Astrakhan, Russia Week 121 July 23rd - 24th 2013
How many photos of sunflowers are we allowed?

More than we've taken .....

The land is gently rolling.

Stavropol in the distance.

Or at least some of the industry.


We take the by-pass.

Our speed is about 70 - 75 km/hr. The roads look good but can be a bit bumpy.

Still in the grain belt.

Difficult to avoid in Russia.

We've really read too many spy novels in our time.

One of our favourite characters is "Quiller".

We think these are the "Zil" cars he associated with party bigwigs.

It goes better with odd wheels.

But we must (well it seems like a good idea to) head east.

Gone are the mountains.

Volgograd is not too far to the north.

We passed through in 2011 before heading west.

Scene of some horrific warfare during the siege.

Where Kruschev made his name.

We've passed several war memorials for 1941 - 1945.


We are approaching the Volga delta.

Where it enters the Caspian Sea.

There are lakes in some of the hollows.

Not this one but some are salt pans.

Just to keep us awake someone has put double vicious speed bumps in the way.

The straw probably saves the road but doesn't reduce the thump.

We wonder if it is some sort of disinfectant.

We stopped for the night somewhere a bit west of Elista.

We are a few hundred metres off the road more or less hidden behind a ridge.

At lunch I decided to reduce the tyre pressures a bit. We can't travel above 75 km/hr so might as well have a bit more comfort.

Today's equipment failure was one of the tyre valves. It wouldn't seal after releasing air.

A quick panic. Stop the air flow with the valve cap then find spare valve and key. Replace valve. Pump up to pressure. Drive on. Check pressure after a few km and again next day.

Elista is a bit big for us so again we take the by-pass.

Its predominantly Buddhist.

The people look distinctly of Mongol heritage.

Apart from the temples there's little to attract us.

There really is no clear line for where "east meets west" but we have a general impression we are "more east than west" in this part of Russia.

Trimming the roadside is done by hand.

There's a few hundred km of this.

Both sides.

Haven't a clue.

There were three in this group.

We saw a larger group earlier.

The ground is becoming sandier and drier.

Vegetation is no longer predominantly grass.

They stopped for a pause.

Totally ignored us.

We're guessing "mum and dad".

Maybe "mum" is nagging "dad" to "get on with it"!

Why don't they browse side by side?

We stopped for lunch.

Off the main road a bit.

Looks like a photo from Mongolia!

We haven't needed any water in the radiator for the last few days. I plotted the fuel consumption and it has fallen from 18-20 litres/100km in Turkey to less than 16 litres/100km in Russia. One recording isn't really sufficient but too big a change to ignore. What a difference road conditions and speed can make. Obviously "nothing wrong" but it needed checking.

Combined with the reduced fuel price our fuel cost is around $11/100km in Russia instead of $44/100km in Turkey. A big difference.

Feeling more confident about the possibly 40 degree temperatures in the Kazakhstan desert.

When too many things go wrong we start wondering "what else".


We've seen large herds of cattle here.

We suspect the farms have lots of barns to keep them in.

Nearing Astrakhan we were pulled over.

Turn on your lights please!

All very pleasant and helpful.

Getting nearer to the Volga.

Reeds around the lakes.

Some of the water is flowing.

A strange mixture of "green" and "brown".

So there we were, trying to navigate through Astrakhan (population 500,000), which is one of the most difficult cities we've driven through due to the many river branches, lack of signposts for anywhere in the direction of the border, a myriad bridges, a railway line in the way, and lack of any detailed maps.

The traffic patiently waited while we did a 7 point turn after going wrong.

To distract me from swearing at the useless gps devices and heavy traffic, and just after I realised we'd taken yet another wrong turn, Ali needed help with the camera which had conveniently stopped working.

I can't remember what I said!

The Kremlin in Astrakhan is a bit different, but otherwise there's not a lot to see.

Its an old Silk Road town.

One day we'll find a map of all the Silk Roads (many branches).

With a bit of help we found the A340 towards the border.

Crossed a floating bridge at Krasny Yar, with a 250 Rouble toll.

It looked and felt like a temporary military bridge that had become permanent. Nothing else on the map but we've seen large trucks on the road which are too heavy for the 5 tonne limit bridge. Maybe they use the ferry next to the bridge.

We took yet another wrong turn while negotiating the small town by-pass and someone in a car stopped us, then had us follow him until he could point us in the right direction. Just being helpful, not trying to get rid of us!

Shortly after we found a convenient river bank fishing spot to camp in.

Our peace was disturbed by two of these contraptions.

Paddle wheels to propel it, the toothed bit in front was working like a hedge cutter.

We think just clearing weed. Paddle to avoid a propeller clogged with weed.

There was lots of life in the water.

Even some snakes on the bank to eat the frogs.

Plenty of large fish jumping, fishermen downstream, children swimming. Swifts. Even some mosquitoes.

We used 4wd to get 20m closer than otherwise.

The camera shutter button is wearing out. It requires lots of pressure to take a photo. I have an "aerosol of air" which I'll try in case its just dirt. After 90,000 photos either button or finger had to suffer! We'll resurrect the old camera for photos while driving.

Tomorrow we'll hopefully be in Kazakhstan. We'll stop for a rest somewhere.

Which will make absolutely no difference to whether the camera works or not.

To Atyrau, Kazakhstan Week 121 July 25th - 26th 2013

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