The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.
Thursday, 23 June 2016
Rally Day 11
I think readers should know that I have an A grade A level in geography circa 1978 and so what I'm about to write is informed opinion and not just made up on the spot.
It seems to me that this journey across China, Mongolia and now Siberia enables us to see how human beings build civilisations.
First we see the nomads in their yurts in Mongolia and then occasionally we see a Mongolian village - these consist of yurts surrounded by fences. Now as we cross into Russia we see the same thing, ramshackle wooden buildings that serve as houses with a piece of dirt surrounded by a fence. Pretty soon the villages get bigger and the houses less ramshackle. But it's the same idea, each person has a piece of land and that's what makes a village.
I've spent all day trying and failing to take a decent picture of a typical Siberian village house. But if you picture the witch's house in Hansel and Gretal but made out of wood and not gingerbread then you get the idea.
Unlike in Mongolia there's a little cultivated garden around these houses because the owners aren't nomads. Pretty soon you could see a random collection of village homes becoming a small town and then a city and then if you worked your way back to the original little crappy gingerbread houses you would understand why real cities meander and are confusing and don't follow a pattern.
Speaking of which, we have been thoroughly confused and meandered today as we head towards Novosibirsk. The rally went off road for a special high speed section through the Siberian countryside that was pretty punishing on cars, navigators and drivers.
As we hurtled through villages at unsafe speeds the locals come out to wave us through. I've now perfected the left arm wave, the thumbs up, the fist pump and my repertoire includes the right arm quickie wave for when I'm busy with the map and the over the roof wave if the crowd is on the driver's side. I shall be taking on royal duties when I return.
The Russians are very enthusiastic about the rally and several cars are following along.
In Mongolia the rally was like a new toy or something novel to eat - people enjoyed us going through but we were just a curiosity. Here in Russia they know and love cars and really want to be part of the event. Several people have asked for my autograph and kids collect photos of each car. For some of these villages the rally must be one of the strangest events of the year.
We did have one problem today - we got stopped by the police, but they just wanted a photo.