26-29 May Lake Baikal and Irkutsk

I’m now in Irkutsk where I’v e spent two nights. Tomorrow (30th) at 7.00 am I leave on the long 2000k journey to Novosibirsk.

On 26th, I left Ulaanbataar early to cover the 580k journey that is made very much longer by the dreaded border. It only took a speedy 2.00 hours this time!

I was remiss in not taking photos of the terrible tracks so I took a picture of a typical pothole on the so called GOOD roads. The trouble with these potholes is that they are hard to see. Some of them are huge holes and  very dangerous

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I hit one enormous pothole and was lucky to stay on the bike. It’s all I need to fall off the bike again!

Some kilometers later, I looked at the GPS and it was MISSING! It had bounced off its fitting when I hit the pothole! Now, the GPS is a vital piece of equipment here as there are absolutely NO road signs and even if there were you wouldn’t understand them.

I said a few unpleasant words and turned around. I didn’t have much hope of finding it but I had to try. I had ridden a short way then noticed the GPS was clinging to the bike behind the fuel tank, almost invisible…..How it had avoided falling through to the road I don’t know but I breathed a sigh of relief.

There always seems to be something new to challenge me on this trip doesn’t there. I must have upset my Guardian Angel as she is testing me isn’t she?

It was a good drive and I arrived in Ulan Ude again.

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I stayed in the Hotel Merry had originally organised and it almost felt like home. I was welcomed like a long lost friend!

Another early start and I was off to Irkutsk.

The road to Irkutsk skirts Lake Baikal. It is absolutely beautiful with the SAYAN mountains in the background. The Trans Siberian Railway also goes this way. It reminded me of Patagonia. I have photos almost identical from my last trip

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Irkutsk is a strange place. It has a huge number of Traditional Siberian Wooden Houses….Most of them are sadly falling to pieces.

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They call it the Paris of Russia but that must have been some over zealous marketing
man from Russia’s Tourist Office! It is NOTHING remotely like Paris.

The place is very tumbledown but this place has something unique and one day when they restore it it could be wonderful. Today however it is an odd mix of terrible Soviet buildings and wonderful old wooden houses
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Apparently, Irkutsk had a big influx of Nobles who were sent to Siberia in the early 19th Century after the “Decembrist Revolution against Tsar Nicholas 1. This explains the huge number of fine, if decrepit houses.

I treated myself to an expensive Hotel at $90.00 as Irkutsk was booked out. I feel I need a bit of TLC at the moment!

Today, I thought I would visit Lake Baikal (Irkutsk is on the IRKUT River and about 50 K from the lake)

I was about ti leave and was doing my bike checks when I noticed the OTHER foot peg was loose and yes….the threads were stripped.UGH. So, I set off to find a garage, I came on a place and immediately they stopped what they were doing and attended to me.

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The solution this time was not so cleaver as last time…they just welded the pedal on. Hopefully that will fix it once and for all. I travelled 26,500K in South America without this problem so why now?.

One fixed, i headed off to KRASNOJARST. Merry says this is one of the coldest places in Winter. It felt like it today too.

The lake is the largest fresh water lake in the world. It has tides and unique species. It is -6 degrees Celsius!

There is a fairy tale that if you put your hand in the water you will live ONE EXTRA year. If you dip your feet in the water…TWO EXTRA YEARS, Your head, FIVE EXTRA YEARS and your whole body…TWENTY FIVE YEARS or YOU’RE DEAD IMMEDIATELY!

I dipped my hand in the water so I’ll get an extra year!

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WAIT….THERE’S MORE!

I was packing up the bike for tomorrow and suddenly I noticed the pannier struts had snapped and a bolt had sheared. One of the side cases was about to fall off!

Would you believe it …Those Mongolian  roads are still after me!

Anyway, believe it or not, this guy came up to me in the car park and I showed him the problem. It seems this this bloke is a biker. He said follow me and we rode over to his mate’s garage….some garage too…full of motorbikes and tools. All was fixed within 20 minutes. AMAZING!

My bloke, Nick and his friend Michael make me feel old and weak. They literally tossed Azulo around as if he is plastic. Michael turned Azulo 180 degrees on his side stand. I couldn’t do that!

A final comment for this Post. 

I was speaking to a friend on Skype and she asked if i was enjoying myself.

The answer is YES but in a sort of masochistic way. This trip is almost an expedition and is an adventure of a lifetime. It’s not a holiday, like the one I will have in Turkey with my son Stuart in August, and with Merry later in Paris then Russia in September

It’s hard to explain but I am out of my comfort zone 75% of the time which is both scary and exciting. There is so much happening…most of it good, some not so good. Yes, it is exhausting too.

I would rather have slightly fewer problems with Azulo and the roads, but then this blog wouldn’t be as interesting …would it!

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