Tcherepovets and the crossing of the Russian taiga – 8 days – 130 metres above the sea level

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Leaving our hostel between two showers, the sat nav indicated 390 kms. The weather was cold. We had to wear several layers including waterproof suit and winter gloves. 

From the first kilometres to the middle of the journey, we had showers, snow, hail and sometimes a bit of sunshine giving us, at each time, some hope. The coffee breaks at the petrol stations were life-saving. We entered, in the station, wet and cold for some warmth with a big mug of coffee after some tough 100 kilometres.

Our arrival to Tcherepovet was through its industrial area. We arrived between the massive metal chimneys transpiercing the sky. Steel industry is the main economics activity of the city. Once the massive factory of Severestal was behind, we entered in the city by one of the main avenues. Its architecture was constituted by several ageing blocks of flats. We were sleeping in one of them. The neighbourhood was quite austere. At the park between the blocks, the playground was looking like c coming from another age. While we were not feeling confident in this area, once parked, the neighbours were coming to warmly welcome us. 

The night was coming, we were feeling the coldness during our walk on the way to the center to get some food. There again, our stroll in the street of this industrial city did not reconciled us with its architecture. The Soviet atmosphere resulting from that, could have inspired Emile Zola to build a contemporain Germinal. Around the market square, we observed some remaining houses from the 19th century, but it was the massive statue highlighting the workers of metalworking industry which will remain in our mind.

The next day, we left the city by the South by crossing the Cheksna river. It merged a few kilometres further with the great Volga river, the longest of Europe. We continued on a secondary road following it. Its width was so large that it was impossible to see the opposite shore.

Our little road was crossing little wooden villages with economics activity linked to the river. After that, the landscape was replaced by deep forest and tiny rivers which were Volga’s affluents.

Upon our arrival in Iaroslavl, two policemen helped us to call the owner of our flat. He indicated that the flat keys were hidden on the sill of the window. Once we opened the flat, both policemen insisted with two old guys for leaving our sidecars in a secured parking, just a few hundreds of metres further down, rather than in front of the flat. At the secured parking, we were welcomed by another old guy who opened the barrier with a big smile. With easy gestures, we understood that he was very proud to keep an eye on our Ural sidecars. Our vehicles being in safe hands, we went exploring the historic town centre, a listed UNESCO World Heritage.

Iaroslavl is the perfect example of a regional capital. Unknown abroad (except a few inhabitants of Poitiers, the French twin city of Iaroslavl) in spite of being one of the oldest cities of Russia. The city was a mix of modernity and tradition. We saw many Lada cars in front of old orthodox churches with cupolas while shops of Western brands were opening on the other side of the street. The city was being under a big refurbishing plan symbolised by the arrangement of the promenade along the Volga river leading to the Strelka park. This green area, located at the crossing of the Volga and Kotorosli rivers, was decorated with a bear-shape flowerbed. The bear is the symbol of the city and was to commemorate its 1000th anniversary. The promenade was great to enjoy the beauty of the town centre in a quiet atmosphere. We discovered the impressive cathedral of Dormiton, the beautiful church of the prophet Elie and the ancient door of the Znamenskaya tower. 

After this stage, we continued through the taiga on a road, still, in bad conditions. However, the sun stayed with us all along the day and the temperature was getting warmer. 

Due to the bad conditions of the road, we stopped in a motel at Kady. Again, it was hard to communicate and to ask for 4 beds for the night. Google Translate helped us a lot. Julien repaired a seat by welding and we did some maintenance by greasing and tightening. 

Our effort was awarded by the taste of our first bortsch, the traditional Slav beetroot soup. We enjoyed it in a wide room, the restaurant of the motel with Zaz and Joe Dassin for the background music. 

Cheesy pancakes for breakfast before to continue our adventure through the taiga. The sunshine was going through the branches of the pine trees. The light was beautiful. After following it over 90 kilometres, we left the straight line of the road 33p to get some rest in the village of Leninskoye. On the secondary road to reach this little village, there was à goods train crossing the road. On the main square, a horse and its cart were waiting their owner. The only hotel marked on the « » app didn’t exist. A guy gave us another address but the “gostinitsa” was out of our budget. The owner was kind enough to give us the address of a motel just outside of the city. We went back on the 33p road and in front of a Lukoil service station we saw the rudimentary building of the motel. 

The manager showed us the place and the various possibilities for sleeping. We preferred the cheapest: sleeping in a small room, usually for 3 people, isolated at the opposite side of the parking and next to the mechanics’ workshop. Our evening started by visiting this workshop as we noticed some damages due to the quality of the road. The bearing of our front tire worn its hub. As a rudimentary repair, we spread some thread locker and hoped that it will last the longest possible. 

We dined in the canteen of the motel. Sat at the table, we had the nice surprise to see the journalist of the local news arriving in the room. She has been informed of our presence by the manager of the motel. She did a quick interview with a mix of Russian and English words and without any assistance for translating by any kind of technology. For desert, we enjoyed some pancakes, a traditional dish in Russia. We spread some sugar but the locals were surprised by our way to eat these pancakes. 

The next day, the weather was nice for riding. We stopped in the city of Kirov to find some thread locker and grease for the next maintenance day. To find those, we targeted the big Russian store of Leroy Merlin (the equivalent of B&Q): Леруа Мерлен. A quick selfie for Emilie’s dad as it’s his favourite shop. He spent hours inside with Emilie when she was a kid. Sadly, we didn’t find the products we were looking for but we bought a new tarpaulin. Finally, we found our products in a mechanics auto shop, just a few hundreds of metres further. We were already mid-afternoon but decided to continue our journey. We wanted to find a place for the night in the next village. The hotels were finally too expensive. After 40 kilometres in plus, we found a motel matching our budget with a sweet welcoming in the Nikony village.

For our next stage, we wanted to be at Perm for the celebrations of the 9th of May (the National day celebrating the victory of the Second World War). But the road decided otherwise. A crack of the swinging arm next to the suspension, on both sidecars, made us to stop for the rest of the day at Omoutninsk. A new mechanical session on the parking of a motel. After disassembling during all the afternoon, welding and assembling back, we finally opened a beer with Alexander the welder and Michael the security guard of the parking before to enjoy a great goulash at the motel. 

As a symbol of kindness of the people we met on the road, we will remember the receptionist of the motel who went outside as soon as she heard our engines. She ran to give us water, a chocolate bar, and a nice hug. One hundred of kilometres before Perm, during a new break at a Lukoil service station, we met Stepan and his family. Happy to meet Ural travellers, the sidecar he got, he took a group photo and offered us some bottles of water. After a day on the road, we arrived in Perm without troubles in spite of the frightening road conditions described by our friends we just met. We strolled in the town centre, the sixth biggest Russian city. On the main square, there was a concert given for this national day. Then, we watched the sunset over the Kama river where we shared a flask of Cognac with a retired guy who was proud to tell us the life he spent in France during a few years. Tomorrow, we will ride 350 kilometres separating us from Iekaterinbourg, our next stage.