Meneghina Express’ numbers:

12379 Kilometers in 44 days

350 hours riding

297 batteries recharged

12 countries

4500Kg Co2 reduced vs. gas

Day 19 - Russia flag - June 28

From Kosh Agach to N 51°13.925 E 085°38.512: I remember green mountains

The rain pounding on the windows of the kitchen of the hostel where we've overnighted. The desire to discover what set aside Russia to us - new, unknown, unpredictable - makes sure that at six-thirty in the morning we are already operative.

A couple of days before, to Olgyi, we had stocked up on food and satisfied little whims: on the wooden plank, are already prepared slices of bread with chocolate above, butter and jam, instant coffee poured into water heated to perfection, by means of kettle that saves us from impractical use of stoves and bowls.

Cars are ready, the motorbikes have the batteries charged and we put on new smooth tires, but with a tread pattern suitable for driving on asphalt.

Yes, because in this part of Russia there is asphalt, road signs, traffic lights, modern vehicles and even tourists - Russians, who arrive in this remote corner of the country, because we have learned that they consider it as a mountain paradise. Before leaving, we stopped in a kind of library: we buy local maps, in Cyrillic, which if nothing else show the roads that in theory we should drive. They are deduced through the GPS coordinates thanks to the information retrieved on the internet when, months ago, Nicola and Valerio were organizing this incredible journey.

The rain followed us for at least an hour since we put in motion. We are almost to two thousand meters, the air is cold. And very wet, too. We do not envy the drivers, who are dressed heavily and wear in addition to the heavy gloves and waterproof, other latex gloves, to make sure that their fingers do not freeze. We cross a consecutive series of valleys that rise and fall along a single road perfectly well-maintained. We pass in the middle: green mountains, with firs and other trees from the leaf needle-like, but they are not much resembling to pine though. Stand out on the right, upstream. Downstream, however, we always have rivers that run parallel, intersecting, sometimes the riverbed is wide and filled with water that almost bursts its banks, or becomes like creeks falling onto the rocks below, making them smooth. A group of cows are blocking the road and each animal turns his gaze to the valley, as if he were seeing a show. In fact there are four of their friends that were stranded at the edge of the river, it is likely that they had moved to drink the night before, remaining at rest.

But the rain has raised the water level and now the cows cannot move, because the street through which they reached the pasture is submerged and behind them there is a wall of earth at least twenty meters high. We remain a bit to observe and with our astonishment, we see that one of them has found a way of escape. Walking like a tightrope walker at the edge of the only point where the river water is lower. The other cows observe and, one by one, encourage themselves and follow the example of the most courageous. Those cows that were looking at this movement from above, from the same point where we were standing, clear away the street, as if they had suddenly calmed. Mystery. Or, perhaps, solidarity has no breed, but it's just a feeling.

Cows free and free the sky: the sun seeps through the clouds and we can start with the comfort of having a few degrees more. Every thirty km away is a small village. The houses have curved roofs, which give us an idea of ​​feet of snow covering them in winter. These places, though far eight thousand kilometers from home, remind us some of the valleys above Bergamo, or the high Piedmont, even the mountains above Sondrio, the highest part of the Apennines, the Alps of Lombardy. In short, it is true mountain and varied, beautiful, painted with the colors of spring, flowers purple, yellow and orange paint the meadows from thousand seven hundred meters to down. Everything is extremely pristine, clean, perfect like a postcard. Herds of horses running wild and messy, although they are branded. Goats and sheep that can cover the entire facade of a mountain will be five hundred, maybe a thousand?

Elderly pastors who move with difficulty, aided by a cane. Yet even here we perceive a modern flavor, made of traffic, with stalls selling hats and clothes typical of the place and strange ointments semi-hard, that look like tar. Nicola and Valerio, buy a stick and wrinkle it where they have pain. Shortly after claiming to feel better: placebo effect, or the miracle of nature? The day holds for us breathtaking views, a triumph of green colors that shines and sparkles when the sun manages to get the better of the clouds.

Then, we drive for another hundred km. Remain further 50 Km to be run to respect the schedule. We realize that the GPS and the maps do not report any towns for the next 200 km. It is clear that we will have to camp out. The thing does not scare us, indeed! The green open spaces close to the streams abound. The wood, apparently good firewood, it isn't missing and our tents wish to be knocked in. We take advantage of a small grocery store to buy sausages, tomatoes and bread, while the sun will accompany us to the place chosen for the camp.

The soft grass and a creek at 4 meters away from us, host our base camp for the night. Finally we can collect wood and stones to draw the boundaries of our fire, arrange it all to prepare calmly fire, as we have learned to do since when we were little child and we have not stopped doing it every time we have had occasion.

The fire ritual, not only allows us to eat and warm up, but it makes us feel a compact group. Too many times, having sustained intense rhythms, we spent hard days that did not allow us to relax and speak at length among us.

But now, we are all around the fire, and there is nothing more beautiful and natural of its warmth to remember anecdotes and riddles, dreams and stories lived or who would want to live. We laugh and joke while on a grid found by an iron seller we cook pieces of bread and meat, tomatoes and sausage.

Even we manage to fill a pot of water, bring it to boil thanks to the fire prepared in generous quantities and cook some rice. We took this 5 kg bag in China, spice it with a little soy sauce and spicy tomato. Uncork a few bottles of beer and we are so happy. Comes fast on the night and the miracle of the stars once again brings us the forces that did not have before: while our comrades arrange sleeping bags in tents and inflate the mattresses, turn on the computer, feed the fire and light can make us distinguish each button on the keyboard, allowing us to tell you what you are reading. Right now.

Text and Pictures by Flavio Allegretti

Path traveled today