On my last night in Georgia, I met up with fellow overland biker, Marko from Suomi. His trip is several years. Hats off to you Marko; a pleasure to have met you. Ride safe! Before leaving Tbilisi I changed my rear brake pads (trying not to use my rear brake for the last couple of days wasn't my best idea) then headed north along the Georgian military road over the Caucasus mountains to Russia. Great ride over a dramatic mountain pass and still the weather is clear. In fact, I have barely seen a cloud since Hungary. The road was poor over the top of the pass, but that didn't last long and almost before I knew it, I was in the queue to enter Russia. As it is a pretty remote border, there wasn't too long to wait and the process seemed pretty straightforward. Got to Vladikavkaz with time for a wander and then some Russian beer. The next morning I found an Insurance office and got some motorbike insurance (1 month for about 20 quid). Good job too; on my ride to Stavropol, I was pulled over by the ANC (well, that is what the Cyrillic looks like to me). The gendarmes were friendly enough, but wanted to see all my documents. I produced my freshly bought insurance certificate with a flourish. The policeman seemed almost disappointed that all my papers were in order, but he shook my hand and I was free to go. The roads in this part of Russia were a bit dull, but at least the Russians are generally better drivers than the Georgians. Over the next couple of days as I meandered towards Astrakhan, the scenery became flatter and more desolate. Long straight stretches into nothingness. This is far more how I imagined things. Really enjoyable riding. And the Russian petrol is seriously cheap. Stopped for half a day and a night in Elista, "the only Buddhist state in Europe". Notwithstanding I thought I left Europe a while ago, Elista was an interesting place. At first it looked like China had been transplanted to south Russia. The faces (to me) looked distinctly Chinese. They are actually Kalmyk, but there must be some sort of genetic link to the east? There is a big Buddhist temple in town and Buddha and Lenin compete for statue space. Now in Astrakhan for sone new tyres for my bike, then onward to Kazakhstan (insert favourite Borat joke here).
Soundtrack: Hawkwind - Distant Horizons