Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So naturally we headed south....

So when last we left you we mentioned that we were monitoring the situation to the south of us in the Caucasus and that we were deciding where we would head next.  So naturally we headed south towards the war zone!  By war of course I'm referring to the conflict that has sprung up between Russia and it's neighbor Georgia.  But before we get to that let's go back to Odessa. 

In Odessa we met up with JCrew.  Their team name is actually "Smaller is Better" but since there is a sticker on the back of their Japanese mini-van that says JCar is in nice big letters and advertises  After a day on the beach while their car was being diagnosed, we all headed off west towards Russia.  The first night as the sun set we found a campsite roadside by an old base of sorts.


Our car had started making a lot of noise and upon investigation - on their handy tank tread replacement ramps - I discovered that our muffler was falling off.  Dave was kind enough to get a plumbers photo of me during the process.


We camped the next day on the coast of the Sea of Azov, read trashy beach novels, played with a Frisbee, gawked in awe at Ukrainian beachwear,  and set out early the next morning to cross the border into Russia.


It was a quick process requiring a mere 8 hours to drive approximately a mile.  The time wasn't actually caused by any specific issue it was more a case of a ridiculously slow bureaucratic process that oddly enough no one seemed to have an issue with. Team JCrew working on some of the paper work. jcrew_peeps

These forms were in English!  Not nearly as tricky as the Russian only forms where I had to mimic engine noises much to the bemusement of the customs officer.

We successfully navigated the border (and antifreeze licking drug dogs) and were merrily driving down the Russian roads when we carefully read the paperwork we were given and determined we actually had not been forced to purchase Russian vehicle insurance!  Partially good fortune and a bit of an ominous portent, we decided to turn back to acquire said insurance.  Dave however was sick of line waiting and bureaucracy and instead risked injury to climb a tree and get some pictures of the many fields of sunflowers lining the road.


We made tracks Tagenrag which is about 60km short of Rustov on Don for dinner where we found out about the new conflict in Georgia by a torrent of SMS messages from friends and family.  Upon hearing this cheerful news we popped over to the local hotel and waited to see how it unfolded.

Eventually we decided to avoid the fighting and headed east out of town towards Volgograd.  We stopped almost instantly so that Dave could climb a Russian monument.


Shortly there after JCrew's whip started losing power so we headed back to town to find another mechanic.  It was Saturday afternoon and everything was closed so we spent more time on the beach and debated more about our next steps.

On Monday, we took the time to get our muffler reattached (plus a car wash and a double espresso for $15) Dave talked me into heading south to drop him off in Mineral Voda so that he could go and climb Mt. Elbrus. On our way down we passed no less then 5 million cops and a couple military convoys headed south to join the "Peace Keeping" mission in Georgia.


We made Mineral Voda and then moved on to Pyatigorsk since it was a more tourist friendly town.  The down side is we are now less than 100k from the border to Georgia.  Dave is going to go hike the mountain (he should be safe up there) and I'm leaving him here and heading for Kazakhstan and relative safety.  Alex (now with valid registration but still broken headlights) will be setting off from Bratislava to head towards Russia to pick up Dave once he completes his climb.


Anonymous said...

glad is all ok cyrus...was worried. lefty.

Lizzy said...

ahhh.......... okay ı have to keep readung down the blog... rıght!

glad to hear everythıng ıs on track and happy to hear the conflıct zone has been avoıded because ıf you guys had gone that way ı would have personally flown over and kılled you all personally for beıng stupıd.

ı wısh ı was there......