Day 14 - Ufa to Chelyabinsk
We had checked a few websites for ideas but had found nothing inspiring to see in Ufa. Like the others in preceding days, Ufa is a big busy city with lots of grungy high rises, wide dusty streets, and a tram and electric bus system.
The tram tracks form part of the street and can be driven on as a seperate lane. You need to be careful though, as the road surface next to the rails is quite cut up. Unlike other trams I've seen, these brake using giant pads that press down onto the rail itself between the wheel bogeys. The pads look like huge versions of the calliper brakes on a bicycle.
The electric buses are an odd feature, taking their power from overhead wires. The arm on the roof that makes contact with the wires extends and twists to let the bus dodge potholes and stop for passengers. Strangely though, there's a fully functional regular diesel bus service too, so I'm unsure why they persist with the more restrictive and high maintenance electric system.
The road to Chelyabinsk took us over the Urals, so the route winds a
lot more with long climns and long downslopes. The trucks ahead of us were very slow on the grades but an overtaking lane usually popped up sooner or later.
At one point we passed a car on the side of the road with a man trying to wave us down frantically. We didn't stop however, because we are sure that it was a setup. Before leaving I had read about gangs on the roads out here who fake a breakdown to get people to stop. Once out of the car, the good samaritan is then surrounded by other people who at first seemed unconnected to the breakdown, and then pressured into giving money.
Here, we had a car on our hardshoulder with the bonnet up and an anguished pleading man waving us down. In front of him however, another car was parked up, wih the driver nonchalantly standing doing nothing. On the other side of the road, almost opposite, a further two cars and several other men were waiting. We had in fact seen exactly the same configuration the evening before. Too suspicious, too many questions for my liking.
we saw very few residential buildings on this
stretch, but lots of truck stops with dollar-store wares for sale on temporary stalls outside. Parked at on of those stops was the burned out husk of a truck and trailer you can see in the photos. The blaze must have been very intense, as all tyres had burned away and the truck sat on the rims.
Once over the Urals we were soon in Chelyabinsk. We hadn't gained an hour for a change, so had plenty of daylight left. Chelyabinsk city centre is lovely. The main pedestrianised street had good looking buildings, bronze statues, monuments and plenty of open air cafes and restaurants. There were a lot of people about enjoying the evening.
The city has been hosting the World Taekwondo Championships this week, and we watched a group of competitors in matching tracksuits take turns to spin kick one of those punch-bag strengh machines you see at fair grounds. About 20 of them had a go, and their coach seemed to be recording their 'scores' in front of a growing cheering crowd.
We eventually found our way into a karaoke bar, and can't have been all that bad because more people were i there when
we left than when we arrived. John sang Sitting on the Dock of The Bay and Paint It Black, whilst Dave F sung Used To Love Her and Rhythm Is A Dancer (tough choice that, chosen by John). I went a bit mad and did 4 songs including Losing My Religion and Metallica's cover of Whiskey In The Jar (Ohhhhhhhh, yeahhhhhhhgggghhhhh!).
Then we all absolutely crucified Winds Of Change as a trio.
The best laid plan was to have an early night in preparation for our border crossing into Kazakhstan the next day, but you know what they say about those.
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