I start walking glancing over my shoulder now and again to see if I can see a vehicle coming on the long straight road. We are in Siberia now and although this is the major artery across Russia there is very little traffic which makes hitch hiking difficult. Sometimes I walk for 15 minutes without seeing a car in either direction thank goodness I am only carrying the cush drive plate and not the whole wheel. A few cars pass and I stick my thumb out each time but they just thunder past, eventually after about my 10th attempt and about 3 km of walking a van stops and I get a ride. The driver and I exchange pleasantries and I explain what we are doing with the help of our business cards we bought from home. These have been a great help as they have a map of our route on one side and our names and website on the other. After about 10km we pull into a fuel station which also has a cafe and a tyre place/workshop. My driver thinks they may be able to help, he goes to get something to eat while I try to stir up some life in the deserted looking workshop. Eventually someone appears and I ask for a Svarka (welder) he speaks no English but the gist of his answer is clear “there is not a welder around here for miles” I go back into the cafe and find my driver and ask if I can continue with him. He is fine with this so long as I don’t mind waiting for him to eat his breakfast, considering how long I had to wait for a ride this is no problem and I grab a coffee and a mars bar while I am waiting. We continue our journey but run out of conversation eventually largely due to the language barrier, I begin typing out an article I am writing for a magazine after 20 minutes I look up. The scenery and the road look exactly the same, I am glad I marked our junction as this stretch all looks very similar a long straight ribbon of tarmac framed by silver birch and pine trees. After what seems like miles we turn into a yard with another workshop and my driver asks a mechanic if they have a welder. I am in luck and say goodbye and thankyou to my driver. I walk into a small reception with a tv and a table and chairs where the welder is cooking his lunch, he takes a quick look at the cush drive plate and says he can probably do it but I will have to wait whilst he has lunch. Lunch over he sets to, it’s awkward to clamp the two pieces together in the right place but eventually he manages to hold the two parts together with the aid of an ancient Russian turret mill whilst he does the first welds. Its obvious he knows what he is doing and we communicate on an engineering level fairly easily despite the fact that neither of us speak each others language.
He is not keen on welding the drive cog all the way round so he does several short runs of weld. He also mounts the cush drive in an ancient looking Russian lathe and skims down the outer edges of the weld a little to make sure that it fits in the drive box. Its all very Russian looking but this is the best equipped workshop I have seen in a long time. Just as we are finishing up he asks which way I am heading, I am in luck a lorry that pulled in looking for a tyre is going my way. I ask him how much for the welding and he just shrugs, I give him 500 roubles as I dash out to catch the lorry driver and he seems happy with this. Out in the yard the lorry is waiting for me at the junction, a Volvo artic with a massive American style tractor unit. I clamber up the numerous steps and meet the driver and off we go. The cab is enormous with a comfotable looking living and sleeping area behind us. These big American style bonneted tractor units are popular, you see lots of US Freightliner trucks here, they have similar distances to cover as the American truckers and you need something you can live in along the way. On the way back we pull into the same transport cafe so he can eat and try to get a tyre, he disapears off to try to find a tyre while I eat some Borscht (Russian soup) He comes back a bit later disapointed, they have a tyre but no electricity for the machine to fit it. He eats his lunch and afterwards there is nothing for it but to fit it by hand using levers no mean feat on a 22.5 inch lorry tyre. I have done it myself in the past and its not easy, tyre fitted he decides to stick it in the back off the trailer for now as there is no power to run the compressor. Lorry tyres are incredibly heavy and it takes 3 of us to lift it up there. He drops me off at the end of our road (I am glad that I marked it so well)and I start to walk back to our camp. When I get there I can’t see Karen so I call to her, she is up by the fire and is surprised to see me so soon (it felt like a long day to me) We catch up over a cup of tea before I start to put the bike back together. Karen’s day It’s now 10am I walk back to camp I am looking forward to being able to relax maybe catch up on blogs etc. But first chores there’s all the sleeping bags and airbed to bring out in the sun to air, then the washing up. I sweep out the mouse droppings with a pine ‘broom’. After filling up the stove bottle and having lunch the midges get worse so I go foraging for wood. The midges having calmed again I decide to cut my hair using the bike rear view mirror, now I can see again my fringe was way long. It’s time for a rest 4pm and a cup of tea.
‘hello’ oh my god he’s back already that was quick. I haven’t had time to feel afraid, bored or anything this was my first chance to relax all day. Stories exchanged Kev rebuilds the bike whilst I make stew a quick look at the rear tyre whilst it’s off reveals it is dangerously low and has three deep splits so we come to a decision to put the one we removed in Kazakhstan as it only has one split and some tread left. As the saying goes it never rains but pours. We go to start the bike to pump up the tyre and both batteries are dead, flat as a pancake. Kev spent a long time wiring them up to run independent of each other so this would never happen. Investigation reveals a chain of events, our alternator has been fluctuating and charging irregularly of late, we drained one with the winch yesterday and a loose battery terminal had been preventing the other from charging which we only descovered too late. Now well dark we give up and sit by the fire I lit earlier.