Saturday 10th May - 300 miles
We leave the very pleasant town of Budennovsk early, as no breakfast is provided. We are not registered with the police yet. This is usually done by hotels, if they can bother! I plan to get that done in Astrakhan as we can get in trouble if not. All foreigners must get registration, as often as possible if we move around.
Outside the hotel a guy is standing out smoking. He helped Alistair get the bikes out of the building site that is the ground floor. We were told it was not safe to keep the bikes out at night and the teenage girls running the place told us to put them there.
Anyway, we ask him for the closest petrolstation and he gives us precise instructions and i am very happy i understood him as all is in russian of course. We find the place and get some pasties as breakfast.
We discuss the best way to get to astrakhan.
The first one is to follow the easy road west then north, via Elista. It is quite a detour. 600 km to astrakhan....
The second is to ride East on the main road, and cross a big section of northern Dagestan. That republic is the most dangerous of russia and full of extremists, with lots of violence, murders and insurgency. I am not too keen!
The last option is to take the secondary road up north east, that show as a shortcut ( see map below), I know how shortcuts usually end up like! We decide for that option anyway!
We set of on the main road East, looking for clues to our secondary road turning. we don't find it....
We ride for a while and stop in what may be someone's house with some fuel on sale. The teenager and the lady there come to see us. They are quite a sight but friendly and explain that we are already in the correct road and tell us where to go as there are some cross roads ( or tracks better said!).
We set off at the right turning and get on a decent gravel road, but it gets progressively worse ... And worse.. And worse!
( yes we did miles and miles of this hideous road!)
It is the perfect test for our little bikes. A section of that road, for several miles, is probably the worse we have ever done. The bikes are perfect for that and I even manage to get through sections of deep sand and gravel without falling off!
Eventually the road gets back to a nasty very bumpy gravel road,but at least we can make some progress and we arrive by 3 pm into some tarmac and there is even a fuel station and a cafe!
We stop for some food and drinks.
There is no food on show and the menu is impossible to understand. We are in Kalmikya, the food is chinese style rather than russian.
The locals are chinese looking and descendants of the hords of Genghis Khan. They came from some chinese provinces and stayed in Kalmikya. The food seem to reflect that. One guy is eating somesort of stir fried in the cafe, we point at him and the lady bring us the same.
They are very friendly and come out to show me where to find the loos and seem very attentives. We seem to provide some sort of entertainment everywhere we go as people usually seem quite happy to come to us and offer to help and ask questions.
We then get back on the road as we still have a long way. Our map shows that once passed Ulan Khol, we only have 25km to the main road north to Astrakhan.... We ride and ride.... Pass some farm tracks but no road. We get to Lagan! How is that possible? We could not have missed the main road, unless it does not exist? Well, it may exist, but not like our map make it at least!
We find signs to Astrakhan that we follow. After several miles, suddenly there is a fork. The sign and road indicate a village. Ahead of us is a hideous track that would not be passable to cars and trucks! It can't be!
We do a U- turn and ride into the village.
I spot a police car and use my horn to tell Alistair to stop. As we get our helmets off, the cops are coming to see us. I get my map out. After a discussion they try to explain to us how to find the road but i fail to get that. I understand that there is a section of 10 km of bad gravel road, before tarmac. I don't know what happened to the major road!
As we don't understand all their explanations, they make us sign to follow then! They get on their car and we follow them for several miles. At one point we see two young lads hitchhikking. The cops stops their car and we stop behind them.
The officer gets out and frisks the lads, presumably for knifes or weapons? And then he gets back on the car and we are off again!
After a couple of miles we stop at an intersection. The paved road continue, but he tells us the road to astrakhan is by the gravel road on the left.
We thanks the cops, shake their hands and set off again. It is getting late and we still have a long way to go!
After about 10 km we cross a village and we are not sure where to go. A guy in a 4x4 stops and we ask him. He points at the road and we continue. We finally find the tarmac and eventually the E119 that we have been looking for some time! It is under constructionan d probably does not exist further south yet! Or only like a farm track!
After a long tiring ride, we get to astrakhan as the sun is setting, and find a hotel by 8 pm, without difficulty. Bikes must sleep on the street, but the girl at reception tells us it is not a problem. Too tired to argue!
Out for some food we find a japanese restaurant, but at least the menu show pictures of the dishes. We get in and order some food. Once again, we seem to provide some entertainment to the girls serving!
Back to the hotel i enquire about the registration and the girl at reception tells me we will have it tomorrow.
Sunday 11th of May - miles on bikes: none.
We have a day rest as our visa with Kazakhstan does not start untill the 12th (tomorrow).
Few pictures of the town below.
Inside the kremlin complex.
We had no idea how much to pay!