We left china on a Mongolian train, we left Mongolia on a Russian train- headed to Ulan Ude.
This leg of the journey was a ‘hard sleeper’ (basically 3rd class) I would like to say we took this to save money or for the experience but in reality it was because the soft sleepers had sold out! It was in fact very comfortable, 4 bunk cabin, with just the 2 of us.
As the train pulled out of the station, one of the well wishers saying good bye had her cup and spoon and blessed the train for a safe journey. A nice touch.
The train to Irkutsk the next morning hugged the edge of Lake Baikal and again the views were magnificent, traveling through forests and hamlets. The lake edge on the right and snow capped mountains on the left.
We were picked up at Irkutsk by Valeri, the owner of the apartment where we were spending a couple of nights before heading to Olkhon Island in the middle of Lake Baikal.
I was keen to take the ferry to the island so after dropping the bags we headed to the tourist information.. unfortunately the ferries only run twice a week.. and wouldn’t start until end of June anyway, bugger we would have to go by road- it worked out just as cheap to get a cab for three as it was take the bus so we booked a car while we were there.
After a breakfast of home made kedgeree (my first attempt) spent the next morning meandering along the riverside promenade watched a businessman take a ten minute break for a spot of fishing, seriously- he came down in his suit and briefcase, flicked the line in for no more than 10 minutes then headed off again... cool! Before arriving at the train station to buy our onward rail tickets. Bea and KC went to the counter and after 20mins came back with the first leg!! We adjourned to Harat’s Irish Pub for lunch and to emotionally recharge before booking the rest. With our itinerary now written out and translated into Russian, and confirmed by the bar man, Bea and KC once again approached the ticket counter and managed to get the rest of the tickets (Note- I am writing this on the first leg and it is nice, we have now learnt to read the tickets and it appears we are in lower third class hoval for the remainder of the journey, a situation we hope to rectify tonight when we arrive in Novosibirsk)
We had discovered a wet market the day before (hence the kedgeree) so having finally got the tickets we headed there again via Karl Marx Street, a lovely pre-soviet era street that had only partially been gentrified. The plan was to use the apartment facilities to cook dinner so we picked up what we needed at the market and headed home to cook. I know a good tradesman never blames his tools but I’m not good and the oven temperatures were completely false. Anyway the slow roasted leg of mutton was ok, just!
After reheated (improved) Kedgeree for breakfast Igor, our cabby, picked us up for the 5 hour drive to Khuzhir, the main town on Olkhon Island.
For our last dinner on Olkhon Katia served me meat coutlets with rice and salad while the girls had fish!
Sergei drove us back to the ferry the next morning where Igor was waiting to return us to Irkutsk to catch the train to Novosibirsk.