Ulan Ude (Russia), 02.10.2013
Driving a thousand km a day today finally showed some effect, since weather and landscape kept changing several times, creating a very welcome variety throughout the day. I left the trucker motel in the middle of nowhere as the sun rose behind the forest on the hill to the east. Temperature was below zero and the road covered with frost. The first two hours it dropped to -6, the road was a white line across a brown and grey winter landscape.
Around me trucks got stuck on the highway, I had to slow down considerably, to 40-50km/h. As I was betting with myself how far temperature could keep dropping, I saw the clouds break up on the horizon. The road still let over the land under clouds, but it got closer and closer to the sunny area, and at some point I left the clouds behind me. It was impressive now a little sunshine could change everything, from the colors around me to the smile on my face and much more relaxed driving. Speed went up and I made progress on good roads. The landscape became hillier and conifers lost their needles, creating yellow dust swirling over the black tar as the road winded through the beautiful forest.
At lunch I reached Chita, the first town in 1500km. This place can’t be called a “city”. Not only is it small, but there is nothing here apart from a lot of small wooden houses on wooden fenced mud gardens, some factories blowing smoke over the houses and into the hills, and a train station. I fuelled up and went for lunch in a trucker restaurant across the street from the gas station. Fortunately the menu had pictures of the dishes and I had a hot borsch, a pork cutlet with fries and a tea (341 RUB). In a corner of the restaurant five guys finished a big bottle of vodka and the first glasses started flying through the room.
After Chita the road got a lot worse. On just one lane per side and full of potholes, I kept rocking for hours and had to drive slower. The landscape also changed into a vast, brown flat land with nothing on it for hours. Sometimes stretches of forest appeared again. I saw two bike travellers on KTMs at a gas station as I drove by, so apparently I wasn’t the only one around here at this time of the year. In Chita temperature was slightly over zero degrees, and then it kept getting warmer every hour, the sun warming the earth from a cloudless blue sky. Perfect driving weather, just the bad road was a pain. When the sun started its descent, the landscape changed again. Entering the Eastern Baykal region, vast cultivated plains opened up in front of me stretching as far as the eye could see in gold-brown. I drove an hour across this land before the road took a turn into the hills and started to become twisting. I drove past two very sweet roadside villages of wooden houses made from tree trunks and with colorful windows. There were a lot of them, and mostly well kept. It seemed like in a fairy tale. I was late, the sun low, and I couldn’t stop to take pictures unfortunately. Maybe I’ll find more of this on the road ahead. In the last daylight I reached Ulan Ude and found a decent hotel. Directly behind it was a restaurant where I had a hot solyanka and some shashlik together with what seems to become my end of day beer. What a day! And how nice to see it got warmer again. Hopefully tomorrow I can enjoy Lake Baykal in good weather.
– Km driven: 1.134
– Hrs on the road: 12h
– Diesel l/100km: 10,3
– Daily high: 13 degrees Celsius
– Daily low: -6 degrees Celsius