The ultimate goal of this tour is Mongolia. To get there you can either cross China or drive through Kazakstan and Russia. Entering China with your own car is a bureaucratic nightmare, you need for example a Chinese driver license and this is the least of the problems. So it is Kazakstan and Russia once again and it’s a drive well worth it. Well, not so much Kazakstan: it is a huge country and there is really nothing much to see except endless grass land and thorn down unbelievable ugly soviet cities. But the Russian Altai is really nice, a mix of Jura and Canada. They even have real cowboys up here. We where very happy to have one free day next to a beautiful river up in the mountains. We celebrated Relefs sixtieth birthday and got all drunk like, well, like the people living up here. Next day we slept till 12 o’clock and then washed our clothes in the river.
Altai is the second poorest region in Russia and you can see that. It is hillbilly county and it is dangerous. People have Vodka, Weapons and no Jobs, not the best combination indeed. It looked to me as most people are living like in the middle ages, very small wooden houses with a big garden and maybe a pork or two and of course a sauna, sometimes bigger then the house it belongs to. Also striking is that in one village people look very caucasian and in the next village people look almost Chinese. It must be very hard to keep such a country together. Nevertheless you see lots of Russian flags and other patriotic items, like for example every village has its own war memorial, one bigger and more glamorous than the other.
The sad part is that we are currently only 7 cars. Dieter and Johan didn’t make it over the border. One page in Dieters passport had a scratch and he fixed it with tesa film. The Russian Border control took hours to discuss if it is ok or not to let him through. I was joking: What are they going to do? Send you back to Kazakstan?!? Well, turns out that is exactly what they do. Even 500 dollars and a translator could not help resolve the issue: They send them back to Kazakstan and they had to drive to the capital Astana to the German Embassy who will have to confirm that the Passport is indeed valid. A 600 Km drive, one way. Fortunately it looks like the Embassy is willing to help and we hope the can enter Russia and join us again. After all: They are world champion in driving the Panamericana. But we are already well into Mongolia where it is beautiful and cold as hell. But that’s a story for the next post.