|Shalash, near Chelyabinsk|
Next day, Friday 27th May, dedicated to St Augustine of Canterbury, the penultimate day before my Russian visa expired, i knew i needed to reach Kurgan, about 300 kilometres away. Soon after setting off in more super weather i came to a village where i was hoping to thumb a lift, but had difficulty in getting anyone to stop. After nearly an hour, two frankly scruffy youths arrived with a similar idea, beer bottles in their hands and smoking cigarettes. I was ready to watch a surreal comedy sketch play itself out before my eyes, in which these two would be picked up by the first vehicle that passed by, but in fact they caught a bus. Eventually i was glad to be picked up by a fellow who had delivered a truckload of fish from Astrakhan, but it wasn’t clear how much sleep he had had in the previous 48 hours. At one point he literally seemed to be nodding off, so i was trying gamely to waffle on about football, Boris Yeltsin (a local lad, being born within 800 kilometres of Kurgan), Ivan the Terrible, and reeling off the names of all the kinds of fish and fowl i knew of. In late afternoon he finally set me down on the outskirts, from where a stagecoach took me to the central station.
|Platzkart, Russian train carriage|