Today we have followed the Volga river south approx 450 Klms to Astrakhan. Since before Volgagrad we have experienced the temperatures warming considerably and today were amazed as the rich crop lands gave way to quite arid land reminiscent of Mongolia complete with goats, cows and herdmen ambling across the road. But it’s the warmth of the Russian people that has surprised us most. Today yet again, a family driving in the other lane stopped us as we rode into Astrakhan and chatted with us. Actually their English was quite good and we felt they were pleased to get a chance to use it. Well Alex, Irina & daughter Julia led us to a Hotel with FREE INTERNET and we shall spend some time tomorrow sightseeing. Pity the police at countless district road-side check points dont generally share their citizens good nature. We’ve pulled out our drivers license countless times and played the “speak only english” trick which generally wears them down and we get away without paying “fines” for trumped up charges like crossing the centre line! As we move south we come across different races too. Perhaps an over stayer from the Ghenghis Khan invasions one police man surprised us. We had off loaded a big bunch of grapes to these guys to lighten our load… only to be repaid with two giant water melons. I felt obliged to tape that on precariously but after 80 klms it sadly dismounted just 2klms from our hotel.