Jun 12 2008
After almost a week of waiting, Olivier has finally obtained a two months Kazakh visa. In the meantime the other Olivier I met near Odessa three weeks ago has rejoined us as well as Geraldine and Xavier, a couple traveling to China on electric scooters. It is actually much more challenging than on bicycles as they need to find a power socket every 100km to recharge their batteries, not an easy task in the steppe.
We’ve had time to make ourselves comfortable in the very dynamic city of Astrakhan. Everything here is being renovated thanks to the large gas industry that surrounds the city. Prices are already high and they will probably reach European levels in a few years. Russia isn’t cheap!
Nicolas, a French local who is studying Russian in Astrakhan, arranged an interview for us with the local TV station. The interviewer spoke English but found it more interesting to do the interview in Russian: “I go to China”, “I eat pasta every day”, “Russian people good”, “Astrakhan nice city”!
The 3 weeks I’ve spent in Russia have been the best of the trip so far. People have been extremely friendly and helpful with us. For example in Astrakhan we fortuitously met Adil and Irina who ended up spending the day with us to show us all the bike shops in Astrakhan. We had a meal later in a nice restaurant and they invited us to their Dacha the next day (Unfortunately we didn’t have the time).
I have added a few more pictures to the Elista-Astrakhan gallery.
For future travelers to Astrakhan I would advise to look for Nicolas (email available on request) who knows everyone in the city. He is going to open an English pub in a few months, so ask for the “Bear and Roastbeef” if you’re in Astrakhan from September 2008 onwards! I have also scanned an annotated map of the city centre.
Today is my last day in Russia as my visa runs out tomorrow. There are 80km left to the Kazakh border and I will leave tomorrow morning and hope that I don’t have any mechanical problem en route! The two Oliviers will be staying a few more days as they still have a few admin tasks to complete and we should meet again next week in Kazakhstan. There are 3000km of wild steppe left to cycle to Almaty and I don’t think the internet connection will be as good as in Russia so I will probably update the blog much less often.
Thermarest has very kindly agreed to send me a free replacement for my damaged sleeping mat via UPS to Atyrau, 300km on the other side of the border. My next stop will be in this very expensive city, thanks to the petrol business again!