vehicles.
The reason for the que soon becomes apparent as we ride down to the front of the line..... Traffic lights, put up for the control of traffic to cross a bridge on one side while repairs are made to the other. Being at the front now gave us a clear run all the way to Ufa, the moment the light turned green that is!
Turkish food is another thing I never expected to find here, but next to the Hotel Agidel where we are staying is a splendid turkish restuarant. I am sure we got a lot more than what was ordered.
30 June Wednesday Ufa to Samara (Merniy)
Vladimir, the guy we meet on the Transalp, had emailed some friends of his in Samara, consequently we recieved and email from them inviting us to come and stay. Strange thing to be invited to come and stay with someone you have never meet or even know. We accept the invitation and our original destination of Kazan is replaced with Samara.
About 100km out of Samara we get pulled up by the police, not entirely sure for what, but as we know there does not have to be a reason. In this case however it turns out there is. I had crossed a solid white line while passing a line of trucks and they it on video. It must have been a bit of surprise to them to see two of us stop when all they had seen was me. J'ean had passed but used the shoulder on the other side as we had got used to doing. Dont ask about the legalities of this, its not uncommon here. Anyway, what I had done was wrong and a fine had to be paid.... six thousand rubles..... it started out at three hundred US, then changed to nine hundred rubles and with a protest of shock from me ended at six, after all I did want my passport back.
As we arrived in Samara it starts raining so taking a shelter under some trees, we contact Alexey for directions to his place.
As it turns out it is easier for him to meet us and us to follow him and it is soon apparent why. Alexey and his family live about 50km out of the city in another area called Merniy.
We have both had a banya before but nothing like the the experience we got from our hosts here. After a delicious meal had out doors, to hot to sit inside, we are invited to have a banya and clean up. How to describe......hmmmmm...... lets just say to be cooked within an inch of your life then cooled, enjoying exotic herbal teas, recooked and then beaten with leafy branches from a tree is an experience not for all. Sleep came easy tonight :)))