“They can bake a bread for us. Do you want that?” Coen asked, scrolling down his iPhone and reading Moritz’ message.
What a question. “Of course!”
When a German offers to bake a bread, you say yes. While the Russian bread we have been able to buy has been okay, nothing beats a homemade, dark sourdough bread.
“What else does he write?” I asked.
“That the campsite isn’t finished but that we are welcome to stay,” Coen answered.
After thousands of kilometers of driving, we finally had a place to just camp for a bit. Bliss.
(Okay, and do a shitload of chores because the Russian roads are killing our Land Cruiser already.)
Modern Ways of Connecting
There are times we look back at our early years of traveling. A journey without Facebook and Instagram or any other social media, no Skype, no Wifi. Connecting with family and friends depended on (at times dodgy) internet cafés, email, and collect calls. Life was much quieter with fewer useless distractions.
This was life on the road until about 2006 when the digital world started to evolve very quickly. Gone are the days that we check email no more than once a week, if that often. Gone are the days of quickly ‘only checking messages’ and being drawn into the screen and losing another hour or more on god-knows-what, most-likely-unimportant things.
But then there are moments we celebrate these super easy and accessible ways of connecting these days. Facebook’s overlanding groups and Instagram streams of like-minded people, among other places, enable us to meet locals in a way that before wouldn’t have happened. Russia has proven to be an excellent country to connect with people in this way.
Through one of these channels, from a question to an answer, to an ‘Oh but meet my friend,’ kind of chain exactly such a connection happened. As a result we are now at the brand-new, still-in-the-making Taiga Pitch Offroading Camp just outside Ulan Ude run by the energetic couple of Moritz and Olga.
Enjoying Overlanders’ Campsites
With fondness we look back at such wonderful meeting grounds in South America where we’d set up camp among kindred spirits and often lingered for weeks on end. Salta in Argentina, La Paz (Mallase) in Bolivia, and Cusco in Peru come to mind.
In this part of the world, Oasis in Ulan Bator (Mongolia) is such a place, but there are plans to build similar campsites in the region.
Meet Moritz & Olga
However, let’s stick to the one that is in the making as we speak. After a couple of years of wandering about the German Moritz, an avid motorcyclist who has overlanded himself and who runs motorcycle tours, and his Russian wife Olga decided to settle in Ulan Ude, not too far from Olga’s roots.
Combining a place where their kids can go to school with a crossroad on East Russia’s overlanding route, they bought a piece of land about 10 kilometers northwest of Ulan Ude, along the main road to/from Irkutsk.
Meet the Taiga Pitch Off-road Camp
The campsite lies at the foot of hills covered with pine trees. Tracks leading into the forest are good to take your bike for a spin or to go for a nice hike.
Right now the campsite has a fence, potable water from a well, electricity, pit toilets, and a grassy field with a campfire place. On the list to be added are an open-air kitchen, shower facilities, yurt cabins for motorcyclists to sit and sleep nice and dry when need be. Moritz is building it all by himself.
Oh, and not unimportantly, as mentioned earlier: They can bake a delicious bread for you!
Working on our To-Do List
Even though the campsite is not finished and not officially open, we were more than welcome to camp there for a bit. This was exactly what we were looking for. Tired from a long period of flying across the world, running around, driving way too many kilometers, being everywhere but not really anywhere, we were in need of just being somewhere.
I stocked up, we updated our to-do list, and set up camp.
The first couple of days Moritz daily worked on the site and Olga and kids joined later to water the grass. We’d all enjoy dinner around the campfire. It was pleasant, relaxed, and easy going but all of us were so busy doing our own stuff that we forgot to take photos of our time together.
The first evening Olga cooked a delicious potato soup that came with a salad and even a bottle of wine. What a great introduction to our stay and during dinner we swapped stories as the fire kindled to life.
Over the past week we have worked on our never-ending to-do list. We patched rusting holes with PU sealant and put a layer of bitumen underneath the carriage where the holes were too big for PU sealant. The rear indicator lights work again as do the radio and the horn. The interior has been cleaned of a layer of dust and we’ve ticked off a dozen of other chores.
We’re feeling proud of what we accomplished.
The weather has been extremely pleasant with 23 degrees but also freezing cold, including a shower of wet snow, and we’ve had a couple of stormy nights. It’s May 8 and I am still wearing a woolen sweater. Summers are late in this Siberian part of the world.
As to the question what next, well, we came to Ulan Ude and got our visas for Mongolia with the intent to go there after our stay at the Taiga Pitch Offroad Camp. However, I interpreted the Russian visa rules differently than they are and so we changed plans once more.
This change would give us a splendid, leisurely one month of camping and slowing down around Lake Baikal. Or so we thought. On our last evening at the campsite the Land Cruiser revealed yet another unpleasant issue that needs urgent attending and that will keep us in Ulan Ude for now. That’s for another story though.