The first “commercial” camper trip. Adventures, misadventures, conclusions, plans.

Complete. All participants alive. No beyond repair damanges to the vehicle.

The adventures included

  • Airport gate going down between the truck and camper. I twice asked airport stuff if the gate will cut me in half, and was told no. Get someone to come out to hold the gate up for you! At the moment I cannot find the dramatic photo of the gate episode that had set the tone for the whole trip.
  • Several hours in Moscow traffic. It took a day to make it from Domodedovo to Dubrovki, Tver region
  • Both shocks got torn off the camper frame. Easy to fix at any welding shop. Took two days and 5500 roubles (around $170) in Moscow. Lesson learned: avoid rough roads or go beyond slow.
  • About the middle of the trip the the clutch refused to disingage. That’s how we travelled the rest of the way. But if the vehicle has a low set of gears you can lower RPM further by eg. turning on air conditioning and just put it in first gear with no clutch.  A highly inconvenient and irritating situation but the vehicle remains mobile. Or you can get it moving with a starter but again, the lower is the first gear the easier it is on the starter. During this trip I fully appreciated the lower set of gears. At the moment the car is in the shop and I’m waiting to hear what it was and why… IT TURNED OUT TO BE PUNCTURED CLUTCH FORK. AGAIN! A NEW ONE – SUPPOSEDLY ORIGINAL, FROM UK, BOUGHT FROM A REPUTABLE STORE – WAS INSTALLED TWO YEARS AGO. AND NOW EXACTLY THE SAME VERY SIMPLE PROBLEM. THE PEOPLE AT THE SHOP SAID THAT YES, IT IS A RECURRING PROBLEM WITH LANDROVER. NOW, DEAR LANDROVER GENTS, THERE IS NOTHING EASIER THAN TO MODIFY THE FORK TO MAKE IT LESS VULNERABLE TO PUNCTURE. IS THAT YOUR TRICK TO GET US, FOOLS WHO BOUGHT THIS LANDROVER ATROCITY, TO GET INTO THE SHOP FOR $300 REPLACEMENT JOB? 
  • Two elderly fishermen intruded our camp at 4am and proceeded to inflate their boat. A noisy process but to make sure we get awake they supplemented it with a lot of loud swearing. Again, this is more of an exception than a rule these days.
  • A nearly new tire blew up at about 2am as we were returning to Moscow. 
Improvements noticed
  • The number of cafes, hotels, and places to wash keeps on growing. There appears to be no need to reserve a hotel room even at the night of the travel season even in places like Suzdal. 
No hassles to check in/out. Excellent facilities that include a washer. The total bill for four was 1000 roubles ($30) per night. Recommended highly. See Suzdal Tourism Center.
  • Auto repair shops are everywhere. I opted to proceed to Mosow but simple physical damage can be fixed just about anywhere. 
  • Driving style on Russian roads has become almost civilized. There were a few unpleasant episodes but generally people drive in a much saner manner than they did even 5-7 years ago. Although we were in a slow, clumsy, somewhat overloaded and crippled (no clutch) vehicle, I can’t think we ever got honked at.
  • Fellow campers too are generally quiet and considerate. The incident with fishermen who woke up at 4am is more of an exception than a rule.
  • Internet access is quite passable. A local card though is easy to get and will cost you less than roaming charges. I blew $20 or so on internet on the first day but then got a local card for $5 and it kept me connected for the next few days. BUT WATCH  OUT FOR INCORRECT INFORMATION OR OUTRIGHT LIES. MORE ON HOW RUSSIAN MOBILE PHONE COMPANIES OPERATE ELSEWHERE.

 For internet access I use a 20 foot fishing rod and an active USB extension cord. Fast and reliable enough to do on-line work.

Plans

  • I will continue offering this mode of travel. Although it places lots of stress on the vehicle I will still keep the cost at around $250/day, which is an equivalent of mid-level hotel accommodation and 2-3 restaurant meals for 2-3 travellers. Once the bugs are ironed out I think I will be able to view these trips as a no-brainer type of work for which I can avail myself cheap. The traveller gets a vehicle and me as a driver/guide/assistant for what a plain hotel would cost. 
  • I have tested the setup in the winter with Alexandra and Theo as my Guinea pigs. A few years ago however I did a Golden Ring tour that generated “Winter is the Soul of Russia” slogan. It looks like I got myself another brave soul for the end of October or beginning of November to try the camper under harsher conditions. I am willing to try to try the concept of late fall and winter tourism. The trailer has enough gas to stay warm in a ditch at -40F for several days so you are not likely to end your life freezing in a ditch even if things go very wrong.

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