The Hitchhiking Trip to Siberia – 2009
On the road from Ulan-Ude to Moscow
He was also very nostalgic for the good old times of Soviet era. “Yes, it’s true, the system wasn’t ideal at all, but I had my job in the factory, earning 400 rubles a month, never thinking of how am I going to get money to feed my family. And look at me now? Struggling, struggling only to survive. Is this life?” he said. And since I didn’t know how it was in USSR as I was only 6 y.o. when the Soviets collapsed, I couldn’t say a word. But from what I saw in Siberia I could say that the driver was right, saying they were strugling only to survive.
An hour later he dropped off me at Yurga-Novosibirsk junction. I thanked him and wished all the best, and as he drove away, I walked along the road. It was a sunny cold day. Twenty minutes later two brothers from Georgia, Edik and Gena, picked me up. They were going to Barnaul, so they could drop me off after Novosibirsk. Our talks were mostly about my trips, brothers were interested in hitchhiking, though as they said they never tried it. “Well, we have our own car as you can see. And our job is also like traveling, so we have the chance to visit different cities and regions. We are almost like you. But our traveling also brings us money, while you’re just wandering,” said one of the brothers. Later in the afternoon they treated me with delicious vegetarian dishes in a Georgian café.
At 4.00 PM we drove in Novosibirsk and another accident took place just five minutes later. We found ourselves in a ditch. Now it was my third (and the last) accident during that Siberian trip. Edik and Gena hired a truck to pull their cargo van out, and half an hour after we were back on the road, they dropped me off on a crossroad out of Novosibirsk. In the next two hours I managed to get few lifts for short distances. I ended up standing by the police station. It was -25°C outside. In half an hour I got the next ride. I was hoping to warp up in the car, but the old Soviet ‘Zhiguli’ had so many cracks and holes that it felt as if I was in a fridge. Pretty soon I realized I can’t feel my toes anymore. I took off my boots and tried to warm up my toes, but it didn’t help much. The situation got even worse when all of a sudden the driver stopped and said that he arrived. Boots in my hands, I left the car. I had no idea where I was, there were no lampposts around, no road signs, only darkness. Far ahead I noticed a light. Hoping it was a house or a café, I ran. Boots in my hand. It was a small wooden roadside café. I must have left an impression of a madman when I ran in and ordered few cups of hot tea and few plates of hot vegetarian soup. And then more tea again. Now I was safe.
While sitting there and eating, a 5-6 years old kid came to me and said: “Mister, on which car did you arrive?”
“I’m on foot,” I answered. He was holding a toy car in his little dirty hands.
“You don’t have a car?”
“Why don’t you have a car?” The kid was curious.
“Well, but I have my feet instead,” I replied.
“And where are you going on your feet?”
“To Moscow.” I laughed.
“Huh. That’s quite far,” said the kid and left. But pretty soon he came back. This time with two toy cars.
“Choose one,” he said to me. I had to take one of the toys and play with him for five minutes.
Around 8.00 PM I left the café and went back to the road. In 15 minutes I got a ride on a Kamaz truck. The driver was a 25 y.o. boy, who managed to tell me the whole story of his life while driving: where he was born, where he lived, when kissed a girl for the first time, how many girls he ever had and who made love best, where and with whom he had sex and which one of them became his wife in the end. The guy kept on his monologue and I was just smiling from time to time.
February 17, 2009.
It was past midnight when I got off at Barabinsk road police station. For the next hour I wasn’t able to get a ride, so I walked to the nearby rest area and spent another hour sitting there in the restaurant and talking to young waitresses. They were funny and very kind to my person, so I just sat on a sofa, and we talked and talked. They treated me with a delicious vegetarian borsch.
It was 3.30 AM when I finally got a ride from a truck driver named Valera, going to Omsk. The driver was happy to have me in the cabin as I was going to entertain him all the way to Omsk, since he was sleepy. But about an hour later, as the temperature dropped down, the diesel fuel inside the tank froze to ice, and we couldn’t drive anymore. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. In the cold. Waiting for someone to pass by to help us.