Beautiful Morning, good breakfast at the start of journey prepared us for the day. Driving on the highways here can be fun if you are not in a hurry to cover the distances, which wasn’t true in our case, though a lot of natural beauty lies on the side of the road where one can stop over for some good photo shoots. The GPS told us “take third exit from the roundabout straight ahead at 595 kms” Really, that’s how a GPS behaves in a country like Russia.
Looking at the long distance and the best timings to cross the border before sunset we kept driving with minimum breaks to cover 700 kms by afternoon. Petrol often called Benzene here is much cheaper in Russia so we filled our tank 20 kms before reaching the border. Kudos to our FJ doing 1200 + kms on one tank full, expected to take us across the next 3 countries in this tank full.
Reaching to the border was the easiest part of the day as there were lot of formalities and documentation to be done at the customs, Immigration and then transit offices of both countries. As this border is usually used by cargo vehicles and some local border town passengers, the staff here may not have experienced passing a Dubai Registered car from here. The procedure was not frequent and everyone in the process had to make a few phone calls before moving the papers on. Communication was a challenge too. It took its time to get us through after all stamps and security checks.
Among the people waiting behind us was a Latvian guy on a Ford Mustang. We said hello and he was keen to know about us. We exchanged our travel stories for a while and agreed to meet on the other side of the border because it was obvious that our friend Alexander will cross over soon and we would be stuck here for a longer time. And so happened, the poor guy entered Latvia in about half an hour and had to wait for us on the Latvian side for another 2 hours approx.
Alexander and his wife traveled across Europe with their Ford Mustang with more than 2 months on the road. He loves travelling and looks forward to visiting Dubai. Team LD presented him a book “Ten thousand miles without a cloud” and a souvenir from Dubai. They were so happy and offered their support if needed at any time in Latvia. He was happy to show us around Riga the capital of Latvia, but we had to excuse as we cannot forget that we are Roadies and not Tourists.
As both sides of the border took exceptionally long before we could get back on the track, we had to spend the night somewhere closer to the border to start early the next day. Upon going a 20 kms further, we realized that a document that bears Car exit stamp from Russia is missing from the folder. We searched the car to its last corner on the road side for almost 20 minutes but all in vain.
We decided to go back though the hoping to find it somewhere. As they don’t allow people to go back into the exit gate at border but with our polite request they issued one of us a pass to go inside and look for it. As it was dark around and people at the border were leaving from work with half lights already switched off, it was difficult to find our document. We were not even sure if it is with them or we lost it ourselves as there are so many documents to be shown differently at different windows and stoppages. Thankfully staff at Latvian side could speak English. Finally an officer helped us to open the closed office of Carnet Stamping Officer who had left by then. And said no its not even here, suddenly I asked him can I see whats there in that transparent folder on the corner of the table while standing at the door. He showed it to me and this was it. We thanked the officer for his special help taking us to this room and took a sigh of relief.
Happily we moved on this dark two way road to hunt for a bed. Daugavpils, a small town close to the border showed a hotel with 3 beds in a room. We went for it immediately without any second thought. The hotel “HomeLike” was comfortable and staff was supportive. Again time to eat and everything closed with limited options at the hotel. We swallowed something and went to bed.
The marathon is on, tomorrow morning to Warsaw, Poland…