So as I was saying, we had a plan. The plan was, drive a couple of hundred kms and perhaps we would have a day off in St Petersburg, we have booked a hostel (well the other team) way and away we go, I am not allowed to drive as counted as being too dangerous.
Roads looking good, other team are still with us, only another 1300 kms to go altogether. We make progress, stop to get petrol meet a wolf (it was a dog), keep going, have something to eat in a motorway service station, a somewhat weak (been cooking for a week and filled up with water) Borscht, it cost about 1.20€, so we forgive it for bing a bit rubbish, drink more coffee. Russia is a country with a lot of nothing, ha….I see an elk, a real not a reindeer one, try to inform the rest of the team without success. Everyone knows we will stop shortly, so half of the team decide to drink our newly picked up Russian beer, to see how it is, and we know we will no longer need to drive. The other half of the team has a vigerous discussion about “team dynamic”, the part of the team with beer ignore this.
Fill up with petrol, change of drivers by both teams, things looking good. More kilometers driven, getting close to 23:00 only 900 kms to go, stop for a discussion about what to do next. A hotel is found, we go there, unfortunately it is more the sort of hotel which wants paying by the hour, we are told to go away. We keep going, we will stop at the next place to stay, now only 800 kms to go, it is absolutely amazing how empty Russia is, Norway, Finland there were occasional houses, here in Russia, noting at all. Everyone now very tired, so tired that I am allowed to drive again, other team still with us, we will stop at the next place possible, we keep going, now unusually from our point of view getting dark, more due to large cloud than anything else, we keep going, now 2:00 in the morning, more coffee, change of drivers, next opportunity we will stop. Starts pissing down, not good weather to stop and camp, someone finds a new hotel, the mist descends, now have a visibility of about 20 mtrs, we leave the motorway and follow the other team which has found a hotel, and go down into an obscure, maybe had a name but who knows what village, drive through the mist in named village, think about a variety of American horror films, wonder who will be killed first. Find “Hotel” at the end of the village, lot of expensive cars parked next to it, each one looking about 10 times the value of any house in the village, ring the bell, nothing, ring again nothing, part of the team thinks this would be an ideal place to stop anyway, and camp in the rain, on the meter high bushes, in this Amityville place of horror. Others in both teams, disagree strongly, chang of drivers and on we go, now about two in the morning, people tired and irritated, next garage, more coffee, only about 600 kms left, will keep going until the next place, keep going, hard to describe how nothing there is. Another stop 500 kms left, more coffee, am back at the wheel again, next place we will stop, other team agrees, again everyone so tired I am allowed to drive again, keep driving, keep driving 250 kms left, still no place to stop, discuss sleeping in the car, at the next opportunity, changes of drivers again, I sleep in the car, only 150 kms to go, discussion now non existent as basically everyone is asleep, me and my associate for the other team, now think fuck it, lets keep going, no artificial drugs, but large mounts of caffeine have left us in a state of near invulnerability, we drive, about 100 kms, before St Petersburg, things go batshit insane, we are now in a game of crazy chicken, on our single spur lane, everyone tries to overtake everyone, a horizontal cross section of about 6-7 cars all overtaking, before anyone from the other side turns up (think early Mel Gibson Mad Max films), now out of our head-on coffee, with matchsticks under the eyes, luckily everyone else in the car asleep, so less screaming than usual, we fight back and win, within no time at all, are only about 30 kms from where we are trying to get to. We had succeeded, we are more successful that Adolf and the Third Reich, albeit in the wrong direction, half Russia covered in a day.
Now no longer a discussion of where to stop, stay, we are nearly there, driver change again, I go to sleep so have no opinions how the drive in was, did wake up and see a bridge, went back to sleep.
11:00 and we have made it, we are 2 days in advance of our schedule, and a mere 26 hours after leaving Murmansk we are in St Petersburg, opens up a whole new scope for day trips in the future.
We go to the hostel, to meet the obligatory unfriendly Russian, who speaks no english, and understand nothing, luckily other potential guest turns up who speaks Russian and english, turns out we can check in at 14:00. Half dead participants of both teams drag themselves round the corner, where coffee, breakfast, fresh orange juice cheers everyone up, we get the bill and everyone cheers up more……a while later, back to hostel, some russian, but now deigns at least to help, we have a perfect 8 bunkbed room for our 7 bodies, bags are grabbed from the car, showers taken, everyone crashes and sleeps.
18:00 we are awake fit and need food, so go to a wine bar, demolish a bottle of sekt, and decide we still need food, go to restaurant, where the food was absolutely excellent for a very reasonable price, time to go for a drink, so work a long way through St Petersburg, there may have been a reason, I missed, had a drink walk a long way back, almost not getting lost at all. The majority of both teams is near exhaustion, and have to go to bed. This time the other alternative culture team members, decide to look for more beer, working on the principle we would never find the hostel again if we wandered, walked in a straight line down the street until we found somewhere to drink.
Ordered a v.weird Russian tastes of flowers beer from Moscow, now 12:30, bar shuts at 01:00, dislike this beer, so drink it and order another, definitely better, keep going, talk to man behind the bar, who turns out to have spent a year in Hamburg when studying, try some vodka, and more beer, learn man behind bar is the manager, has owned the bar for 3 years and is opening another, drink more vodka, learn that the in-thing in vodka now is the old “bread” taste from a long time ago, drink more beer, learn manager makes infusions, which was how vodka was drunk 200 years ago, try one of these and a last beer, and a quick coffee. Notice it is now 3:45, and bar has officially been shut for three and three quarter hours, so time to go back to the hostel. As silent as mice, we arrive in our family room, time for bed.
Tomorrow a day of no driving, but may involve more beer and vodka.