Khabarovsk, Russian Federation
A day in a hostel can start in all sorts of ways; today it was with the rustling of bags as a couple of girls left, and a series of phone calls as the girl in the bunk below sorted something or other out. I seem to have got an upgrade, paying for the male dorm of nine beds and being put in the mixed one of four, which is nice. Very hard to tell who lives here and who is a guest-last night the place seemed full, today much less so with guests, but there are plenty of people around, including kid and grandma. Sheer nosiness wants to know.
The girl downstairs was sleeping in, so with strength in numbers I did the same. Eventually I was up and ready to run, checking the map to spot where Dinamo park was. Up near the station, and I set off. No wonder my rucksack got a bit heavy by the time I made it yesterday-down Volochaevskaya street for a mile, then up Amurskiy for another till you reach the station. At least I’d got a couple of miles in, so could explore and make this a long one. No real sign of a park, I headed west and north on whatever were the biggest roads available, looping left and a mile or so on another long straight Russian road. Following that round I eventually ran out of even approximate pavement-some had already been just a dirt track by the road-and took a track to the left. This bit reminded me of Addis, where concrete roads soon run out as you head into neighbourhoods, to be replaced by dirt tracks. Dogs barked but I found a road again, before again deciding I needed to go left and having to take a small path. Some trail running! I nearly turned round at the railway, but could see a road beyond and just hopped over. Sadly not the mainline, I’d already crossed that on a bridge, but I like the accessibility. Now I hit a road again, no real idea where I was, but this was much better kept, even having some new buildings on it, quite the contrast to the tracks with homes and walls assembled from whatever was at hand. Suddenly I realised where I was-on the main green strip down from the station-and followed that to head back and make up time by the river. Then, though, I decided to follow the strip all the way down and found a park. Knowing I was nowhere near the station I ignored the statues all round the thing, even though I knew that to be a feature of Dinamo park, and figured this was something else. It wasn’t, of course, I was just wrong about the location of the park. After a couple of laps I turned to go back, then spotted a big square up ahead, so had to run round that. I thought I knew where to go, but asking the GPS to take me home sent me in a completely different direction.
Later I worked it out. There is one long green strip down from station to river. But a couple of streets further along, there’s another, with the park in. At a glance I’d decided the latter was the former, putting park near station. And at a stroke explaining my loss of bearings.
Two hours run, and I was proper stiff.
I refuelled in the supermarket. They have free lockers to leave a bag in, nice big keys but I still nearly forgot mine, having to squeeze back up the queue to fish it out of the basket. By now yesterday’s rain and today’s cloud had been replaced by sun, and I headed out. Walking down to the river I could really see the amount of flooding, and plenty of others were out looking too-probably just as a result of having a potential walk by the river blocked, but it felt like a bit of disaster tourism breaking out. On the map, west should take me to a green area and so it proved, paved paths and greenery thankfully above the flood level, just off Komsomolskaya square with its cathedral and monument to the heroes of the Russian civil war. I stopped with a beer but it was a bit hot, not what I’d expected with a forecast of cloud and 20 degrees. Walking back I passed the cathedral of the transfiguration and (another) everlasting flame, in front of an impressive war memorial. Huge number of names-this is a city of just 600,000, even now, and has a memorial that large. Not so many names on the modern memorial for Afghanistan etc.
The wikitravel entry makes the point that few cities are as much improved by sunshine as this one; today bears that out for me, and lucky for it to be on a Sunday when plenty could, and did, enjoy it. As did plenty of midges, which is a pity but a Siberian summer problem.
Summary: 2:00:30, 24.43km. Reading: Gary Rivlin, Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty Inc.