From smithsoverland.com

Diary
Stage 7 - Sunday 11 May 2008 - Day 83
By Dick and Pip Smith
May 11, 2008, 13:40

The end of the dirt - we hope?

 

We departed at 8.35am – a bit late because we had a quick phone call to Macca on Australia All Over to bring him and his listeners up to date on where we were.  The last time we spoke to them was over 6 months ago when were broken down in Mongolia.  Macca was pleased to hear that we were on our way again.

Car drivers came over to meet us and look at the Earthroamer before we left the cafe stop

One of the drivers kindly took this photo of us just before we drove back onto the highway

 

We did a quick refuel, noticing that the fuel is now cheaper at 22.9 Rubles per litre ($1.02 AUD).  It is obvious that the fuel must come up from Vladivostok so the freight cost is a bit cheaper.  That means we are getting closer to the end of our journey.

Refuelling at a typical Russian station with the locked window where you had to give the fuel amount and the money before they turned the pump on

 

We hoped to do 500 kilometres today, however we quickly found that this would be difficult.  The roads go from the most magnificent bitumen to almost being impassable.

Various tracks form in the gravel

A beautiful sky with the sun shining

Another group of Japanese cars drive past

Driving onto some bitument was always a treat

 

Today was a day of meeting adventurers.  Dick had said to Pip, “We may meet an adventurer today,” because we hadn’t met any adventurers so far on this stage of the trip.  Sure enough, a lone bicycle was coming towards us.  We stopped, and the cyclist was a crazy Russian riding his pushbike from Vladivostok to St Petersburg.  He only knew a few words of English so we couldn’t even get his name, but we did know where he was going.  We gave him our best wishes for the trip.

We met this Russian adventurer on the road, riding his bike from Vladivostok to St Petersburg

A Russian bus stop

We didn't get a flat tyre which was amazing considering how sharp many of the rocks were

There are no flag men holding a stop/go sign - we just weave amongst the road consturction vehicles

Grasses flattened by the winter snows

 

A little later we saw a Landcruiser parked beside the road.  Initially we thought it was a Russian, but when the man gave us a frantic wave we stopped, backed up, and found that it was an Englishman by the name of Mark Isles.  He left the UK about 12 months before and had been enjoying the most fantastic trip through the Middle East, Pakistan and Malaysia, then shipping his vehicle to Vladivostok before heading back to his home town in the UK.  His website is http://www.overlandcruiser.net/  We had a quick conversation, took a few photographs, and then we continued our journey.

We met a fellow adventurer, Englishman Mark Isles with his vehicle beside the road - he is heading for Moscow and then back to London

Mark took this photo of us with our Earthroamer

 

We were stopped once today at a Police post.  This was the first time we had been stopped for days – and considering that you can be stopped by the Police up to 5 or 6 times per day, we reckon we had done pretty well.  A friendly officer took our paperwork across to a small office to show his boss – who wasn’t very interested and waved us on.

The police post where the Russian policeman pulled us over, checked our papers and sent us on our way

 

Some interesting things happen on the road.  We had stopped to have lunch when a huge semi-trailer stopped.  The driver came over to take a photograph of our vehicle, then beckoned us to his cabin.  He had a sample box of what he was carrying.  It was a box of the Goulburn Valley tinned fruit, which he was shipping further north into Siberia. He was very proud to show us the Australian wording on the box and compare it with the Australia wording on our vehicle.

Truck stopped and the drivers came over to look at the map on the side of the Earthroamer

The driver showed Dick a box of Goulburn Valley tinned fruit with Product of Australia printed on it

 

Most of the day we were following the Amur River valley which forms the border with China. Gradually everything is becoming greener – there are now ploughed fields and farmers on tracked tractors ploughing.

A farmer ploughing his fields with a tracked vehicle and buring off the grass behind him

A lake beside the road

Village of Koldikan where everything is much greener now we have travelled south and descended in altitude

First river we had seen with sand

We noticed that the leaves were appearing on the trees and everything seemed greener now we had turned south and had dropped in altitude

 

After 551 kilometres for the day, we pulled of beside the railway line.  Dick wanted to at least spend one night as close as possible to the Trans-Siberian Railway, and that is exactly what we did.

 

We have now parked about 10 metres from the main line. In the first 2 hours over a dozen freight and passenger trains have gone through.  Dick walked up to the railway level crossing, where not only do the barriers come down, but huge metal plates come up from the road to stop a vehicle from accidentally driving through.  There is also a small signal box, with an attractive blonde Russian lady who waves a flag to tell the train that everything is OK.  Talk about triple safety!

We stopped for the night beside the Trans Siberian Railway line near the town of Birobidzhan - all to Dick's delight because the train comes past almost every 5 to 15 minutes!!

 

We have worked out that we have about 1,000 kilometres to go – that is still 25% of the distance from Ulan-Ude to Vladivostok, but we are hoping to do it in two days.  We have a feeling that from now on it will be on bitumen roads.

 

We should mention the colossal road works.  It is quite a credit to the Russian people that a large amount of money is being spent on this extraordinary highway. It’s like 100 Snowy Mountains schemes all at once.  We can imagine in 10 years time when it is totally sealed it will be a leading tourist attraction like the Alaskan Highway, and people will come from all around the world to drive on it.

 

Today 551 kms. 30,784 kms since Anchorage, Alaska.

 

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