Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
124Trip End Feb 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Well i did warn you that we would be catching up!
So where do i begin? Well on the train i suppose. This was our longest journey so far. 56 hours non stop on a train. It sounds tedious but in fact it was the complete opposite. It is so relaxing. All you do is eat, drink, sleep, read and write. Oh and look at the amazing scenery going by. To our dismay we realized that we were in separate cabins again. This time we tried to do something about it, i.e. bribe the providnitsa (conductor) and he accepted! Unfortunately, he wanted to split up a family which we would not have so we accepted our fate (amazingly the prodnitsa returned our bribe!!). Once again it turned out to be a stroke of good luck as the family i was sharing with were amazing as you will see on our video clip. We learnt a lot about each other and shared a lot of vodka over the 56 hours
You tend to talk to fellow passengers more on trains than you do on planes. I suppose it's because you are on them for so long. It is definitely the most civilized way of traveling. The train had quite a few stops between Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk and at times the train will not move from a platform for up to an hour (this is because train managers are paid for punctual trains and so allow themselves generous schedules so that even if a train is delayed, officially it's not delayed!).
And so during these long stops we could get off, have a walk about and buy food/drink from the babushka's. As we were walking about i was thinking "man we are in Siberia!" It was all very surreal (especially as it was about 24 degrees and we were in T-Shirts!). We eventually got into Irkutsk station at about 19:00 local time and found our hostel within 20 mins without help! We are getting used to this traveling lark. I will now pass you on to the lovely Miss Sargent.......
My my thank you dear...
We were meant to be staying at the Baikaler Hostel but because they were full they had booked us a room at their neighbor's house
I was about to go boil some water for our packet noodles but when Olga, the woman of the house saw them she scornfully waved them away and told me 'I cook for you'. We quickly accepted her generous offer and instead of packet noodles sat down to a homemade meal. Yummm!!!! Unfortunately the main ingredient of the meal was Aubergine, the only thing I am allergic to. Damn. Not wanting to offend Olga I discreetly pushed the aubergine to one side and made some comment that Paul loved aubergine before quickly stuffing my lot in his mouth!! Ah the endless use of boyfriends.
After dinner we stayed chatting with her and her son Michael who is studying jewelery design. We spent a lovely evening getting to know them, showing each other photos and looking at some of Michael's designs. She showed us some photos of the family's holiday to Lake Baikal, the place we were visiting next. Unlike us they had gone in winter many years ago. One photo was of their half submerged car that had fallen through cracked ice in the lake. I guess no one had been in imminent danger given that they had taken the time to photo the car
The next morning Olga greeted us with coffee and pancakes - a perfect start to the day. We definitely wouldn't have gotten that at the hostel. Paul and I were really touched by her generosity, as well as by the genuine interest she and her son had in us. We chatted some more and took photos with their cat - the biggest cat I've ever seen in my life! (It turns out his owner moved to Malta!).
We were meant to be picked up at 9am by a minibus which would be taking us to our next destination but we got distracted and didn't notice that the bus hadn't turned up by 9.30. Olga made a few phone calls and within minutes the girl from Baikaler Hostel (who we'd booked the ticket with) came to our door and ushered us to a car. It turned out that the minibus decided not to run that day, but luckily she had found another bus that was already on the way, called the driver and got him to stop and wait for us AND arranged a taxi to take us to our waiting bus. Now whoever moans about Russian customer service should get to hear that!
Sure enough, 20 minutes out of the city our driver stopped by a waiting bus which we proceeded to board for the terrifying 7 hour journey to Olkhon Island.....but more about that later.
Karen and Paul