Ishim - August 20, 2015
I'm in Ishim, just a little town that does little to dispel the stereotype that the favorite construction materials in Russia are concrete and rebar. Yeah, not such a great town, but the gostinitsa is clean and simple. I had made a mental note of this town while reading a recent book that Bill and Tiiu lent me about a NY Times(?) reporter's travels across Siberia by car and train in winter. He mentioned stopping in Ishim and being freaked that the guesthouse could not register his visa. Anyway, what stuck was that the owner of the guesthouse, Nadejda, stayed up all night reading up on the requirements and ran around in the morning getting all the necessary paperwork in place to be able to do it. Unfortunately, the book didn't mention exactly where the place was or even it's name. Maybe this is it. I'll see if I get my registration or not.
Anyway, I've had to make a little detour to the north to avoid bumping into Kazakhstan. The main road west from Omsk clips the top of Kazakhstan, which unfortunately would have meant the whole shebang... I would have had to obtain a Kazakh visa from somewhere and do two border crossings, probably all in the same day. Not worth it for 100 km or so of Kazakh road, so I came north. From here I'll head over to Ekaterinburg. I've booked a hotel in Tyumen, only a couple of hundred kilometers from here, and one for Ekaterinburg the night after. I'm just taking this stretch in small chunks as the weather has changed (raining quite hard right now), and there are lots of roadworks. The riding is not bad, but there are lots of stops. I must have waited a total of an hour or more yesterday in lineups for lane closures. Also, after a day of good behavior, the bike is back to missing and popping out the tailpipes, so it needs a little more care and attention. All things that call for short days. I should be in Moscow in a week or so, a day there, then two days to St. Petersburg, and a day there. A bit of a celebration will be had for a completed Around-the-World. Maybe a shot of Vodka.... my first in Russia. And a big wet smoochy kiss to the bike, right on it's bug-splattered headlight. And heck, maybe even a pizza if I can find one.
I must be getting into the areas of "old Siberia". Tyumen is from the late 1500's and there is another town northeast of there that is even older, being the oldest town in Siberia. Also, the bugs are getting worse, so I'm getting more into what I had visualized as being Siberia. The mosquitoes are small, not like Alaskan ones, but potent. What I had seen so far of Siberia was not what I had expected at all. This is more what I expected. But the area is still quite pretty, although the exact same flat fields and trees yesterday as the day before. Only a few times yesterday as the road climbed over a tiny rise could you see very far. At least now, however, you can climb a bit higher at times.
But this part of yucky Siberia shouldn't last long. In a couple of days I should have a few milestones coming up. 1) About 15 kms west of Ekaterinburg, I will crest the divide of the Urals and cross the official boundary between Asia and Europe, leaving Siberia behind. 2), I will cross 60 degrees east longitude and therefore be on the other side of the world from home, but getting closer with each turn of the wheels, and 3) the bike's odometer will roll over to all 0's, having accumulated 100,000 miles. That calls for another celebration... perhaps I'll put in a tank of 98 to be nice to it. I bought the bike with 12,200 miles, so no wonder my butt is flat. What that means though is that just a mile before that, it will show 99,999. I remember when it rolled over to 88,888. I was riding with my friend Rob and we were headed home from the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Nakusp. At the time, I remember thinking that if everything worked out I should see 99,999 somewhere in Russia. So it looks like things have worked out well. I mentioned once before that I've always wondered where I will be at the next significant speedometer display, or whether there even will be another. I see that the day it turned 77,777, I was headed for Toledo, Spain, and at 66,666, I had just left the epic rain at St.Moritz and was headed for a beautiful camping spot in Rekingen, Switzwerland. The log book I have here doesn't go back any farther, but 55,555 must have been somewhere in BC, just finishing up the 2009 loop around NA. I'd have to dig up from maps at home where 44,444, 33,333 and 22,222 were. Somewhere in NA for sure, probably in the US southwest on those gorgeous and exciting early trips. Anyway, this trip will need to end soon because the "Expedition Journal", the one with the picture of the Titanic leaving Belfast on the cover is almost full. I use it for everything... name and addresses, fuel log, everything. I may be writing in the margins by the time I get home.
As I get farther west, I do notice that the ДПС, the road police are becoming much more numerous. Thyey sem to hang out at the construction zones. Yes! Yesterday, in a construction zone, clearly posted no passing, two cars zipped past everyone jockeying for position. Jerks. Well a couple of minutes later I see an empty cop car parked on the left. Great, where are they when you need them. Oh, the two officers are over on the right side of the road, with the two vehicles, writing up tickets. A great wave of joy passed all over my body.
After I mentioned the budget, a couple of people wrote and asked me about getting money here and how I do that. ATM's. Never had my card refused (unlike those poor Bulgarians and Romanians... ha!) and ATM's are all over the place. They give a good exchange rate. Unfortunately, some do not give much at one time, $60-$100, and my bank charges $5 for the transaction... so I try to find a machine with a higher limit and take out more at once. So then I just move money around into an accessible account via internet banking. As I don't really trust the network security on the road at all, I have a small Linux proxy server at home that I can securely log into even from a totally unsecured wireless here. It secures everything from my computer to the network at home. So all in all, pretty simple. Also, I try to make sure that I dump all my foreign currency at or very near the border as it is usually impossible to get rid of it elsewhere. Like the Mongolian Tegret... if you don't exchange it back for roubles at the border itself, lots of luck finding a bank that will take it even a short way down the road. I'll dump any remaining roubles if I have any at Narva, the border city in Estonia. I'll exchange for Euros. If I head west through Sweden and Norway, that;s a pain as they both have their own currency... both Krone, both different, so much money juggling and sorting will go on.
So I met a kid at a gas station yesterday who was hitchhiking. He was trying to get to Tyumen, where I'm headed today. He was from Irkutsk. I asked him how long it's taken him to get this far. 9 days. Hitchhiking is not the way to travel here it seems. I wonder how the Lithuanian kid guy from the ferry who was hitchhiking home is faring. I have not heard any more from Ken, Carol or the Korean kids. Ken and Carol should be close to where I am... the Korean kids long gone. They were in Ekaterinburg over a week ago I think.
Anyway, still pouring, hopefully it will end shortly after breakfast as I would like to do some more work on the bike.