Smolensk – Minsk - part 2
An early start for our departure from Russia for Belarus.
We were prepared the night before and had all our paperwork ready for the border crossing.
The reality was that we drove straight across the border on a four lane highway with no controls at all. It looks like Belarus and Russia are close friends and have an open border agreement.
We regrouped a few km down the road for the real start of the day. The morning was fairly easy cross-country driving with mixed weather conditions. Blustery summer weather I would call it.
However the change between Russia and Belarus in terms the look and feel of the country is stunning. The roads are good and well kept, the country villages are as poor as in Russia but they are well kept, the houses are painted, the gardens look nice and everything looks much cleaner. It was almost like crossing the border between messy and dirty India into clean and organized Nepal during the 2008 Himalaya trial.
The country site is really very nice to drive through. A cross between the Ardennes and Scandinavia. The villages we passed were again full of people making photographs and waving to us.
The lunch stop was an official affair in a small town called Polatsk. The towns square was reserved for the rally and we were guided to a nearby hotel where a lunch was served. Then another official start from the town square where a large crowd had gathered..
The afternoon was full of Time Trials. Four off them in the local forests.
Each of the trials were closed off stages on gravel and sand roads. The police had properly closed the stages so we could go full out. This we do not do as one error can cost a lot of time.
Anty navigates me through the route warning me for turns and hairpins coming up. Not easy as we doing around 80- 95 km on rough terrain. Fortunately the big turns were marked with red and white plastic tape – just as in real WRC event- so you could see the turns coming up quite soon.
Each stage with standing start and stop lasts about 10 km. Then on to the next stage all four off them on the same terrain. Good fun but tiring and a lot of driving.
When we finally came out of the woods we headed to Minsk. This was another 150 km drive and it was already 17.30.
The road was good and when we hit the Minsk outer ring road we suddenly realized how big and modern Minsk is. From the ring we could see the city spreading out over a large area with a real high-rise city in the distance. It looks prosperous and modern but in-between the lines you can see there is still a lot of poverty.
However Belarus - ‘Bella’ Rus- is really a revelation.
So is the hotel Renaissance where we arrived at about 19.30 after almost a 12 hour day. It is a pity we always arrive late at the nice hotels…
Before going to the showers we did a quick ‘spanner check’ on the suspension of the Pagode. After the beating it took in the afternoon we found nothing loose but its better to check.
More tomorrow when we go to Brest and where the hotel will be of different quality I am sure. One more night and then we are in Poland..