“My gut was telling me not to get in this man’s car, but I am British and British people are too polite, so I got in anyway. As I loaded my backpack into his car boot, I asked myself what the hell I was doing.”
The road to Moscow was easy, everyone was going there, but going away from the capital presented me with nothing but irritatingly short lifts of a few dozen kilometers at a time, as well as typical waiting times of around an hour or more. It took me 2 days to cover 200km, the distance typical usually achieved in half a day. The remaining 590km was made on day 3, when I thought I had been kidnapped.
It was especially frustrating, because I had to move quickly now, having underestimated the distance to Kazakhstan; within my 30-day visa, I would have to travel a total of 3000km – the same distance as from the UK to the Russian border, which I made in 60 days.
The evenings did not help my mood at all. One evening, I set my floor-less tent up on an ants’ nest. The spicy sensation on my upper back and shoulders as I was falling asleep was not very welcome, nor was the cloud of mosquitoes on the other side of my net. It makes me itchy typing this, but I got up, ran a few feet to avoid the blood-suckers, smacked the itchy areas of my skin, returned to the scene and moved everything further into the woods. The occasional ant would show up under my clothes over the duration of the night. It smelled ever so slightly of shit, too. Truth be told, times like these are a part of the adventure, I love them, I just don’t like them.
On the third day, my hair was too greasy to let down and I had lost my hair bobble, so I was keeping it up with my sunglasses – my eyes would just have to suffer. A truck driver took me 50km and bought me lunch. The feeling of chewing and swallowing someone other than bread and cheese puffs was better than many of my sexual experiences.
That night at 10pm, to avoid another mosquito attack, I sat on the roadside drinking a beer and eating my noodles before going into the woods. It was great – I had Muse playing from my phone as I enjoyed my warm food. Suddenly, a white car pulled up behind me. Shit, I thought, it is the police.
It turned out to be a man who asked me where I was going. I told him I was going 390km to Kazan and he said he was going there. I had an immediate bad feeling about him.
I anticipated this happening on my adventure, and before leaving on this trip, I told myself, and those worried for my safety, that I would be fine because I would always deny a lift if I had a bad gut feeling. My gut was telling me not to get in this man’s car, but I am British and British people are too polite, so I got in anyway. As I loaded my backpack into his car boot, I asked myself what the hell I was doing.
He pulled away from my roadside spot and I began to go over a plan of action in my head. Panicking would make things worse, so I maintained a relaxed demeanor. What could I do? Everything I thought I could do if this scenario arose I now realized was quite unrealistic. Do I ask him to let me out? – No, I can’t just say that. Do I grab the steering wheel and cause a crash? – No, this is real life.
He remained eerily silent. I came up with a plan to ask him to stop to let me go to the toilet when we got to the safety of a gas station – I would just take my backpack and not get back in, and someone else would be there. But as we approached one, I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
There is only one main road through Russia and as long as he didn’t deviate from that path, I would be fine, I thought. Next thing I knew, he was driving off of it.
He stopped the car, took a photo of the road sign and then returned to the main road. Next, he began to quietly take phone calls of 10-20 seconds. Whom was he talking to? The organ harvesters? Could he be telling them to get the rusty scalpel ready to cut my kidneys out?
We reached over half-way and I figured I could let him take me a bit further; I had a lot of distance to make!
Another hundred kilometers passed, and he asked me a bit about myself. I coldly gave him a short answer. Don’t talk to the organ harvester, I thought.
We were very near Kazan now, and he asked me where I wanted to be left. He then told me his wife, children and pet dog were a small distance before the city and that he couldn’t take me all the way into the center. Strange, I thought. Psychopaths don’t have animals or children
He took me as far as he could, got out the car, handed me my backpack and gave me a bottle of beer. He smiled, shook my hand and said goodbye. I felt very bad, because I had been cold towards a nice man. Had he taken me in the daytime, I would probably have reacted differently.
I was now a 10km hop to Kazan and my next Couchsurfing host, Alexi. I set up my tent, cracked open the cold, rewarding beer, knowing my kidneys were still there to process it made it.