On the road again, all day. Setting off at 1000, at first we started on a 3 lane motorway. This can’t last, we said, and in a short while it reduced to dual carriageway. Still an excellent road though. In 40 minutes however, we were back to the normal two lane, truck infested, rough surfaced road, interspersed with road works, which we have become used to. For a long period there was evidence of starting to widen the road to motorway standards. The work appeared to have been abandoned – perhaps building spectacular stadiums in many different cities for the World Cup took priority!
The day was not without incidents. After an hour we were signalled to pull over by a cop. We approached him up a long, slow hill with nothing in front of us to hide us from his view. He also pulled over the truck driving behind us. Fortunately he was a chubby, round faced, good humoured sort of guy. He was signalling something with his hands and we wondered if he was telling us we had overtaken where we were not supposed to have done. At the same time he was asking the driver from the truck behind us for his papers. We gave him our passports and waited for further developments, but he just waived us on. In passing, I should mention, crossing a solid line here is something they seem to take seriously – much more so than speed limits. It is often difficult to tell though, what is a solid line. In some cases the paint has worn away, or on newly tarred roads, they haven’t always got round to painting the lines.
A bit later in the morning we were following behind a truck which was not hanging around, travelling at over 90kph. Suddenly out of a stream of traffic coming towards us in the other lane, emerged a man in the middle of the road, walking straight across in front of the truck. The truck swerved off the road onto the gravel avoiding him but throwing dust and stones all over us and almost “losing it”. I was sure he was going to overturn, but the driver was brilliant and managed to right it. Dennis was brilliant too, also having to take immediate evasive action. Somehow neither of us hit the idiot, but it was a really nasty moment. There have been a few hair raising moments, but I think this was the worst.
The scenery has changed again. Very open countryside this afternoon. This part of the country does not seem poor. The village houses are all new. Built mainly of colour steel, each with a different colour roof. Bright blues, reds and greens.
It got hotter as the afternoon progressed and there were dark clouds brewing and it looked as if there was going to be a storm. We decided we would try and find a hotel in Samara, but again because of the football, many were full and the prices higher than usual. I managed to find something about 9kms out of the city centre and asked Google Maps to take us there. Samara is a big city. Over a million inhabitants and very spread out. Passing beautiful modern buildings and a lot of construction going on, we were quite impressed. We approached our destination, as per Google Maps, when suddenly the map seemed covered in no entry signs and we were told we were as close to our destination as possible and would have to walk the rest of the way. The road ahead of us and the road to our left were both closed with barriers and manned by police and young volunteers helping with the World Cup. We could not proceed further so asked for help in finding our hotel. Various policemen and helpers looked at our iPad and their phones and all seemed puzzled. Not much English was spoken, so we weren’t making much progress. The assistance of a young girl helper was called for, as her English was good and she decided Google had given us the wrong info and we were 13kms from where we should have been! So, re-programming our route on my phone we set off again. This time, to a very different side of the city. Much more run down and dirty, but we have found the hotel.
Checking in was really slow. Wherever games are being played, they are very fussy about detail. Most people checking in are here for the W.C. and have a special FIFA Visa, which we don’t have. So, they want to know where we have been before in Russia. We have to provide the registration slips, which the hotels give us on departure, to show where we have come from. This is as well as copying our passports, visas and the immigration slips we were given on entry. Tedious! Then the room we were given was a tiny shoe box with 2 single beds. Not what Booking.com confirmed. So, back to reception and eventually we were given a suite at the back of the hotel with a bathroom larger than the previous bedroom. Now we are happy, showered and feeling human again and are off to find somewhere to eat.