Monday, September 5, 2011

4000 miles...nine days...Trains, buses and automobiles

There was no way we could have ever guessed it would take this amount of time; believe it or not, this was our adventure for the summer AND how we traveled to get our new mini-van! Why so far away, you may ask? We searched the internet and newspapers in this area for months!! The prices were just way out of our range. We have a friend/fellow worker that lived in a region west of here who was selling her van...hence the title to our 'road trip'.

 It began with a two hour drive to the city then a 40 hour train ride. After spending a night at the train station in the city of Novosibirsk, (They have great hotels there with hot showers and comfortable beds!) we embarked on an eight hour bus trip to the city of Gorno-Altaisk. This region is incredibly beautiful, surrounded by mountains with great rivers in it's valleys! (Some of the best white-water rafting/kayaking in the world.)  The roads are good in this area so this part of the trip was smooth and restful. (You'll understand later why this comment is important!)    Days one and two of our trip....

Train station in Ulan Ude  (40 hrs. our next stop)
Train station in Novosibirsk (has a great hotel)

Bus to Gorno-Altaisk... eight hours to go, 
almost where the van is located.

 I (Laura) am not sure how long it takes in the US to transfer a title, get temp. tags and get car insurance. It took an entire day...9am to 5pm of waiting in lines, running to other offices, coming back to the original line, and being told around 4pm that you would have to return the next day! This is where a huge answer to many prayers took place...Kevin was standing in the hallway talking with others who were 'waiting' when the Asst. Director of the department walked by and heard his comment about the amount of time it was taking. (There was one person doing all the work and at least 50 people waiting) The next thing we knew the A.D. took our paper work and handed it to another women...told us to standby and everything would be ready by 5pm that day! (not the next) We were amazed and very grateful...this was just day one in our journey back home.  End of day three....
Our new van!!  2000 Honda Odyssey 4WD
  We were told by our friend who sold us the van that we would need to replace the springs and tires on the van before heading out on our return trip. (These parts are quite often in need of replacing because the roads are so bad here.) Thus, we began the 'hunt' for Honda parts in a not so large city. After hours of searching, another friend of ours suggested the next city was larger and would most likely have what we needed. We drove an hour + to the next city, found the parts, found a place to do the repairs....wrong parts! After hours of running and waiting, we returned to our friend's home and decided to try again the following day...this is now day four.
  Day five....returned to the garage with another set of parts...they couldn't begin work until after lunch, so we drove around a little and found a great coffee shop with free WiFi so we checked our emails and let our families know we were OK and alive. Returned to the garage and they began working on the van around 1pm...finishing around 8pm! (They did a great job, just had slow workers with lots of breaks.) We found a hotel down the street, spent the night and started out the next morning for home - finally!!
 Day six....we were finally on the road...the van is amazing and it was awesome to be heading home. The day started out sunny and warm, great for driving...our first stop would be back to Novosibirsk where they have an Ikea store. The prices and choices are great so we 'had' to  stop and find a few things for us and others as well. Although is was now raining and we weren't exactly sure where we were going, we found the store....shopped, had lunch, shopped, had coffee and headed out for what we thought would be a few more hours on the road. We quickly realized there weren't a lot of roadside motels and drove until almost 11pm in the rain..on two lane highways. Kevin decided it was time to stop when he saw four lanes of traffic on a two-lane road and cars passing each other when there was no sane reason to do so! We found a great place to sleep for the night and began the long drive early the next morning.
   Days seven, eight, and nine are all the same....the roads we thought would be some of the best were some of the worst we had ever seen! We would come upon a section of new highway that was awesome, four lanes with lines potholes where you could lose your car...we felt like we were driving in the US...then just as quickly as they would end. Back to two lanes and often they were too bad to drive any faster than 40mph!  There was even a stretch of road where we traveled an amazing 12 miles and it took us 2 hours, we are just glad it was not all that bad. We had been told that we should expect trouble with the police and maybe even bandits on this trip. Our Father is soooooo wonderful...we were only stopped once (it was 1am and they were checking everyone's documents) and NEVER had a problem with folks along the way. In fact, we met great people and were helped whenever we thought we were lost or looking for something specific. It's definitely a trip we'll long remember and one we're not likely to take again.

Road side and clean toilets..Yay!

Wheat fields for miles.........

Some of the better paved highways!

                                           This became a familiar sign for us to see, it means bumpy road ahead.
The 'not -so-great' part of the roads we traveled.
This was the second worst section, we couldn't take
pictures while driving on the worst road!
This ran through a small town and turned out to be the
main federal highway ...we had thought we were lost!

Typical gas station.

Getting close to home...first site of Lake Baikal,
only 6 hours to go!
Kevin eating shisk-kebob or shashlik (as it's called
in Russian) no matter the's DELICIOUS!
We're back home and busy with getting study groups started and finishing projects before the real cold weather sets in. Kevin celebrated his 49th on August 26th so we decided to take the day, head to the river and eat his favorite food. (Well, almost everything is his favorite, but this is fun to do as well.) We have many more stories to share and will be updating the blog again in a week or so. I must get back to preparing lessons and canning the vegies from the garden!
  Joyfully Serving in Siberia,
         Kevin & Laura