The sea in Siberia
Siberia, its extensive, its forests, its fauna and its rich flora, its wonderful Lake Baikal... and to finish his famous train... the Transsiberian!
En route to the Lake!
Wednesday, June 10, we left on the Russian roads!
After 6 months in Asia, many small things show us that it is closer to the "old continent", Europe. We are happy to find some benchmarks: small details of architecture, urban planning in Ulan Ude. At lunch, a simple dish of cheesy pasta with "Delicatessen" makes us jump for joy; forgotten tastes... We are not yet at the small madeleine of Proust, but it is not far away!
Quickly after Ulan Ude, we arrive in a thick forest of conifers that mix gradually the young spring leaves of birches. Taiga here come us!
On the first day, a pretty climb through the forest makes us gain altitude for 20kms. We say that it is perhaps the last pass of our trip... which yet is far from finished (FYI, expected back mid-October)! At the Summit, the Russians throw coins: it is a place sacred Buryat, and according to tradition, launch a piece to the passage brings the chance on the road. Then offered to us a beautiful descent; we stop a little further in the plain to install the tent near a river.
The next day, we continue with this same landscape and a road which plays to the roller coaster. Everything out us well, and just 1 km before the Lake Baikal - beautiful things can make themselves wait-, we find a nice corner for the tent on the edge of another small lake. You say that it is the dream for a camping spot, but is that it knows not yet those which await us following days...
Y' has the sea to Siberia?
June 12 in the morning, at the end of a turn, between the trees, here it is! Lake Baikal, its big blue vastness as a sea but calm as a lake. The largest and most profound body of fresh water from the Mainland. It is very beautiful; driving all day in close proximity, but rarely at the edge: the Lake often plays hide-and-seek behind the trees... We are surprised the wind there may be, Pebble and sand beaches all around. you really feel the sea; even Gulls are there to make us believe.
Evening, it's a no-brainer for us to bivouac on its shores. We venture on a small road that seems to lead. Arrived at the end of the... thin path, an encampment of yurts (probably for tourists) and small houses. Alerted by his dogs, a little papi is approaching us. When he understands what one seeks, he tells us to follow him and takes us a little further on the beach. He shows us a wooden table and many flat areas to lay the tent, protected from the wind. The place is beautiful. Still hot from our day of bike, we'll bathe in the water of the Lake: a bit fresh, but it's going! He returned in the evening if ensure that the place suits us and we don't need anything. Cut off from the world in a splendid location, with drinking water at will, what could we be missed? Because Yes, it appears that the Lake has kept an ecosystem still protected from human pollution and water is safe to drink as it. But we have not tried the shot and have always made boiled or filtered...
For the first time since the beginning of the trip, I spend a little ill overnight. Suddenly, the next day is a bit harsh. Especially since the asphalt road turns into track on large parts. Then the ups and downs of trails rutted when evil... hearing belly! It is still pedaling 60kms separating us from Ust-Barguzin, our goal of the moment.
Reversals of situation
The plan is to go in a guesthouse that was recommended to us several times, but the suite is a big question mark. We know not where we will be the next day.
The goal was originally to go to this city to take a ferry to Olkhon Island (pronounced Olrrhone: as Toblerone but with less letters!). Except that we we are spotted late that season for ferries starts until early July. We have not changed our plans and say that we aviserions. Except that we are Ust-Barguzin, we found no one to share the exorbitant cost of a private crossing, and we still have no answer to the question "and is how after?".
We therefore settle in the guesthouse of the Beketov ; It seems that the night wears advises. In the Banya at the guesthouse, we forget all our questions; the Banya is a kind of Russian sauna - where you can also "showering". A moment of relaxation perfect after this day! After a meal of local products served by the hostess, it passes a good night warm in a traditional Siberian House, while a beautiful thunderstorm broke out... OK you will say that is upmarket! Well ben it is so though are handed it over for a second night!
And most importantly, we realize that there plenty of time for plan B decided: a ride in the region, and then back to Ulan Ude by bus to take the Trans-Siberian railway, instead of taking it to Irkutsk. In short, a day of rest to enjoy the garden and the Sun, and complete our ongoing projects.
Dinner on Sunday evening, our host says she expects a group of 12 french. And oh miracle! They go to Olkhon island by boat two days later! They arrive in the evening; It made the acquaintance of the travelers group, which a good portion is retired; a group with a cheerful atmosphere! Quickly we learn that we can join them in the boat that they were booked. Yet another change of plan: we go to Olkhon Tuesday!
We therefore still a day to spend in Ust-Barguzin. We decide to spend it at the beach and invite to the group for the next morning.
Lunch on the beach, a Buryat (Mongolia original Russian), just tell us, is dépatouillant as he can with his low English vocabulary; He is kindly tips, and offers us a bit of vodka after spending a long time to perform rituals with the Lake (during which more than half of the bottle had to leave Lake). We learn after that was probably of the shamanic rituals; was shaman? We shall never know. It we said much like the french, offers us to eat the end of "charcuterie" that he had to accompany his vodka, then (very) long talks about his grandfather disappeared in Poland in the second world war and which his family tries to recover the body (or in any case is what one has understood).
He ended up starting and we'll get into a more hidden corner of the beach, where even a small wooden table. Yet a bivouac perfect; with a source of many photos sunset...
After a morning swim for Thomas, we find our group of travellers to port. We spend the 9 h crossed to talk, eat, laugh, and enjoy the Sun on the deck. A very nice day! And on the last hours, we discover the West side of the island of Olkhon, from North to South, its cliffs, coves, its vertices... Joli!
Once landed at Olkhon, is quickly spotted the Church of the city. We are expected at Sergei, a French-speaking Russian who is sacristan of the Orthodox Church of the island. He welcomes us in Exchange for help in the work of his house. A plan passed by an another cyclo.
The room where we place has a beautiful view on the Lake, the sunsets are once more beautiful - though the landscape is somewhat marred by a forest fire that lasts for 3 days on the shore in front. We spend the day from Wednesday to make the painting. It is a pleasure to make a little move his arms after both running legs!
But the next day, nothing will, everything disappoints us: misunderstandings with Nadia, its adooorable range, the difficulty of visiting the island by bike because tracks really rutted or filled with sand (there not a single road paved on the island), the galley akin to find a bus where we can put the bikes to go to Irkutsk , and most importantly, the lack of Exchange with Sergei and the unpleasant sensation that he took advantage of the situation... Morale is a little in Bern, but despite everything, the view is splendid and we cannot lose our humor. The galley is less painful in the Sun could one sing...
Irkutsk, capital of Siberia
It is to escape these galleys that we hesitate not long ago when Sergei invites us to come to his pickup truck to go to Irkutsk the next day. One day earlier than planned, but few is important. We take advantage of the evening around the fire with other travelers, but with despite all the bitter taste of having missed something here.
After a very early start, 4 h car in mode "shaker" at 100 km/h on tracks, 120 on the road we arrive in Irkutsk. We ask our bags in a Youth Hostel to the train that is the night of the following day.
Irkutsk is a city more sympathetic than we imagined. A green line painted on the ground walks us through the city in places to see (it reminds us of the) Boston Red line !). We are surprised by the old, quiet neighborhoods where pretty wooden houses mingle with a few modern buildings. White pollen flying in the wind through the City give a beautiful atmosphere of lightness.
And then Saturday night, en route to the station. It is largely in advance but finally we are not bored. Try machine to print e-tickets, having to go to the window, "you have passports?" / "Oh no they stayed with Thomas", go look for them, redo the tail and finally have tickets; install the bikes on the train, having to still go to the other end station to buy tickets for bikes, return to the train and learn that it is not the good tickets. returning with the provodnitsa (Controller of our car), to settle in the train... Phew, that's it, it is almost one o'clock in the morning, the train will soon start.
Trans-Siberian! 80 h program.
Presentations! We are in platskarti.e. the 3rd class. 8 compartments open car, six persons in each compartment. It has reserved two berths up for put-aways luggage for bikes. At the beginning we regret a little because it is damn tight up there; and no way to be seated. Finally after 24 h train is empty and can spend time on the bottom bunks.
Little by little, we take the pace of the Trans-Siberian railway. Read, write, do the installation and discuss a little with the people around are our main concerns.
The longer breaks (20-30 minutes), 2 to 3 times per day are times expected by travellers. While walking from one end to another of the wharf, we love watching around us the sudden agitation that contrasts with the slow pace of the trip. There are those who do their jogging and their stretching; There are sellers of food: Donuts, fish dried or even a small Granny coming to sell a dozen radish she had to grow in his garden.
But the breaks go fast and it is already back on the train. From windows, you can see landscape scroll. Many forests, Birch especially, some villages of wooden houses, and a few crops in the surrounding area. The Russia is huge and landscapes evolve very gently; It's monotonous but quite beautiful.
On board, there's a provodnitsa for each car. Behind their often cold façade at the outset, we discover little by little a kindness and a desire that everything goes well in their car. They maintain always clean toilets, regularly check that all is well.
For the meal, a fountain of hot water called Samovar allows us to find our delicious Chinese noodles with mountains of Sichuan, but above all to be able to make coffee and teas at will.
Spend so much time in the train, but also take the time to meet other travellers. Not easy to forge ties with most of the Russians who do not speak English, or very little; and our memory is not as good that other travelers that we met who are able to learn the basics of a language in a few days (it we always impresses many). But we still made a few nice meetings during these long days, young student Russians, a German couple, a Korean...
In short, after 80 hours, we are in Moscow for a stopover of 48 h. prior to joining Saint Petersburg to greet my parents coming to us to visit for a week. They tell you it more details soon!
– The reputation of the Russians is true! A first not necessarily very pleasant, but behind... often a great kindness!
– The Russians like to make gifts? Bananas, a magnet, a lovely wooden spoon painted... East - this linked to the fact that travelling by bike, to be foreign, or just a habit between them? In any case there are often gifts. And conversely, when offered one coffee, biscuits or another, they don't accept that very rarely.
-Details show us that we approached slowly from Europe, but the presence of Lada cars reminds us that we are in Russia! Small, 4 × 4... seen of all kinds!
– Russian is written in Cyrillic What makes it difficult to read, many "fake-friends" initially: the b is made a V, the H is a N... But once learned the alphabet, we realize that many words are very close to the french! Ресторан, it is RESTORAN, restaurant; Вагон, is VAGON, wagon; Билет, is MARITA, ticket; Багаж, it is BAGAZH, luggage
and many others! Thank you Cold in Mongolia had learned us good mnemonics to remember the alphabet!