Monday, February 18, 2013

We're the Police, We're Here to Help

The police are everywhere in Russia*. It was at a crossroads outside Nyagen that I first realized we were being watched over like kindergarteners on a field trip. It became more and more apparent the cops were in contact with each other and were handing us off from one station to the next. I think they had two goals: firstly, as ambassadors they wanted make sure we got all the support we needed, and, secondly, do their best to ensure we didn’t kill ourselves and generate a huge amount of complex paperwork. Their attentiveness reached its apex in Bezerovo. There they met and guided us through town, watched our bikes as we checked into a hostel, flirted with Zaya, and then escorted us to their brand new police station so they could lock our bikes up overnight. We couldn’t have been more conspicuous if we’d wanted to be. 

By now the lead team was probably a full day or more ahead, but after driving over 200 kilometers in one go we had at last caught up with Geordie, Pat and Guy. Everyone else soon followed us into town. Everyone that is except Björn and Rico who were still missing in action. Our hostel was the cheapest place we could find and the receptionist gave Zaya a quick lesson in Russian gender politics by making her take a room of her own. For us men, we booked a shared room, scheduled our showers, and marveled at how a building without any right angles could actually remain standing. 

Geordie and Ben - AdventuringJust before we ate we let slip that we were still looking for one other team and the police duly set off in search of the missing Swiss. Around 10:30PM the cops returned saying they’d found our comrades camping about 45 minutes south. At first they thought the tent had been abandoned, but they were there after all. A few days later Rico pointed out there is a reason you don’t wake up a hibernating bear - they get really cranky when you get them out of their nice warm bed in the middle of the night for no good reason. And, no, they didn’t want to go with the officers to a hotel, no, really, thank you, we just want to sleep. 

During dinner the group swapped stories about the meteor, tipping Urals, and snow camping. We downed local brandy under the encouraging auspices of a drunken self-appointed mentor. And somehow I sensed things relaxing, the inherent competitiveness giving way to a collective appreciation of “isn’t this a bloody awesome adventure?” Yes it is! Siberia is bloody awesome! And there was more to come… 

*Click here for our Mongol Rally view on Russian police

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