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Tuesday, July 17 2012 | From Kazan to Yekaterinburg Pt. 2

Today we are determined to get to Ekaterinburg. Ahead of us lie several hundred kilometres on possibly dodgy roads. So yet again it will be purely a driving and writing day. But the goal is within our grasp and that spurs us on. Today we will be reaching the Urals, and its beautiful setting which we have heard and read so much about.

On the long road (thankfully free of traffic) we stop during the afternoon at a little place where we stock up on some drinks and some frozen sausages. In St. Petersburg we had already purchased a disposable barbecue and now seemed a good time to use it. There is also a pharmacy here. On the advice of our chief Alex Büchler, talking about the fresh water tank, which is not working properly, Rolf goes off to get some Corega Tabs. This should shift the dirt from the taps and pipes. He thinks he has got Corega Tabs, but in actual fact it turns out to be Corega Cream and I look on in incredulity as he tries to dissolve it in water. Eventually he gives up, goes back to the chemist and buys the “correct” tablets. Yet another example of the language barrier in action!

Finally we reach the Urals. Everything we had heard about the area is true: the landscape is really impressive and extensive. The roads are surprisingly good. In the middle of the plains in the late afternoon we decide the moment has come to fire up the barby. By the side of the road there are always places to sit. We unpack the barbecue, plates, food and drink, and generally make ourselves comfortable. Slight problem: the barby refuses to light. If you buy a disposable barbecue in Germany, the coals are already soaked with a flammable liquid and it lights immediately. Not so with this one. We try everything, and even my Storm lighter has no effect. No flame, not even a spark. So back we clamber into the Editourmobil and off we go again. Just before we get to Ekaterinburg we pull into a car park to get more information on the route ahead. As we are moving off, there’s a terrific bang: the truck ahead of us has thrown up a big stone against the windscreen; result – damage. Readers with memories of our tour last year will recall that we had to solve the same problem in Bulgaria by replacing the windscreen. The vehicle is falling apart, I think to myself.

In the evening, at long last, we pass through the outskirts of Ekaterinburg. As we will be meeting the second team, Torsten tomorrow and Michael the day after, we hasten to the supermarket once more to get telephone cards and a stock of food and drink. At least the guys won’t go hungry after the changeover. The next task is to go to Iveco on the other side of town. The friendly mechanics show a healthy interest in the vehicle even at this late hour, especially as they are not from Iveco but from the workshop next door, which is on the same premises. Actually, they are on the night shift, but mostly they seem to be having a cosy time of it, sitting around drinking and smoking. Later on, one of the mechanics persuades us to drive him to the 24 hour kiosk to get in some fresh supplies of beer. Felix is busy with skype, while Rolf and I watch, communicating with lots of arm-waving and gesticulation as the mechanics get steadily drunker. Rolf and I are not drinking which doesn’t help matters in this sort of situation. Finally we decide it’s time to turn in; after all, it is well past 1 o’clock in the morning.