With our new friend Dennis from the Ufa Toyota Dealership with Nadia his Fiancee, they found a small bedsit for us (which they would not let us pay for) and showed us round Ufa. Here we are drinking the national drink (for that area) which is made from fermented mares milk (like sour alkaseltzer) apparantly good for a hang-over.
Chris got to mozzy bites on her eyelid
Camped by a Lake in the Zara------ National Park (map's in the cruiser on a ramp)
At the Kungar Ice Cave
Inside the Ice Cave
At the Kremlin at Tobolsk, The original capital of Siberia
Camping by a Lake about 120 miles before Omsk we were invited to joing a group of Russians and yes, Chris is on the Vodka again - I played the ex alcoholic card and said I could only drink beer (there is a major alcohol problem in Russia and apparantly they will not encourage an ex-alcoholic to drink) I was drinking beer before they invited us but it seemed to work OK.
The Lake at midnight, not very well exposed I afraid, but the lake was incredibly bright blue.
Thumper to the rescue, a fellow camper just before we pulled him out.
We now in Omsk at another Toyota garage with Wifi. We were advised to have a couple of seals replaced in the front and centre diffs at Ufa and they did not have one of the seals and suggested we have the work done at Omsk as they would have everything we needed and gave us the addres in our alphabet so the sat nav could find it. As it turned out they had less than Ufa, but advised another location that might have them. This was a parts supplier and they had all but one part, the other was in another branch the other side of Omsk, but fortunately another customer helped us find the address on our sat nav. Back to Toyota where they are now fitting them, very odd! But the quality here appears to be high and labour is around £27.00 per hour. They have also found us a very reasonable Hotel and arranging a taxi to take us there - so a night on the town in Omsk.
From Ufa we took a loop south to take a rough road between the only 2 decent sized mountains in the Southern Urals. After getting lost we were given directions by a guy in a village down a seriously narrow, and even more seriously muddy track, (with accompanying screams from the passenger seat) and after 7 miles came to a no entry sign! I was not going to reverse for 7 miles so carried on, to be confronted by some sort of official on a motor bike who turned us back (but at least let me go forward far enough to turn round). At this point we gave up and headed back to the main road (much to Chris's relief) and camped by a lake in the Zaka(something) National Park. From here we headed North to the Kungar Ice Caves and then Siberia, first up to Tobolsk, the original capital and then down to Omsk.
We saw a couple of small mountains but most of the Urals we saw were gently rolling hills and lots of forrest, the real mountains are much further north. Siberia in fact is much the same except flat (after the first 100 miles, which is comparatively densly populated, with loads of new houses going up which would not look out of place in MK), just trees and grass, but many of the roads are lined with trees so all you see is trees. At least it is good for camping, there are loads of tracks, so we just dive off and join the mozzies behind the trees, but its OK once we are in the tent with the mozzy nets in - after the extermination session that is. We generally have dinner in the roadside cafes (often lunch too), which are generally good and cheap so at night we just stop, pop the tent up and dive in.
Possibly the biggest benefit of our detours was to get off the main roads, which are full of trucks doing 40 mph and cars doing 70, mostly only wide enough for 2 vehicles but frantic overtaking going on in both directions. The amount of near misses is amazing and so far we have only seen one accident (in Russia), where a small car was half its original width against the front of a truck, if anyone was on the passenger seat side they would not have survived!
Whilst the countyside rarely changes the condition of the roads varies tremedously, one minute race track smooth, the next like driving through an earth quake, but like Romania, when the cars zig we zag and overtake them. Amazingly the b roads and minor roads are often in better condition than the main roads, but these also have sections with severe pot holes.
From here we have about 700 miles to go before we enter the Altai mountains, real mountains where the road is often over 2000m, about 300 miles later we will enter Mongolia and then we will slow down again for a few weeks. We will almost certainly be staying in a Hotel in Ulaanbataar, which will hopefully have internet access, but we dont expect to be there for another 3 or 4 weeks.