A relatively easy day today. Left the Hotel Barbaris at about 1030. Dennis mentioned yesterday that drainage didn’t seem to be high on the list of civic priorities here. This morning the puddles were still as bad and the roads still flooded. Our first port of call was an oil changing place. Dennis has become concerned that there is a noise developing in the gear box and wanted to be sure no water had contaminated the oils, after our exploits fording rivers in Mongolia. We ended up changing the front diff oil.
On the road for Khabarovsk we drove out through the city of Birobidzhan. Our hotel was located near the shopping area where the roads were barely paved and full of puddles and pavements did not exist. The other side of the city could not have been more different. Green, leafy, wide paved streets and pavements with fountains and statues, lakes and parks.
In the Soviet era there was a move to equalise the population in the west and east of the country. Millions of people were relocated to the Siberian area. One can only ask, how can people be expected to live in an area where winter temperatures reach minus 50 degrees C and winter lasts for more than half the year. Productivity is severely affected by this and so much of the region has to be subsidised. The scattered towns, where the population has dropped dramatically, mainly support the rail link, but there are some more prosperous places. Yakutsk, has seen a surge in population due to diamond and gold mining, The island of Sakhalin is booming from oil revenues and Vladivostok is also thriving.
Soon we stopped for lunch and I found us a hotel in Khabarovsk for this evening, the Aurora. Not the hotel I wanted which was, sadly, booked. We were checked in soon after 5pm. I have been calling the terrain tundra, but that is not technically the correct term. The boggy forested areas of southern Siberia are known as Taiga.
Next something really important. To find a hairdresser. I have decided enough is enough. I can’t go on looking like a tramp, not having been to a hairdresser for 4 months! A bit of a struggle but we located one and the lady owner spoke reasonable English. She had been an exchange student and had studied in Los Angeles some 20 something years ago. She instructed another lady, who didn’t speak a word of English, on how I wanted my hair cut. I now have a very Russian look!£12 for a wash, cut and blow dry. I suppose one can’t expect Vidal Sassoon in a small Siberian salon.
Next to our hotel is an English pub, The Chester. We decided to give it a try and had some good Russian beer and a typical pub dinner. Khabarovsk is supposed to be an attractive riverside city. We have yet to locate that part of the city. We will have to explore in the morning as it is already dark.