Дурак и дороги #18October 27, 2017 in Russia
Pskov – St Petersburg(!)
Yesterday didn’t get me very far, literally. Today though. Today it all worked out.
It wasn’t snowing, this was a good start. A table of food was yet again laid out in front of me but this time I had a bus to catch so having eaten far more than is usually reasonable for breakfast time I headed off. Misha had recommended I try hitching from the traffic police post a bit further out of the city but seeing the gutters clear of slush I jumped off the bus early again and took up my position just down from yesterday’s petrol station at the now freed up bus stop; the road crew had evidently moved onto somewhere else by now.
#1 Victor & Oleg (unphotographed) [306km]
Half an hour of sign holding later a silver car stopped just after the bus stop and was reversing back into the layby, evidently, they’d needed a few extra seconds to decide what to do. They had a Pskov number plate though, maybe they weren’t going far.
“Куда вы едет?” (Where are you going?) I asked, whilst loading my bag into the boot.
“В Петер.” Came the response.
This was it. All I had to do was not get myself thrown out of the car and it would finally be over. I could help but feel slightly happy. For the next few hours Victor, Oleg and I chatted whilst I, in sporadic bursts, grinned to myself like an idiot. Or maybe like someone who just hitched 12000km across a foreign land just for the fun of it.
Victor and Oleg were residents of St Petersburg, though neither were local to the city. Victor hailed from Pskov, he was on his way back from visiting his parents, and Oleg was from Murmansk. Neither liked living in their hometown, either due to bad salaries or the huge period of darkness during winter, in Pskov and Murmansk respectively, so they’d both relocated to St Petersburg. Victor (early 30s?) had been there for almost a decade and had kids (8 and 12 years), a wife, and a fitness company. Oleg (27) had moved a year before after spending three years in the army, two on contract, in Sochi, Murmansk and I’ve forgotten where else. Collectively they worked as fitness coaches in the gym Victor, three-time student power-lifting champion of Russia, had opened up just a few months previously.
Both Victor and Oleg spoke some English and both wanted to practise so I did my best to swop out of Russian and back into 'мой родной языкэ’ (moi rodnoi yazik; my mother tongue). Oleg was too young for kids, in his opinion – having only stopped thinking of himself as a child two years previously, aged 25 – but Victor – who got hitched aged 20 and had kids by 22(?) – was keen on his eldest to spend some time in America or the UK in order to get their English up to a useable standard. He recalled his holiday in Miami a few years previously when, despite having English lessons throughout school and university, he hadn’t understood a word of what people were saying.
We drove on, eating away at the distance to St Petersburg. The road had been cleared of snow but anything just off those two lanes was still covered liberally in the white stuff. Victor drove cautiously, he hadn’t put on his winter tyres yet. When he left Saint Petersburg the previous day he hadn’t needed them; yesterday had been autumn, in 24 hours the season had gone and changed. Stopping at a petrol station he bought me and Oleg a ‘French dog’ (a hotdog stuffed into piece of pseudo-baguette style bread – I imagine the French would be offended by the title) and coffee. Whilst I was in the toilet (see photo for possibly graphic detail – it was like that when I got there, honest, not even being sarcastic) another driver asked Victor if I was the same person who’d been holding the sign outside of Pskov. He told them I was and asked why they hadn’t picked me up. Apparently, they’d been afraid.
French-dog eaten we continued onwards. As we got closer to St Petersburg I felt a wave of something possibly known as pride sweep over me. I don’t think hitchhiking across Russia is necessarily all that impressive but, whilst staring out the window watching the last hundred kilometres go past, I tried not to think about that and just focus on the snow, the trees and the silent noise distance makes as it goes creeping past the car window.
Approaching the city we turned off onto the ring road, eventually entering St Petersburg through one of its Northern districts, where Victor’s soon to open second gym was having the final touches put to it. The three of us, accompanied by Alex – their colleague who himself had spent his late teenage years living illegally in Paris after going on holiday then deciding just not to come back, went for lunch in a nearby café. It wasn't until I was part way down the metro escalator that I realised I'd left my bruised and battered sign in the back of Victor's car.
And that’s it. :)
Not a bad way to spend an Autumn.
The road was generally smooth, flat and pretty straight all the way to St Petersburg. Either side, for almost the entire distance bar the last few km approaching the city, were lined with pine-trees that themselves were covered in a layer of snow. As we edged closer to the city the snow thinned out until maybe 50km before it disappeared completely, possibly influenced by the Gulf of Finland and St Petersburg’s notoriously wet – though not snowy – climate. Unlike the stretch of road running out towards Latvia that I was on a few days ago this road seems pretty busy, especially as you get towards St Petersburg. Running into the city the road spreads out and motorway style barriers appear until you eventually get to a spaghetti junction style affair that sort of appears out of nowhere and offers you the option to bypass the city on a multi-lane ring-road.
Here’s the stats (this excludes the journey to Komsomolsk and the journey to and from Baikalsk as they were explicitly done to go ‘в гости’ with someone I’d already met – confusingly this make the knocks 700km off the total distance covered in the past two months).
Days on the road – 25
Total number of lifts [multi-day = 1] – 51
Total distance – 11241km (7025mil.)
Minimum distance (/day) – 0km (0 mil.)
Maximum distance (/day) – 831km (519mil.)
Average distance (/day) – 426km (266mil.)
P.s. It’s sort of a shame it’s over. The sensation of being on the move it quite nice, when you’re really going for it. I think this might be a bit like childbirth though and I’ve forgotten how frustrating bits of it were as a sort of survival mechanism to help me keep going and make it tempting to do it all over again. That said. Now I’ve got my own stats, and a record to try and beat…Read more