Day 103. Tuesday 28th Aug. Between Chernyshevsky & Skovorodino

Jen mentioned our excitement yesterday morning, with the cooker catching fire. It’s a Coleman two burner petrol cooker that has been working great till now. Sometimes it can over-fuel after filling but it hasn’t been a problem. Yesterday it would not burn cleanly. In my efforts to get it burning right I must have over-fueled it because after turning the fuel valve off, it kept escalating by the second, burning to the point that it was starting to ignite foam rubber roof insulation, so the quickest and safest thing was to employ the fire extinguisher. I spent 10 years in the fire protection business selling fire fighting equipment for this very situation but this is the first time I have had to use one to defend my own property. The dry powder extinguisher worked a treat and it was out in a flash, so to speak. Problem was, we had powder everywhere and a little bit of singeing to deal with. On stripping the cooker down it looks like a fibre gasket had deteriorated, letting air in and causing the poor fuel mixing. No doubt as a result of the terrible hammering it had received on the local roads. Fortunately we have two gas cookers as back up’s until we can find a new gasket or material that will deal with the heat.

Last nights camp was up a track off the main road that terminated in a small quarried area. Not the most charming of locations but out of sight of anyone. The only downside was the railway line on the other side of the valley. Trains were going non stop throughout the night. One every two or three minutes. Looking at the map this morning we can see that it is a junction for three lines, two running into China and the other to Vladivostok and beyond, to China. Driving out of the valley, there were two trains, one in each direction. The one heading east was full of coal and being hauled by three big loco’s, the other coming in empty.

We seem to have redeveloped an oil leak on the exhaust side of the motor. It looks like it is coming from the pipe that feeds oil to the turbo. I thought we had that sorted…grrrr! It’s making a bit of a mess under the bonnet and under the vehicle. I think we will find a Land Rover agent or garage in Khabarovsk and get it sorted. I hate leaks. After checking oil levels and a quick inspection, we are on the way by 10.20am. The consequences of an extra 40 winks.

The road is good. The country rolling to hilly and covered in patchy forest. The trees are turning yellow and it’s very pleasant motoring. We are managing an average of 80kph or 50mph which seems sedate but there are the odd roadworks and some pretty steep climbs.

Sample of the terrain.

There are no towns to drive through. The road by-passes all towns. We note many cars coming from the east with auction markings still on the windscreen. I suspect they are being bought at auction in Japan, shipped to Vladivostok on the RORO ferry and driven west to the population centres.  There are also a number of car transporters we pass heading west, full of Japanese auction cars too. A majority of the cars on the road are RHD.

What’s that!!!

I think driving to Vladivostok a number of years ago would have been a very different proposition. A massive amount of fill has gone into filling the valleys and cutting through the tops of hills. It’s an epic drive, even now. The road mileage signs are a lottery. I think the team  given a truck load of signs, mixed them up. The first sign said over 2000k’s to Khabarovsk then the next one said 1886 the next 1784 the next 1956, all within 300k’s. Every kilometre there is a small sign counting up, heading east, from Chita. At one point they must have lost 50 of the signs, as they went from 750k to 800k!!! What’s 50k’s anyway, in the scheme of things?..:)

Sadly when we tried to log on and post Jen’s latest blog this morning, it wouldn’t log on. A sign was inviting us to enter our credit card details. Only three days ago we visited the MTC shop in Ulan-Ude and paid for 1 months unlimited wifi! What can you do? So, we are now having to write our blogs on Pages or Notes and wait till we get to the next major town to renew the wifi. Trouble is, it’s going to be another three or four days till we get to Khabarovsk!

So, tonight we have found a little track up off the highway There is a ‘No Entry’ sign but we don’t let that discourage us. At the end we have come to a tall communications tower. There is just enough room for us to set up camp. Its 8.20pm we have had dinner, made up the bed and are sitting here listening to a great selection of music on the iPod. Thanks Neal. Darkness is descending and it won’t be long before we are snug in our bed. Our total mileage for the day is 290miles.

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