Saturday, June 2, 2007

Chita - 2 June 2007

We have been out of communication for the last five days in some of the
remotest country on earth and enduring the worst road conditions I have
ever experienced.

In 2004 President Putin declared open the section of road we have just
travelled from Vladivostok to Chita, so vehicles could drive with ease the
10,000kms from East to West. I will confirm that there is a road, with
hundreds of cars on it at any one time. The condition is unbelievable,
less than 20% is sealed and much of the unsealed parts are not maintained
at all.

The first day to Khabarovsk we covered 750kms in 13 hours and were quite
pleased with ourselves. We then did two more 13 hour days to Belogorsk and
then Skovorodino covering 650 then 550kms respectively. Next day we
decided to do a gut buster and were on the road for 18 hours - thank
heavens for long day light hours, and we covered 625km! This was a
section where we were back on the original unmaintained road? plus many kilometres under
construction with regular detours off into the shrubbery.

The whole road works program is the most massive undertaking and it will be many
more years until there is a beautiful sealed road the whole way. The
volume of traffic is huge as all the new trucks, buses and cars shipped
from Japan to Vladivostok use the roadway. The drivers put tape all over the cars for
protection and then travel in groups all the way through Chita or on to

Unfortunately the conditions took their toll on our bambino and we limped
into Chita at midday today and straight to a mechanic's workshop. I left
Lang and the car there after they discovered the front springs bent and a
broken kingpin.

Lang said he will elaborate in mechanics speak when he has some free time.

That part of the trip was not pleasent but incidents along the way make up
for so much and make travelling worthwhile.

At one place we were filling with fuel and asked a bystander where to get
some food. It was a case of follow me and we ended up at a little cake
shop and were served coffee and cake and the owner refused to take any

The third night we went into an small town where there was one gastinitsa
(hotel) but for some reason we had to wait until 9pm to see if a one-bed
room was available. While we waited Lang was doing some maintenance on the
car and we attracted the usual crowd. A young man had a little English
and a guest at the hotel who could speak perfect English took it upon
themselves to organise a twin room at a local apartment building, as well
as for the car to be parked at the local police satation. These multi
storey soviet era apartment buildings look almost derelict from the outsde
but are made very comfortable inside.

Last night we came into the village at 11pm just after dark and started
asking if there was a hotel. Two men out walking indicated nyet (no) but
then had a discussion, and again it was follow me. We were then handed
over to another man and he opened the gates to a yard, took us inside and
indicated two beds in what was the kitchen area of a very simple house.

We were then shown the banya ( sauna) at the back of the
house and handed two towels. The banya is very much part of Russian
culture and there is quite a ritual involved with them. I will describe it
more at a later date This time we just used it to clean off the dust from
a long day's drive. I will descibe it more at a later date. Needless to say
was lovely to clean up, have our cups of tea and fall exhausted into bed,
and the best part was to experience at first hand the lives of the local

I will give more detail after we reach Irkutsk in two day's time. I now
must away to find out the fate of the Bambino