As I have ridden past Elista and into Rostov province, the scenery has begun to change quite markedly from dry open treeless steppe to a landscape of enormous unfenced arable fields bounded by lines of trees. At this time of year the fields have either been ploughed, or lie fallow with large herds of fat cattle grazing on the stubble, sometimes mere dots on the horizon.
What we British would call proper grass has begun to appear, and the horses are eating their fill with the help of 'Doctor Green' who will hopefully put some more flesh on their bones as they both need more condition.
The further west I ride, the more trees are appearing, and the countryside has a much more European feel to it, particularly as the faces one sees are mainly Caucasian.
Another noticeable feature is the appearance of the rich black chernozem soil (black earth) which makes this part of Russia and much of Ukraine so fertile that it has been called the 'breadbasket of Europe'.
I am still being pursued by rainstorms - will we make it to the truck in time? - in this case yes!
Agricultural produce is often for sale with at the side of the road - potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and in this case, onions, which is what the little sign announces in Russian.
We meet many friendly Russians.......
Michael from Elista and his entourage - he was an amiable horseracing enthusiast who stopped for a chat - rather limited in view of my poor Russian, but the subsequent photofest translated into any language. He had a lovely thoroughbred stallion and mare in the red van behind him.