Maybe we'll survive (day 8 - 14)

Nijny Tagil, 04/08

The morning of our departure, one guy from the building where we are sleeping texts Kuba on Instagram: seems like we are the discussion in the group chat of the people living there. When we are leaving the parking, two nice babushki are discussing about the noise made by Arkadia when we start her. To be honest, I was never expecting to be the talk of the week with our car, but last night they transmitted on the National Tv the interview we recorded in Tomsk, so I shouldn't be surprised. 
Heading out of Ekaterinburg, we are expecting to meet the great Ural Mountains, this magnificent place full of parks and lakes and breath-taking views. We go up north, 150 km far from the city where we rested for the last couple of days. The weather is not too hot: in the car we can finally breathe after days of suffocating. We only have a couple of hours to our next stop, but when we get there, we are completely disappointed: another industrial city, of course. The sky is grey and is full of chimneys from factories. It's even super cold. We stop at a mall to have lunch, but all the restaurants are closed. We give up and go to KFC, at least is something. The lunch goes quickly: we just want to leave this place and we are even freezing with our shorts and sandals, but, in the end, we made a lot of way to come up here, so why not go around the city with the car? What we see is contradictory, as everything in this country: on one side there are nice churches and buildings, on the other a giant red factory is covering the view. We spot a church on the top of a mountain, drive there to get a couple of cool shoots with the car... and, of course, the gate is closed. Such a disappointment today. Arkadia stays in front of an old wooden house and we climb up to see this fucking church: ten minutes are enough, with the wind blowing us away and Kuba that starts to sneeze. Perfect. Once back at the car, an old babushka starts to spy on us from the door of her house, when we turn, we see her calling someone else and a younger lady, probably the daughter, comes. They are both smiling at us and chatting: there's nothing weird about it, we look funny and we are getting the attention of everyone in the streets. At this point is already afternoon and the only thing we can do is head back again towards Ekaterinburg. We find on our way the border between Asia and Europe and stop for a while to see the monument and get pictures - Cris even falls on the ground while trying to sit down. For the night, we camp near a lake and make a new friend: a little dog from one of the houses nearby, that tries to get cuddles and food (and she does, obviously). This day was a bit of a disappointment, but it ended quite well.

Chelyabinsk, Turgoyak, 05-08/08
How could I even call yesterday a disappointment? That's because I didn't know what was expecting me today. Again, the day is ending in the wrong way. Guess where we are? In the garage of another bloody mechanic, of course. And the day had started so well!
The morning is sunny; the dog is again with us and we pack totally relaxed. Leaving the village, we take the road to Chelyabinsk and read some curiosity about the city and the area: not even need to say it, is another industrial place, one of the biggest of Russia, and nearby there is the most polluted place on earth, forty-two times more radioactive than Chernobyl. Such a lovely place. We don't stop there but have lunch in a restaurant in a village where is supposed to be a very bad copper factory - we are chasing all the horrors of the country if you didn't realize it yet. We keep driving south, half-destroyed road alternate with perfect smooth highway. And that is when the brakes start to give some problems. It's afternoon, we are on the dirt road in the middle of a wasteland: the factory destroyed completely the environment, the ground is dry, and nothing will ever grow on it again. It's actually terrifying to see all of this. And our car is having another one of her moments, again. Kuba keeps driving slowly, until we reach the closest mechanic at 6 p.m. The guy checks our car and tells us that the brakes are completely gone and that we don't have oil at all. Wonderful news! To get the new pieces, we wait for a taxi for about half an hour and then he starts to work on it. Kuba is feeling sick, pale as a ghost and puking: the overheated car destroyed him today. Now we are just sitting and waiting. The mechanic finishes to work around 10:30, while we watch Russian dramatic telenovelas on the tv. Finally starting again, we go to camping on the Lake Turgoyak, on of the clearest lakes in Russia, and that's it. We stop there for three nights, enjoying the hot weather out of the car, swimming and downing bottles of vodka surrounded by drunk Russian partying until morning. Hangover, hot weather and loud people together are the worst mix ever, but we manage to drink a couple more beers during the day. On Saturday afternoon, after Kuba went again to the mechanic to change the hand-brake and check the oil - Arkadia drink half litre per day at this point -, we leave the camping. We drive under the rain, feeling super sleepy and stopping at gas stations for short breaks. We reach Ufa in the evening, with the idea of visiting the city the next day: the modernity of the place surprised us a lot. Find parking outside the hostel stresses us out for some minutes: we seriously reached the highest level of tiredness, after resting for three days like pigs in the camping. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. At this point, we are just trying to enjoy all the ups and downs of our trip. Otherwise, wouldn't be a real adventure.

Samara, 09-10/08

Today is raining again. It is supposed to be like this for all the week, but, since we are staying in the car, we are fine with it. We stop for lunch in a nice restaurant and stay there discussing for hours: probably one of us will leave sooner than expected, so we have a lot to talk about. The rest of the afternoon is just highway until we enter in Samara, another place that is a complete discovery. On the way, we experience again the peculiarity of Russian traffic: car accidents, shouting people that think honking is not enough and the amazing line of cars going off the road on the right to get before to the head of the lane: this is Russia, road is road. We book the hotel and put the address on Maps: we want to get there as soon as possible, our driver has a cold since two days and we booked the sauna for the evening. But, as every time we believe is going to be easy, everything goes in the opposite direction: the GPS leads us to an inexistent building, and we start driving all around the city changing addresses three times. We finally pass next to the hotel, but I am the only one who sees it and Kuba keeps driving despite I am shouting that we are going the wrong way. He finally turns the car, but we cannot find the entrance of the hotel. A guy comes to rescue us and we finally get in. After some moments of rest, we order food and head to the sauna. It's a nice one and the owner offers us the local beer, Zhigulevskoe (my life is rotating around the word Zhiguli since one month already, there should be something wrong) and switches on the tv: Russian live music; just to annoy the guys, me and Ania sing the songs that we recognise while going in and out the sauna. A text from the restaurant communicates to me that we will not have the food and I get pissed, even because there is no internet connection. We go back to the rooms: Ania and Cris boil some water and have noodles, me and Kuba are stubborn enough to order burgers from a shady place, despite our eyes are almost closed. We watch a movie and, after more than one hour, we get our shitty dinner: I can't even explain the sadness that that food inspired us. Off to sleep still a bit hungry because we couldn't manage to finish it. 
In the morning we go to visit the city: is sunny, and we walk along the shore of the river Volga. On our way, we meet amazing statues, soviet huge monuments and the old brewery of Zhigulevskoe. We have a nice time; we are relaxed and in a nice mood. After the walk, we go for lunch to an Irish pub called 'The Shamrock' and then drive towards Tolyatti, the reason why we came south instead of going straight to Kazan: that's the city where they produced our Lada and there is even a museum about the 50 years of production. We are taking our old lady to see where she comes from. We get in the apartment that we booked and have a slow evening doing nothing. Tomorrow we will visit a museum about war machines, with the biggest submarine in the world, and the Lada museum. After that, we will finally head to Kazan. 
The second week flew away in a very weird way: the hours spent in the car start to be blurry and the places we crossed seem already like old memories. We are halfway through our trip, but at the same time, it seems both that we just started and that we are about to arrive. We will keep going - and buying motor oil for Arkadia, so maybe she will take us home in the end. 

Alessandra De Santis