We had decided to get as close as possible to St. Petersburg with our drive today in order to get into town as early as possible the day after to have more time to explore it so we knew it was going to be a long day and presumably also the longest drive during the rally as the distance between Murmansk and St. Petersburg is 1340 km. No motorways.
We left shortly after 08:00, fueled the Fat One, stacked up on healthy petrol station snacks on our way out of Murmansk and headed towards the South.
We were driving through Russia’s part of the Lapland Region and the landscape was different to what we’ve seen before as were driving through the tundra, with the vegetation being small and not very dense, vast spaces and views of snowy mountains in the distance slowly coming closer. It created a feeling of being really and properly in the North, or better in the Arctic.
We passed the mining towns of Olenegorsk (iron ore) and Monchegorsk (copper, cobalt and nickel) and headed into the region of Karelia. We made good progress until we got into quite a few construction areas, some of them annoyingly long, up to 50 km, and rough.
The further south we got the taller and denser the vegetation got, we were basically driving on roads like swaths where there were forests on the right and woods on the left occasionally sprinkled with trees on both sides. Sometimes there were some openings and as highlights there were rivers or even lakes to intercept the monotony of the journey.
We were breaking for fuel and driver changes every 300 km.
Yet, in the end we still were making good progress and decided to look for a spot to put up our tent somewhere around the town of Lodeynoye Pole, about 220 km away from St. Petersburg.
After driving around a bit we found a patch of lawn next to a river on the edge of the town. We didn’t know whether this was allowed but then nobody seemed to bother. We set everything up and started the cooking. We had grilled chicken breast with pasta and a sauce of chili, onions, tomatoes and olives. And we had guests. Thousands of guests. Mosquitos and sand flies were swarming around us, crawling on top of us. The generous appliance of repellant, long clothing, hats and hoods were helping quite well to avoid being eaten alive. After dinner we had a smoke to drive them even further away with mixed results, However, we are still quite proud that we made it into our tent without any uninvited guest for an unmolested night.
We did 1120 km that day and needed 12.5 hours for the trip, which considering the distance and the type of roads we had to endure, we consider this a job quite well done.