I wouldn’t be making an overstatement if I said we are delighted to be here. What an interesting day!
Jen had been reading that you could buy vehicle insurance for Russia, at the border. Well, on arriving at the Norwegian border, Jen asked if this was possible, to be told, it wasn’t. Nor at the Russian side either, and we needed it because it was compulsory! OK, what do we do? Jen phoned our vehicle insurer in the UK to be told, yes, certainly, we can provide you with insurance. Great. Now, could you please first, provide us with a quote? “Sure, but we will have to go over all the details of the policy first”. “OK, well you have them there on file, can you not use them”? “Yes, I can but I will have to go over them again, and it will take time”. “Well how about giving us a cost estimate”? “The estimate would be £600 for three months, third party only”. “WOW! OK, if we accept that, can you email us the policy so we can print it here”. “No, I am sorry, we can only mail it to your home address”. “So, we will need to drive back home to pick up an envelope and drive back again”? “I am afraid so”. “Is there no way we can have the policy, which we will own, if we pay for it, sent by email, or post to us in Kirkeness”? “No, that is our policy”. “Thank you for your assistance, but it is of absolutely no use to us. Goodbye”.
So, we could have accepted and paid an outrageous sum for this insurance and had it posted to our home address and have someone at our home address mail it on to us! Blind bureaucratic nonsense. Needless to say, again, our only way was forward and the Norwegians let us cross with the understanding that we could be back in an hour or two, or three.
Well, the Russians certainly gave us the once over. I don’t think the immigration clerk had seen a NZ passport before as he dissected it, page by page, but in a good spirit. Then came the vehicle documents. Another minute scrutiny while we waited anxiously for the question, Insurance? It didn’t come….outside to the shed where Landy had been instructed to move to and receive a similarly intense scrutiny of every nook and cranny. After which again, “you may go.”
So, we set off rather pleased with ourselves and relieved that we were at last starting our trip into the unknown. I think it prudent not to mention the state of preparedness that exists inside the border, should anyone wish to invade.
Our passports were inspected at road blocks, three times in the next 20k’s.
Setting off for Murmansk was pretty straight forward, not too many options and the sat nav guiding the way. Alas when getting close to the city, we were unable to find the street name of the hotel in the menu, and it was guiding us away from the city, south. Bloody hell! So we pulled over, on a scruffy looking road with not too many people around and asked a chap who was about to get into his car, where is the hotel, in gestures and with the written Russian text, address? He looked perplexed and after some consulting of his phone, pointed us nearly back the way we came and saying, “7km”, but did not look hopeful that we could find it. I certainly concurred with that!!. So, I asked him “how much for us to follow him”? A consultation with Jen and we offered him R100, thinking that was ample, he glanced at it scornfully and said, “2 L fuel”!!. I laughed. so we upped it with another R500….(exchange rate is approx R81-£1). High finance. Well, I think he thought, if this is the only way I can get rid of these persistent tourists? He agreed. So, approx 30min later we were outside the hotel. Once we were parked, I gave him another R200 and I don’t think he was excited, but we certainly were and we parted with a handshake and my profuse appreciation.
The hotel. Austere, would be the first thing that came to mind, but once in our room, WOW!!! and for NZ$130 which is £70 per night. Three stately rooms immaculately clean and with almost every luxury you could want. No fridge, cup and saucer or telephone but everything else including two giant TV screens and a sound system. Magnificent.
OTT comes to mind when discussing the dining room decor. Classic Greco/Roman setting with columns, paintings and roof mural and a glass floor covering a French wine cellar. We were expecting a steaming pile of goulash! Oh you philistine. Out comes the most appetising nouvelle cuisine plate of Halibut and roast vegetables, el dante. The hotel staff, wonderfully gracious and enjoyed the interaction of choosing dishes and a beer from an all Russian menu, as much as we did. We are so impressed. Tomorrow we find a shop that sells SIM cards for our portable modem and phones and a Land Rover dealer. Have to say though, it seems to be starting a bit better…:) Oh! and Greg, from NZ has forwarded us a contact for Olga, from the company he has in Murmansk. So we are looking forward to meeting Olga tomorrow too. Meanwhile.