Stones, Tyres and Tomsk.

The peacock house in Tomsk.We are currently parked, for the second day, just off Lenin Square in Tomsk on what appears to be a large free parking area in front of the cathedral (56.488043°N 84.946198°E). So far without comment or interference from the locals.

Founded in 1604, Tomsk is about to celebrate its 400th birthday. Lonely Planet, in 2000, hardly rated it, commenting mostly that the Trans-Siberia railroad did not go via Tomsk and that radioactive waste threatened its water supply.

However by 2003 Lonely Planet had rehabilitated Tomsk into a minor tourist attraction. We have found it a relaxed place with some splendid old wooden houses, good shops and nice restaurants. Even the drunks seem generally amiable.

Our route from Kyzyl to Tomsk involved an over night stop at Salbyk, a sort of Russian Stonehenge between Chernogorsk and Sorsk. (at 38.6km, 53.941229°N 90.742646°E, turn left onto a dirt track). There are two stone circles, the smaller, undisturbed one, is a man made hill with a circle of partly buried stones. The larger one (53.894428°N 90.773980°E, about 5.5km off the road) now consists of a square of huge stones, some three metres high, the "hill" having been excavated (away) in the 1950s.

We parked right next to the stones, and although they appear very impressive no one spent long wandering amongst them. Even though it was a warm evening everybody scurried about in hooded anoraks not daring to stay too long within the circle. Photographs were quickly and furtively snatched as if to stand still and stare would invite attack. Even in the morning light there was something in the air that said leave here as soon as possible. (Even vast quantities of Deet could not prevent the masses of mosquitoes biting.)

Imp continues to have tyre problems. On the way south to Tuva Peter stopped at a very helpful garage between Abakan and Minusinsk (53.658151°N 91.539238°E) to get a puncture fixed, a tyre changed and to get one of his front wheel bearings tightened. Waiting time zero, total cost $5.00USA.

On the way back from Tuva near Grigorjevka on the M54 Imp had a front wheel blowout which shredded his front left tyre.

Naturally Imp stopped at the same helpful garage on the way back and replaced the shredded tyre with one of his old radial tyres and had the other front wheel bearing tightened. Waiting time 20 minutes, Cost $3.00USA.

For those who have not been following the Imp tyre saga, Peter bought eight new cross ply tyres, of nearly the right load rating, prior to Mongolia (six fitted to the the van and two spares on rims). Luckily he also kept the two original good radial tyres he had.

However since then Imp has one more slow puncture which has been fixed in Tomsk and several new inner tubes purchased.

Stephen Stewart.

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