Driving to China (ish) - Day 12

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May 12th 2015
Published: May 15th 2015
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Day 12 - Kazan to Samara

It can seem from a map that the places we are stopping each night are small towns in the back of beyond. Not a bit of it. Nizhiny Novgorod has a population of 1.2 million, whilst Kazan and Samara have 1.1 million each.

Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tartarstan, and has a beautiful kremlin with towers and minarets. Like Nizhiny, it sits on the mighty Volga river and has been honoured by UNESCO for it's multicultural heritage; christianity and islam sit side by side in harmony here.

Our hosts for the night, a young couple, touchingly gave us each a souvenir fridge magnet, and wanted several photos with us and the car. Everyone we meet is either astonished or excited about our trip, and usually both. The mongol rally - a similar organised venture in small engined cars from the UK to Mongolia - comes this way every year, but for whatever reason isnt known to most people.

We're into a cycle of one night stops now, so had time for a quick look at the kremlin and the unfinished Temple of All Religions. The latter was still a building site, but as you can see from the photos will be quite something once done.

Setting off for Samara to the south we encountered the bumpiest roads yet. The car is performing well, and though we regularly bottom out the springs, particularly in the rear, we've had no issues yet.... just that the exhaust has been scraped in ruts a few times, and of course theres the dent John put in the bonnet with a golf ball.

On the flood plain of the Volga we were properly into farmland and were now dodging cows and tractors as well as trucks and cars. One tractor was so cool we parked up, took some photos and had lunch next to it.

In line with the roads, the standard of service station toilets has dropped considerably. The typical loo is now just a metal or wooden hut with a concrete floor and a hole in the ground. John and Dave F claim it precipitates a more natural position for humans to do their business. Some epic thinking-on-the-bright-side there.

We got to Samara in time for a wonderful sunset, and were welcomed into the warm, comfortable 'Like Hostel' for the night. It even had a jacuzzi upstairs. Like Hostel's staff spoke reasonable English, so after we had spent far too much on a steak in town ("....so that price on the menu was per 100 grams, not per steak? Guys, do we have enough to pay the cheque?......."), I settled into the lounge to rabbit with them till the early hours about England, Russia, how we are all different, and how we are all the same.


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