Russia 2011-Archangelsk district – English version

2011 November 25
by ivano


So, at the end the time was here. I was starting my journey. My two fellow travellers in my car were waiting somewhere in Bilnica, which is about 15 km far from highway towards Zilina. But before that, I had turned to Banovce, where I looked at production of the second expedition-camper in Slovakia. This was ordered by a jolly German couple who are living in Slovakia. That will be a little different category of car – three axles Mercedes Zetros. They want to travel around the world and this journey, which takes a couple of years needs a little bit more than my tiny MAN. It was very interesting, it will be a beautiful expedition camper.

But to the point. I picked up my fellow travellers who I had known only from web and a couple of meetings. Libor a back-pack man, who travelled a very big part of the world, and Peter a young man from Valdice. This time it will be only a party of men, babies hadn´t poured into Archangelsk very much. Next time, I´ĺl have to come up with something more attractive.

Expedition Toyota with east-men Vlado and Emil and Michals Subaru will join us a day later.


Unfortunately, another partner Peter with UAZ had an accident in Albania and in the end he didn´t manage to repair his car in time. This is a real problem to find fellow travellers. There aren´t many people who are really interested in this type of journey. Almost all my friends and acquaintance used to go on classic holidays to hotels all inclusive. If some people interested in it they mostly don’t have a suitable off-road car or don’t have enough time or money, or both, or their wives simply prohibited that or many other are simply afraid of it. In the end the choice of the crew was rather good and I hope, that it woun´t be our last journey together.

We went across east Slovakia and east Poland, which is a little bit better than transit through Warszaw, although the way is about 150 km longer. However, crossing Poland is terrible. There are heavy traffic on the roads, road works, traffic-jams. I don’t understand, how is it possible survive it. We founded place for night no far from the Slovak borders. We simple turned from the main road to a forest and we stayed next to ramp for the night.
Next day it was a terrible way through Poland. There was a very strong storm in the evening. We were staying near a restaurant on a big paid car park behind Suwalki. There was traditional bad Polish bad service in the restaurant and we didn´t eat anything. I don’t understand that. There are a lot of empty restaurants in Poland which they would fight for customers but in spite of this fact, this was the third time I had very bad experience. Along with crowded roads, towns full of cars-ring rounds of towns don´t exist- Poland is one terrible dream for me. But what we experienced on our way back from Krakow, there was shocking, but about that later. We went to a back road between fields and we slept there.
In the morning somebody was knocking on the door. It was a drunk Pole and he said very rudly that we were on his area but I didn´t understand what he wanted. Probably I should have gone. I gave him 10 EUR as rent for the area, after that we became friends and also we shook a hands.

The Baltic countries were better because there were more empty roads. We founded a place for the night a small port on the bank of Cudskoe lake. There we were swimming, temperature was 32° there. At home in south was only 16°, it´s a little bit upside down, the northerly, the warmer. Michal with Subaru arrived.

In the morning we went to the Russian border and before the border crossing we had to check in. This something similar to timed permission to excess to border. Local people wait at the border-crossing for about one week !!!!. Luckily foreigners have a priority and we could go to the border without waiting. Crossing the border took about 3 hours, including very thorough customs control. Estonien customs officiers hesitated whether I have a personal, or a lorry car. I was afraid that I had to wait more days in queue between lorries. At least everything went OK. Behind border we found the well-known “bolsevniky” /very aggressive plants/, the first petrol station where refilled fuel to full tank. Diesel in Russia cost about half-price as in the EU. I bought the same pastries as last year and that was a bit “déjà vu”. After that we arrived to Píter /St.Peterburg/ and we went to Ilja by ring road about 80 km. There was very heavy traffic, because traditional weekend traffic-jams started. We spent a very pleasant evening in Ilja´s house, we were chatted, looked at to his new order – expedition lorry UNIMOG. Vadim came also with his wife. He had just returned from holidays in western Europe. He was exited by regulations, rules, ways, crowded towns, simply by everything, we were running from away to Russia. That is interesting. He said, that we were going to Russia to look at as open air museums, but we would be very glad to return to civilization and live in comfort but they had to stay and live in these hard conditions. I had to agree that something was true in it.

We spent a calm morning, speaking and drinking coffee. After that we went shopping to a big centre. There suddenly I heard “zdravstvujte ivan” /hallo, Ivan/ and I met Saša. He is a friend who works together with Ilja . That was as a huge suprise to meet a aquitance in Piter. The world is really very small but it was a great feeling.

Than we went further towards Vytegra and found a place on the bank of Onega Lake. There we experienced a little off-road on unpaved back road for the first time. At the end we found a place for sleeping on Volga-White See canal and there we were waiting for Vlado. In front of our eyes 5 floor cruise ships and also big lorry ships sailed time to time.


Next to us was a team of lorry-drivers. They were waiting for ships to bring gravel . We had a chat with one of them who owns an Iveco. He works anywhere where work is available. It isn´t easy life. Of course he sleeps in his car and in summer in a small tent. He drank a lot of vodka with Libor. In the morning he definitly had alcohol in his blood but he didn´t worry about it. The discussion between the Russian and Libor was very interesting. Libor, after drinking vodka started to speek English. Whenn he didn´t know some Russian words – unfortunately Libor knew a very few – he used English words instead of using Czech ones, which the Russian would have understood more easily. Finally the Russian didn´t understand anything at all. When the Russian didn´t understand, Libor started to shout, what also didn´t help off course. That was really funny. From this time on we called Libor the communication-man.

In the morning we went on to Pudosh and Kargopol. Roads were very changeable, somewhere there was good tarmac, somewhere there were unpaved roads with holes and bumps. This type of roads was increasing. Avery strange type of road is a road constructed of two lines of concrete slabs which are mostly used on technical roads. It means that these roads don’t belong to the official road-net and they are used only by forest miners, pipe-line constructors, railways and so on. They were sometimes closed, sometime limited use was possible only. When they stopped to be used for their assigned purpose and nobody looks after them, after some time bridges collapse, they are grown over by plants and trees and maybe someone will build some new ones. These concrete slabs are almost like stairs somewhere with steel rods and mostly it is better to go on the other half of the road, where there is only soil, sand, mud and something similar. In the case of very heavy rains, which we luckily didn´t have, this half of the road becomes impassable and you have to go only on concrete slabs.


We found a place for sleeping on the bank of the River Onega. There we were swimming and of course there was an open fire and barbecue.

Then we continued towards Mirnyj, where is a space-port. In Pleseck one talkative Russian told us that it wasn´t possible to go to Mirnyj because we needed a permission. I told him that I read in a web site that it is possible to obtain a permission. He only smiled and didn´t believe me. Nevertheless we went to the town where was a ramp with strong security with soldiers. Everybody was looking at us as if we were from another world but they didn´t arrest us only explained politely that we had to turn back. The permission is theoretically possible to obtain but only from Ministry of Defence and only for official foreign delegations. And this was only about entering the town and I haven`t said anything about the space-port. The entry there is prohibited even for local people. The length of the space-port is about 100 km, width a bit less. I asked what was the reason to close a whole town with 20 tsd citizens. He answered , that for the town it was more advantageous because of more generous financing from some army resources. Andrej went with us to the right way and he showed us a part of Mirnyj. When we told him about our journey he said that it was a crazy idea. He said that the only way to Mezen was a winter-road and it wasn´t possible to go there and in Leshukonskoe was injustice and the only possibility to go there was only with huge KAMAZ and it took a few days. Future will show if I was right in this case. Russian people don´t travel much, however, on these terrible roads it is understandable. A lot of information from Russian people is simply inaccurate or they simply don´t know.
We found a night place next to a small village on the beautiful bank of the river Onega. After a few minutes two young men come and we started to chat. One of them is a professional soldier and is stationed in Tschetschenia. He was at home only for the holidays. He really doesn’t have an easy life because he has to stay in an army camp in Tschetschenia for 11 months. He also showed us a video of an army training with real guns and ammunition. It was really dangerous. The second lad lives in a village together with cca 30 citizens and some people come here for holidays. He told us that a couple of times he had to run away from a bear and his dog was ripped into pieces by wolves. After a short time also another local citizen a joined us. One of them was here on holidays, his parents bought a house and used it as a cottage. He spoke also a little English and German. He spoke English with me. Russians always like to speak foreign languages. I think they want to show that they know it. To this time we had some friend-meetings every day. I would have appreciated also a day of rest. This evening the Russians brought some vodka but they didn´t drink the whole bottle. They were only mellow and knew when they have had enough. That was a very positive experience. I have very simply recipe for drinking with Russians. If somebody drinks with Russians beer is always accompanied by vodka and it isn´t possible to refuse it. So I always drink wine and you don’t drink vodka with it so the Russians respected that and they din’t force vodka on me. Therefore I survived all meetings without problems.

Somewhere far on the other bank of the river the taiga was burning. Local people told us that didn´t put out the fire because nobody lived there and there wasn´t a road. There was also a small village on the other bank-side where it was possible to go only by boat. There was no bridge. That was normal and nobody cares about it. Night was very quiet and it was a really nice sleep.


At night it got a bit colder- 28 degrees. It was still rather warm inspite of not being far from the North Polar Circle. In the morning we went further to Onega. In a small village there was a very nice wooden church which was being repaired by students from Moscow. I spoke with a jolly Russian girl who said that they did it voluntarily without any salary. They respected their history which communism and war didn´t destroy. I climbed also to the bell-tower which was built in 1700 from very hard wood.


We went on towards Onega. After a little time I heard some strange noise from chassis. I found out that the safety cover on the brake disk was broken . I called MAN service and they said that it was possible to dismount. The reason for that were terrible Russian roads. After some time the same happened to the rear wheel but this one went down without dismounting the wheel. Luckily we didn´t have any other technical problems.
The original town Onega on the seaside of the White sea is very far from civilization. We took a traditional schaschlik in tent-fast food with a beautiful girl shop assistant. She wasn´t a waitress because most restaurants in Russia were self-service. Btw Russian women are exiting. In small towns as Pleseck, Onega, Savinskij which are quite depressive they shine like the stars. They were nicely dressed, pretty, some of them like a model girls. It is interesting because most towns didn´t have running water in flats and houses and there are only public wells on squares. Usually women washed dishes and clothes in the river or spring. In some villages local people took water from rivers. Itmeans they are very clear. These hard conditions don’t make people worse but on the other hand their heartiness, talkativeness, helpfulness are very rare in Europian countries.

We went further along the shore of White Sea. We wanteed to find a place for sleeping, but we were shocked. There were a lot of cottages, it was possible to go on the sea shore only on a very few places. Finally we found the place for sleeping on the shore of a beautiful bay. It wasn´t possible to swim there, we had to go about 100 m further. We didn´t expect such a crowd of people on this remote place. A few minutes later a young man entered our conversation. He was there with two women, one of them was his wife, the second her friend. We set around the fire, they showed us where it is the best for swimming, we spoke and so. Nice people, as all Russians.


In the morning we swam with our neighbours. After that we went further towards Severodvinsk by very bad unpaved roads, but around us was beautiful nature. We came to Severodvinsk without any problems, nobody stopped us. Two years ago it was a strictly prohibited town, something similar to Mirnij, but the reason was the huge factory for nuclear submarines. The town was similar to an open-air museum, but lively, the people shopped, drove cars, however it looks different than in our country. After that we left the town in a very complicated way. We also went 15 km to wrong direction, there were no arrows and signs. We understand that local people don´t need that and foreigners don´t visit this location We were probably the first. Archangelsk is the centre of this district – it is a big town with 350 tsd inhabitants. It was established by Vikings in the 11th century, but unfortunately historical monuments were destroyed by communism. But on the other hand it is a big, lively town with a lot of restaurants, shopping centres, cars. We were also in an Armenian restaurant, we had a soup, which consisted of all kinds of food- veal, potatoes, vegetables It was quite good. After that we had a meeting with Nikolaj, a Russian offroader, who gave us a lot of valuable advice for our trip and also helped us to refill water in his friend’s car service. There was also a Russians offroad centre. Of course there was also a viewing of my MAN, a chat and so. Just in this time they were preparing for a discovery trip along the coast of White Sea by ATV quads. Nobody had realized a similar journey up to this time. There wasn´t a road, only wild nature. In Russia there are really exciting conditions for offroaders, nothing is prohibited, it is really possible to discover untouched nature, nobody banishes them from forest. Such a trip is a real adventure.

We didn´t arrange permition to Mezen, we would had to wait in the town one day and it wasn´t sure that we would get it. Nikolaj told us that in Mezen there was nothing interesting. He didn´t know if the ferry in Ust-Kym works, without it it isn´t possible to go to Usogorsk by the valey of river Mezen. We will have to ask local people.

So we went further, around the open air museum of local architecture. Local people told us that for us it wasn’t interesting to go there, because there weren’t original buildings and we could see real local old buildings in inhabited villages towards Pinega, Mezen and Leshukonskoe. We found a place for sleeping on the shore of river North Dvina. It is very wide here, about 2 km. And it is considered only quite small in Russia . Everything is huge here, a river like Danube would be only a bourn and across a river similar to Vah there would be only a wade.


In the morning we went towards Pinega, nature reserve. The roads were various, once even a short part with tarmac. There were beautiful places. In Pinega we refilled fuel for the last time before wild nature. The nearest petrol station will be after 450 km. Refueling in petrol stations is very interesting everywhere in Russia. You stop, go inside, say how much you want, you have to pay and the cashier enables only the the amount you have paid for. When you want full tank, you have to estimate the amount, pay for it and the cashier gives you the change back.. Simply said without paying in advance you don´t get even a liter of petrol. And the quality of diesel is very bad here. Local people have confirmed this also and I felt the bad quality on the engine power as well. Every second day about half a liter of water poured out from the separator., There was so much sand and dust in it that I had to pierce it, because the water would’t have leaked. I was afraid how my engine full of electronic with common rail jets will endure it. Luckily the filters worked. Vlado didn’t have this problem with the Toyota, his engine without electronics would raven even sunflower oil. This is a really huge advantage for this expedition trip.

There was even a restaurant in Pinega, but without any special foods. We had only fish from microwave. The cuisine is very poor everywhere in Russia , mostly schaslik, very rarely borsch, bliny – similar to pancakes – and the rest some foods from microwave. All food has to be ordered by the cashier, pay for it, and when it is prepared, the cashier calls you and you can take the food from the counter. Classic restaurant service was very rare. I think we experienced that only once.

In Pinega an old man requested Miso to take him home. He has lived all his life in seclusion in a forest. From the road he has to walk 2 km, across a stream wade and there he lives with his wife in a settlement with 5 houses. The man was very satisfied. He has a pension of about 4500 rub, his wife about 7000 rub, it is together 300 EUR. But costs here are very low. They don’t have to pay for water – they take it from a spring, they don’t have to pay rent for their house, he shoots ducks, picks raspberries, strawberries, mushrooms, catches fish. He doesn’t spend all his pension and he gives the rest of the money to his daughters, who live in Archangelsk. You can’t see a similar humility, modesty and satisfaction in our country. The people by us grumble for everything in spite of having incomparably more.
We found a place for sleeping in a beautiful wild forest, the nearest village was about 100 km far. After few minutes we picked a couple kg of mushrooms and Libor, who was a cook during his military service, made excellent dinner.


It was rainy and colder in the morning, maybe the tropical weather finished. Later the weather was better. We went towards Mezen, across the empty taiga. We saw only one village and one restaurant, maybe it was the first symbol of improving civilization. The road to Mezen was built only in year 2008, up to that time there was only a winter-road, off course impassable in the summer. In the summer it was possible to go to Mezen only by a plane, but for majority of people it was too expensive.
So they didn’t go anywhere. Even now you can meet only about one car per hour. Across the river Mezen there is a floating bridge, it is also progress. The bridge is dismounted before winter, but for some time, while the river freezes and it is possible to go on the ice with car, and in the spring while it thaws off again, the road is without a bridge. So what? One simply doesn’t travel- village Kimza is cut off the world.


We stayed in Kimza, it was very nice, an old village with authentic architecture. The first written notice about the village is from the year 1650. There are 130 inhabitans. We also visited a museum which was 200 years old abandoned house. There was also a charming directress of the museum in Mezen, who gladly showed us everything. In Mezen there is also an operating wind mill. There have been also a few houses sold to strangers as cottages. We met a boy from Archangelsk who was in this time on holidays. He told us that his parents bought the house for 800 EUR and despite of long distance about 350 km, they visited the village quite often.
There is also a floating bridge behind Kimza, but much bigger. The river Mezen is a few hundreds meters wide here and despite very low water, we don’t have a similar river in Slovakia. Also Danube is incomparable. And this is for Russian conditions only a small one.


We had to pay for some bridges, some were without charge. For this one I paid about 30 EUR, that wasn’t quite little money. But I had to pay here as a lorry, I didn’t persuade the cashier, that I have a personal car. On some bridges there was a price list, but of course MAN wasn’t there. There was an interesting sport, to chat up cashiers for better price. That went with differing success, once I paid as a personal car. I had better results, when the cashier was a woman. I can’t say that the reason is my charm, but ladies are easier to fool.
We continued towards Leshukonskoe, it is the biggest village in the river-basin of Mezen. We came to the ferry in Leshukonskoe, but we learned there bad news, that the ferry in Ust-Kym across the river Mezen works only for small personal cars. It means that we won’t go this way to Usoghorsk. We also counted with this possibility. It is interesting that nobody could tell it to us up to this time. Nobody went to this area, in fact why would somebody go there? So we didn’t go further to Leshukonskoe, turned back towards Khimza and Pinega. We found a place for sleeping in a very nice area on the edge of village Kosmoghorodskaya on the bank of river Mezen.


The weather was very nice in the morning, we went further to Pinega. We stopped in a restaurant, we had a schi – a very good cabbage soup. We refuelled in Pinega, but it wasn’t possible to pay by a credit card there. That was bad, I didn’t count on that and I had little money in cash. When I asked where was the nearest ATM that was a very good joke for local people. Nowhere- only in Archangelsk- maybe in a big village on the main road. So, we had to go back towards Archangelsk to look for an ATM. We had to go by the roundabout route across Svetlij and Krasnoe, the other route is only a winter road. We slept in village Kargomen, also very nice place on the bank of river Pinega. The wind blew, it means that there weren’t any mosquitoes.


On the road we pulled a LADA from the ditch, the driver lost control in the turning. The holes simply threw him out of the road. After that he rang up his friend in Karpogory and he said that there was an ATM machine in Karpogory. We saved a drive back and went further to Karpogory. By the way, Russians drive on their unpaved roads like fools, they don’t care about holes, sand, gravel, it seemed very often that they won’t manage some turns, but mostly things went well.

Michal with his Subaru left us here, he didn’t have enough time for the rest of our trip, he went home across Finland. We continued only by two cars and later we realized that the second part of the trip would be impassable for his Subaru. The road to Karpogory didn’t exist few yearsago. Now it is still only united parts of technologitseskaja roads, somewhere only a dam from sand. In the case of heavy rain it is possible that the road would disappear. Oncoming vehicles from the opposite direction were always adrenalin because the edges of the road were very soft. It was a problem to estimate how far it is possible to go with the car so that to avoid this happening.


When we took a photo, we saw that the driver was inside. He told us that he was OK and sent us away. Russians can survive a lot .

Long parts of the road were on sand, similar to Slovak sahara desert on Zahorie. But there was an off-road, here it is only an ordinary road. At the beginning of the road was a ramp – entrance to technologitscheskaya was checked. A pretty Russian girl came out from the kiosk and the view was shocking for her. She saw tourists in a MAN and an expedition Toyota, maybe even the first foreigners. After her obligatory question what we were doing there came my obligatory answer : that we were tourists, there was beautiful nature, nice people and lovely women in Russia, and I told her to close the ramp, sit in my car and come with us. I would have left somebody from my crew serve the ramp. She answered that she would go very gladly, she hadn’t had a holiday in two years, but she had to work. So we continued with the originall crew. Luckily in Karpogory there was an ATM, I withdrew more money than I needed – nobody knows where will be another one. We slept after Karpogory on a calm nice place on the bank of river Pinega.

At night it was rather cold, I even turned on the heating, later in the day it was better. We continued towards Nyuchsha – it was a nice, old and rather big village.


Behind Nyuchsha we stopped for lunch. That was such a nice place that we decided to stay there, caught and grilled some fish. Despite the fact that there was fish in the river for sure, and I know the theory of fishing, I didn’t catch anything. I don’t know why. Look at my style – fish had to bite on this . But we had a lot of fun and loud laughter. I had the impression that fish laughed at us too .


Behind Nyuchsha worse road with sand began so we had to use also 4×4. This road didn’t exist either a few years ago.


After that it was a part of technologitscheskaya road, one half was broken panels, the second half were holes, it was very hard to choose the better variant. But we were lucky that the weather was very dry, otherwise we would have had more adrenalin, maybe even too much. After that there was a big curiosity, the asphalt road, However the road was bumpy, full of holes, somewhere with plants, but it was still asphalt. A very interesting thing regarding Blagoyevo was that Stalin, from unknown reasons, rented this area to Bulgarians. They extracted a wood here, so this asphalt leg of the road was built by Bulgarians. Russians consider this luxury useless. Nowadays i about 200 Bulgarians live in Blagoyevo and Usogorsk , I spoke to one of them. He is married to a Russian girl, and he is satisfied. I wasn’t surprised, when I saw those lovely Russians girls. It is about 250 km from this town to the nearest one.


When we asked local people about our next way, all of them looked at us as if we were fools, what the hell we were doing there. I didn’t succeed in explaining to them the reason for our trip with my ordinary sentence about nature, people and lovely Russians girls. . In these gloomy surroundings next to a prison, where all people try to run away from, nobody understood this. Local people told us that after Usogorsk a rather unpleasant part of the journey waited for us. “Zeko” , who are the people, who weren’t imprisoned for their lighter crimes, but have to work in this new form of work camp, live there They have to work in the woods and registered regularly in Edva. They live somewhere in the woods, in some hovels settlements. Although nobody told us that they had hurt other people they didn’t recommend us to sleep there. It was true that we didn’t see anybody, we met only a few cars which didn’t have any other possibility only to drive on this terrible route. Direct road to Usogorsk exists only by winter road or by train, our road was a huge round-about across Archangelsk district, only by unattended technologitscheskich roads. Also bridges were in a very bad state, some of them really terrible. I always said to myself that when Russians can drive over them I also have to do it. But it’s also true that it will definitely break under a car , but why under mine?



We found out our next way very hard, there were often more possibilities. When we met somebody, he always recommended next way differently. The roads, of course, weren’t drawn in the map. We went long parts very slowly. It was very dry this summer, nevertheless there were also deep paddles. There must be very bad conditions after rain.


We went for a long time, we wanted to get far from “zeko”. We slept behind an abandoned village, we turned into the forest and simply stayed for the night. We had sat for a short time before we went to sleep, we were quite tired.

The night was very calm, quiet, nobody was there and disturbed us. We had the hardest parts of the road behind us, we had only a couple of km left to Jarensk. We saw the first police station in Jarensk, up to that time not a single policeman. In fact, it is probably an area with injustice, but the people have to manage alone. I had never had an impression that somebody wanted to commit something wrong against us. The only high danger was being drunk from vodka in the meetings with Russians. When this problem is overcome , Archangelsk district is very safe.

We refueled water, went shopping and found out our further journey to Kotlas. According to information it was possible to go also on the left, also on the right side of the river Vytschegda. There were different information about the right side – somebody told us that the road was impassable, but he wasn’t sure. The driver of a huge Kamaz told us, that we will manage that, but his advice wasn’t without hesitation. His acount of the road conditions with his Kamaz with 1.5 m wheels was really different from mine so we decided on the left side of the river and went by ferry to Urdoma. Of course we had shashlik there, because it’s very hard to find other food. There was a kiosk where also discos are organized. The nice co-owner told us that it wasn’t simple to open this business, bureaucracy and bribes are severe reality here. They also invited us to the evening disco, but we had to decline that, I was afraid that meetings in Russia should be also limited.

We attracted huge interest, similar to UFO which landed in the main square in Bratislava, everywhere. We were foreign tourists, in very interesting cars, just very few people see such a thing there. And the MAN evoked very big interest. Russians call this type of cars “carhouse” because there are only very simple fishing GAZ with open-fire stove and a wash-basin for washing. My MAN, in villages and towns where running water and WC are luxurious even in flats, was a curiosity there especially because they could see it in a car… Mostly women were surprised by it, interior equipment was admired by them very much. Men were interested mainly in technical equipment.

In Urdoma we learned that on the left bank of the river is about 60 km technologitscheskaya made there for construction of gas pipe line. Normal cars can go by this road only in allocated time in the morning and evening. But this is allowed only for personal cars and the question is whether it is valid also for me. We went to ask in the firm which is building it and the answer was yes. So we went further towards Kotlas and came to the ramp. There was a security man who said that the entry for my car was prohibited. And a discussion about it started. I persuaded him about my question in the company where they told me that the entry for my camper was allowed. He asked me who said that but I didn’t know the name of the employee of course. After that he called somewhere, spoke to the boss, I showed him the document of my car, where there is the category M1, but he didn’t understand that. He told us that he could lose his job if he allowed us into the road. He spoke with another boss for about half an hour again, but at the end he opened the ramp and we could go further.

And we passed close to construction of gas pipe line. It was very interesting to see phased building of this thing. First there is only taiga, after that wood-cut machines come, later the soil is flattened by huge bulldozers, then the trunks are put on plastic foil, tubes are welded together, a groove is dug next to them and at the end all is thrown in the ground. It is similar to an assembly line. But here problems with land purchasing, greenpeace and similar things don’t exist. We saw a lake which was stepwise filled up with soil. In EU the greenpeace would have protested that a frog or a bird lives there , they would have tied themselves to the trees and what happened here? Millions of trees and thousands of lakes, why dealing with it? Truly it is a different world.


We found a place for night behind a ramp on the bank of the river. It was close to the road, but it was already very late and there wasn’t enough time to look for a better place.

In the morning the weather was very nice, we felt that we were about 600 km more southern. We went shopping in Korazsma. We had enough time and we decided to make a trip to Dvinskij, Verchnoj Tojmy and to Osiatkino. We wanted to go once more to the wild land, it is said that there is very nice nature. We stopped for lunch in a very small village, local people showed us a nice place on the bank of river North Dvina. It was such a nice place that we stayed there also for the night. We swam, had a meeting with Sascha, who is a freelancer from Kotlas. I learned a lot of new information, for instance that land isn’t possible to occupy, only to buy. In the town a plot of land costs about 30 EUR/m2, in the country it costs a lot less. He bought a cottage on the bank of the river with a very nice view for 100 $. He rented a forest for cutting a wood. The forest isn’t purchasable, one can only rent it. And after that it is cutting and cutting, in a really huge amount. It is very hard to say whether the area of the forest is decreasing, maybe in accessible areas. But in Russia woodland is absolute endless.

The meeting ended with drinking huge amounts of vodka with negative influence on Libor and Peter. It’s very hard to keep up with a 120 kg Russian. Drinking speed was very high but I escaped to wine. And this is the view on somebody….


In the morning we went further towards Bereznik to a ferry across North Dvina. On the ferry there was place only for Vlado’s Toyota, but for me wasn’t. I stayed on the bank of the river and the private ferry didn’t take me. It isn’t a good bussiness for him to sail with only one car, but I persuaded him for 1000 Rb and sailed to the other bank of the river. The weather got worse, it started to rain. The other bank of the river was very steep, we could see breakaway of Kamaz with the trailer full of wood.
The road to Verchnaya Toyma was only in temporary state, because in the river there was a very little water and the ferry had to go about 5 km further. There was also a wade for normal cars impassable. The driver of a huge Kamaz told us that we could go behind him, he knew a better safer wade. I was afraid of such advice, his limit of passability in this huge car is for me very far. But it was OK, only in a part of the wade I got down about one meter.


The town Verchnaya Toyma was in the gloomy, rainy weather rather sad. There was a festival about Russian folk music at that time. We had to have shashlik, there wasn’t any other food, only shashlik in all stands. We were slowly getting fed up with it.

We went further to Dvinskoy and Osiatkino. Nature was rather monotonous and the road here was very bad. We saw two Suzukis with Russian off-roaders, we stopped and suddenly shock came, I heard ” Hello, Ivan, we know you from the web, welcome Slovak”. Meeting some acquaintances this way in the huge Russian taiga, was a very interesting and pleasant feeling. The world is really small. They went back from an expedition, they accomplished the road from Nyuchtscha to Osiatkino. On this road there were very hard conditions, some people said that it was impassable. Respect. They told us that Osiatkino wasn’t very interesting and the road to Lambas and Utschmenga didn’t exist. We decided to turn back. Later we met them in Verchnaya Toyma, we went together across the wade and with the ferry back.


From the ferry we went by the same road and found a very nice place for sleeping on the bank of the river North Dvina. Only the loading of the ships disturbed us, but it wasn’t significant noise, it was rather far. Maybe we are pampered, when it isn’t absolutely quiet.


In the morning we came to Velikij Ustyug. It was an interesting small town with a lot of churches. It was clean, nice, with a rather good restaurant where they had also some other food than shashlik. Maybe this town had good lobbing, it is the official home of Santa Claus in Russia. We went further towards Totma and we also wanted to see some highlights, which Russians off-roaders told us about. One of them was a geyser near village Poldarsa. It was not only the geyser, but also a very nice bank of the river Sukhona. It is 250 million years old, simply beautiful.


We had to go to the geyser with a small boat, that wasn’t a problem, Russians with the boats waited and sailed us.

After we came back we met a group of young people from Korazsma, they were here for the weekend to celebrate a birthday. We chatted, there was also viewing of my MAN. All of them were young people, but they spoke only Russian. Luda explained to us that they also learned English at school, but only as a duty, after the end of the school they didn’t use foreign languages and after some time they forgot it. We learned that they have two sorts of passports. One is valid only for Russia, it is something similar to our identity card, the second one is for foreign use. But they get this passport only after checking, for instance about debts to the state and so on. But it isn’t a big problem. They set up a family very soon. Luda has a child at the age of 24, another young man is 32 years old and has three children, the oldest one is 8 years old. They said that it was normal, three children was the standard here. In towns we could see a lot of children, it is similar to our country during socialist times. Nowadays young people in our country want to enjoy life, earn a lot of money, a child not before that.


In the evening I asked the sailors to sell us fish. They sold me four fish, pike, perch and some unknown sort. I quickly arranged the action of grilling, Libor prepared the fish and after a few minutes they were on the grill. They were fantastic, despite a lot of bones.


In the morning I saw that the sailors prepared something similar to 50 curved nails on a strong cable. They explained to me that it is a method of catching big fish, but this way of fishing is strictly prohibited in Russia, the penalty for that is about a year in prison. In Russia it is free fishing only with a fishing rod. They invited us to supper. Unfortunately we had to decline the invitation, it would be long time to wait for us.

So we went further, the journey was a bit monotonous, although nature was very nice. On the main road were a lot of cars, lorries, it was a rather good road, but for us civilization. We drove past a t town called Vologda, that was a rather big town for us. We turned from the main road to Kubenskoe lake and there found a place for sleeping. That was a big problem to find the place, there was a forest around the whole lake . In Europe it isn’t possible to come to a lake because there are private areas, ramps, hotels, but here it isn’t possible due to wild forests. We came to a small village where local people told us that it wasn’t possible to go to the bank of the lake with our cars, there is only a narrow trail. They showed us the original, old Russian “banya”, it is something similar to a sauna. They also recommended us a way to the lake, they were very nice people.


So, we came to the beautiful lake, it was as big as a quarter of Slovakia and it is in Russian conditions only a small one.


In the morning we went towards culture, we were going to visit two monasteries, one of them in Kyrilov, that was a very big complex. I was surprised that it wasn’t destroyed during the communism and wars. But it was a commercial heritage with an admission fee, some buses, we also met some tourists from Holland. They came to Russia by plane, after that they rented a car and went to St.Petersburg. It was a quite good idea. We met them also on a ferry.


The second monastery was much smaller. After visiting that it was enough culture for us, we went further to White Lake, where we wanted to find a place for the night. But there was a problem with accessing the lake. Surroundings all around the lake were only swamps or impassable forests. From Lipin Bor to the ferry across Volga channel it was without any possibility to go to the bank of the lake. The ferry took only Vlado, I stayed on the second bank of the channel and had to wait an hour for another one. The ferry had capacity only for 8 personal cars and went only once an hour. From that is very clear, what dense traffic was there. Traffic jams here are surely no threat. Vlado found a place on the second bank of the channel, among cottages of fishers. There was swimming, open fire, looking at boats and so on.


In the morning the weather was very nice, but after a short time it started to rain. The main road was similar to European roads, full of cars, but after a short time we turned to a back road. We went also on unpaved roads, and transit across some villages and small towns full of mud and dirty water with gloomy weather wasn’t very nice. But it isn’t possible to expect that the conditions on the way are always optimistic and pleasing , also this belongs to the journeys. We met a very slowly crawling convoy of Italian campers. The popeyed drivers were desperately trying to find a way between holes and bumps. Their ducatos and sprinters suffered a lot. I don’t think that this traveling in a big convoy with 10 cars is a good idea, the travellers lost freedom, it isn’t possible to go everywhere, only according to an itinerary. It seems to me as killed freedom of travelling with a camper, here organization is as if as with a travel agency. And at the end it isn’t possible to get to the majority of places where we were with our cars. Only on asphalt roads, car parks and so. But ambition to know new things is appreciated.

The country was changing step by step, there were mostly forests, but also more and more villages, pastures, fields. Simply the wild country came to its end. In the evening we found a very nice sleeping place on the bank of the river, there was open fire, calmness and quietness.


In the morning the weather was very nice. We continued to Novgorod that was a rather nice town, but we didn’t stop there, we went towards Pskov to the borders. After Pskov we wanted to get to Cudskoe Lake, but we didn’t find a place. There were only forests, swamps, bushes and also some places for recreation. We felt the nearness of a big town. Finally we found a nice place near a small lake in a pine-wood.


In the morning we went to the border crossing in Petchora. There was a very strict customs officer. We had some troubles with crossing by line for personal cars, after that I had to fill in some documents, there was also a very detailed visit of all spaces of my car. The officer also wanted to open the mounted tank with water, he hesitated to dismount it. Also he wanted to check the cassette with black water in the toilette, but he believed me that it is only a WC. But he could have persuaded himself, I would have let him. It was a rather unpleasant experience. This is also Russia.

After that it was only a journey home, nothing special happened, only the terrible Polish roads again. We successfully got around Warschau by some back roads, but we went from Krakow to the border crossing for about 4 hours. At first we wanted to go through Orava, but near behind Krakow a traffic jam to Zakopane started. We turned back and we wanted to get to Kysuce by back roads. But also the back roads were clogged, we stood at every light, roundabout, village. Here ringroads of villages and towns don’t exist, also the road to Ziviec was closed, it was a disaster. I don’t understand, how it is possible to live in these conditions. I think it isn’t such a poor country that it couldn’t build some roads outside towns or highways. Also on very few highways I had to pay toll, but I didn’t learn where were the places which sold electronic highway tickets. And in the few places where there was nice nature there were a lot of people, crowds of cars, restaurants, noise – that resting in these places is out of the question. I really don’t understand that somebody can go on holidays to Poland. I have been there four times and I haven’t found anything positive there . But we managed this also and I was at home at about five pm.

And what can I say at the end? I was assured once again that Russia is in more things different from countries which we know in western Europe. Every day surprised us with something new and we experienced something different. But for me the best of all was nature in the North, endless forests with rivers which are possible to drink from, beautiful lakes, original Russian wood villages as if cut from old Russsian fairy tales, it is a wonder that they weren’t destroyed by communist construction activity. Sitting on the bank of the river, feeling this calmness and quietness, looking at a sunset even after midnight which is reflected on a river or a lake, looking at the endless taiga where you don’t see any lights, watching open fire, this is something which you can hardly find anywhere else and these places are disappearing more and more. And of course there are people who aren’t marked with permanent stress and chasing properties. They are hearty, talkative, they always wanted to help or to recommend something.

And some statistics at the end:

– I drove 9664 km, from that about 3500 km on unpaved roads
– Average speed was 50.4 km
– Average consumption was 25.5 l/100km
– I spent 191 hours driving my car


– I drank 84 shot glasses of vodka
– I ate 12 schaschliks
– I saw 214 lakes
– I crossed 1451 rivers and springs
– I saw 1.421,251 trees

You can see photos in photoalbum

or direct in Flicker

or slideshow, swich on “show info” for notices to photos

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