Now we know cold!

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of Russian Federation  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2006

(Dave here)
Since our last update, we have spent just over 2 days on the train from Ekateriburg to Irkutsk and then on arrival in Irkutsk were transferred to a small village on the side of Lake Baikal called Bolshoe Golostnoe (about 110 km from Irkutsk).

The train trip was actually quite enjoyable - we had our own carriage (2 berth) and bought enough supplies to feed a small family! We read, watched the Siberian plains sweep by the window and occasionally got off the train to but more beers! - check out some of the views from the train.

Upon arrival in Irkutsk (-37 degrees - check out the photo if you don't believe us!), we quickly got into a mini-van for the transfer to Bolshoe. Fortunately, after about 30 mins and 5 stops to fix, then van, it was decided to swap into a slightly more reliable one, so after a slow start, we eventually arrived in the village around 1pm. We were greeted by our homestay Galina and her husband Valiya and had a welcome lunch.

After this, we went down to the lake where the views are incredible although the temperature made it difficult to really appreciate the walk. We were both wearing most of our clothes and I even borrowed a pair of Emmas tights (a mental image I'm sure you didn't want!) - to be honest, it was that cold that I would have even worn a Sunderland tracksuit if one were available. Check out the pics of Emma after the walk - there are real icicles on her eyelashes!

The lake is 1 mile deep at its deepest point and holds one fifth of the worlds fresh water supply. It holds enough to supply the entire population of the world for 40 years!

Check out the car tracks on the lake - apparently its about 40cm frozen at the minute which is enough for cars - they drive straight across the lake from one side to the other!

We then had the experience of a Russian Banya (Sauna) of which we were initially a little sceptical (where do you get changed, do you have to walk from the house in a towel, ...). Luckily, you get dressed/undressed/dried in a small room linked to the Sauna.

As there is no running water in the village (more on that in a minute), we had a great steam and wash - probably the cleanest we've been all trip, after which we dressed again and returned to the main house.

The toilet is not inside the main house (due to no running water) and is in a separate building through the garden and past the sauna. It is unheated and therefore quite an experience. I am sure if there was an olympic sport (winter games of course) of "speed toilet", the russians would win after having had years of practice in this part of siberia. Believe me, you don't dwell there any longer than necessary. This also impacts your drinking habits / amount as you need to plan your bladder capacity to ensure that you do not need to go during the middle of the night - image how sleepy you'd feel after a run to/from the toilet at -40 degrees!

Today we were transferred back to Irkutsk and after a brief city tour, we have a few hours to kill (food shopping for the train, lunch, internet) before we catch our onward train out of Russia to Mongolia (next stop Ulan Bator). Fortunately it looks like UB has warmed up a bit it was -50 a few days ago and we were seriously considering going straight to Beijing but is now only -20-30. We are so hard now!!
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