Waking up from the heat I stormed out of the tent, whipping my hands about me to move the mosquitoes aside. This morning none of us felt half as good as the day before, and our start was faster as the sun burnt into us, feeding the mosquitoes bloodlust. A farmer passed by and laughed at the knowledge of the bloodsuckers attacking us. We quickly packed up and headed off to make our way to Russia.
After a short drive we stopped at a gas station, meeting some other Ralliers and two thrilled kazaks living in Germany – they were thrilled to see Germans so far from home. Along the road we stopped at a Kazak military town to get some of the necessary groceries. We went into town for some lunch and had a clean toilet alongside well functioning Wifi, where we got the news – and recently released articles – from lately. The lady behind the counter seemed as if she couldn’t believe we would be there, staring at myself and the Norwegians in amazement and grinning uncontrollably. Lots of people came up to us and said hello, laughing incredibly and shyly all around - it felt as if we were American TV celebrities in Japan.
After Lunch we headed north, and I switched cars with Tormud to see the difference that a “lowrider” makes in Kazakstani roadtrips. Enjoying the talks and music with the other two Norwegians, we hit the road with our sumpguard consistently, causing us to be in a state of clenched muscles almost throughout the entirety of the journey. After a while, the roads finally cleared up, and we reached Semipalatinsk, the nearest city to the border, at which point the pale, yellow fields of Kazakstan began turning into deep, muddy and misty forests with enormous bugs and suddenly intense Rain – the first we had seen in three weeks.
Reaching the border, both cars realised just how un-rainproof they were. Whilst I was sitting in the back in the car queue infront of the border, rain came dripping in at both sides – the inventitiveness of our rally-infested minds allowed us to become creative as we stuffed the doors with tissues to prevent the rain coming through – it worked!
The very much Siberian atmosphere was accompanied by many bystanding alcohol stores and growing madness amidst team subtitled as Niki and I stuffed ourselves with Kazak sausages and bread.
The Russian border was exceptionally effective – searching the car in quicktime and working through our passports with exceptional speed and efficiency. We headed into Siberia looking for the nearest town and a hotel.
This was not, however, as easy as anticipated. As we increasingly got annoyed with the late hours, few people seemed prepared or willing to help us – hotels rejected us coldly despite having space and bypassers seemed to tell us to go home. This was not the impression of Russia I was hoping for, but I believe it may have been lost in translation of my both poor Russian and the late hours.
Lilly suddenly told the very grumpy Niki and me that she believes we will find a lovely hotel with a garden somewhere amongst this unbelievably soviet town – which was filled with moat-sized, knee-deep puddles and run down ghost houses. Lo- and behold we indeed ran into one immediately afterwards, and found three rooms with the suddenly friendly staff, enjoyed a beer outside before dropping into some of the most comfortable beds we have had in weeks.