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August 16, 2012 | On the run

We are outlaws now, or at least Felix is. Yesterday morning, in Krasnoyarsk, he lost his passport with his entry visa. In Russia, where they want to see your passport even for a simple hotel stay, that’s not a good thing to happen.

He noticed that it was missing about a hundred km from Krasnoyarsk. It must’ve fallen out of his side pocket somewhere along the way. Of course, with reasonably strong winds, big gusts produced by all the trucks, high grass along the roadside, and 100 km of road, there was no chance to go back and search for it. We’d have to somehow organise a replacement, preferably as soon as possible – and meanwhile, he would ride as an illegal alien.

We had reached Krasnoyarsk in reasonably good shape, and pretty fast, too. The road from Novosibirsk to Krasnoyarsk had clearly been the best we’ve seen so far: With very little traffic, and in excellent condition. Since we were a little behind schedule when we left Novosibirsk, we tried to gain some time by covering big distances – and without big problems to report, this succeeded quite nicely! All told, we gained a full day on the way to Krasnoyarsk.

Near Krasnoyarsk, we met a Chinese fellow who was travelling by bike from China to Moscow. He warned us that the road towards Irkutsk would become worse after Krasnoyarsk, and we talked a bit about our respective projects. He’s a student of architecture and apparently interested in Russian and Soviet building styles. Since we were going in opposite directions, there’d be no chance to camp together – too bad!

Instead, in Krasnoyarsk, we stayed at one of Alex’s friends, Jan. Jan and his girlfriend were fantastic hosts and took us on a night-time tour through Krasnoyarsk, while the bikes were parked securely in the garage of Dmitry, whom we had met in the evening and who spontaneously offered to help. Krasnoyarsk is probably the most beautiful of Siberian cities: Built on several hills and with one of the great Siberian streams, the Yenisei, flowing through town, it’s quite a spectacular sight! It’s a pity we had to leave early the next morning – this would surely have been a nice place to spend a few days.

Jan also was to play a key role in solving our little passport problem. A few hours after we noticed the missing passport, we got a call from Evgeniya Kalinichenko, who we had visited at Liotech in Novosibirsk. Apparently, Felix had put her business card inside his passport (for reasons better left unexplored), and a woman had found the passport in Krasnoyarsk and called Evgeniya. Evgeniya graciously offered to have the passport sent to a post storage in Irkutsk, our next major stop, but we had an even better option: Sergej, another friend of Alex, living in Irkutsk.

A few emails and phone calls later, a plan was in place: Jan would pick up the passport from the finder the next morning, then mail it to Sergej, and we’d fetch it from Sergej once we’d reach Irkutsk! Of course, in Russia it’s forbidden to mail passports, but we were hoping normal mail wouldn’t be monitored. A situation like this really brings home the importance of having a support network in place – which we, thanks to Alex and his wonderful friends, now had!

Indeed this plan worked out exactly as envisioned. We are now past Irkutsk, and Felix is reunited with his passport, all thanks to Sergej and Jan and Alex and Evgeniya. Thanks a ton, all of you! What else happened in Irkutsk and on the way there is subject for another post.