Lake Baikal: the world's deepest fresh water lake

Trip Start Oct 07, 2010
Trip End Mar 13, 2011

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Flag of Russia  , Siberia,
Monday, October 18, 2010

Arrived, very skankily, after 60+ hours on the train to our small hostel in Irkutsk. A hot shower never felt so good! Explored the town a bit, known as Paris of Siberia, ate omul, the fish from nearby Lake Baikal, in a friendly, funky restaurant. Met lots of peeps from the hostel, including Richard, from our first train ride. Touristally (this can't possibly be a word, my first bush-ism), drank beers at a German beer haus, odd to see Russian girls dressed in dirndls in the middle of Siberia.

Lake Baikal is said to be able to supply the world with it's water for 40 years if there were no other source. The days activity was a walk along the rarely used train tracks on the Western side of the lake. It was a little strange to be transported in a lawn bowl sports (Toyota Camry that Mum used to drive in Perth) but hey, why not. The instructions were kinda bad to say the least from our driver (a forty someone yr old Russian woman). The Siberian winter started early here so the first part was in snow. Impressively there were a few train track repair crews around, which made me think that Russia is certainly 'on the right track' in terms of infrastructure!

The first part of the hike to the lake was though forest and some shoddily made bridges, reminiscent of the Blair Witch project. (Pictures will explain this correlation). An hour or so we approach a "town" of 6 buildings and were unsure which way to follow the train tracks, our only directions from our driver. This was our first glimpse of Lake Baikal and she is a beaut! Luckily, Jake, from Baikaler hostel, where we were staying, spoke enough English to point us in the right direction but not before he offered us the use of his canoe, as long as we could name the colors of the Jamaican flag, very cool dude. He was also running a hostel here for only 200 rubles per night ($7 US dollars/per night!, even more amazing as Russia is not cheap) so close to the lake and what a chillaxed feel it had. If it weren't so damn cold, I would've wanted to stay here for longer but we were lucky enough in having a clear day so alas, another time I'll be back to kick it with a bottle of vodka and hear some random stories from fishermen.

After our cold canoe ride, we were off for the portion of the trail on the railroad tracks and through some tunnels, the old railroad. Stopped for a picnic lunch and more bantering with our new Canadian friend then off again to walk the never ending trek back to the white car!

Back at the hostel front, we joined a group who was leaving that night on the same train as us to Ulan Ude, the last stop in Russia. We ate at an I restaurant having grown tired of the Russian fare, meanwhile exchanging traveling stories and suggestions.

On the train again, this compartment was older than the last, it seems the further we were from Moscow, the older they were. We shared it with 2 Russian girls who giggled for most of the trip and didnt chat to us. When we arrived, we had to move a few carriages down on the same train though onto the Mongolian carriage which was the oldest/worst yet. The good news was we had 2 very cool Dutch guys who we entertained and vice versa. One guy worked for the government as a lawyer in The Hague, the other a more melancholy freelance writer. This company was most welcome as this was by far the most frustrating portion of the trip, crossing into the Mongolian border. 4 1/2 hours still for just one carriage!!! And then more waiting once in Mongolia proper. Have you any idea how difficult this is for two 7 personalities on the enneagram scale? It's quite one thing when you're moving to be on a train for 24 hours, another to be stopped for half of that during daylight hours when the Siberian scenery was just getting interesting. Even more frustrating was learning the bus just took 12 hours and was cheaper. But I rant. This is when we started drinking vodka and warm beer and turning our train into a disco!
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