Meneghina Express’ numbers:

12379 Kilometers in 44 days

350 hours riding

297 batteries recharged

12 countries

4500Kg Co2 reduced vs. gas

Day 18 - Russia flag - June 27

From Olgyi to Kosh Agach: Passport, Please

The first plane we see since we were in Mongolia - a twin-engine also used in Europe for short distances - takes off at seven-thirty in the morning from the small airport Olgyi and does not seem to be a case: accompanies our departure.

We drive in silence for about thirty miles, until when Nicola and Valerio pull over. It seems strange, because the batteries of motorcycles should still have enough autonomy.

"Shit, the mobile phone," says Valerio. It would be the second portable device lost from the departure from China. He is a man who lives fast; he gets up early in the morning and is always struggling with something to do. And even though there is nothing to do - although in our journey the idleness is not considered - he invents something. So something can escape. But this time we cannot afford that the phone stays into a Ger, a handheld device, here, is not a fancy who to play within the spare time: It serves as the water, because if we would have to move away, it would be the only tool by which to communicate, supposed that the area being covered.

We separate us: Nicola will make his way to the north, along with the pick-up in which are travelling Giorgio and Mirco. We, me and Enrico, we will come back to the Camp where we've stayed and we will look for the mobile phone until we don't find it.

One hundred kilometers per hour, our pick-up had never reached it by when we were in Mongolia, but this time we need to push a little, because the road permits it.Furthermore, we cannot cross the border after a certain time. We expect a procedure rather laborious.

"Shit, the phone," Valerio repeats, seated next to us, after about ten kilometers traveled in reverse. This time, despite the words are the same from fifteen minutes, the exclamation is as a relief. The phone was located in the lower pocket of sweatpants motorcycle that the rider was wearing. We do a laugh and heave a sigh of relief, while our friend tells us that when you move, especially abroad, he travels with at least three additional SIM cards, because losing phones it's almost a vice, to the point of having signed an insurance in order to cover this kind of problems.

Twenty minutes later we hook up again with the convoy. All together we go up to Tsaganhuur, border area between Mongolia and Russia. It looks like a passing over mountain - in fact we are still at 2250 meters above sea level - and we are among the very few sets of car (the motorcycles here are very rare things; electric doesn't seem to exist and we continue to arouse curiosity wherever we go) that reach the former Soviet Union by this route.

As had happened between China and Mongolia, here we have to explain to border agents that we are Italian; departed from China in order to go back to Italy,  with two pick-ups and two American motorbikes but registered in Spain because they  aren't yet considered  as "real bike" in the most European countries. We show them a "carnet" of tens of sheets, covering every thing we carry. And six beautiful dirty faces with sand and, today, in particular, as polka dots, because in the park a swarm of thousands of mini-mosquito have bite us everywhere in the space of five minutes.

At the end we make it and proceed eight kilometers inside a "free zone", before crossing the border into Russia. "No tatatatatam, huh?" Said a border agent in camouflage uniform and green beret, simulating a machine gun. Such as: "You are good guys, aren't you? You have not weapons or other strange things, right? ".
 "No," says Nicola, so composed and convincing. "Welcome to Russia", says the military by raising the barrier with a smile. And we are now in Russia. 
Technically, however, we aren't there not at all. We need to deal with customs formalities with equal to those we managed just a bit earlier. But agents, here, seem more professional.

They have a behaviour less light-hearted, although they make an appearance more proactive for cooperating with us in the fulfillment of all the customs documents: those who drive must declare a thing or two; sign some forms; show driving licenses and certificates concerned to the pick -up. In total it takes three hours and twenty minutes, but now we are in Russia for real. We see again the asphalt - and our bottoms, stable on the seats, cannot admit it, after having jumped up and down for nearly two weeks - appear none other than road signs! Speed limits! Even traffic lights!

Speed ​​limits! Even traffic lights!?
Incredible: in less than ten kilometers as the crow flies, it seems of having crossed a door space thunderstorm. We have yet not seen anything, indeed. We know that the "Respublika Altay" - the region in which we made our entrance in the former USSR, also it sandwiched between mountain ranges full of mystery - basically it is not considered Russia. In the sense that it is so remote as to be barely considered on the maps that we own. In fact it fascinates at us the idea of ​​having set foot for the first time in our lives in this country, entering it by a secret door. And we remember that a wise friend once told us that nations do not exist.

There are experiences of people in places that someone has confined within location defined as "nations" by giving them this name; but unlikely different persons could claim of having been in common places, because every place is first and foremost a place made by the subjective perception of the same.

Between customs, passports stamped and abstract thoughts that sidetrack us, the evening has arrived even today. We drive for another forty miles, and we turn toward a small village where the cows wander around, women outside the shops look interested those who are arriving. A hostel empty awaits us, allowing us to use the indoor kitchen; take a couple of rooms and put on a table our maps.
 The Russia. One thousand km is waiting for us. Tomorrow morning we'll need eyes rested to be able to look with care the new land.

Text and photos by Flavio Allegretti

Path traveled today