As some of you may know, our “new” car spent most of the summer and September in the repair shop. That left me, the homebody, quite content, but my mate Alexandra, with her wanderlust, got frustrated close to the breaking point. So when I turned out to have a free day on Wednesday, I said not a word against Alexandra’s plan to drive to Kashkarantsy, about 200km east from Kandalaksha.
The village of Umba, about halfway between Kandalaksha and Kashkarantsy, in the last center of civilization (filling station, shops, cafes) on the way east along the south edge of the Kola Peninsula. Twenty kilometers east of Umba the car broke down again. A runaway engine. A scary thing. Do read about it if you have a diesel. Yes, Alexandra does have good acquaintances in Umba. The problem was that we broke down in the no coverage zone, on an almost empty road. Like one car every ten minutes. The second car we waived to stopped. But it turned out to be hauling a trailer. And it was heading away from Umba. “No problem,” said the car owner. He unhitched the trailer and hooked us to his Land Rover with a rope. Drove forward east another few kilometers in search of a place to turn around, and then headed back to Umba. On arrival, when I pulled out my wallet in an attempt to compensate the driver he waved no and quickly drove away.
The car of Alexandra’s friend, it turned out, was down too. But he proceeded to make enquiries to find someone to tow us back to Kandalaksha.
While waiting for something to happen we noticed a van with St. Petersburg licence plates. Approached the driver and asked him if my any chance he is heading towards Kandalaksha. No, he said, but I have a garage in three kilometers, with car mechanics. “But ours is a diesel”, we said sadly. Diesels are a rare-ish thing in this part of the world. “We have twenty vehicles, and they are all diesels”, was the reply.
In ten minutes a car drove by with a gentleman who didn’t at all look like a mechanic but turned out to be one. Another mechanic drove by, and two of them dived into the core of the motor. Soon they pronounced their verdict: our car needs to proceed to their garage.
The next thing was us being towed by a small truck to the “garage”, which turned out to be a large clearing in the middle of the woods, a huge garage, two friendly dogs and a night watchman who in the daytime was feeding the dogs silly and baking cakes.
For the next few hours the mechanics were working on our car while we went for a walk, had a coffee, and played with the dogs. The dogs turned out to have been adopted from the shelter and arrived in the “skin and bones” condition – that’s why they were fed so much now.
Towards the evening the car was diagnosed and repaired well enough to make it to Kandalaksha under its own steam.
Again, our attempt to pay was rejected.
Heard similar stories from travellers before but took them with a grain of salt. My faith in humanity has now been restored.