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Irbit to Irkutsk

Yet more days spent on the Trans Siberian Highway. This 11,000 km stretch of road, that links Saint Petersburg in the west to Vladivostok in the east, had until recently vast unpaved sections that were often unusable by anything other than 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Today it is completely sealed, apart from the regular stretches undergoing maintenance. 

Enjoying roadside tea made from forest herbs. It was delicious, and served in a plastic cup. Unfortunately when we were done she just dumped the cups into the roadside grass, and that’s why the roadsides look like this:
Enjoying roadside tea made from forest herbs. It was delicious, and served in a plastic cup. Unfortunately when we were done she just dumped the cups into the roadside grass, and that’s why the roadsides look like this:

In the West, nearer Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the vehicles are all left-hand drive, as Russia, like all of Europe, drives on the right. But as we near the East we see many right-hand drive vehicles. These are used Japanese import vehicles. Just as in New Zealand several years ago, Japan seems to have found a ready market for its used vehicles.

It does seem strange though to have both left and right hand drive vehicles on the road together. 

This reminded me of Roman chariots. Only in Russia...
This reminded me of Roman chariots. Only in Russia...

Petrol is cheap here, at just 42 roubles/litre (NZ$1/litre).

Filling your vehicle is a little strange. We must pull up to the pump and insert the nozzle we choose, then go to the cashier's window and pay for the amount of fuel we estimate we need.

We are getting quite good at figuring the volume we require by the number of km we’ve traveled. 

Some of the gas stations are quite basic.
Some of the gas stations are quite basic.

People are pretty friendly though.
People are pretty friendly though.

Every region has a large sign, always made of steel, and often not very imaginative.

Russia loves to show off its old military hardware. This Cold War era fighter plane was in the centre of a roundabout.

For the first time In Russia, we choose to camp. We had been warned about the bears, but it was the black flies that wanted to eat us. I have had much experience with flies in Australia, and confidently advised Ingo that as the sun went down, the flies would disappear, and so they did. Only to be replaced by huge mosquitos!

We might give camping in Siberia a miss
We might give camping in Siberia a miss

The city of Irkutsk is a milestone for us. Here we fit our ‘dirt tyres’ in readiness for our diversion down into Mongolia. I also take the time to give the bike an oil change at the local bike shop.

I shared the work with the mechanic. We couldn’t really communicate and he looked a little pissed off, as I constantly showed him what was required. He got his own back though, by re-checking my work and re-tightening every bolt I’d tightened. Touché my friend...

If you want to see the route we've followed so far on this trip you can find it here.