The Roads

Kola route - Kolsky Peninsula

Russian roads are not known for being good.

In some places they are quite tricky, and can deteriorate in spring. Some roads in Siberia are best in the winter, when frozen and covered in snow. If fact they are impassable for several weeks in spring until they dry out.

On our routes, the roads are OK, well almost. Over the last ten years, there has been increased investment in main roads.

On the Ural Contrasts route the roads we take are 95% asphalt, mostly one lane in each direction and not very busy.

From Chelyabinsk to Magnitogrosk the road is half four lane highway, and half two lane. Further as we go, the roads are fairly quiet, with opportunities to stop along the way to have a rest or take photographs.

Driving on to the steppe towards Arkaim the road is eerily quiet and straight, with nothing on either side except the expanse of the steppe.

We will stop at a couple of places to photograph some cool Soviet art and check out a war memorial on a hill with a view over nearby villages, and the river. The Ural river. This river in this part of the country is the border of Europe and Asia. We have a tradition when we cross this river, travelling from Asia to Europe, which involves vodka and walking. We will leave the rest to your imagination.

The way from Magnitogorsk is beautiful road, and very different from the steppe.

Here we drive alongside the Ural mountains, crossing the Ural river again, and through pretty Bashkiri villages. Being just a small group, we can stop whenever something takes someone’s fancy, whether it is Lenin statue, a mob of horses crossing the road, or maybe just to talk to a local who is doing something that nobody can work out. There is about 10-15km of rougher road with pot holes, but not too bad. If it is too much for you, there will be some vodka left over from our last crossing of the Ural river.

Going north from Miass, there is a 10km stretch of rough road. But you might not notice it – as this is where there is a copper mill, and frankly, the road is a least of this area’s problems.

That is all the dodgy roads. The rest is fine. See, not that bad, and like many other things here in Russia, not exactly what most people expect.

The road that leads to Moscow