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Update: Sat 02:00

Whoops! A bit behind with updates.

Wednesday, 07 September

The previous update was sent in the morning before heading off to Kamensk-Ural'Skiy for reasons that were unclear to me. Not that I actually paid any attention to why we were going to any of these places. It's nice just to tag along and not have to think about anything.

On the way we passed through Karabash, I think it is, which is known as the dirtiest town in Russia, at least. Not the town itself, particularly, but rather the side effects of mining whatever it is they mine has destroyed the local water table and therefore the environment. Blackened stumps of trees poke out of the strips of land at the side of the road with yellow-brown streams meandering through.

It turns out that Kamensk-Ural'Skiy is A's home town and she's off to see her parents. I'm not invited (pfft!) and make good use of my time by washing my underpants instead.

Currently at lat/long: n56 25.027 e61 54.629

Hotel Kameya, Kamensk-Ural'Skiy

Thursday, 08 September

We spent the morning doing vital work like finding me a hairdresser and rather more prosaic matters such as getting third party insurance for while I'm in Russia. Russia seems to be a good deal more organised in terms of harassing motorists. The police have had a job lot of hand held speed cameras delivered and they like to use them. Not having all the necessary paperwork would be an additional bore.

Talking of paperwork, A had to show her passport and have her details written down when we went into the building where the insurance company was. What? She was then amazed to hear we don't put up with that sort of nonsense in the UK (unless you're a New Labour grandee).

I've had to endure (well, I've stood at the back and let A do the talking so far) in each hotel to be registered. Registered for what, who knows, but you need the little slips of paper so that someone somewhere can keep track of you and check you're not doing something untoward like spending tourist dollars. A has to be registered too, although only once, as it happens, at her parents. How bizarre and yet the institutionalisation is such that people don't think twice about it. It even goes so far as where the police have checkpoints there is always a line in the road and a stop sign. So everyone stops. OK, but half the time there is no-one to tell them to go again, so everyone stops for a second or two and then drives off. And it's just normal.

Onwards and upwards (on the map) to Yekaterinburg, the local big town. So big, in fact, the first sign I saw for it was just south of Astana. Suffice it to say that Yekaterinburg has bars and pubs, which we sampled some wares in.

Currently at lat/long: n56 49.409 e60 38.285

Hotel Atlaza, Yekaterinburg

Friday, 09 September

This morning A had finally had enough and told me to get on my bike but not before we'd paid some patriotic revolutionary duty and popped up the road to where they shot the last members of the Romanoff family (Tsar Nickolas II, wife and children) in 1918.

In a rather curious twist the site has become something of a shrine to the Russian Orthodox church and around the spot where the family were shot are now half a dozen wooden churches filled with Christian iconography and the odd picture of a Romanoff and a large monastery with what we only only surmise was a very large swimming pool.

In summary, a week with the delightful A has been...a delight. I think it's fair to say we've done our level best to improve Anglo-Russian relations though I have expressed some disappointment that my Russian, weak as it was, is probably now worse. Given the number of Russians that speak English, this is not good.

I'm now heading for Moscow and then Saint Petersburg noting that everyone in Russia who has heard this plan has been very bemused by the idea of a motorcycle in Saint Petersburg at the end of September. This is not good.

Currently at lat/long: n58 0.607 e56 14.202

Hotel Ural, Perm


Russia seems a nice place, quite Western European in many ways, quite Eastern European in others. One thing it definitely is, is expensive. My budget of EUR30 per day (for everything) has been woefully short of target. I did know that Russia might be around double that sort of number but that just for accommodation. A beer in a restaurant is $8-10, a main course, $10-15 to which you need to add a side dish (spuds, veggies etc.) at $5-10. I can't get money out of machines fast enough!

I can't complain about the delightful A's choices of lovely places to stay (although given the short notice I could give her, we didn't have a huge choice) but the nett effect is that of the approximately $1300 I might have budgeted for Russia, I have spent $1000 already. Bring on the F-Plan budget!

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