Welcome to RUSSIA

sent from Astana, Kazakhstan 10.7.14

Let’s play a game.
Imagine a full face motorcycle helmet. It is in matt black with a dark dark tint on the visor.
Put it on. A snug fit. You feel strong and anonymous, excited, slightly nervous.
Now it is getting really very far too warm so you try to take it off. It won’t budge. You try again: nothing, not even the visor. Like waking up in an iron mask you panic, wrenching at the thing with both hands, shaking your head wildy, swearing, sweating.
The fear is exhausting and futile.
Ssssshhh, calm down, breathe.
You need to focus, relax, think, dammit. As your heart rate returns to normal you feel something insectile crawling up inside the helmet. It’s working its way up the side of your face towards your ear, maybe your eye. You try to dislodge it by ramming a hand up between your neck and the helmet but it’s gone too far, the prickling feet have set a definite path, sharp antennae probe your gaping earhole.
This is what it’s like driving from St Petersburg to Moscow.
Mapped, 437 miles don’t promise an epic journey but the section of the M10, simply called “RUSSIA” boasts challenges far greater than length. In the winter of 2012 there was a 120 mile traffic jam on this road; the price of cigarettes went up tenfold, the strong preyed on the weak for food and fuel, an old woman died in her car. This time tailbacks only come in sections of 5-10 miles apiece. Horrendously potholed, air turgid with sickly yellow dust way above the lanes of vast trucks, from necessity your visor stays clamped shut, accumulates a thick layer . With panniers behind, you are like a cat walking backwards; at one point these whiskers become physically wedged between two filthy behemoths. Choking on diesel fumes, unable to move, whatever the creature teasing your ear, it now begins to inch inexorably inside…welcome to RUSSIA.
OK, sorry, that was a rubbish game.