The day started well. After breakfast, the hotel staff had good news. The garage had rung to say our car was fixed and we could pick it up in 15 minutes. Hooray! Tatyana, the receptionist had said the previous evening she would walk there with us and translate, as it was on her way home. She had been on duty 24 hours and was looking shattered, so Dimitri, drove us instead. The garage had called in a young 16 year old, who had been having extra English lessons at school, to act as translator and he went out of his way to try and help. Although the L R is going again, she needs a part, I believe the flywheel sensor, from England? At least, she started and we set off, me in some trepidation.
First stop a supermarket to stock up with some provisions. A different one to the previous day and not so nice, but perfectly adequate. I met with a hurdle in the fruit and veg department, though. Everything is sold by weight. We had also found this in the hotel restaurant. All meat and fish dishes are priced per 100gms. Even the prepackaged items need to be weighed. You need to weigh them on the scales, type in the name of the product and the price and it spits out a sticky label to attach to your product. Not like the French supermarkets, which have a similar system, but show you pictures of the product and you just press the button for the one you want. I grabbed an unsuspecting man who had just priced some items. He spoke no English and my Russian has now increased to about 6 words, none of which were very helpful, but he understood and priced my items for me. Next issue occurred at check out. The bar code on the loaf of bread I had chosen would not scan. I thought the check out girl would call another member of staff and get a price. No I got a torrent of incomprehensible words and when I said I wanted the bread I was told loudly “Nyet” and she threw the loaf under the counter and presented me with the bill. By the time a queue had built up and I wasn’t in a position to argue.
We set off to try and find a bakery or another supermarket on the way out of town and had only gone a few hundred meters when the L R stalled. Right in the middle of a junction, of course. I thought that was it and we would be back on a truck to the garage again But after about 5 attempts and a squirt of ether down the snorkel intake, she came back to life. We proceeded to a garage to fill up with diesel and while Dennis was refuelling a white TD5, just like ours, pulled up in front of us. I leapt out and the young, ponytailed driver actually spoke English. I asked if he knew a Land Rover specialist locally who may be able to get parts and he directed us to his friend “Anton” who had a workshop a few hundred meters away. So, yet another garage stop for us. We sat and waited for around an hour and a half while Anton’s mechanics looked at the old girl and the receptionist made our wait more pleasant with coffee and chocolates. This was our 6th garage and I have to say I was fed up and beginning to turn into a grumpy old woman. But, it seems Anton has been a great help and has called ahead to a garage in St Petersburg where the necessary spares are going to be sent.
Somewhat late, we set off for Lovozero. It is an area of lakes and forests with snow covered mountains in the distance. The trees are small but perfectly formed. Mainly differing types of firs and silver birch, but although not tall, very dense. Once we left Murmansk, other than 2 or 3 roadside cafes, we saw virtually no habitation, before arriving in Lovozero. It was like going back 100 years. It is the centre for the few surviving Russian Sami population. I think Dennis was wondering whatever sort of place I had booked via booking.com. The Sat Nav and Google Maps weren’t much help finding our destination, but some friendly locals managed to point us in the right direction. Once we got there it was shut up and half built! I had a phone number for Natalia and called her, but she didn’t speak a word of English. Another guy had turned up, also without a word of English, but we understood he wanted us to follow him. He took us to Natalia and a very run down looking block of apartments. However, inside is fine. we have a 3 bedroom apartment with kitchen and are quite comfy. We can get a good night’s sleep and prepare for whatever excitements tomorrow brings.
Well, that’s Jens point of view. Now we will get the real one..:). The garage that worked on it yesterday said they had not found the source of the problem but thought it was the crankshaft or flywheel sensor? They stripped it out but could not check it. They were very good and charged us a very modest amount. NZ$150, As Jen said, it stalled and was very difficult to start again, in the outside lane of a main thoroughfare intersection and at the front of the queue. Hazard lights flashing!
Anton’s garage were brilliant. They took it away and would not charge us for the time they spent on it and called ahead to the Land Rover service centre in St Petersburg, who are now waiting for our arrival next week. John of Gumtree in the UK is going to send new parts to us, just in case they don’t have them. What a nightmare this is turning out to be. I think part of the problem is that while the garages have diagnostic equipment, they are struggling to find the right connectors to our machine. But won’t admit it? Though Anton said they did not have the right equipment. The Russian people we have met so far, have been very warm, friendly and helpful.
This is Jen’s creativity. I think the experience here in this very rural and unsophisticated village, is brilliant. Soviet style apartment buildings but the apartment we are renting for the night, has been decorated to an acceptable standard and self contained. Outside a number of the houses, the women were digging their garden plots and planting seed potato’s. There is a factory here but what it produces, is unknown. The village is nearly 80k’s off the Murmansk – St Petersburg road, about 70k’s from Murmansk. Jen is correct that the sat nav did not have a clue about the road but I had programmed in the co ordinates and it bought us to within 100m of the address we were looking for.
Our apartment is on the ground floor, first past the door.
This is the view from our bedroom window.
The road through the village.
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