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  #1  
Old 20 Mar 2008
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Crossing Siberia in winter: no problem!

Dear travellers,

Having crossed Russia from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg in winter, I would like to share some experiences and to tell everybody: Chaborowsk-Chita is no longer a real challenge.

"The Siberian Tiger has been tamed. No, no, not by us, but by the Russian street building authorities. What once was no road and then became the most difficult road is now, well, a sometimes bad road. Not more and not less.

On our 2007 map we still found blank spots: there is no connection between Russia’s Far East and its capital Moscow. From heaps of internet blogs and travel books such as “The Long Way Round” (Evan McGregor had considered that bit of road as “too much” and had put his bike on the Trans-Siberian Railway) we had learnt differently: Yes, there is a connection, but these 2’060km between Chaborowsk and Chita would be the hardest test for man and material.

It certainly is a long and bumpy test. But a hard one? We did not use the low range gears once. Never were we stuck. Running out of Diesel was impossible – there are filling stations every 100km. Neither were we lost nor anything close – there are street signs at every major crossroad. I dare say that we did not face one dangerous situation in the 4 days the trip took us. Once we even could help a Russian car back on the street – no problem for the Land-Cruiser’s strong engine.

Ok, it was a bit cold. However, the thermometer never showed more then -32.5 degrees (and the Land-Cruiser started effortlessly every morning). And this is not the though Siberian climate I was prepared to. Every evening we found a convenient enough rest place, two times we even got a bed (once in a romantic wooden shed with an old-fashioned iron stove) and there were plenty of cafes serving borscht and pelmeni for us. In these cafes some other drivers will start talking to you – it does not matter whether you understand them or not (if you don’t understand they will repeat the exactly same sentence once more for you – only much louder); at the end the will patch your shoulder and shake their head when the learn that you drive from Chaborwosk to Chita as part of your holidays.

The one night we slept in the car in front of a filling station and in company of several other cars (belonging to Russians who bring second-hand Japanese cars from Vladivostok to Russia’s Central and Western part and sell it for a surplus there), we had a bit of surprise when we got up in the morning: the first flat tyre ever on the PanMundo.Com journey!

While it had been warm enough inside the car, the -28 degrees in the morning struck us as slightly cold. Therefore the changing of the huge off-road tyre was hard work and we did get cold fingers. But then again, changing a tyre does not take hours and we made it into a cafe soon enough not to get a frozen nose.

After four days and many beautiful sunsets, we made it to Chita safely. There we were welcomed by couchsurfers Xenia and Irina and had the first shower in 4 days. Nice.


Some more information for those it might concern:

1) The street is mostly unpaved and often bumpy; however, there are some stretches of excellently paved surface. Take care of the often frozen surface – while it is more comfortable to drive on than on the fist-big gravel stones, it will take an eternity to break and slow down.

2) There are very few deviations at some construction sites. You cannot call them off-road or anything. Trucks with 15 cars on them make it easily. However, in summer there are two stretches of about 900 and 100 metres, which might become muddy.

3) You are not alone: Every day many cars (most often normal sedan Toyotas and Hondas) are driven from Vladivostok to Chita and further on to be sold there. These drivers are extremely careful not to get their windshields damaged and will make way for you once you approach from behind.

4) Our GPS showed an average speed of 74km/h. This was sometimes a bit too fast – twice it sent our 3.3 tons Land-Cruiser flying. However, being a Land-Cruiser, nothing broke.

5) Take at least one spare tyre with you. Even our super strong BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tyres got a puncture and we saw many “normal” cars changing their tyres. However, all 300km or so, there is a tyre repair station which will happily fix your tyre for as little as $ 4 (100 Rubels).

6a) On the whole 2160km, there is no police to be found. Neither will you find cash-machines, so take enough money with you (preferably small notes; the 1000 Rubles notes are often not accepted in cafes).

6b) We have heard of criminal elements. We did not find any. And as long as your drive during day-time and sleep at the common stop-over places next to cafes and filling stations, you don’t risk anything.

7) For those who drive in spring or autumn: Don’t worry too much about getting stuck. The street is hard enough and often on the top of a dam. It will not get too muddy except at the mentioned deviations.

8a) It certainly is helpful to have a command of the Cyrillic Alphabet if you want to understand the street signs. Also, make sure that your maps are in Cyrillic language, too. Otherwise you have to translate a lot.

8b) If you don’t speak Russian it is not a problem. Diesel translates as Diesel and if you need petrol you will be understood equally. Just be prepared to get the same food every day since you won’t be able to read the menu and therefore will have to say “Moschno borscht!” every time you see a waitress.

9) For those who drive in summer: It will be a very dusty ride!

10) If you are disappointed now and if you seek for an adventure, go to the North of Cambodia or Laos and play in the mud there (or opt for the “Road of Bones” from Magedan to Yakutsk in summer – we heard that this still is pretty though).


If you have any questions about Russia in winter or travelling through Russia in general, please drop me a line (info@panmundo.com).

For more pictures and roadbook entries about crossing Russia in winter, please visit PanMundo.Com!

Happy travels!
Tobias

Last edited by Panmundo-Tobias; 20 Mar 2008 at 10:51.
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Old 20 Mar 2008
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Tobias

Thank you, fantastic photos and very inspiring, you've re-awakened a dream.
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Old 20 Mar 2008
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Amazing stuff, thanks very much for the great information.......let the planning commence!!
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Old 21 Mar 2008
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Thank you for the interesting details!
As i'll travel the route St. Petersburg to Vladivostok at May-July 08, i'll post some pictures of the road Chita-Chaborowsk here.

CU Frederik

2 Years RTW: Motornomads world tour - willkommen!
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Old 18 Apr 2008
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Thanks For the Great Information

We will be travellig same route in May 20th Vlad. to Chita.
Anyone out there on this route?
Thanks
arun
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