Day 29 – Tallinn in Estonia to Bikernieki in Latvia

There was some anticipation that this was going to be tough day.

Only 353kms including two track events and two time controls. Plus, visits to three car collections. And three passage controls.

The time controls always put pressure on the crew because you just don’t know what to expect on the road upfront.

There were some advisories in the daily bulletin but nothing major.

There was also nothing eventful on the road to the track and once there we got in line to do the run. A dirt and seal rally track quite intricate with a bridge across the road at one point.

The two track events today

We completed this in 3minutes and 10 seconds.

A good run with a tactful quarter tank of gas.

And good fun, though the navigator didn’t see the track hardly at all. Just giving directions.

The first car collection, just steed into some garages at the first track

Three hundred clicks to the next track. Lots of road and the only real event was a car crash where a truck clipped a car and, have a look at the result. There was debris 100 meters in each direction. A cool reminder of what happens when an impact occurs.

The car crash enroute

The next track was at the Riga Motormuseum.

A tarmac surface and we completed this in 4mins 10 seconds. Again, good fun and a great experience.

A look through this museum. It was set up like the Fangio museum in South America. This had only two floors with some amazing equipment within.

The cars on the Riga museum. Couldn’t send all the photos. The second museum was filled with a collection of Russian cars and was a little disappointing

Denise at the race track today

Denise at the race track today

Then to our hotel only ten kms away. It’s 7.00 pm. A long hot day with lots of great fun doing it.

It was t so tough after all.

Day 28 – Hyvinkaa to Tallinn

Morning doesn’t break here. It’s morning from around 2am. It’s almost daylight. The sun’s out there somewhere!

At 4.30 it’s overcast and looks as if it’s going to stay that way.

Start archway and photos on the road

The course is 143kms for the day and it includes two track events, one that is a rally track, which means the surface is both gravel and seal surface, but we don’t know where one stops and the other starts. Interesting. The other is a gravel track.

We have to be shipped over to Estonia in the afternoon, a two hour crossing. 

All in all should be a relatively restful day. 

When we got to the first Rally track, which is the track with the two surfaces this experience was awesome. Denise just loved it. Swinging through the corners and spitting herself out with wheels spinning in the gravel and fishtailing out. Just like it was on the NZ roads way back when most of the roads in NZ were gravel. It was fun. Did a great time too, better than some of the better prepped up cars.

Then in quick succession another track , longer and more complex, had a stop midway, gravel, great stuff. Much more fun than the tracks we’ve been on over the past weeks.

It seems like there will be more of these henceforth, off-road race tracks. They are good and well controlled.

Then the crossing to Estonia. We were required to wait at the ferry terminal for two hours prior to sailing. I suppose it was to ensure that all the cars were set to sail and those that were behind could catch up. 
Boring. Waiting.

Waiting at the ferry terminal parked next to a La France unit

The ferry was a very large ship, roll on roll off unit. 
It had everything on board, including a Burger King and a supermarket, clothes and cosmetics, spirits and wines.

Restaurants. Just like a cruise ship I suppose.

A very smooth ride of over two hours over the gulf of Finland.

And off at the Estonia end to our hotel. It was after 7pm by then.  Eat and sleep.

An interesting building in Estonia from the hotel building

Nothing else exciting to report.

An extract from the ERA official site here

Day 27 – St Petersburg to Hyvinkaa Finland

The day off was good for rest. The accomodation was mostly fair but Steve had a room that was less than ordinary with a small room and a hard bed with a topper mattress.

The car was left alone. Nothing needs doing. She’s running so well.

Our start procedure today was different in that the fastest and best placed left last rather than the first placed leaving first.

Makes no real difference to us as we are fair to middling.

It was a bit cold but the weather was set to change to sunny. And it did.

The road out of St Petersburg was lined with beautiful buildings and bridges. Special. Very grand.

We then basically headed to the two borders that we had to cross today. A couple of amendments in the bulletin which meant a change to the Master Time Control position giving more time to get from the Finnish border to the hotel. The test start and finish was cancelled, so no points to be gained.(or lost) The drive was good and arriving at the border on the Russian side we waited quite a while as there were many rally cars ahead of us and the process, well, it was really slow. Customs for the cars and a seperate passport control. Then a repeat at the Finnish border, but faster and a little more friendly.

Heading into Finland the roadside scenery changed quite markedly. The greenery at road edge was now mostly deciduous, beeches, birches and the like. There were pines but to a lesser volume and regime like. The land is flatter and, a lot more formal in settings with lovely cottages and farm houses, steep roof pitches and just nice.picturesque.

The rally though continued, with Passage controls still to be passed through to ensure that you’re not cheating. They always find the most out of the way roads to just keep you guessing with so many turns and gravel roads through the back blocks. Interesting though and it certainly keeps us busy and on our toes.

The hotel this evening is in Hybinkaa, named hotel Sveitsi. Quite nice too considering it is, it seems in the middle of nowhere.

The meal was good, fresh food and nice!

Then as usual bed.

Day 25 – Zavidovo to St Petersburg

The road is long, not much of a winding road. It’s 685kms of mainly straight highway with the only reprieve today being a track event in the late afternoon, 30odd kms from the hotel. And when the crew is buggered from the tedium of the days run. The endurance element really means something. This is what the event is all about, how to break the man and the machine.

We are officially starting out at 8.55am.

The hotel was nice last night but by the time you get in and do the car maintenance and eat, it’s bedtime. Up at 4.30, that’s habitual now, then breakfast and the waiting game begins till start.

Russia is impressive and if I’m repeating myself, apologies.

We began well, a good breakfast and after waiting some time we hit the road.

A couple of hundred kms while it rained and it was cold. Then a miscalculation of direction and once more backtracking 80kms to the PC. Instead of checking and responding to each waypoint I had loaded the entire days headings into the GPS and so although we were heading for the end of day MTC, it was an interim waypoint that we should have aimed for which was in a different direction.

We got there for the PC with seconds to spare. But that’s not the end of the miscalculations. We got to the racetrack at the end of the day, did our two circuits and in good time too.

Then the last stretch, 37kms to the hotel and the MTC. As we got closer to the city the traffic density intensified and the distances between road take offs were shorter and an incorrect road was taken.

Once off the correct course at rush hour is fatal.

Thank goodness for the GPS. Even this was difficult to interpret as the arrows were small and needed magnification then reduced to get a picture of where we were headed.

All in all it was a bad afternoon re navigation and time. It was impossible to get to the MTC in the allotted scheduled time.

St Petersburg is a very large and significant city. It’s well populated with cars and people.

So getting around is fraught with the chances of getting lost; We did, once on the freeway trying to get to the destination from the incorrect location. Its a busy rush hour, city is more than stressful for the crew at the best of time.

We got there in the end buggered and disappointed that we had lost so much time.

Day 24 – Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo

The first thing I have to do is be corrected on two known matters. The first is that the yellow pipe work in the photos that I described as conduiting hot water to each household for heating houses in the villages that we passed through is incorrect. A reader, thank you, has informed me that the pipes carry gas to each household and that each household then uses that to heat the house and the water. One lives and learns!

Also, the photo of the horse and rider displayed white light streaks as if these were clouds. They’re not, they’re reflections of light from the ceiling inside the building.

Thanks for bringing these matters to my attention. I don’t want to misinform.

Yesterday I also informed you that the Russian pilot was the first to fly over the south pole. This is also incorrect. He actually was the first to fly over the North Pole. His small ‘plane is now exhibited in Nizhny Novgorod.

I have now read a little about the area and the history is rich with local achievement, politics, art, invention and architecture. I’m not saying more as I will surely err. But from what we saw it’s a fabulous place.

A little Russian classic car

Moving on to this rally that we endured today, which began at the what is called the NRing circuit some 40 odd kms outside of the city.

Each car was required to do two laps within a 10 minute time span but not less than 4 minutes. Denise achieved a time of 5mins 20 seconds. Not bad?

NRing circuit

Then the long slog of the balance of the trip. There was to be two test starts and finishes, but due to some extenuating circumstances these were cancelled.

So, on and on over hills and dales. Beautiful countryside, especially in the morning as the wind blew gently over the green/blue hue of ripening heads of wheat in the vast oceans of endless wheat fields

Some new buildings

The road traffic was full on and overtaking was difficult. Slow, tedious progress.

We need to keep moving if were to get to Paris, that’s the driver when you stop and think of it. It’s still a way off and tomorrow we head for St Petersburg, 669kms of travel.

We also have a rest day there.

Churches and buildings

Yesterday after the day’s events Steve did some work on maintaining the suspension and wheel bearings/seals. All these parts wear and they need to be checked and replaced when required.

So other than just driving the car Steve is always assessing the areas that need attention.

She’s still purring is Denise. She’s been a faithful friend who has delivered us thus far so well. Respect!!

Day 23 – Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod

A good night’s rest, but the daylight began at about 2am. Couldn’t turn the lights out!

The days start for us is 9.25 am. A long time to wait after we get breakfast at 6.00am.

Car is good. We expect a hot Monday morning.

As it turned out, the day became overcast and the temperature was cool.

As usual, Denise started on the turn of the key, ready for the day. We had fuelled up the night before so we wouldn’t waste time getting to any of the bases.

The daily bulletin was given when signing out so the amendments had to be extrapolated into the route book as depicted whilst underway. A number of amendments and notifications to ensure a safe journey.

One of the PC’s had been cancelled leaving only two for the day.

A 485km journey to Nizhny Novgorod. This is the place of the first Kremlin in the Soviet Union, now abandoned, an old fortification dating way back when.

The trip commenced on the usual long straight roads, though these were busy this morning as it was a week day. So many lorries using this highway and together with the road works it was slow and tedious. I’ve not mentioned before, but the roadworks are undertaken without the stupendous safety requirements that we have in our country. The “cones” are non-existent, only the small sport cones can occasionally be seen but they are blown away by passing cars.

It’s not that there is no concern about safety, it just that the individuals working in the roads are self-conscious to ensure their own safety. Like a cone will stop one from being injured?

Moving on, the only time that needed to be met was the MTC at the days end, and that had been shifted to a town square, where some celebrations were taking place. I don’t know the reason of why we were there, other than it was the place where the first Kremlin was situated. And it was being celebrated.

Again, there were throngs of people that met us at the finish line. These people just love cars!

Car enthusiasts

It’s a shame that we are only here for the evening. We will not see anything in this city, and the buildings that we see while driving through are fantastic. I took some photos while driving so they’re not the best but you may get to understand what I mean.

Some architectre

Our hotel here looks great from the outside but it’s basic inside. Rest the head, sleep and rise to do the same the next day as the day before.

A statue of Lenin out side our hotel

A scene from in the lobby of the hotel

Day 22 – Ufa to Kazan

Day 21 was our day of rest and was just that.

From the hotel window and some shots of roadside images

Because day 22 is 616kms, with three STC’s and one track event, it will be a long day. However, on receiving the days bulletin on departure/start, one gravel STC was cancelled, the other two still on, one on a busy public road, the other a short but winding bumpy rutted road. Denise took it in her stride, bouncing vigorously, pig jumping, the suspension that Steve had tweaked was working well.

Our times were right on the calculated times, so no points lost.

Then long, long roads, basically to get west and to the next rendezvous city.

It was hot too; windows open wide with the wind howling through to keep the temperature down. Hard on the ears, and communication becomes more difficult. But it is what it is.

The long hot straight roads, and oil installations  are a common sight. There’s lots of oil wells here keeping the wheels turning

Villages along the way, the roads and fields of wheat

Then, 17kms before the home stretch, a track event. A really nice professional track, 2 kms long, two circuits. Good fun. The minimum time 3 mins 45 and the maximum 9 mins. We did it in 5.30. Not bad?

Then onto the Korsten hotel in Kazan for the evening.

The local time turns out to be back 2 hours. Makes the day even longer.

Tomorrow is a transit day to Nizhny Novgorod. 487kms. No competition, just passage controls, although if some cars have problems, it can affect the results. Just saying.

Some houses along the road. Getting better as we move west. And a new subdivision of houses

If you can see the yellow pipes running parallel with the road, they are connected to a central boiler house that transmits hot water for heating the homes in winter