The Hitchhiking Trip to Siberia – 2009
On the road from Ulan-Ude to Moscow
I left the city limits around 11.00 AM. Seeking a suitable spot for hitchhiking I walked a bit, and twenty minutes later got the first ride to Angarsk. The driver said that he always wanted to pick up hitchhikers but never met one on the road and that now he was very happy to offer a ride. He asked questions about hitchhiking, and I did my best to fulfill his interest. Half an hour later I was dropped off at the Angarsk junction. Another 15 minutes of walking in search of a good position for hitching. A Japanese cargo van picked me up around noon.
“Last summer I picked up a hitchhiker from Poland here. He was hitchhiking to China for the Olympic games,” said the driver when I buckled up. “And where are you going?”
“Well, I’m going to Tomsk now, and then to Moscow.”
He drove me to Usolye-Sibirskoe. I wasn’t lucky to get a ride for longer distance that morning. Another two vehicles, few small towns passed, then there was the town called Sredniy, where a 60-year-old businessmen on a cool “Mazda” picked me up. The man was complaining about his life: “I almost have no job. There are 25 people who work for me, and I have to pay them. Where am I going to get the money? I don’t know. That’s why every day I’m just driving from one place to another, looking for job, or for money. Our life is tough here.”
We talked about life in the region. The driver had nothing good to say, and I guess he had his point! He dropped me off near Cheremkhovo. I noticed a middle-aged man, all in black, standing on the roadside, hitchhiking. Perhaps, another released criminal without money. I passed by and walked for 50 meters not to disturb him, since he was the first on this spot. But very soon a couple on a minivan offered me a ride to Zima. They were curious about my trips, and they also shared stories from their hikes. We talked, and talked, and it was all about wanderings. The weather got colder, and it was snowing when they dropped me off. In five minutes I got a ride from a man, who used to work at the coal mine.
“But then some boys from Moscow came, bought everything, sold everything, and fired everyone. And so I lost my job. It’s getting worse here. People began to cut down the forests and steal timber and sell it to China. Then again, some Muscovites came, bought or rented the areas in the forests, cut the trees and sold to China. Having no job, girls became prostitutes. There, in Usolye-Sibirskoe almost every 4th inhabitant is HIV-positive,” he said.
“Yes, yes, I saw them on my way to Irkutsk. Many girls standing along the road.”
It was already dark outside when I got off near Tulun. I got stuck there for 40 minutes. Then I met Mamikon, another stranger from Armenia. He offered me tea, we talked for two hours. Then I left.
At 8.15 PM I got a ride from a driver from Khakassia. He was escorting a tractor with an auto-transport semi-trailer as they were transferring cars from Vladivostok to Abakan. We discussed the financial crisis, and talked about his job.
February 6th, 2009
I was dropped off near the rest area in Alzamay. It was 2.00 AM. I tried to hitchhike, but there were no cars on the road. Stood there for 40 minutes, then went in the café to drink tea and eat. There was no reason to torture myself in the cold, especially, when there was not a single car passing by, so I decided to spend the night in the café and continue my road in the morning.