Day 3 in Russia, we’re bushed and stopped in a new city, the Maps.me app has led us nowhere, time to re-group and argue our next move. We’re tired and need a hotel and shower. In my left ear a low vodka-slurred burrr —“I think that you are Scottish, yes?” None of us looks like Malcolm Tucker but perhaps he had heard our exchanges.
I have heard much about Russian drinking hospitality, manners and protocols -- it is impolite to refuse a toast etc. Here were three local boyos, some hours into a serious session, and ready to help a mob of travellers in trouble. One spoke English, one was a local “police chief”! A stubbie of beer sat on the roof of his car. We guessed it would happen someday in Russia, but please, let’s find that hotel and shower first. “Follow us”. When the road led under a rail bridge the Dodge just squeezed through. The Toyota had no hope, let alone with the roof-rack, swags, spare tyres and tent. “Unload them”, and he starts to fumble with the ropes. “It’s the only way, otherwise too far”. No way. Visions of bits of gear scattered all over the road, traffic picking through it, carried through the underpass one by one, then an hour of re-loading, re-packing, tarping and tying down. Maps.me comes good and we stop traffic and turn back. At the hotel the police chief has dumped his 2 drinking buddies and has engaged Bill in serious sightseeing plans for tomorrow. But first he has to go home for a sleep. See you tomorrow.