They let us in.
As two young Americans raised in the "Red Dawn" era, it is quite thrilling to be infiltrating the enemy's stronghold and spreading Sherman-esque disarray in our path across the motherland.
It began on our first day in country. Our Kazakh send-off was made after riding one of the most awful stretches of road we have yet encountered in our trip. The motor vehicles using the same road would often show us their full side-view while presumably making progress in our direction. The holes and mud pits in the road were so daunting that westbound cars were frequently south, south, north, south, north, north, west, south bound. Although it had rained plenty before our arrival, we were fortunate to not be riding that bit of road in the rain.
We were welcomed to Russia under sunny skies, and found much smoother pavement on the other side of the border. After exchanging some money, lunching in the park-while airing out sleeping bags and looking appropriately gypsy- we headed out of Gornyak, and on towards Barnaul.
After all the excitement of the challenging road, the big border crossing, and the gifts received at the grocery store, we were pretty tired, and decided it was not necessary to cover 100km that day.
There was a spot on our map where it appeared that a few kilometers up a side road there was a river crossing. Alongside rivers one can sometimes find nice flat camping sites, so we turned of the main route and pedaled a little ways up a dirt road. Hmmm. There was a river, and there was flatness, but the flatness was separated from the river by impenetrable vegetation...except for right under the bridge.
Deciding not to sleep under the bridge where the local youth undoubtedly party, we pushed our bikes a good distance from the road and the bridge and access to the river, and found a good flat spot on the floodplain where we would be bothered by nobody but the mosquitoes.
And boy howdy the bugs showed up. We set up the tent/mosquito refuge, and cooked and ate dinner in our full rain gear because despite the lack of rain, there certainly was no lack of straw-mouthed flying things looking for human flesh to suck.
Quickly, quickly, we dove into the tent, zipped it up and did our best to rid the sanctuary of invaders.
Phew. Well, at least we will sleep well on this pleasant evening on this flat ground far from anywhere that normal people would wish to venture....
"Do you hear something?"
"You mean something other than the drone of billions of mosquitos trying to get into the tent?
"Voices. Human voices."
And wouldn\t you know it, through the tall grass, out of the darkening (sunset and clouds of mosquito caused) evening, came four Russian teen-aged boys who were quite as surprised to stumble upon our campsite as we were by their stumbling.
Then followed one of the more strange exchanges we have had so far on the trip.
The tee-shirt clad lads who had come down to the floodplain after sunset to drink with their friends must have been made of different material, because certainly no humans made of flesh and blood could have withstood the punishment they endured while they chatted with us for the next forty minutes.
We were very bad hosts, or guests- difficult to know who was which- because we did not leave the tent to greet them. We did not leave the tent to assist them in their attempts to start a fire a few feet from the vestibule, -a brief mission quickly abondened, thankfully- we did not leave the tent at all. We pretty much kept the force-field intact and chatted with the lads until they grew tired of our inability to understand Russian.
"Sweet dreams!" zzzzzzz
We have continued to spread mayhem in our path, and the Russians (most of them-not the people working in a field to whom we offered half a watermelon-but that is a whole other story) have continued to treat us with kindness.
This evening, we are on our way to Yadveega's apartment, where we will be spending the night. We first made her aquaintence at the pharmacy where she was working when we decided to restock our contact lens solution and soap and such.
Take care and have fun-
Tyler and Adrianne