Ok, where should I start? Lets start at the end: We all arrived safe and sound in Volgograd. But how was the journey to get there? On Wednesday I have meet the group in Jürmla near Riga. We are 8 cars and 14 people. That’s a little army. They drive big offroad cars, Landcruiser and Defenders mostly. I’d say most of them are already retired. Besides the 25 year old Leon, the son of Franz, I’m clearly the youngest and inexperienced in the group.
On Friday we drove through Latvia close to the Russian border. It was a very nice drive almost entirely on unpaved roads ending at very nice campground at a stunningly beautiful lake.
Next day was border crossing and a drive of some hundred kilometres into Russia. Bernd, the tour guide, said it will take around one hour to cross the border. Well it took around 4 hours, I would say, to cross it: I wonder how so many people can work so slow! But they where very friendly and well organised. I think they work exactly as fast as the Latvia Officers at the EU border: Once you cross you drive along trucks waiting to get into EU for about 5 Kilometres. They are waiting there several days for sure: Quit-pro-quo.
Now, after buying the mandatory car insurance, filling up on gas, and changing money it was getting late. We had to put the pedal to the medal to reach the campground. But it was hopeless and so we camped somewhere in the woods. Then it started to rain heavily.
Next day we drove unpaved roads until the unpaved road turned into mud and the mud turned into a swamp. It was harsh terrain. It looks less dramatic on the video, but imagine that 3 of this excellent offroad cars got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out. Of course quitschi didn’t care much and drove through those ponds as if it where a German Autobahn. Well almost: I was very happy about my offroad training and the mud terrain tiers. A lot of luck was involved in the not getting stuck business. But it was lots of fun.
This few kilometres took us several hours. A woman was walking the same distance and she was faster, no joke. While I was waiting for the once still working through the mud Alexander and Alexander arrived on an ancient motorcycle and looked at me with interests and disbelieve. The explained that this road can only be passed by an Ural. Guess we proved them wrong but it was not easy.
Of course we where late again and we had to hit the main road once again and put the pedal to the medal. We camped somewhere on a meadow, very nice, but looooots of mosquitos and sand flies. But that was to be expected here and I’m well prepared to kill this suckers by all means.
Next day Bernd decided that it is of no use to drive unpaved roads because of the conditions. So he changed plan and we drove in 2 days instead of 3 to Volgograd using the main road. This was lots of driving and you have to be concentrated all the time because there are plenty of lorries which you have to overtake, so do the cars coming from the opposite direction. If you crash it’s over almost certainly. I made it very clear that I’m not able to drive for 9-10 hours without risking my life. Dieter was so kind and offered to drive quitschi for a few hours so that I could relaxed.
Dieter is a very experienced driver: He had taken part in various rallys including paris-dakar and he is the world record holder in driving the panamericana: He and his team drove from Alaska to Feuerland in 15 days! He doesn’t care to drive for 10 hours for sure:-) Thank you Dieter.
So far I’ve seen a lot of main roads and lots of trucks and cars and not much of the country, but I will have time to look at everything on my way back. But I sure hope and also expressed my wish that the pace will change from Volgograd onwards.
In Volgograd we are in an excellent Hotel with all the luxury, like i.e. a toilet. And of course one more great thing: Alexandra also arrived last night at 4 o’clock in the morning tired but happy to have made it in Volgograd.
Volgograd is very clean city with good infrastructure. But it feels a bit as if you where at the end of the civilised world, which I guess we kind of are. But my cell phone once again was broken and I just went to buy a new one, no problem. Well, I lost all my contacts of course but that’s another story.
Ah, one more thing: Quitschi turned 100000! I hope it will run many more kilometers, but it makes no longer squeaking noises but it rumbles, which is new and Rolf, the mechanic, doesn’t know what it is, but he doesn’t look concerned, yet.