Jun 03 2008
We are staying for a couple of nights in Elista (Элиста) to do a bit of shopping. Elista is famous for being the chess capital of Russia but not for its camping shops. We only found a couple of sport shops near the market not far from our hotel in the centre of town.
There aren’t many trees in the steppe for Olivier to use his hammock so he has finally bought a tent: 15 euros and it pops up in 3 seconds!
I also bought a karimat as my thermarest has started delaminating a few days ago and is now completely unusable. I’ll miss the comfort of the thermarest!
Kalmykia is inhabited by people who migrated from Mongolia centuries ago and everyone around here has Mongolian features. This is also the only region in Europe where buddhism is the main religion. We’ve seen a few temples and prayer wheels around town. The president of the not-so-autonomous Republic of Kalmykia is a chess fanatic and has even imposed chess as a mandatory school subject.
There aren’t many villages on the road from Elista to Astrakhan (the first one is 90km away!) and we will have to start planning a bit more for food and water. Astrakhan is only 300km away and we should be there in 3 days. Olivier will have to sort out his Kazakh visa there. I already have a 3 months visa so I will wait with him until he gets it or until my Russian visa runs out, whichever comes first! Red tape is a nightmare in this region. In Kazakhstan we hope to meet the other Olivier on his recumbent bike, he is in Rostov at the moment, only a week behind us.