Time flows very quickly, especially when you are enjoying yourself and it surprised me somewhat when I realised that it was 12 years ago since I, my son Simon and a good friend Michael Rymer joined my Polish friend Artur in Russia. Artur had been eager for me to go to Russia for a while but I must admit I was sceptical at first.
How wrong I was to ever doubt the knowledge of my old friend, I have now been back to The Kola eight times and it has given me and my clients some of the most challenging off roading that I have ever done. Near Monchegorsk there is one track of Camel Trophy proportions and it can take five to seven days to cross its forests, rivers and bogs. The gruelling terrain is incredible and once conquered, leaves all with a great feeling of achievement.
This year on the 12th of August Steve Pitt and I took Kevin and Sue in their Defender 110 and Rob and Isabella in their Landcruiser to Russia. At the end of each day as we sat around the campfire I wrote a diary of the adventures, which will, over the next few weeks unfold in “The Story behind The Picture”.
We arrived at the Finnish border crossing at 1200 and parked in front of the barrier. The Finns always check that the documents needed for Russia are in order, as it is only possible to go in and out of Russia once on our single entry visas. The car insurance documents that we had downloaded from an email gave them some concern as they had not seen this type before, so they suggested that a meeting was arranged with the Russians to check that they would be accepted. I say arranged, but it not as easy as you would imagine. Firstly they have to phone the Russian side and wait for them to pick up the phone and agree to meet in “no man’s land”. The time it takes for the Russians to answer varies greatly, being very dependent on the mood of the day. The Finnish Guards felt that the wait would be for at least an hour so we would have time to enjoy lunch in the hot sun. We reversed our cars away from the barrier, into the holding carpark and settled down to enjoy our lunch. Just as we were packing our lunch away the Finnish border guard walked over, told us the good news that the insurances would be accepted and sent us on our way towards Russia.
Within ten minutes we were filling in the entry documents in Russia and the Border guards were a little bemused that the Finns were so worried about the insurance, as far as they were concerned a downloaded copy is perfectly acceptable. While we were being checked through and been given migration cards, I noticed that there had been a change in the attitude here on the Russian side. The young border guards are becoming more like their European counterparts, they were talking to us in English and genuinely interested in where we were going and why our cars were so well prepared. Whilst one of them took a picture of the Impala Range Rover he told us that the legacy of the Communist Bureaucracy continued to lessen.