To appreciate Siberia one need only spend 13 days driving across Kazakhstan. The transition from desert scrublands to mountainy pine forest is quite abrupt. However, it is hardly the first sign that you are in a new, fantastic world. Instead, it is small little things that become quite striking. Not only do you have maintained asphalt, you have painted lines! What extravagance! Stores suddenly have signs! How clever! Street lights turn on at night! Hurray!
The mind is blown little by little.
Fortunately, the hotel matrons haven’t lost any of their junkyard dog personality. But this is old hat for us now.
Our last 24 hours in Kazakhstan killed two of our tires. Creepy little potholes ended up bending our rims but leaving the rubber of the tires whole.
To fix this one needs only find a Siberian man standing in front of a garage with a stack of tires next to it.
You show him the wheel and give a questioning look. He turns to his garage, silent. With hands crusted with grease he reaches in and grabs a rusty wood axe and the black hammer of Thor. This is when you whisper “We’re gonna get murdered,” to your companion.
Instead the Siberian man ends up taking out his anger on your bent rims, smashing them into submission. You don’t ask how much to pay, instead you place rubles into his hand one after the next until he grunts and retreats into his cave.
The total cost in real money? 20 dollars.
Following this event we trundled as near to the Mongolian border as possible before the pine forest disappeared. We cleverly hid the Marabby in some trees by the river and set up camp.
Everything was idyllic until we heard the cracking of a tree branch followed by an “ooph!”
Roberta went to investigate and found Hans bundled in his hammock. On the ground.
The broken branch (tree) lay at his feet.
“One too many Snickers bars eh Hans?” Roberta said.
Hans picked a stouter tree and put his hammock back up, this time there was no incident if you don’t count the rain or angry bulls that invaded our camp.
Roberta and I were in our tent when the bovine bash occurred. Roberta was wide eyed and I was praying that I had staked our tent tight enough that we didn’t look like a waving cape. Hans on the other hand was using his hammock like a sling shot aimed towards the safety of the Marabby.
The tussle ended around 10pm and we slept surprisingly well despite the mad cows, Siberians with axes, and rain.