Awake early. Once the sun is up it soon gets pretty warm in the Land Rover. Sadly we left the best campsite we have found, so far, with it’s view over the mighty Volga. Last night we watched barges and a cruise ship chugging past.
The Volga is the longest river in Europe. Past Astrakhan it divides into numerous small branches and enters the Caspian Sea, via a wide delta. This area has abundant bird life and is developing tourism for bird watchers and building lodges in the wetlands. The Volga is regarded as the national river of Russia. Eleven of the country’s twenty largest cities, including the capital, Moscow, are located in its drainage basin. Some of the largest reservoirs in the world can be found along the Volga.
Our hotel in Volgograd was located easily. As usual, check in not so easy though! No English spoken and no reservation held – according to the young lady behind the desk. After showing her the email confirmation I received from the hotel, in Russian, we started to get somewhere and the process of photocopying all our documentation began.
Next on the agenda was to find the Land Rover dealership. Google Maps is doing very well today and we found it easily. The receptionist spoke no English, but took us to the Service Department, where we were introduced to Ilya. Looking rather sour faced, I wondered what sort of help he was going to give us. First impressions were misleading. He is great guy. Spoke good English and has a very dry sense of humour. He knew all about the parts that had been sent from Moscow for “Some tourists driving a Defender”. More interestingly he is a great fan of Lord of the Rings and wants to go to New Zealand.
He also knew all about Burt Monro – for those of you who don’t know who Burt Monro was, he was a New Zealand motorcycle racer. Famous for setting an under 1000cc world record at Bonneville on 26th August, 1967 at 295.453 kph. This record still stands. Munro was 68 and riding a 47 year old machine when he set his last record. Working at his home in Invercargill, in the south of the South Island, he worked for 20 years to modify his 1920 Indian motorcycle. His story is told in the film “The World’s Fastest Indian” made in 2005, starring Anthony Hopkins. He is a legend in NZ and every year motorcyclists from all over NZ converge on Invercargill for the Burt Monro Classic – including Dennis’s brother Ash!
To get back to the Land Rover. She is booked in to have the parts fitted on Tuesday morning at 0800. That gives us a couple of days for sightseeing. Will set off tomorrow to find some of the sights related to the WW2 battle for Stalingrad.