Saturday, June 9, 2007

Novosibirsk 8 June 2007

We arrived in Novosibirsk late yesterday afternoon after making over
500kms for the day. When we arrived we saw an Austin 7 in the car park of
the hotel, and another rolled in a few hours later. These cars belong to
two British couples who are doing the Peking Paris route. Also at the
hotel are the British organisers for the 120 car strong Peking Paris
Rally. They are due in to town late today. Our Itala is part of the group,
doing the trip for the second time. It will be probably wise to stay ahead
of this gaggle as they will book out the towns as they come through.

The last few days have been very special. Firstly, we had a lovely night
at Sergey's apartment in Irkutsk. We met with his wife Olga their two
young daughters, Sergey's mother and Nadia who was also on our Peking
Paris trip. Both Sergey and Nadia speak perfect English so we had a great catch up
and thank them very much for their hospitality.

From Irkutsk we actually were on better roads and did a long 800km day to
Kansk. Lang had been worried that since our front end trouble the front
tyres had been scrubbed down and he had been rotating them. Next morning
we went into Krasnoyarsk and started looking for tyre places. After many
hours and not much luck we found a place that sold us two a little wider
than the originals. On every little bump there was awful graunching as they
hit the mudguards, but we seemed to have no alternative. On driving out of
town we saw a tyre flea market with dozens of stalls with piles of tyres.
Amongst all of these we managed to get two the same as our originals, so
we abandoned our newly bought ones and had the new Russian tyres fitted
and away we zoomed.

Since doing the trip two years ago I have remained in touch with a number
of the wonderful people we met along the way. Any of you who have seen the
ABC Peking Paris documentary will remember Roman and his mother Olga who,
while we were camped one night, came out to our campsite with loads of
food and stayed with us around the camp fire laughing and singing, eating
and drinking. We had arranged to again call into their village on our way

As we were coming down the road in the afternoon there were two Fiat cars
on the roadside and we were flagged down by Leonid, Olga's husband
waving a Russian flag. We were escorted into the village where Olga was
waiting with a traditional cake that we had to break a piece off and eat
immediately. We were ushered inside and there was a table stacked with a
huge feast of home cooked goodies. For the next many hours we laughed and
sang and ate and drank.. As none of them speak English, Olga had invited
the English teacher from the local school and Valya was our interpreter,
during our stay. She was kept very busy but it made the whole visit so
much easier. Also present were their daughter Anna, and son Dimitry, a
neighbour Lena and Leonid's father. Unfortunately Roman was in the middle
of his exams at university in Krasnoyarsk and we missed seeing him.

Before we went to bed we went to Lena's house where we had the full-on
banya. Lang and Leonid went first and then Olga and Lena took me. I was
told to strip and given a robe then we entered the steam room where there
is a furnace heating rocks. As there is no running water there are urns
containing hot and cold water and with long handled ladles with which you
put warm water in a large basin. I shed the robe and commence washing.
They took over and I had my hair washed and was rubbed down with a looffa.
I was then instructed to lay on the wooden bench that had been cooled
with cold water and Olga took the bunch of birch leaves and hit me all
over with them. She would throw water on the rocks and make the leaves hot
in the steam and then repeat the process with cooler leaves. The heat was
like a sauna and I can see when it gets to –40 in the winter how wonderful
this ritual would be. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and after the
customary beer (I opted for tea) we were than more than ready for bed.
Again in the morning we had a huge breakfast and were sent off with bags
of food and drink for the road.

We were given loads of presents. Leonid who is a professional hunter
gave Lang a hunting knife and a mounted deers head. The mayor of the
village, Olga, visited us and gave us a traditional birch bark basket with
pine cones and pine nuts in it, and some local flags.

We were completely overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity we
received and this is a memory we will always treasure. Thank you very much
to the Khvidzevich family for such a wonderful experience.