Day 08. 27 July 2011
The big day! I would both be crossing into Russia and hopefully make it to Volgograd. The last 1oo km to the border went quickly. There was a even longer line than at the Ukrainian border. I did as last time an skipped the que and when to the front. The first border guard was a bit grumpy so he pointed me to the side and told me with sign language that I would have to wait a bit for jumping the queue... After 10 minutes he let me go, still better than waiting 4-5 hours in the queue. The border is 3 small houses and in each one you have to present your documents and get some stamps. After the first one I was standing around and waiting for the next one when one of the border guards came and told me to follow him. I think he was a senior officer as I had seen him give orders to some of the other guards. I follow him towards a big house, with mirror glass in all the windows. My first thought is “this is it!!” he wants to give me the big questioning and try to get a good bribe out of me. I follow him through the doors thinking about how much I should try to bribe with. I have never tried it so how much do you start with... To much, and you waste money, to little gives some problems. We continue through another door and into a bathroom, im a little confused, whats the point? He goes to the sink and opens the water, then he point to my face and at the water. I look in the mirror and see that my face is all black and dusty from riding with the face shield open because of the heat. Then he leaves. I laugh a bit about my thoughts, because he was just very friendly, and wanted to give me the opportunity to wash my face. I wash up, and goes back outside. He sees me and gives me a thumbs up, and the next two controls goes very quickly by russian standard. The whole border passing took about 3 hours, I think.
Leaving the border I feel very happy, no problem with only a EU-license. Or more rightly, they dident ask to see it, so I will just have to figure it out if I get pull over by a cop. The goal for the day iwas to get to Volgograd. My GPS maps dont cover Russia, so I drive on the basemap and some notes that I took from the day before from googleearth. Soon I followe the M4 north toward Moscow. The road was actually much better than the best roads in Ukraine. I started to look for a gas station because some times there is some distance between them. My Yamaha XT660R´s biggest problem is the tank size that is only 15L, and it runs 15-20 km/l so sometimes it only runs 150 km before the reserve light comes on. I drove off the highway at a gas station, but they dident accept VISA card, so no gas. I had forgot to change money at the border, so was left with plastic cards. I drove on to the next gas station, but no VISA card sign, I asked if I could pay with Euros or Dollar, but no go. I continued to the next gas station, and the reserve light came on, so I needed the gas. But they only accepted ruples. Next gas station same story. After about 8 gas stations I came to one that accepted VISA, so I filled up with 14 liters.
I rode about 80-90 km before I began looking for a gas station again. There was about 150 km to Volgograd so if I filled up I was sure I could make it all the way. After a while I saw a gas station that looked very modern and western, so I drove in and looked at the door. They where sporting a “We accept VISA” sticker on the door, on a lot of the other gas stations they had the same sticker but would not accept it. So I took a chance and filled my bike up, it was only 8 litres or so. I went in to pay. I presented my VISA card to the lady and she sad a lot very fast in russian, which I dident understand, but I understood her shaking head. NO VISA, but the gas was in the tank. I pointed to the sticker on the door, and she said a lot of things in russian. After I had pointing a couple of times at the sticker, she went and got her supervisor. She also said a lot of things in russian, but nobody spoke any english. I tried showing them some Euros and some Dollars, she just shook her head. My thought was that it was there own problem to figure it out, they said on the door that I could pay with VISA. Everybody in the gas station had stop doing anything and just looked at the discussion. After a while suddenly the whole atmosphere changed and they go very friendly and made sign that I could leave. I dident understand why and asked and tried to get an explanation. By sign language I understood that a russian guy had payed for my gas. I tried to give him some cash in euros but he wouldn’t accept it. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I was after all a totally stranger.
I continued in the heat, about 35 degrees C. When I got to Volgograd and driving around a while I found my hotel. The only problem was that I was one day earlier than my reservation. The receptionist spoke very little english but they had no free rooms. I asked if she could recommend a hotel but she wasn’t very helpful. So I got the computer and Lonely Planet out. Found a couple hotels I could try.
It was about 7 in the afternoon and I was very hot and dehydrated. Hadn’t had any real food all day, and just wanted a hotel room where I could crash. I drove to the first hotel on my list, but couldent find it. Drove to the next, right outside the hotel I was waved in to the side by a passing car. Two big russian guys came out but the where very friendly. One of them was a biker and just wanted to chat. His friend spoke some english. So we chatted a while, then he asked about what I did at night with my motorcycle. Very confident I told him I had a very strong chain, and pointed to it, as it was laying across the back of the seat. His response was a laughing “NO, NO THIS IS RUSSIA!!” while he was shaking his head. So my guess is that it doesn’t matter how you lock your bike, if somebody wants to steal it, they will succeed.
I got into the hotel, but they where full, so got on the bike and drove to the next hotel. It was very nice looking=expensive! I went in and asked for a room, tried my best at smiling to the receptionist and telling her that I was a poor traveler but need a place to sleep. She quoted me 5000 ruples for a room, its about €122. That was too expensive. So I went outside again, and drove off. That hotel was the last on my list and I was very tired and feeling dizzy from heat and lack of food and water. The time was about 22 pm, and I wanted a room. After about 5 min I was ready to pay €122 for a room and some rest. I went back to the Hotel Intourist. Again I tried smiling and asked if they offered any discounts. She looked at me and went to talk to a older lady. She came back and said that they had one room I could have for 3000 ruples(€74). I was soo happy, I just need some rest. Went to the room, drank a lot of water, got a shower and went out to get some food. That was the end of a very looong day, but also very exceting!
Queue at the border
Just past the border in Russia
Dirty and tired