Day 7 - Rezkne to Moscow
Information about the Latvian border crossing into Russia is sparse on the internet. We had prepared in every way possible though: Visas in passports, car registration, roadworthiness and insurance documents, international driving licences etc, and even a copy of our route map to clearly show our plans to travel through the country and out the other side. We also had a large meercat sat in the back to cheer up grumpy officals.
First however, we had to play the Latvian leg of T.L.C.E.P. It was a grey dull morning, and we wanted to get to the border asap. Dave F therefore had to settle for a simple around-the-tree-and-back-then-hit-that-sign challenge for hole 7 in the park opposite. I was a bit nervy of hitting surrounding cars or passers by, but John was less cautious. With his fourth shot he managed to pick out the bonnet of our car (now called "Sp" having passed 2000 trip miles) over all other cars parked next to it, leaving a nice dent. Cheers John. Dave F finally won a hole.
Running scores: DP 15, DF 18, JR 17.
Some internet forums had suggested that a tyoical
border crossing could take anything from 3 to 8 hours. We booked a night in Moscow, mainly so that if asked we could relate where we intended to stay. We were prepared however to need to stop halfway to Moscow if the border took longer than 4 hours to cross. Bets were placed on the actual time we would spend stopped at the border, with Dave F predicting 2hrs 21 mins, John undercutting him by one minute, and a guess of 3hrs for myself.
Happily, we were all way off. It took 55 mins altogether, including the time taken to recomplete two A4 customs forms because I had put half of the answers in the wrong boxes. The form was in English and I should have known better. The officals were also polite and courteous, with two of them having a smile at Sputnik. If anyone wants more details about the admin involved, message me direct. I'll type up a 'boring but useful details' post at the end of the trip.
We obtained car insurance for Russia at an office about 1km from the border. 14 days cover cost £40.
Initially the road - the M9 highway
- was a little bumpy, with a few small shallow potholes to dodge, but we were soon flying along on a smooth single lane. There wasn't much traffic, but the co pilot still had an interesting job when coordinating our truck-overtaking manoeuvres. Me to Dave F: "No, wait, but YES after the red lorry.......................... good, well done. Errrrr, just checking, but you're not colour blind, are you? No? Cool".
There are so many long, totally straight sections that you can see a vehicle coming towards you from 4 miles away, and see it disappear and reappear 2 or 3 times in dips in the road, exacerbated by the heat haze. Headlights however are compulsory in the daylight, which helps a lot to spot oncoming traffic and judge distances.
The countryside was a mix of forest and grassland, but a few wooden, worn looking villages could be glimpsed every now and again. The whole 620km from the border to Moscow however, we only passed through one town.
We arrived at the capital just as the sun was setting, and entered its fantastic concentric ringroad system amazed to find ourselves on streets with seven (!) lanes in either
direction that also had high end shops along them. The buildings themselves were just beginning to be lit up in the twighlight, and as we crossed and recrossed the meandering Moskva River, we all remarked just how beautiful the buildings were. Moscow really is a gorgeous city.
We had to ask a around a bit to find our hotel - a basic but clean building about 2km North East of the city centre - then deciphered the signs to pay for onstreet parking. We had a quiet wander around a high street nearby, and were in bed for midnight.
Ps/ given that once out of Europe, my network charges me £6 per mb of data, I'll be relying on wifi to publish this blog, hence the delay to this one.
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