08-Mar-2005 -- This is a journey from Ulaanbaatar (UB) in Mongolia to Kirriemuir in Scotland, covering 110 degrees of longitude and visiting 15 CPs on the way. The story starts at 47°N 105°E. This is CP 10. The previous point is 49°N 90°E.
If you are just here for the point – skip to the bottom!
Much has happened between Olgii and Omsk – in a short period of time!
First we arrived safely at the Mongolian customs at 9.30 after another high pass. Mongolian customs took all morning – mostly waiting for a customs agent who then retyped – very slowly – the customs declaration for my car. No particular problem and no point in getting agitated. On to Russia. The Russian customs is 20km along a paved road – paved road all the way from here!!
We passed through immigration but by then customs were away to lunch. We had a picnic and soup in the car park while waiting for their return.
The afternoon dragged passed and it eventually became apparent that as we had transit plates we would have to leave a substantial deposit at customs as proof that we would not sell the car in Russia. There are no banks at Tashanta so we would have to leave the car and drive 500km to Gorni Altaisk (capital of the Altai Republic) and sort it out there.
We met someone with 2 container loads of frozen fish who offered us a lift to the nearest town and then helped us find a taxi. In the meantime we were shown great hospitality by the Kazakh taxi driver’s family before the journey. A little shell-shocked we arrived in GA at 5 am – but no room at the inn so slept in the car for a couple of hours until the inns became a bit more open! Sylvia’s tight schedule did not allow her to wait for us so she carried on with the taxi driver to catch a bus in Biysk for Novosibirsk.
We collected our thoughts for a while in a hotel then went to the main customs office. After much deliberation we were accompanied to the bank to see if I could extract 13,000 Euro. This proved impossible on a Saturday but I did manage more than 1000 Euro from credit cards in cash machines. My wife then had to spend some time unblocking then as the credit card companies are wary about cash extractions in unusual places – particularly Russia. Back at customs we were given 3 choices:
- go to Kazakhstan (no help at all – would be same problem in K and still have to cross Russia).
- wait till have funds (maybe 6 days due to Sunday and 2 days holiday for Women’s day) or
- pay a fee and be accompanied all the way to the Finish border by a customs man.
I took option 3 – we had the space and I did not fancy 6 days sitting doing nothing.
So question resolved we got a taxi back to the border and stayed in a drivers hostel over night. Next morning we were ready to go but customs worked very slowly and we finally escaped with a customs man – Andrei – at lunch time. We made it back to GA by 7pm but couldn’t leave till the following morning as we had a new customs man who did not have his paperwork ready.
Finally on Monday 7th we left GA having arrived at the border on Friday lunch time. We still had one false start as Sergei – our very own speznaz armed customs man – left his passport at home and we had to return 30km to get it. Finally finally…
The drive to Novosibirsk was wonderful – asphalt roads – empty – any police checks dealt with by Sergei and clear blue skies.
We decided to keep going to make up lost time and headed for Omsk. The weather deteriorated and the road became quite snowy but we eventually arrived at about 2am. I had been in contact with Yevgeny Figurov several times by email – our tally of countries, CP’s and incompletes was almost identical. He kindly invited us to stay with him and sent us his lat and long. We had a late night point hunt through Omsk with railway lines, one way systems and darkness to confuse us. Undeterred we made it, put the car to bed and went to sleep.
The next morning we were wonderfully fed and watered – blinis (pancakes) were in season – and given a short tour of Omsk before being seen off on the correct road. Thank you Yevgeny and family. We were advised that 56N 71E was an easy detour (25km along road) so we decided to grab one CP in Siberia on the way past. The road was clear and we arrived at lunch time.
The point lies just outside a private garden but we thought initially that it lay inside. We got permission from the bemused owner then proceeded to walk out of the bottom of his garden. The snow was deep but the point very simple.
Having taken the pictures we decided to press on as far as possible. The “main” road goes due west and passes through Kazachstan. This was not an option for us as we did not have visas and also Sergei’s Makarov gun would not have been welcome!
The other road curves north toward Tyumen and then there are choices about whether to keep north and drive to Yekaterinburg, Perm, Kazan to Moscow or to head further south again to Cheliabinsk and Ufa and Samara. We chose the latter so that we could visit old friends in Samara. Cheliabinsk proved difficult to negotiate – Russians are not good at road signs – except speed limits. Finally we found the escape route and a motel for the night and had a welcome few hours rest. The next day was the only chance in Russia to catch a “new” point: 55°N 59°E.