26.9.2010. With the (big) help of our friend Andrea, from the LIVC. Thank you Andrea!
In the beginning of July, we boarded a ferry from Japan to Russia with the bus. Our first impression of Russia was shocking. The differences from Japan were huge. The country is a lot less developed, especially in the far eastern part, which is what we first saw.
Getting back the bus from the customs took 4 days– unbelievable! They’re still living in the communist era from this point of view. Getting back on the road however, brought such different, new feelings. All the space...the biggest continent in the world is in front of us. It was just GREAT! We loved this sensation. Siberia is beautiful which really surprised us. It is very warm in the summer! Also, driving west, we started discovering an other kind of russian cities. Clean historic downtowns, pretty buildings, animated streets… Lovely!
One of the most beautiful places was Lake Baikal. It is the deepest and biggest lake in the world. Russian people call it “the Sea”. We spent one week there, waiting for our Mongolian visa. It’s a wonderful place. Again, Russia is really surprising and seducing. In fact the food is great too!
Heading west, we enter into Mongolia. Basically, it’s the biggest camping spot in the world: the land belongs to nobody and we stayed every night in beautiful and 100% natural places. For the first two weeks, we were in a romantic love story with this country. The landscapes are beautiful, virgin open spaces, animals and nomad people.
Then, we arrived in the part of the country where there are no more roads. There were only dirt paths full of stones, dust and water. It took 2 weeks to get out of the country. At the end we really wanted to see Russia again. Due to the undeveloped roads, it took a toll on our bus and we broke down many times. Sometimes we were able to fix our problems, but sometimes we had to rely on the generosity of strangers who were motoring by and stopped to help. For instance, once the tires got buried in soft sand. Two kind gentlemen helped us for over two hours. At the end, they oponed a bottle of vodka and we drunk it all the way! Driving was funny after that…!
Anxious to get to the border, we arrived on Sunday and had to camp out till Monday morning when the border patrol came on duty. Words can not describe the sinking feeling when we were told that this border is not passable to us– but exclusive to Russian and Mongolian citizens. We had to turn around and travel to another border entrance.
So, now our last day in Mongolia there was a long, long river to cross. There was no alternative way and nobody was around. We were in the middle of the desert and we were anxious to get back to the Russian border. We chose the way we thought was the best one. We started driving in the water, but after a few meters the engine stopped, full of water. We had to wait hours before somebody arrived with a big truck and towed us out of there. So…The following day we were able to enter Russia again.
We can tell you how much we enjoyed the very simple things we take for granted, like supermarkets with fresh fruits, ATM, restaurants, internet and… paved roads!
The first region we saw is the Altay Republic; gorgeous. It looks like Switzerland, and the French mountains. We loved it. Now, day after day we are solving the troubles with the bus. It’s just staring to ride good again, without problems. Here it is the end of August, and we are in OMSK, a big city close to the border of Kazakhstan. We stayed two weeks, the time necessary to obtain the Kazakhstan visa.
With August ending, and September beginning, the difficulties and obstacles that arrived the very first day of August, we hope will disappear with the first days of September. Anyway, we are learning, day after day!
Now we are in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan and we are dealing with the embassies, consulates… to obtain 3 visas: Turkmenistan, Ouzbekistan and Iran, where we will arrive in one month. the arabian world is coming soon!