I'm driving to Yekaterinburg while Tara sits in the passenger's seat, reading to me about the busy city from our Trans-Siberian Railway guide. Even though we aren't on the train, we're inordinately pleased to be using the book every time we pick it up. We've been carrying the blasted thing in our panniers for over five hundred days! We've also schlepped a phrasebook for Southeast Asia across nearly twenty countries.
Why we didn't buy or ship these guides to ourselves a little closer to their use-by date is lost on both of us. We've long since filed the foible under the same column as bringing travel-sized toothpaste with us to Scotland.
I am shaking my head, chuckling at how clueless we were when we left, when Tara exclaims, "We are almost to ASIA!" Apparently, there's a marker for the continental crossing about forty kilometers west of the city. We are very excited about this, and spend the next several kilometers intently scanning the roadside.
To our dismay, the forty kilometer mark comes and goes with nothing of note. Of course, we weren't expecting fireworks and Chinese dragons and a big fat line in the pavement, but we feel slightly let down, saying, "So, that was it? ….we're in Asia now?"
About fifteen kilometers from Yekaterinburg, Tara spots an obelisk on the opposite side of the highway. As we speed past, separated from the monument by an impenetrable median and six lanes of traffic, we briefly consider leaving it behind. It takes nearly ten kilometers before we have a chance to turn around.
Deciding it would be a shame to miss what is probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op, we flip a u-turn and head back into Europe. Pulling into the turn-off for the monument, we park the car and walk around. There are signs to read, and murals on the ground indicating mountain ranges and watersheds and the geological significance of the continental border.
Further into the wooded area off the road, there is a cemetery and memorial of some sort.
There are also life-size figures that you stick your face into for a cheesy photo. On the European side, these are fancy Louis XIV characters, and on the Asian side, there's a samurai soldier and a woman in a kimono.
We did it! We really did it! We're in Asia!
Though Tara is unsuccessful at getting me to pose as a samurai, she succeeds in convincing me to celebrate this momentous occasion in proper hand-held tourist-kitsch style:
…and with that, we hop back in our LRC, continuing towards Yekaterinburg, where everything looks exactly as it did in Europe.