We were scheduled to head to Tobolsk from Yekaterinburg but we changed our route. Hotels in Tobolsk were as much as $267 per night and it was also somewhat of a detour from the direct route to Omsk. We therefore decided to skip Tobolsk and head directly to Omsk.
We left Yekaterinburg on Wednesday 30th April but, because of delays trying to get the oil changed in the Defender, we didn’t leave the city until about 3.30pm. The delay meant that the 967 km drive to Omsk would take three days. By 6.30pm that evening, we started looking for a potential camping spot but all of the fields were covered in snow. The areas that were not snow-covered were very muddy. It became clear that we were not going to be able to pitch the tent that night. The focus then changed to finding an area of solid ground where we could ‘camp’ for the night. After a bit more driving, we found a small lane that led us off the main highway by a few metres, alongside a wooded area. We decided to park there for the night and sleep in the Defender. We were about 100km west of Tyumen.
We slept in the Defender which is a little cramped but at least somewhat sheltered from the elements. The puddle behind the vehicle froze overnight, so definitely not a night for the tent.
Thursday 1st May was the big May Day holiday in Russia. But that’s no excuse for the traffic police to take a day off! We were pulled over twice at the established police checkpoints. However, just as with our previous steps, these checks were painless. The first officer only decided to pull us over at the last minute, when we were almost past him. He checked my passport, driving licence and vehicle documents and then sent us on our way. No smiles, but to the point and relatively brief. At the second stop, the officer’s colleagues appeared to be teasing him for pulling over a tourist vehicle and he then waved us on without even approaching the vehicle.
Following the police checks we were ready for lunch. After several days of eating cheese and salami sandwiches from the vehicle fridge, we were ready for a change so we decided to try one of the roadside cafes that sell shashlik (a skewered meat dish). The place we stopped at was very friendly and, despite the language barrier, we were able to communicate our desire for chicken shashlik with mashed potatoes and soup as a starter. The shashlik consisted of three chicken thighs each, grilled on a skewer (very nice). We got all of this for a combined total of $20.
As we were leaving, one of the locals approached the Defender and engaged us in conversation (that neither side could really understand). We were finally able to decipher that he liked to drink wine (‘vino’) and that he wanted us to drink ‘vino’ with him. I was able to gesture that I couldn’t drink because I was driving but he was quick to point out that the excuse didn’t apply to Klaus. So we got back out of the vehicle so that Klaus could drink with him.
Two glasses were requested from the cafe and the gentleman disappeared into a shed and came back with a large plastic bottle of wine (home-made, we presumed). He then explained, through gestures, that he and Klaus had to down the ‘vino’ in one, which is what they did! Another example of the friendliness of the Russian people that left us with a smile as we drove away.
We made good mileage that day and by 4.30pm we spotted a promising wild-camping spot behind a stand of birch trees, off the highway. After a quick inspection, it was agreed that we’d camp there for the night. The snow had cleared and the weather had improved, so the tent was soon pitched and we were able to relax for a while before dinner.
After an omelette for dinner and a bottle of wine between us, we turned in as the sun set to try to sleep against a background of noisy trucks speeding along the nearby highway.
On Friday 2nd May, we broke camp about 9.00am and began to make our way on the last leg of the journey to Omsk. We made another stop at a shashlik joint for lunch. Not as tasty as the day before but less costly at $6 for lunch for two (pork shashlik for me and Borsch soup for Klaus). By 3.00pm, we were at a hotel in Omsk for a much needed shower! Because it was too late for the laundry service, I was able to get access to the hotel washing machine for only 50 rubles per load (less than $1.50). Omsk also marks another time-zone, so we are now 10 hours ahead of Bermuda.
So, we and our clothing are clean again, ready for the next 655km leg to Novosibirsk. Due to the distance, this will be a two-day leg, so we’ll be wild-camping again Saturday night and back in a hotel in Novosibirsk for Sunday night.
The weather is rapidly improving, with daytime temps already in the 70’s F and night-time temps staying above freezing. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of the snow!