Hitchhiking Siberia: Night Accident

Hitchhiking Siberia: Night Accident

It was a tranquil night in the Ural mountains. There were no cars on the road, but it didn’t bother me as I needed a break after the hours of meaningless conversations with the driver of the truck who I reached the Urals with, and a good silent walk under snow falling gently from the dark sky was here to help me regain the energy wasted. After some time, I sat on the roadside making myself comfortable on a snowdrift to enjoy a cup of tea. I could hear dogs in one of the nearby villages barking loudly into the darkness of the night. They would take a little pause as if expecting a reply from other dogs, but there was none. ‘Should I bark in response?’ I thought to myself and laughed. It felt like I was the only living being on the Earth now save for the dogs, and it was my duty to answer to the barking. I took another sip of tea, it was pleasantly hot. Not sure how long did I sit like that, but once I heard the sound of an approaching car, I immediately put my thermos away, stretched out my hand, thumb up.

“Hey there! Where are you going?” asked the driver as I opened the door.
“Irkutsk,” I answered.

“Lucky, aren’t you?! I’m headed to Tomsk, so you have a ride for the next 2000 km or so. My name is Andrey,” he introduced himself and invited me in. Turned out, a week earlier Andrey drove his friends who had a flight to India from Tomsk to Moscow and he was now returning home.

Around 4 o’clock in the morning, we arrived in the city of Chelyabinsk and drove straight to the train station where Andrey wanted to spend the night and take some rest. We agreed to meet in the morning when he’ll be ready to leave, and as we parted, I walked to the common waiting hall and sat on the bench to rest. The train station was cold, there weren’t many people around. My thermos was empty by now, so I walked to the grocery store across the hall and asked the lady who worked there if she had a kettle to boil water for me, which she did, and while waiting, we chatted a little. She became interested in my journey and upon learning that I am hitchhiking to Irkutsk she offered me a pack of chocolate. It was then that I realized I was now on the Asian side of Russia, and it’s was a different world here.

Hitchhiking Siberia, Russia: the city of Chelyabinsk

I had a friend living in Chelyabinsk who messaged on the phone and we agreed to meet around 9 o’clock in the morning, and since I had nothing else to do, I decided to take a nap. I fell asleep immediately and was only woken up around 8:00 AM by a little girl with curly hair who was laughing loudly and her laughter was echoing through the entire train station. My friend arrived not long after and we went to walk in the city center. But first, we had breakfast in a Soviet-style café where the most expensive dishes costed around $1. It was the cheapest breakfast I ever had. It was my first visit to Chelyabinsk, and although it’s an industrial city, I found the city center very nice, especially the old 2-storey buildings located on the old street of Kirovka. We walked around for some time, and since none of us wanted to freeze to death, we visited an esoteric café (that’s how it was called) and drank some Chinese white tea.

The relaxing atmosphere at the café made me forget about the road ahead and only the call from Andrey brought me back to reality. We took a bus to the train station where I parted with my friend, and Andrey and I left the city. The weather conditions began to deteriorate as soon as we left Chelyabinsk. The heavy snowfall badly affected the visibility on the road, so Andrey had to drive carefully. We were talking about religions and philosophy when around 9:00 PM we passed the city of Kurgan. It was past midnight when we stopped by a restaurant called “Stranger” in the town called Berdyuzhie to eat something. “Oh, doesn’t it perfectly describe you, my friend?” said Andrey referring to the name of the restaurant. We laughed. For our late supper, we had vegetarian soup with beans and potato pies, and lemonade. I told Andrey I wanted to pay for our meals this time because he was paying for everything from the moment he picked me up in the Urals. He refused, but I insisted. He gave up and allowed me to pay the bill, but threatened to throw me out of the car and right into the Siberian cold if I did it again. I looked at him somewhat confused. But he was serious about it, so we had a deal.

Hitchhiking in Russia, Siberia.

At 2:20 AM (I remembered it very well because I checked the time right before the accident) the rear-wheel-drive of the car unexpectedly refused to act, the vehicle skidded on the ice, Andrey lost control of the vehicle, and at the speed of 100 km/h, we flew off the road straight into the bushes in the ditch. Then there was silence. We weren’t able to speak a word, trying to comprehend what just happened. I quickly ran through an imaginary checklist and figured out with great relief that we were alive. Fortunately, none of us was hurt. Andrey got off the car, I followed him. Now we were stuck in deep snow in the middle of hell knows where, only hell was probably a much warmer place to be. We tried to dig the vehicle out but immediately understood it was a waste of time. “Alright. You stay in the car, lock the doors and wait for me. I’ll hitchhike to the nearest village to find a wheeled tractor that can help us pull the car out,” said Andrey and walked to the road.

I was left to guard the car and our belongings. It took him half an hour to find a tractor. When they arrived, we tied the ropes and pulled the car back to the road. “Phew! What a night!” exclaimed Andrey in excitement as we left the site. But after an hour of driving, he decided that we had enough of adventures for the night. At around 5:00 AM we parked by a roadside hotel. I wanted to continue my road, especially since sunrise just around the corner, but Andrey told me he paid for two rooms. So we carried our belongings in, said goodnight to each other, and retreated to our rooms. I was expecting a good sleep in a proper bed for the first time since leaving Moscow.

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