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...across Russia

Thursday 10th August
Today we went into Moscow city, is certainly much easier having someone with you (Luda) that can read the Russian signs all you have to do is followed her and you end up on the right trains going the right direction is an even get off at the right station and go out the correct exit.

The area called the "Square of the Revolution" was undergoing quite a revolution in itself is a much that there was a massive new building being built opposite Hotel Moscow, no idea what it's going to end up being, but Moscow is certainly changing with that in all of the other buildings that are going up all around the city.

We found the Internet cafe we've used before and send off the number six newsletter, it was bitterly cold in Moscow today with a reasonably strong wind blowing, not a pleasant day to be in that city.

Now we have to get mentally prepared for a 6 a.m. departure to drive 450 kilometres.


We left Moscow in convoy at 6 a.m. to beat all of the traffic and to get started on the massive 460 kilometres for today's drive and was easygoing all the way except for the fact we're almost at the end of the convoy of the motorhomes and of course any always moves at the speed of the slowest person. I decided to go up my own speed so was very quickly leading the 18 motorhomes which gave us time to our own thing like stopping to look at a Orthodox Church built in 1861 and had only been used as a church again in the last 17 years and they have spent a lot of time in restoration, in fact they were still working on it whilst we were there.

After this we carried on South and ended up at the camping ground about 30 kilometres outside the city of Tambov on the school ground in a small village of about 600 people. About an hour after we arrived the first of the others started arriving, and we did a little bit of a walk and photographed from a distance an old Orthodox Church which from the distance did not look like it was being used and considering the size now of the village, probably wasn't.

Later we went walk through the village and the road could only be described as a fine weather road and even in fine weather there are lots of monstrous puddles, however some were large enough to almost be called Lakes. In wet weather the road would be an impassable for everything except a four-wheel drive. It was interesting to watch a four-wheel drive go directly through these puddles and made us realise just how deep they were (most cars drove on a bypass around the puddles). We did some photographs of the houses as an illustration of what life would be in such a village. According to the people we spoke to, life in these villages is basically made up of old people, who look after animals and grow their own vegetables whilst all the young ones have headed off to the city. We are told once the last person living in a house dies, the house probably becomes vacant never to be lived in again, basically because there is nothing to keep the people there.

Luda made the comment that in Soviet time, there were masses of young people in these villages with everybody working on the land.

Naturally crowds of children descended on campsite and most went away with some sort of gift, then later some adults appeared a little the worst for wear in the alcohol department.

Saturday 12th August

Was a leisurely 8:30 a.m. start today with a distance of only 350 kilometres to do to Rogoschin, so again we moved to the head of the line, stopped off and filled up with diesel, stopped in many gas stations and finally we have reached the conclusion that the Gaslow refillable gas system is not refillable in Russia without a special adaptor which we nor the gas station had.

We turned off the highway and visited one village with the purpose of filling up with water from one of the wells that are scattered through every village, and was doing that an old lady came out and started talking to Luda and it turned out she was only 65 but her back was curved making her look much older. We did many photos of houses in the village before we moved on forever heading in the southward direction, we chose to visit a reasonable size town to get some supplies and again photographed some houses. Whilst we are in this village we found an old Orthodox Church, build totally out of wood (this is unusual) and had only been recently restored as a church and during Soviet times had been used as a location for dancing and entertainment.

It was time to move on again and we ended up finding the campsite in a field, easily, as we were the last ones there in a large group of motorhomes are unmistakable.

When we arrived a group of six young girls (aged say 6 to 14) descended on our motorhome and soon as they discovered Luda could speak Russian they would not stop talking and wanted Luda's address in New Zealand so they could write, this will be interesting if they do.

At the moment ladies are preparing a buffet meal and evidently were going to be joined by some of the village people, who are Cossacks for the evening meal and entertainment.

The Cossacks arrived about 8 p.m., some were dressed in military uniform with ribbons, arrived in a horse and carriage, some other women with them were in colourful costume and that travelled 12 kilometres to be with us that evening. One of the men was a good singer, but he need to be first of all primed with vodka and he gave a very good performance.

Capped gold teeth were very much in evidence among these people, this is very popular in Soviet time and was always a good indicator of the person you are talking to was from the Soviet bloc. Today these gold cappings have gone out of style in preference for natural looking teeth.

Luda did a lot of interpreting for the group who are very interested in the Cossack's background. Luda was presented with many gifts from the girls she befriended, two CDs from the singer, a Cossack medal and the rules of being a Cossack.

Sunday 13th August

Today we drove to Volgograd a distance of 240 kilometres and we stopped at Rossischka the location of the German and Russian soldiers Cemetery. Having been to the Commonwealth Cemetery in the Flanders area and knowing the death toll from the Battle of Stalingrad I was expecting something of the simular scale and I know it is the wrong thing to say about a military Cemetery but quite frankly I was disappointed they had a lot of mass graves which were just mounds of dirt, large mounds of dirt, the comment was that often there were just body parts found.

After this we went in convoy to the city of Volgograd and we parked in the car park close to the large tourist hotel, that was on one side of the car park and the other side was the Volga River.

Monday 14th August

Today the group went for a tour around Volgograd, it of course is a totally new city rebuild after the original city was flattened in the forties with the Battle, consequently it had nothing of historic value in the city, just another city built during the time Stalin, and the only thing of real interest is the huge War Memorial on top of one of the hills that was bitterly fought for during the Battle, it is of a gigantic lady with a sword on one hand and the other hand beckoning everyone to follow, its name is Mother Russia. There are many steps to climb the hill with wonderful views of the gigantic statue as you walk towards it, then you pass through a larger area with a large pond and statues glorifying the soldiers that fought the battle. Then you walk into the hill ups some steps and come inside into a large circular building covered with names around the walls, a eternal flame burning, and two soldiers were standing on honour guard.

Because of the gigantic Battle and the enormous hardships that were suffered by the population of Volgograd has been given the title of City Hero, a honour awarded to only 10 cities throughout Russia.


Today we headed towards Kopanowka a journey of 240 kilometres along the Volga shore so we left Volgograd at 6 a.m. to beat the traffic even so it took was two hours to get out of the city, the city seemed to flow on forever, a little bit like the river it is named after.

We drove through the never ending steppes to with moderate traffic, as usual there was many roadside vendor's selling all sorts of vegetables. Looking out across the steps they anything that we could see were never ending powerlines and power poles. The road like all the roads we've been on so far were not too bad, however this changed when you got into a village and occasionally crunched your undercarriage or part of it when you went through the enormous potholes.

We stopped in quite a few villages, photographed the houses, and photographed the church which was the item that attracted us to the village, most of the churches were in very bad repair through 70 years of total neglect and often used for storing farm implements and things like that. There was only one church we saw that would need really major reconstruction with the roof being in extremely bad condition. All the rest had started on the long road of restoration, funded, as far as we can tell, by the villagers.

Many of the houses were over a hundred years old and had perhaps seen two coats of paint in that time, many had never had that privilege of paint. Most of the village houses had gas, and this was obvious by the gas pipes mounted some two to three metres above the ground and being piped off to each house. There was a water tap outside every third or fourth house, it was supplied by a high water tank somewhere in the village. From what we understand that was good drinking water.

I had to be extremely careful driving through some of these villages, if there was good earth or clay they could be enormous potholes, however often the roads were of sand which meant you had to keep on moving to get to obviously a hard peice of the road and then you could stop. Of course in both of these types of roads they became impassable with heavy rain, which I assume that not happen very often in this almost desert like country.

Eventually we got to our destination, which was easily found by a large signboard on the road pointing towards this camp ground with small cottages for visitors. It is right on the banks of the Volga River so one can go for a river cruise if one wishes to look at the river and its banks or do as most of the tour members did catch up on the laundry and cleaning. A few brave souls went in for a swim, but having some idea of what goes into the river's before it gets to this part, it does not make for pleasant swimming.

To night we had a barbecue with the main item on being a pig that had been roasted over an open fire, the meet was very rare which was not the way pigmeat is meant to be eaten, but this did not seem to disturb the members of the tour

Wednesday 12 August

Today was a free day, but when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, close to the river you cannot swim in, with a temperature of about 40°C is not a great deal you can do. We got out the  20 washing machine within carrying around us, last four months or so and found that it actually works, within certain limitations. There was a barbecue tonight finishing off what was left of the pig, there were certainly a lot of fat on that animal!


Today we were scheduled to start sometime after 12 o'clock and drive to a meeting place and we come into the city in convoy, this meant sitting around in this paddock in the middle of nowhere for most of the morning, so I told Koster we were gone!

It was a 210 Kilometre Drive to Astrakhan, on an extremely windy day, through the steppes, which considered of what looked like dry grass and scrub and a lot of dirt. Of course with the wind the dirt was in the process of shifting from one part of Russia to another, and was twice as bad in the village we went to, there was a very old Orthodox Church built out of wood that had been neglected all of the Soviet time, it currently was not in use and with the wind and dust sweeping by it and would have made a wonderful backdrop for some Hollywood horror epic.

Of course was a sweltering hot day in the high thirties, with grass fires burning out of control, they did not seem to concern anyone and they obviously worked on the principle that when they run out of grass the fire will stop.

This is the area of watermelons and tomatoes and a lot of vendor selling these in the hot sunshine along the road. There was also evidence of the Soviet system and the factories they build in remote areas to justify the population there, now they are deserted and are crumbling slowly back into the earth. Of course the population are still in these areas and I guess most of them are unemployed.

As we arrived in the city were stopped at one of the hundreds of police checkpoints there are on the road we have travelled and he wanted to see my documents, which he did, then said something, to which Luda replied, in Russian To which the police officer brightened up and asked whether Luda was the interpreter, and with a positive answer, asked why she did not speak before.

Eventually we arrived in Astrakhan and started looking for a supermarket, afterward photographed the church we've seen from a distance we found were right beside a supermarket, which was very handy.

After refilling the fridge, we set off to find the Lotus Hotel, we started going down the correct road but did not turn right when we should have, so ended up flowing with the traffic eventually making our way back trying to get onto the road flowing south when we were travelling north, eventually I turned right intending to make another righthand turn, but ended up in a bus only road with three police waiting at the end, this time I let Luda speak immediately, after speaking to them in English, to establish I was a foreigner, and they seemed to be in a nice mood and directed us the correct way after allowing us to turn round in this narrow road. This time we found the hotel in the area in which we were to park for the night, so there are 18 motorhomes parked head to tail, a little bit to the extreme when one considers the last camp ground. Again we are beside the Volga River and I see a restaurant between us and the River.

Friday 18 August

Today we leave the Volga and its plentiful supply of water and exchange abundance with scarcity. We drive 200 kilometres out into the steppes to camp in the middle of nowhere with a few cows and sheep as neighbours. The closest village is Chulchuetta, but do not look for it on the map as you'll find nothing. On arrival to the car park we then proceeded over a substance that the cows and sheep eat, it bares no resemblance to any sort of grass and as you walk over it, it crackles through being so dry with a total lack of moisture.

For some reason, that I cannot fathom, the German Army had a large battle with the Russians in this area in the 1940's, I guess to those in Berlin or Moscow who had not been to this area, it looked good on the map….. however as a result, we were told there is a large German cemetery in this area.

The local people who are of the Kalmecken race, Asian in looks and eke a marginal living in this hostile environment. They need to truck in water every three days and experience temperatures from 40°C to -40°C during the year. They often get very much snow during the winter (of course).

They put on the evening meal for us, the meat was cooked in the ground, in the traditional manner, I'm not sure how similar it is to the way that the New Zealand Maori's traditionally cooked their food, but I guess it would be substantial difference giving the water content of the soil here compared to New Zealand, now of course they cooked it on a gas-fired stove in the modern manner.

The cooking of the food underground, has its origins back in history when the local clan leader owns all the animals, and on the steppes of Russia a fire for cooking can be seen for an incredible distance, so the locals would acquire a sheep, cook it underground, and have enough substance to work for the clan leader for another day.

They farm sheep and cows for food, so naturally it was a sheep that was being cooked, and having grown up in Canterbury living on boiled mutton, the locally boiled mutton held very little attraction!

Like everywhere throughout the world, in remote areas, the children want no part of their parents existence and head off to the city as soon as they can, often doing low-paying work (which is still very substantially more than they could earn anywhere near home) in the city. Of course it is not only the children they cannot find paying work here but often the parents have to go to Moscow to do lowly paid work for six months or a year to have money for the family needs. Goodness knows what sort of living conditions they experience to achieve this.

The lady that appeared to be our hostess owns 60 sheep and about 10 cows to supply food for her family, and these animals have the whole steppes to browse for their food, and they would need it, but they must always be looked after by somebody to avoid losing some animals to wild dogs in the summer or wolf's in the winter.

Were still seeing plenty of watermelons for sale on the side of the road, and on a temperature that was over 37°C today so they would need substantial cooling before you ate them, unless of course hot watermelon is part of your normal diet.


to top right....


Saturday 15th

On across the never ending Steppes, we noticed the interesting herbal smell that was borne on the wind from the smell of the steppes, it was 200Kms to Elista, The capital city of Kalmecken, the people are Buddhists in this area so folks that means no Vodka! They have built a beautiful new Buddhist Temple in the last nine months, incidentally that is the time it took to build.

Luda was busy photographing inside and outside the temple, giving the prayer wheels a spin, hope she gave a couple a spin for me…… when a brand new Lada pulled up with a Colonel of the local Police driving, came over and tapped on the door where I was working on the computer and started talking to me in Icelandic, or it might as well been for all that I could understand, so I looked out the door and Luda was just on her way back so I pointed to her and said "Ruskie" and he was happy with that so they proceeded to talk, it must have been Russian after all as Luda could understand him!

They are very sensitive to all sorts of things here being so close to Chechnya, another Policeman phoned him so I guess just the top brass deal with Tourists, he told us all the info about the new Temple once he found out the story about us, evendentally there is a old temple somewhere else, that we could not find, but there was a new fountain in town that he took us to with red lights flashing, parked us in a parking spot that was illegal, and said no one would bother us! Before he departed he gave us direction to the "Chess City" which was the location for tonight's camp.

We have been seeing one or two lakes today so I guess there is not quite the drought here as there was in yesterday's location.

This "Chess City" has a lot of new houses , but as far as we can tell almost no one lives here, a taxi driver asked us what house we were staying in and a bus driver dais there were new people every week. Now there is no beach, no lakes or sea so why do they come?

Perhaps the new temple may be a reason but that is very new!!!!!

This city of Elista, was occupied by the German army in the '40's so the Steppes that we were at yesterday with the cemetery is a result of the march on Stalingrad, so now it adds up…to me even if it did not to those that lost their life on the Steppes…

Email has been quite a problem all of this Russian trip, outside Moscow & St Petersburg of course, quite unlike India where even small villages had a connection.

Sunday 16 August

Today we have a drive of 460 kilometres plus a side trip of 120 kilometres. We are driving to the city of Maikop and on the way we will stop off and see Luda's Aunt who lives in a village that was part of a commune in Soviet times.

The first we had to drive through the steppes until the ground improved sufficiently to become the wheatfields of Russia. So there was a gradual change of scenery with villagers becoming more frequent and looking slightly more prosperous, if that is possible out here far, very far from Moscow.

All through this trip abandoned factories or buildings built during the commune days have been obvious as they been slowly decaying through total neglect.

Eventually on our drive south, we came to them major police checkpoint like those that are set up right across Russia, this was a major station requiring all traffic to stop, it was just after the road branched off to Rostov on Don. We weren't going that way so ended up stopping at the roadblock.

As we stopped we could see three other motorhomes stopped ahead of us with the drivers taking their papers upstairs.

We, like they were asked to pull over to the side of the road, and the very nice officer asked to see a papers, it became obvious later, in the day, that he did not know what he was looking at, but he sorted out a handful of papers along with both of our passports and directed me to take the papers to the officer upstairs and instructed Luda to stay in the car. I headed off upstairs with one of the young Russia speaking people who were assisting Koster, as we started upstairs we're told No, please wait.

The others who we had of observed going upstairs came down went to their vans and came back clutching gifts. A few minutes later they came downstairs with empty hands. It was then my turn to go up the stairs, past the guard with the AK-47, into a room divided by a heavy steel mesh security wall with a small peephole through which you could past articles. I past the papers through that I was told to take upstairs, and he was not interested in them at all, but spoke to the interpreter in Russian indicating he wanted a gift.

In the meantime Luda had asked the guy that stopped us why did they need the passports to which he replied "all people passing and to this area have to be registered", now considering the fact that the Lieutenant did not even look at my papers this was a blatant lie, and they are going to lie they should at least get their facts straight.

Now this was the most blatant abuse of authority that I've yet seen in Russia, goodness knows what the haul was from all the motorhomes, but I guess I was substantial, all they got from the was three New Zealand badges, which I would have gladly given to the guy nice guy that stopped us, but having to wait downstairs the present some papers that they are not even interested in let's one know just what happens when you get some bad eggs into a station.

This is a very unfortunate event to happen to tourists as you then forget about all the nice people you have met and remember the pigs with their nose in the trough.

So we put them behind us and carried on south eventually reaching the turn off to Auntie's village, and we proceeded to drive down one of the better roads were being on this trip, passing a interesting sign giving the name of the commune, with a large hammer and sickle as part of the decoration, then a little bit later another Soviet sign indicating the area that we were in, and then eventually a turn off the left heading to the village. We arrived in the village and the road on which Auntie's house was, the road was in the process of being reconstructed so we parked as close to the right as we could, Luda went in and had the reunion with Auntie, and I've followed and we spent some time in the old (over 100 years) small (two rooms) houses that was home at one time for two parents and four children. All the work that was done in this area was work on the commune in most times, from what I understand, it was a good simple life.

Eventually was time to go after seeing around the whole house and plot of land, taking many photographs, and were back on the road to the main road in our destination. As we were driving back over the commune road, we photographed some of the very large buildings and large herds of cow's that were obviously originally part of a commune, and I were either privately owned, or perhaps were still owned by a commune. Looking at the size of the whole operation this was farming down on a massive scale, even down to all the combine harvesters that was stored in an area close by, there were six to eight of these monstrous machines.

Back on the main road we found our turn off to Maikop at this time we've moved from the dead flat land of the steppes to the undulating hills of the area in which we were moving into.

Shortly after turning towards Maikop we came across the big Winneabago and another from our group parked in a layby beside a cemetery, we stopped and discovered they had a problem with the parking brake not releasing and they needed somebody get underneath and replace a part that they had as a spare, we indicated we would stop at a police station and see if there was a mechanic or a phone number for help, and they set to, to wait for the boys that were following by car with the thought that they could, in an emergency, which this was, get underneath and replace the part.

At the bottom of the hill there was a police checkpoint, we stopped, Luda had a long conversation with the police, their comment was, " this is not Germany this is Russia", No they had no phone numbers, and they could not help in any way.

Of course once you get into slight hills, you no longer have straight roads the straight for tens of kilometres but windy roads they go up and down the hills, and of course these suffer from washout's so there were a couple of interesting moments, but in all no real problem. No problem that is until we went into an area that we could see ahead was having a major electrical storm, we stopped for a few minutes for Luda to take a phone call from a girlfriend, and then went on our way again, and eventually we came to about six trees that had fallen across the road with the seventh tree blocking the entire road.

Evidently the six trees had fallen earlier, and the other motorhomes had got past them, and the seventh tree possibly came down whilst we had stopped for the phone call.

All smaller cars were finding their way round this by going down a bank along and then back up again, but this was too much for the motorhome and whilst we were pondering what to do, a police car that had passed us came back through the gap, stopped, Luda and he had a conversation, Luda asked when with the tree be removed, to which the policeman replied this is not Germany this is Russia !

He then offered to show is a shortcut for 500 roubles, this seemed a reasonable value so we followed him with lights flashing and ahead of him all the way was a truck that had turned around just ahead of us, and had we followed that, we would have saved ourselves the 500 roubles.

Eventually we're on our way again and reached the police checkpoint outside Maikop, again he wanted to see our papers, and asked for the vehicle papers, which I had to do a good search to find, which made it very obvious to me that I had not presented it earlier in the day, and to that officer I could have given him the program of "Cats" and he would not have cared. Eventually I found the car papers, he what I look inside the motorhome to make sure we did not have bombs onboard for Chechnya and then we're on our way again following the instructions to the campsite which was in a rough field on the edge of the village some distance from the city.

Monday 17 August

Today we set off in three minibuses to check out a waterfall (two small and too long to walk to) and further on to a very large underground cave that had all the stalagmites etc one normally finds in these caves, and there was one entrance and exit heading down into the earth about 32 metres of almost vertical steps which did not inspire me sufficiently to tackle so Luda joined the rest of the group that decided to venture down the steps whilst I waited with the others.

That over, and Luda's safe arrival back to the surface, we headed back to the camp and found the Winneabago had caught up with us, be it without their air-conditioning.

At 3 p.m. some of the local Adygejischen ladies came to the camp to prepare food for this evening, it was food of their local custom and all the German ladies gathered round watching how it was prepared, Luda went over to look and came back saying she knew how to do what they were doing, so perhaps the food was not quite as localised as suggested.

About 7 p.m. a very handsome man dressed in their traditional costume appeared joined shortly afterwards by two other handsome men, along with two beautiful ladies all dressed in traditional garb. About this time they had turned on the amplifier and started playing music that could possibly be heard in Moscow, other perhaps it was just to wake everybody up because people started gathering on the field with their tables and chairs.

About this time some men with instruments arrived and started playing music by which the five local people in costume could do their traditional dance, which is very interesting and very dramatic. They then proceeded to get some of the tour group up to dance their dance, and whilst these young people in their traditional dress doing their dance with precision look terrific, now get a group of old overweight people in shorts etc somehow it does not look quite the same.

After this they guessed people would be hungry at this stage so the food was served with apologies for the lateness of the Kababs, which had not arrived by the time we called it quits.

Tuesday 22 August

This morning most of the group went to visit the commune in which the people came last night to see how brilliant everything was, we decided to start heading towards the Black Sea and were stopped at the first checkpoint in a long discussion took place as to where we were going in how we were going to get there. Somehow when I'm listening to Russians give instructions on how to get from point A to point B. the discussion carries on and on until I'm sure we are being directed via Murmansk or Archangel. We however got on our way making 1 or 2 minor mistakes and eventually got on to the hilly part of today's drive and the hills seemed to go on and on forever with a reasonably bad surface to the road and of course there was no passing almost all the way and no passing lanes. Of course in this situation you always get behind a large truck filled to the brim, in this case with soil, driving at between 20 and 30 K. P. H., eventually I came to a part where I could see a little way ahead and with horns blasting roared past him almost going into orbit with a large bump that was in the passing lane. After this I was able to drive at a reasonable speed and we got the coast in not what I would call "good time".

We stopped for lunch in my assessment of my travelling time was confirmed when two of our tour past us during this time. Eventually on our way again and found the campsite we were looking for sooner than what was suggested on the notes, so we pulled in and were the first there, I suggested to the attendant of the camp that we fill up with water while we were waiting and was told there was plenty of water where we were going and we would be taken their when others arrived. Shortly the two that past us came from the opposite direction and we assume that went right past the camp till they got to the next town and then came back, we were parked in clear view which must have helped their search. After this Koster arrived, and we started to be led through the forest on a marginal road to the campsite we were to spend the next two nights at. The camping sites were à la natural and we searched the gaps between the trees until we found one that would accommodate the motorhome be it not exactly level. Being first at a campsite like this does have its advantage in so much that you can select perhaps the best site.

As we were out of water I asked Koster where we could obtain water and his reply was water would be on in two or three hours, this of course never happened and when one looked at the infrastructure of the site we were on you could understand. After the evening meal I backed out the motorhome and went back to the entrance where Luda had a talk to the owner of the camp and we obtained a full tank of water which was much more reassuring than the empty tank that we had. The owner made the comment that last year all of the motorhomes filled up with water there before they went to the distant location.

We got back to our site and Luda went for her third swim for the day, the Black Sea has a very nice temperature is one of Luda's favourite swimming locations.

Wednesday 23 August

Today Koster are took some of us in to look for an Internet cafe and to the closest city called Nowomichailowski (now aren't you glad I told you the name). Unfortunately all of the Internet cafes had closed down so all we could do was go and do some shopping. The shop was packed with people however the shelves were not as packed as they could have been considering the amount of people there and the checkout operators were massively understaffed. So this newsletter will have to wait until I get to the Ukraine.

Koster had a meeting with the tour tonight telling the group about Russia, in German, so we felt under the circumstances there was not very much object in our attendance.

Today started off fine and then there was a thunder storm, and for the rest of the day the humidity was very high, not the most pleasant day's and we felt sorry for the Russians who had saved up all year for holiday at the Black Sea. Was quite an education to look at the general camping area, it was a very primitive setup, with some of the shelters being large sheets of plastic or those blue dust sheets one buys from hardware shops, their cooking was done over open fires fuelled with pieces of trees obtained from the forest.

Thursday 24 August

Today we headed off 250 kilometres to Peresyp a village that appears to be 45 kilometres away from the Russian Ukraine border. Before we left we filled up with water in spite of being told there was water at our next location. It was at an eventful drive over normal Russian roads, with normal Russian drivers, read in both of these cases fair to terrible!

We filled up with diesel 10 kilometres from the camp, we have been told that the diesel in the Ukraine will be 30% more expensive but at NZ$.90 it sounds pretty cheap to me, nevertheless we filled up the tank and then found the camp, right beside the sea, with the sea about a hundred metres from us, very sandy soil, so we were not surprised when the large Ford truck that had been converted into motorhome 22 years ago was stuck, he however unlike most of us was prepared for that with some steel mats for such occasions.

We are pleased we filled up with water, because we could sit back and watch most of the others making numerous trips to the one tap with watering cans to attempt to fill up their onboard water tanks, in the hot sun, it was better to watch than to do.

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