Jun 06 2008
The day we left Elista, the Kalmyk hotel staff in Elista gave us a free lunch and 200 rubbles (£5) despite our protests. We visited the enormous new buddhist temple on the edge of town and met an elderly woman who told us she came back to live in Elista after Stalin deported her whole family to Siberia at the end of WW2.
The steppe between Elista and Astrakhan is much drier and more desolate than the green steppe East of Elista. We were even caught short of water on an empty 70km stretch between two cafe stops. the roads are very good (much better than in Ukraine) and the traffic very light. We see a lot of old coaches and lorries imported from Germany, still with the German brands on them.
It is very hard to evaluate distances in this environment: we see villages on the horizon 20 or 30km away and it seems to take forever to reach them. It is psychologically hard to cycle in such a featureless landscape.
We are 70km from Astrakhan (Show on Google Maps) and should arrive there tonight. We will stay there a few days to sort out visas for Olivier and also buy another tent (the 500 rubbles tent bought in Elista didn’t last long!)