We woke up ready to head to the border with Russia, only to be told that we needed to register our Kazakh visas in order to avoid a $100 fine when we tried to cross the border. This registration process would entail finding the migration office, filling out a form, coming back to the hotel to get a stamp and then going back to the police station. This is not something that we were looking forward to, since besides being a bureaucratic nightmare, it would also cut into our driving time. Nonetheless, we dutifully followed the map the heavily made-up receptionist gave to us and proceeded to the migration office. Once there the one officer with a rudimentary grasp of English kindly started to help us fill out the forms and tell us about the procedure (including making like 10 photocopies) that we would need to make in order to complete this process. We were not impressed. However, the bad news soon turned to good when we realized that if we were in Kazakhstan for less than a certain number of days, we didn’t actually NEED to register our visas. We still had a day left to leave the country, so we hightailed it out of there in search of the Russian border.
We found the border easily and had a pretty decent time getting across. It didn’t take much time at all before we were into Mother Russia. While the border guards weren’t giving out any free smiles, they were efficient at the very least.
Once we were into Russia the roads were great. No Perodua sized potholes were to be found!
Rhys’ GPS had plotted a route on old roads or something which indicated Barnaul was over 700km away, when in fact it was only about 400km away. We were very happy that our drive was nowhere near as long as it was supposed to be. I was struck by how much driving through this area of Russia looked like Alberta. Hay bales, plains and people combining along with listening to some country tunes made me feel like I was at home!
We arrived in Barnaul without any issues, and just had to check two places before finding a hotel. We ran into the other Ottawa team, Five Crew Canoe at our hotel. We hadn’t seen them since Czechout so it was good to know they were making it along alright!
Once we had showered we set out in search of food. Our hotel was right next to a university in Barnaul and the boys had got to talking to a few of the Russians milling around. They were nice and recommended us a nearby sushi restaurant. Sushi in Barnaul involved a copious amount of Philadelphia cream cheese, but was a welcome break from our diet of shashlik and dumplings. We were super impressed by the people we met, they were really nice, spoke great English and gave us some insight into the views of the youth on Russian foreign affairs (Putin=bad!). In a way they were also Mongol Rally groupies, having met and hung out with a number of teams this year and in past years, so it was kind of funny. Ed was the only one who had a really late night that night, heading out to experience some of the local "entertainment", while we had a beer and the boys got Subway on the way back to the hotel.