Chilled in the hotel until checkout, enjoying what we correctly assumed would be the last wifi we saw for a long while. The roads were good and we made ok distance, Kieran removing his thermals by the end and Arjun discovering he’d lost his hat. Kieran luckily had a second beanie.
The sun was out and shortly on the road a nice couple stopped to question and wish us luck, only to stop again 10km down the road and offer us a meal in the town down the road. We got the map out a little confused and they (in very broken English) informed us that we’d missed a turning about 5km back…
We backtracked and tried to make up the 10km detour, stopping only to fix a puncture.
Cloudy, but it was getting warmer. Good pace walking, some big hills, stopped at a shop where we fed a puppy and a lovely lady gave us some free chocolate, and then turned the corner and saw the beginning of the steppe. It was literally unbelievable, sooo flat! We made it down off the hill and set up camp before a village just before it started snowing.
We walked, got a way into the day where we stopped at a small town and attempted to ask directions at a garage. Though the staff were friendly and we flexed all our charade and pictionary skills, we gave up trying, and continued through the place to a roundabout without signs at the other side. We guessed a direction and thankfully found the road we were looking for 2/3km along, then continued until dusk.
Got into a real rural town where we stopped to buy cake. There were quite a few kids walking around, a few of whom stopped to chat. We gave them cards and left, and about 5km out one cycled out to meet us with a Russian/English dictionary and chat for a while. We made it to the start of what looked like another town and camped by a small landfill.
The town wasn’t really a town, but after walking through and out, a friendly policeman stopped and told us we’d have to go back so that he could photocopy our passports. After explaining our situation, he agreed to drive one of us to the station and back. Quite a few people stopped to chat, wish luck and take cards; increasingly we’re finding Russia to be a really friendly place!
Towards the end of the day this did backfire, when a policeman smelling quite strongly of alcohol pulled up to chat, and quite excitedly escorted us around a sharp bend before proceeding to give us whatever he could find in his car as gifts. Friendly guy, but a little unnerving. We ran out of camping opportunities as the sun went down so ended up right on the outskirts of the next town using dead wood as cover.
Walked into the town, looked promising, lots of flowers. A man stopped us as we were struggling for space on the main road, spoke a little English and offered to help. As the police called us over he came with us and (we assume) explained everything, then got his son to lead us through a market to a cafe. Unfortunately the market did look a little dodgy, so we decided to continue on through and hope for a supermarket.
Our luck held strong, beginning to rain just as we found a place and stopping just as we finished. On the way out of town a man pulled over to talk, rather kindly gave us a bottle of warm tea, so Kieran sat down to enjoy it with some biscuits and Arjun plugged in the solar panel kit. When we got to walking again the wind picked up fiercely, and one of Arjuns cart wheels developed a horrific wobble on one wheel. That night to try and save weight we decided to retire our worn out tent and try out the cheap spare. Only single skin, but was more spacious inside and quite lovely; until it rained.
We packed up the wet but still superior cheap spare tent (the one previous had hardly kept us dry), had a look at Arjuns wheel. Without being able to do much, and kind of accepting that it would go soon, we got onto the road and endured gale force winds all day, binning the old tent at a bus stop.
Near 30km we ran out of camping in sight, so stopped early and trekked a way off the road into a line of trees. Throughout the day Arjuns cart wheel had deteriorated, losing three spokes, and so whilst it was dry and we had daylight we unpacked everything and began prepping for going down to one cart…