Russia is the ninth country I’ve visited on this trip, and without doubt crossing the very remote border near Salla (Finland) felt like I was entering a new world. I was aware that I was the only vehicle approaching the border, and when I arrived there were no other vehicles. Getting through the Finish customs took a minute. The Russian customs building was relatively new, with all of the technology you would expect, however nobody spoke English, so the process took over an hour, even though nobody else was entering Russia. I wondered why?
The language barrier was real, but everybody was friendly and efficient, except the lady (I think he/she was a lady) at customs control. The challenge was I had to complete some forms where the instructions were only in Russian, I obviously kept making mistakes, each time the customs officer gave me a look of contempt, pulled the form away and gave me a new form. It’s in situations like this that I find a ‘killer smile’ works wonders, not this time! I continued to be friendly and smiled, and eventually she stamped my paperwork and pointed to leave.
Before I could leave my bags and panniers were checked (for what I don’t know) and then I was free to explore Russia.
As soon as I left Finland it started to rain and the 100 mile (170 km) ride was one of the worst in years. The road was awful, full of potholes, which were full of rain water so I couldn’t see most of them. The wet road was lined with dense forest which went on and on, the rain didn’t ease and I only passed one or two cars throughout the journey. I was wet and bored, it wasn’t enjoyable at all! I didn’t pass any buildings or people, it was wilderness! When I occasionally stopped I was attacked by so many mosquitoes too.
I now know why nobody else wanted to cross the border…