Monday, 10 February 2014

The great trek across Russia from Irkutsk to Ulan Uda , Siberia


Irkutsk, then on to Listvyanka and lake Baikal 

we arrived in St Petersburg on the 7th december  for 3 days then spent 3 days in Moscow before starting our transmongolian train journey on the 13th december.
(more on travelling the transiberian /mongolian train in the next blog :-))

Our first destination wasIrkutsk on the 17th dec,  leg one of our first transiberian train over with, giddy with excitement (or was that the effects of travellingon a train for  5 days)

we arrived around
9.30am local time, we had by this time been through 5 time zone changes since leaving Moscow.. losing  5 hours  in total and now was ahead
of England by 8 hours phew.

This had effected our sleeping, It didn't matter how much we tried non of us could sleep before 11 / 12pm Because we were used to Moscow time still, (the train keeps Moscow time all the way to china so it's difficult to keep up with the time changes, we just followed local time in each place visited.)

...Ice on the shore line of Lake Baikal

Arriving in Irkutsk we were expecting minus 30 but got a balmy minus 13 in temp.

  I was pleased and surprised to find the parents of the Buryat family we had been talking to on the train insisted in helping us find the bus to Listvyanka and lake baikal in the 35 minute gap the train was stationary.
 They were traveling on to Ulan Uda, people here are friendly and nice.

We found a taxi  for 400 roubles and he offered to take us the 60 km to lake baikal for 3000 r which was a no. But after some loquacious sight seeing comments from the driver and another offer of 2000R  (£40) we settled back and arrived at lake baikal in style  not on any rickety  crowded bus we had seen passing us.  ( Arn't we entitled to a little comfort :-) ) Which was lucky as by this time sebs land/car sickness took us by surprise ..all over the seat, poor thing,  I think we were all feeling the groggy effects of being on a moving train for 5 days. 
We passed many things including a residence where the President of Russia goes fishing in the lake. The scenery was superb, the road travelled among a frosty snowy landscape with woods on either side, mist Hung in the valleys. 
 After settling in we walked to the end of the town and had lunch at another rustic restaurant.
The  lake when we arrived was shrouded in mist till about 2 o'clock because the lake warms and humidifies the air above which then condenses when it hits the colder air further up. it was very picturesque, along the edge  of the lake,a  2 metres width ice ledge had formed,  with its waves it looked like the sea. 
 We ventured into Listvyanka town and wondered around the local markets returning via the beach.  it felt quite weird walking on the sand as it had a beach like feel with  bright sunshine except it was very cold and ice was forming in the water. Alisha and seb enjoyed playing with the icicles.

We purchased some lake baikal  Fish from a local market, its tastes like smoked mackerel.  The marketeers were attentive but polite. 
The smoked and steamed fish from the market was eaten for tea with some other things I bought in a shop. I'm getting plenty of practice at this shopping lark ..though its hard to translate what I want by hand signals :-) ( I'm not good at languages , Andy is better but I wouldn't trust him to get what we need :-/  ) you see all the food is held behind the counter, you get shouted at if you touch anything on our side of the counter thats just for show !!! and the lady is giving you very impatient looks and a can't be bothered signs, though they soon warm up after a few smiles.
                                our accommodation ...very much a ski lodge

Back at the apartment a local boy played with Alisha and seb. 
On wed  we had a quiet day. We were still recovering from land sickness I think, after being on a moving train for 5 days so it was a day of videos and watching the  snowy landscape.  We could easily stay for awhile but move on we must.                                              
                                                               --- Wolfy enjoying the snow 

So on the thursday 19th december with reluctance we took a taxi back to the city around 4pm and stayed the night in Irkutsk, at the dobry kot hotel located near the station. The  intention was to be at the station nice and early for the 10.30 train so it was lucky we set of an hour early. Because  what should have been a 5/10 min walk turned into a ...went wrong way, got lost and a taxi ride to the 5 mins away station  ...still we made it but it was close phew.
I had asked our  'real russia' agents who we bought our tickets, what happens if we miss our train ..reply ...don't miss train ....

20th December ( 5 days till Christmas ) 

seven hours from Irkutsk,

On arrival at Ulan Ude around 5pm While the book said our hotel was 150 metres  they forgot to mention that was 150 m up steps ...(lots of them ) and being new to minus 25 temp, that was hard work......Our hotel the  Odon hotel looked a little Cold War ish with the concierge and receptionist behind glass in their offices. We registered and collapsed into the room. Alisha immediately we
nt to sleep for two hours. She felt unwell,   Seb and 1 (Tracey ) ate in the hotel Chinese restaurant. Andy had a take away. 
minus 33 ....Right....
2 layers of tops, plus thermal layer 
two layers of trouser / thermal long johns,  thermal socks 
gloves, hats 
muffler, ( which were great) 
 kids animal hats 
Fleeces, Coats
 times that by 4 
Equals lots of energy getting ready to go out :-) 
and My ( andy) legs still felt cold!  

Our facebook message says it all :-) 
Hi its our first day, 8 pm and kids have had a bath and are ready for bed and yes we survived -33 :-) in siberia. Not only survived but played in it :-) the kids and i went sledging in the ice sculpture park, different slides were made out of ice,  at night they were light up, it was all part of the city's new year celebrations. 

The first day we were out by 11 am and it was freezing we could only walk for about 30 mins before legs fingers and hands became numb so we slipped into a small shopping area to warm up. one of my fingers got rather cold and took about 10 mins to warm up ..ouch.  I had taken my gloves of to clean my glasses. I know why I didn't see many people with glasses ...they freeze up when you breath on them through the face muffler, so end up walking around looking through frosted glass :-) by about 2 pm it had warmed up to about -15 and in the sun thats fine.

 Ulan Ude is very nice, its a relaxing and friendly city to wonder around, there was a lot of children and they seemed free to roam safely  without parents. We met two teenagers from the local ballet school who seemed happy to wonder around with Alisha and seb, they showed us around and we ate at a local  restaurant,  Which offered both cheap fast food and good  home made food and a play area for kids. Theres no surprise that we visited it a couple of times. :-)


1 comment:

Alice Griffin ~ Travel and Nature Writer said...

Lovely to read your update Tracey... looks and sounds amazing! but cold! we have been staying i a cabin quite similar to the one you stayed in! we are back to the UK next week! Will send you that email soooon xxx