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"The way to enlightment" 1-30.07.20076 August 2007
By mosq, 2007
With Squerdy’s supervision
translation by Tatiana Ashakova
The idea of going to Baikal arose in 2003-2004. I don’t remember why but it got stuck in my mind, but ever since that moment I would either dismiss it or it would revisit me. To show the daring of such a challenge, the rumor that I was even seriously considering such a feat was even published in the “Plans of Journey Around Russia” section of the Nissan 4x4 Club in publication with the intention of stimulating interest in my planned expedition and to educate those who should ever undertake the journey.
Having completed the journey, I am amused when I recall all our pre-departure anxieties and sensations. “A hard way, a difficult route…” I’d tell myself. Maybe I didn’t even believe it was possible to get there and back in my car given its current state. My car isn’t brand new , but it’s completed a few trips around Moscow Region and neighboring land areas. It’s UAZ axles is worn, but at least the engine has been recently repaired so there should be no major concern with its functioning. In addition to the odd trip outside Moscow 2006, we made a spontaneous journey to Karelia, also without any problems. There were also a large number of smaller casual trips and the car stood the test all along! After all that I became confident in reliability of my car and we made up our minds to go to Baikal next summer, whatever the cost.
“5000 km return! One needs more than a month!” some friends who seemed to be ready to go but gave up the idea would often exclaim. There arose a question: Whom to go with? My old friend Slava [SQ], who at that time had his engine laid up for repair, answered the call.
I read some records/reports about similar journeys and started preparing our route. I was very impressed by the report by Dmitriy who had made the whole way to Sakhalin and back in his small car. I also read a number of reports written by bikers about a moto-festival in the Baikal area. After all these stories the main aim became closer and didn't seem to be as weird as initially thought. I equipped myself with Google and Yandex maps, and a big Russian road atlas given to me for my birthday once, I revised my country's geography and sketched the route. Afterwards I used Yandex to locate some interesting places we could stop in so as to see our Russia and to get acquainted with the locals. On our way back we planned to visit “The second Off-Road Festival” that took part in Altai. It would be a bonus after seeing the fist at Lake Baikal. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me with working out my plan; for the prompts, advice and guidebooks for the Baikal and Buryatia areas. It helped a lot!
A general route looked like: Moscow – Kazan – Kungur (caves, one days stay) – Ekaterinburg – Tyumen – Omsk – Novosibirsk (one days stay) – Krasnoyarsk (one days stay) – Irkutsk ( service inspection) – isl. Olkhon (one days stay) – Irkutsk – Arshan (springs, one days stay) – Ust-Barguzin – Allah (springs, one day stay) – half-island St. Nos (one days stay) – Ulan- Ude (one days stay) – Irkutsk – Krasnoyarsk – Kemerovo – Belovo – Barnaul – Aktash ( the festival, 2-3 days) – Barnaul – Novosibirsk (service inspection) – Omsk – Ishim – Kurgan – Ufa – Almetyevsk ( visiting relatives, one day stay) – Samara – Toljatti – Penza – Ryazan – Moscow.
The whole month’s journey will be approximately 15000 km.
You can ask me: “What about your work?” This was no real concern.. Slavik, being one of the owners of a PR-company, could get a month holiday, whereas I had just sold my photographic studio business. I was tired and needed some freedom and enlightenment, which I thought could only achieve through a complete change in environment and for this I needed to go far away from Moscow.
A month before the journey I took my car to a mechanic, where I had the axle bearings replaced, the oil changed, the clutch and the brake plate (with block) renewed. I also replaced my huge boot with light Toyota-railings to hold spare parts. I plugged the upper beam and repaired some inside stuff like the burnt-out lamps and standing light switch. I took spare filters, brake pads, rod ends and bearings, just in case.
Departing from Moscow
At first we planned to depart on the 25th of June, then postponed twice before finally leaving on the 30d of June at about 10 pm. The weather was nice, it was still light. Soon we reached the Gorkovskoe highway and drove at 100 kmph in the direction of our first stop, Kazan.
We still couldn’t believe we had made it out of the city. Have you ever noticed that to live in Moscow is to exist in a system that doesn’t let you free for a second? The daily routine for most people is: home – work – home – work; Monday – Friday – Weekend. And the thing is that no one wants to change anything! Hardly anyone wants to look outside this closed circle. They think that they are stable and satisfied with their lives as they are. It was my first epiphany that day after we had crossed Moscow Round Highway – just how much “the system” restricts and individual's talents and doesn’t let them develop. Why does one need such an existence? “You are free to do as we tell you!”
While thinking about it we covered 800 km distance and at 8 am we arrived in Kazan.
Solitude, light traffic, and the rising sun met us in the city. We didn’t plan to stay long. In the centre of Kazan we found the Kazan Kremlin. Having driven around for sometime, we parked the car all the while being observed by the guards for the museum, which was nearby. We wanted to find somewhere to eat and to sight see.
Amazing! No people! Everything around was white and clean! Flowers blossomed, windows in old buildings glistened in the sun, and a half moon on a mosque’s top shone brightly. I can’t even describe it in words; you have to look at our photographs. We spent half an hour in the Kremlin and, following the guards recommendation, we decided to take a look at the Kazan underground. Next to the Kremlin there was the station “Kremljovskaja”. The decorated walls and ceilings, and all of the station itself were, in fact, all very extraordinary! What's more, there were no people! Only a bucket in the centre of the station with water dripping into it disturbed the peace. A train arrived. Everything seemed so unusual and interesting. Stations were announced in two languages and at every stop you were thanked for using the underground.
Afterwards we found ourselves on Kazan “Arbat” (a long walking street). We noted some features it shared with Moscow's Arbat. There were small benches, street lanterns, and many shops along the street. We had a walk along “Arbat”, dropped into Mcdonald’s to have some breakfast, walked along old lop-sided buildings and reached the Kremlin again. Meanwhile, more residents appeared so we got into the car and drove in the direction of Izhevsk. The road from Kazan was good generally despite being bumpy at times. We didn't notice how we had left Tatarstan and reached Udmurtija. And at the very first check point I was stopped since I hadn't stopped at a “Stop” sign further back. The policeman asked us where we were heading , why we were driving the kind of car we had, gave us a traffic ticket and let us free. Everything was systematic and they never elicited a bribe! Moreover, the officer warned us to drive carefully in the heavy rain forecasted for the area. I didn't actually believe him since there was only 100 km till Izhevsk and in Kazan it was extremely hot!
I should have believed him. As we came closer to Izhevsk we got in such a downpour that the road became a river and the wind was so strong that we couldn't even drive in a straight line. Even the windscreen wipers on the highest setting couldn't cope with the wind! Some drivers stopped on the side of the road and switched on their hazard lights, however we couldn't afford to stop, so, we crept very slowly onwards. I paid particular attention to people getting saturated in the rain outside as they walked. It was not long until we realized that instead of being in Votkinsk, we found ourselves in Sarapul! It had stopped raining by that time and the sun finally appeared. The surroundings appeared to be so pleasant! We realized that we had deviated only 50km from our intended route, but we didn't care, we just needed to get to the opposite side of the river Kama.
We paid 100 rub for a ferry. One of the natives helped us to find the highway to Kungura, the second stop of our journey where we planned to spend one day and visit the “ Ice cages”. The road from the ferry to the highway was excellent! It's a new highway with little traffic and unlike many of the roads in Moscow, it was smooth! On our way we saw a house and a man nearby. It turned out to be a cafe! We couldn't believe it! It was so outlandish. We asked for directions and went on our way.
As we approached the area of Osa the road began to worsen and since it was dark it felt even worse. Trucks were creeping along at 10 km/h speed. The road was fine near Kungur, and at 4 am we reached the city.
Kungur, “Ice cage”
We stopped and asked a police officer for directions to somewhere where we could stay. Following his directions we found a hotel called “Iren” through the set of traffic lights before us. It was right in the centre of the city and cost us 700 rub per person, per night. The rooms were very good having both a TV and a refrigerator. Since there was was no warm water we could not have a shower to warm ourselves up. The cold water didn't seem to be so cold after a few beers.
In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel canteen and left for the “Ice cage” , 20 km out of Kungur. We paid 500 rub for a guide and entered it.
It was a real fairy tale! It was +30C outdoors and 0C inside. We saw why the guide had asked us to bring jackets, but thinking we wouldn't need them we never took them in with us. After ten minutes we realised we would so we returned for them.
It was amazing! Crystals grew from the crevices. One could see huge lumps of ice around and begin to understand how water could freeze to form huge stalactites, stalagmites, and high vertical “organ pipes”, which had been cut through by the water in stones. One could hear drops falling and springs flowing. Ice melted when tourists breathed. After walking a bit we arrived at a recess where there was a lake. The water was so transparent and glassy that I thought the reflection of the ceiling was a big hole, and the stairs that led into the water was some weird metal construction hanging in the air. In one of the recesses the guide switched off the light and said that in several minutes one would become disorientated in such a dark and unknown place. It was true! I even lost myself for a second. It felt like you were in outer space.
After the “Ice cage” we got back to Kungur and took a look around the city. It is an interesting city where one can find a lot of old buildings and soviet billboards. Many places had been renovated and one could see how the town could accommodate tourists. I really advise you to visit Kungur.
In the evening, while drinking beer, we uploaded our pictures. We were shocked to learn that our friends from 4x4 club had made a bet on whether we would complete the trip! How dare they? I thought! One of our friends had already made his bet. We were determined to make a successful return even though we had only covered 1500 km and still had 13000km ahead. As long as the car went forward, so did we! Being in such a jolly mood we went to bed. Novosi tomorrow.
Ekaterinburg – Tjumen – Omsk – Novosibirsk
We woke up at 9am and made to Ekaterinburg. On our way we saw the waterfall “Plakun” close to Saksun village, a receptionist in the hotel told us about it. But there was nothing special about it , and the waterfall seemed to be taking its origin not in a river but in a spring. The waterfall is 3 m high, the spring comes from a big metal pipe through the road and falls down. Close to the waterfall we met some young guys who were blowing up floats and catamaran (?) . One of them told us it was a summer camp where they had real fun by floating on (?) the river. We liked that it's better than just to be in an ordinary camp sitting in a room.
We came to Ekaterinburg in the afternoon, we moved towards the center , had snack at “Rostik's” and went further. We liked the city. The streets were clean and thoroughfare, there were many beautiful buildings, and it was really green! The weather was sunny. I hope we will come back to the city to go sightseeing since there are lots of interesting things to see and to visit. But now we are going further!
We spent several hours in the car driving a good road and found ourselves in Tyumen. It was 11pm and all shops were closed , the same for snack bars. We couldn't find a place to drop in. We went through the city, everything looked so gray and poor, some drunk guys in the street. We bought some ready salads and left the city. We decided to eat them outdoors but we couldn't stand so many mosquitoes which didn't react on anti mosquitoes spray at all, they just glued to every part of our bodies. So we made up our minds to hide in our car and go.
The whole night we were driving and reached Omsk at 8 am. The only thing which annoyed us during the way was these intrusive mosquitoes since they adhered to the windscreen. We had to stop and remove them somehow and while wiping them away they got glued to you more and more! So we arrived in Omsk stung by mosquitoes. Headlights could hardly beam and we saw mosquitoes' corpses on our windscreen. And suddenly it became foggy. It chased us from the very begin of our journey for a reason. For the first time fog had appeared before we reached Kazan and there began looming some people and stood on the verge and gazed somewhere. In Omsk we experienced the same. What did these people want? And if any, were they people? So if you see fog wait for “figures look like people”. And after fog disappeared all of a sudden we saw gyps and so many! Everywhere : at a filling point, in a city, on a highway. Gyps hunted us everywhere till Irkutsk. After Irkutsk they , by the way, were followed by buryats. And buryats are...Well I forestalled a bit, but I 'll tell about them later.
Omsk in the morning was full of traffic jams, foggy and the natives were gloomy. We were stopped by a traffic policeman. Slava drove my car so he gave the policeman his license and a registration for my car. The policeman looked at us forbidding and demanded I should show him my passport. I did but was a bit shocked because he was too strict. We had been stopped several times while driving but no one had asked to show my passport in such a situation. Everyone was always friendly towards us , they used to ask about the journey got interested in my car. But this time it was too severe. The policeman just added some negative.
Following road signs we reached a highway leading to Novosibirsk, a very good one. But it was foggy and we crept slowly. In 150-200 km it cleared up and we drove further with a normal speed.
We reached the city at aprx. 5 pm , called our friend Oleg (Grom), met up and accommodated in his apartment in Akademgorodok. Hot water instead wipes, tasty food instead “Doshirak-crap”, a bed instead throw-back seats – wonderful! In the evening we met up with one more Nissan club members (challenger), chatted a bit in a cafe and left for our flats. Two sleepless nights during the way affected me and I perceived everything not as I wanted since I wanted to get more emotions, to go sightseeing.
Early in the morning we had some snack and visited the nearby museum of Siberian Railway. There are so many different trains there! Some modern trains, some old ones which were constructed and built in the beginning of the century and different wagons. I liked one wagon, inside it one found ordinary seats and windows and it seemed to be a normal train, but there was a sign hanging on it: “ wagon for cattle”. People had a difficult life that time! I was amazed by a huge snowplug which could cut snow at 5m hight. We wondered greatly thereat by a big railway tank-car for carrying fluid iron. There was also an exhibition of old cars where one could find the car “Pobeda” and “Moskvitch” , a bit further one could see some military vehicles and off-road vehicles as well. “What a good museum, we haven't even paid!” - exclaimed we because we entered it from a wrong side. And when we were about to leave some old woman-watcher noticed we didn't have any tickets so she sold us them for 70 rub one. It was useless to deny. We were disappointed. When we got into our car and went to the Obsk see , then had some snack for not a very democratic price, had a walk along the coast and came back to the city where Oleg organized a very interesting cultural route for us in the center of Novosibirsk.
The city is big! You can find everything here! Parks, cultural centers, shops, different services, a number of monuments and beautiful places. We liked it a lot! On the way to Novosibirsk we had noticed a lot of right-handed cars that seemed for us extraordinary. Moreover the cars were pretty ok though old. We recalled our government had wanted to forbid driving such cars. But how? It's unreal.
In the evening after sightseeing we dropped into a small shop where one could buy ready food. (Grom praised it a lot). It was tasty and cheap, but the thing was that we bought lots of products and the shop was about to close so we were told we could sit in a nearby cafe since they had some agreement between. Naturally we were turned out with doors because it wasn't allowed to bring your own meal. It was high time to use a fold -out table my parents had given me as a present. Having accommodated ourselves right in the middle of a street and being looked at by guardians and passer-bys we had a very tasty supper. We felt so satisfied and full that were not already angry with the hosts.
We decided to leave for Krasnoyarsk at night, so we needed to have our car a bit repaired. We went to Grom and he fixed our splashers and collars which were stale(?).
At 4 am we ended up with fixing, gave a lift to Oleg and made our way to Krasnoyarsk, we had to cover 400km distance. We chose a shorter way , Oleg had advised us. At first it was a paved road, then it became worse and later we found ourselves in a field with many puddles which were so deep that we doubted we were moving in the right direction. Only our navigation system helped us and led to M53 highway. Actually we hardly ever used our navigation system, our Pocket PC was enough for listening to the music. The main thing is to feel good and satisfied, and road signs can help you find the road.
From Novosibirsk to Krasnoyarsk
The road was mostly pretty good though not without small potholes. Closer to Kemerovo the road became absolutely bad. And there arose another problem: the natives who outranged us in fog without lights. Several times we had to stop on the verge to let them go.
Approximately at 10 am we reached Kemerovo, where we saw really interesting semaphores in orange colour. Not bad actually – one can see them from the distance, since now and then they can be unnoticeable. We drove through the city center and following road signs went in direction of Krasnoyarsk and listening “Infected Mushrooms” drove further. There were 1500km left till our main aim and we felt good!
City after city, village after village. Time ticked, wheels flew and we didn't notice how we reached Krasnoyarsk at 7.30 pm. We didn't have any city map as usual and orientating ourselves by the sun and traffic we were moving towards the center. While driving we noticed a biker who waffed us and we stopped for a short talk. The young guy traveled on his own and originally was from Saint-Petersburg Region. I was impressed by him since I had read some travelers' books about motocycling for long distances but having covered such a long distance by car I was a bit shocked by how many problems they face starting from showers and huge vans and ending with potholes. No, I'd still prefer a car, it is comfortable and safe though there seem to be some positive moments in motocycling. The guy told us about buryats and Altai-natives and advised us to avoid them when they walk drunk at night. He said he was going to Altai not for the first time and once he had to come back with a broken leg after communication with Altai-natives.
Judging by his stories we were about to meet with some crazy natives we were eager to look at. Having wished goodluck to each other we went further to conquer our country.
On our way to the center of the city I called some hotels I had found in the internet before and I was a bit shocked since the prices were 1500-200 rub a person for a “a cheap room”. I found several stickers “Room for a night” and called these numbers but there was something strange about them and moreover they situated far from the city center. Then we inquired by a taxi driver who showed us a cheap hotel at a corner of a street.
700 rub a person, TV, refrigerator, shower and WC on outside the room and soviet style apartment – it is “Sever” hotel, which is situated on Lenin street. Having parked our car close to the entrance and given 100 rub to a guardian who was supposed to watch our car we accommodated ourselves in a small room where one wasn't able to squeeze between two beds , where there was only one socket and a window still was so thick that you could sleep on it. We were getting hungry so listened to the guardian's advice we went to “Kalinka-Malinka” cafe that was already closed then we dropped into nearby “Crep-Cafe”.
There was a large choice in a menu card where one could find dishes for 100-200 rub and I without hesitating ordered “some meat and potatoes”. Slava did the same relying on me. It was really tasty. A stake was big and fine grilled. The only thing made us wonder – the bill for 1700 rub. Having examined it we found out that the waitress had chosen for us the most expensive dish...
The next day we devoted to sightseeing in Krasnoyarsk and neighboring areas. We had a very tasty dinner in “Kalinka- Malinka” and went to check hydro-electric power station in Divnogorsk. I recall once I saw a link with fotos of lifting appliance for ships. Coming closer to the hydro-electric power station we saw IT! We were amazed. Having crossed Jenisey river we stepped up to the viewpoint where we could see the whole dam. Someone said that concrete used for this construction could be enough to make a road from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk. I'd say it could have been two roads, such a creation we stood in front! We took lots of pictures even our car in front of it and only later noticed guardians running towards us with guns. “It is a secure facility you are not allowed to take pictures! Go away!”. To our question “What about this touristic viewpoint?” we got an answer : “ If tourists give money, then you would be allowed..”. No comments. It was another one enlightment – money over vice even at secure facilities.
We came back to the city and almost fell into a hatch right in the middle of a crossroad.
We left our car and suddenly there started raining like cats and dogs. We had to hide in some small shop , I bet they get much money when it rains since people kept on running there to get a shelter. Some of them couldn't even get inside so they walked further or jumped across puddles - they didn't have anything to loose , they were dripping wet. At first we saw dressed people, those walking from a foot bridge, then there appeared ones in bathing suits – those from a beach. It stopped raining and there were not so many people, we walked along the bridge seeing on our way either torn flip-flops or or broken umbrellas. We took pictures of the bridge and came back to the car.
In the evening we checked our car and found oil leakage from different slits : in a gear system of the front axle and in a gear box. We didn't care about the front axle that much but we should be careful about the back axle and the gearbox .
We had to buy some necessary things to fix it, but there was nothing around and the only one shop “Svyatoslav” was closed. And even a biker whom we talked to after having called his friend got a negative answer. The city was about to fall asleep and we decided to check up “Svyatoslav” to buy all this stuff and after all to fix the car in the morning. Moreover next day we had to cover 1500 km distance till Irkutsk and it was dangerous to drive the car with the low oil.
The next trip around Krasnoyarsk added to our collection some more pictures of old buildings and amazing monuments. We were hungry but except round o'clock shop there was nothing to have a snack in and we had to buy pizza with dark beer and after having eaten it, uploading pictures and chatting in Nissan conference we ended up this difficult day in this way.
At 11 am we checked out and came to “Svyatoslav” but...we didn't find what we were looking for so we had to go further at our own risk.
Krasnoyarsk – Irkutsk
50...100...200km... We had already reached Kansk but there was nothing like a real service center where we could fix the carright before Kansk we stopped at alleged service center and saw huge military radar stations which were spinning around and moving. Some native guy from this service told us it was space surveillance and tracking system. One of a garrison commanders had told there was a big bunker underground where there was much installed equipment and a big screen. One could see every moving object on it. Amazing! We couldn't help but took several pictures. I hope the military guys wouldn't be angry with us.
Following the advise of this guy we drove to Kansk and found a good service center. For 100 rub a guy Vasya helped us with this small crash. Now we know for 4000km we need aprx. 800Ml of oil, so we had to add more every time.
We lost the main road and were looking for about half an hour the right way. Behind us there followed a touristic minibus with Kazakh numbers they also seemed to have lost the way. So we cough up a van and followed it till we found the right way.
After Kansk the road became vey bad. So many big potholes, concrete bays and corrugations.
After Taishet there ended paving asphalt and the road became gravel. At first we thought we would never reach Baikal and our car would hop the perch right there. It was really unbearable to creep at a speed 10-20 km/h and see stones smiting upon the windscreen. You couldn't even drive behind a van because you were unable to see anything in front, dust was everywhere. At our own risk we tried to pass as if we were blind, those cars driving towards us pulled up to let us go. We were jumping, jiggling and it seemed we were inside a scrooping can.
But it wasn't that bad as it had been described by some of the travelers before. After 20-30 km of a gravel road we enjoyed going on a paving asphalt then again gravel, then asphalt...Either you creep or you burn up the road. But it means they build a highway. Hopefully in a couple of years it will be rady and we will forget about this gravel nightmare. The whole night we were struggling with the road and in the morning were on a highway to Irkutsk, in Irkutsk Region. We had stopped only once to have a rest and a cup of coffee.
At 11 pm we were in Irkutsk, so we spent 24 hours from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk though I had estimated 2 days. Thereby we saved 4 days and were ahead of our plan. But we realized we would definitely need these days: the landscape and regions were getting more interesting and we could spend the time on sightseeing.
Irkutsk – Olkhon
Finally we found a decent service center where changed the oil in the engine. Since I had all this stuff with it cost us only 150 rub. Cheaper than for 300 rub you would never get your oil changed in Moscow! I also fixed the identification number which was about to be lost. It would have been really funny if we found ourselves 5000 km away from Moscow without the number.
Afterwards we were in the city center, had some snack, walked a bit and decided to check a Chinese market.
Chinese are weird. You could hardly understand what he was talking about while offering some crap to you and even if you tried to tell him something he didn't listen and kept on talking nonsense. We bought balloons for our heading and I also purchased “China original” shorts instead those I had forgotten in Novosibirsk at Grom's where it had been written “Turkey original”. The shorts as the Chinese were weird. They seem either to machine them blind or while they machine they are bitten by someone, everything is just skew-whiff. I brought this chinese masterpiece as a remembrance with.
It was already midday and we had to go further to Olkhon island. It is situated in the middle of the lake Baikal and one can get there by a ferry that is a stumbling stone between natives and tourists. On the island we had to cover 30 km distance to reach Khuzhi and find Bencharov Place, where we wanted to stay for the next two days.
Without knowing if there was anything to buy on the island we bought beer and food in the city and made our way towards Bayandai straying as usual along the streets. Flat landscaprs changed into hills, roads became flexuous, there appeared passovers. It was a little bit till Baikal. Our mood was getting better and we realized our wishes came true. Everything was behind : 3 years of our planning, discussions, examining of maps, pictures, somebody's reports and arguments about what car to drive, moral training and technical equipment, different thoughts and hesitations, our relatives' and friends' feelings. And we were there despite anything, 5000 km away from home and coming up to the legendary Baikal. Dreams come true!
Having such positiv thoughts in mind we were driving along flexuous roads. Hills became higher and they were covered with pines or fresh green grass. We liked a nice place close to Jelantsi village where flew a small river and everything around was so green with picturesque stones and sunshine. No and then we had to pull up and creep along gravel roads. We had to be careful about the suspender – it would have been a letdown to get broken on the way to our main aim. The natives were brave and didn't even slow down. Half an hour it took us to get to the last passover.
Yes! We got it! A magnificent view of Baikal and “Olkhonskie vorota” strait greeted us. One could see a ferry in a distance and shores of the lake. We were about to step up to a ferry and there were only 4 cars ahead but there came a garbage track, a bus and we had to let them go. While they were in a ferry there came some more cars – and we had to let them go as well. While waiting 2 hours we got acquainted with some guys from Angarsk who had already had holidays on Olkhon. They told us about the natives who walked around the town drunk, about this ferry since there had been cases when women were about to suicide to not the natives be the first on a ferry , about strange people who used to collect money from tourist for visiting the island whom one could actually ignore. They also told that only 2 years ago the island was provided with electricity and the development had become quicker. While talking we didn't notice we were next to step up the ferry.
Cars were parked so close to each other that there were only several sm inbetween left and when the ferry float the cars move like on ways. But they don't adjoin.
It took us 15 minutes and we found ourselves on the island. It was amazing: landscapes!when I had planed our journey I had seen Olkhon on the map but I couldn't imagine it was so big and with so beautiful terrain. This central town Khuzhir where Bencharov Place was situated was 30 km away. But before to go further we had to take several pictures with Baikal in the backround to show in our conference to make all these office managers envy us. Oops. There appeared my exacerbation concerning Moscow society, but well it is behind.
We walked around the island, saw a picturesque bay, took pictures and were about to post them but there was no reception. Cell phones didn't function on the island and we had to come back to the ferry since there was a spot where we could catch the reception. We informed our relatives we were on Olkhon, sent sms, checked our emails and moved further. We needed to find some accomodation.
Bencharove Place was easy to find, we followed some natives' advise. Though it was pretty late there were a lot of people in a lobby of a hotel. 500 rub a person and we were accommodated in doubleroom apartments where you wouldn't find anything except for electricity, 2 beds , a stove and a wash stand. After having had some rest in banya and eaten something like “barley porridge” with beer we decided to have a walk, look around and enjoy the nature. It was quite busy I'd say. There were lots of youngsters who lived on the second floor and were pupils from “Denis School”, Irkutsk school of foreign languages. Giving there were enough foreigners staying on the island the pupils could have some linguistic practice.
Having notice some new “victims” in a cool off road we became the object of their interest. So we got acquainted with the representatives of the school.
They were Cool Artjem, Ivan – the first – the forth, Crazy Tanya and Lena from Chita (we gave them nicknames but didn’t explain them). It’s useless to describe what we were talking about, one could recall what topics were interesting when one was at the age of 14-17. Only one person drew our attention – it was an American guy whom we talked with interest to and I practiced my English.
This guy travels around the world on his own. Either he goes by plane or be train, or someone gives him a lift. He came to Europe from the USA, crossed it and got to Russia and there happened something really bad to him. His travel cheques which he had used to cash everywhere couldn't be cashed in a right way in Russia and he had to stay without money. Being nearly flat broke he had bought a ticket to Irkutsk on some discount-price and got to Olkhon. Now he lives here, somehow without money. He waited till someone gave him a lift to Ulan-Ude and then he would go to Mongolia after which he would get through China to North Korea and Japan. From Japan he planned to finally get to the USA, back home. He said: “I have only 200 bucks and I need to get to Japan”. We were amazed by adventures of this young guy, who worked as a system administrator in the USA. We even envied him since everything was so smooth during our journey, neither car really broke nor we got lost….Just boredom. Spending our time with the youngsters and discussing life we drunk all our beer and towards morning left for our apartments.
We woke up at 2 pm and got upset since breakfast time in a canteen had been already over. We tried to persuade a lady who supervised everything to give us something to eat, so we had a very tasty dinner though it wasn’t included in our bill. I want to express my gratitude to those who work in this canteen otherwise we would have to eat this “Doshirak” again. On our car we found a superscription “Fools” on the wind screen – it was definitely the youngsters’ trick. Having collected our stuff in the hotel we like “fools” went further to the north part of Olkhon in order to visit Cape Khoboi and village Uzuri where the nature was supposed to be even more beautiful.
By the way there is no paving asphalt on the island at all. Till Khuzhir you have to go on gravel and then through fields. Since the weather on Olkhol is mostly good and it's always sunny the roads are also in a good condition, not washy. So it means one can go there by car everywhere, only once we saw some car had got stuck but one can definitely find a by-pass route. We put two and two together and decided to bleed a tyre. It became easier to drive and we could even drive 100k/h on gravel, but from time to time we got some bumping!Wow!
It took us about an hour to get to Uzuri, on the north-east of the island. This village itself is a hydroelectric station, it means that everyone who lives there are just workers. We left our car and had a walk to a hill, took pictures of landscapes, marveled about hyaline and transparent water,, walked along a stony shore and drove further frightening nosy gophers, who can simply cross the road when you drive.
Cape Khoboi is on the very north of the island, the road ends aprx. 300 m away from the final point. It is the most beautiful place, a sightly eminence which greets a 360 grad view on/to Baikal. The landscapes are absolutely different: hills turn into large fields, fields fall down as cliffs, from the left side you can see the cost of the lake, in the distance through weft -Saint Nose Peninsula, blue sky and white clouds and around you there is the cleanest lake on the Earth and so much space. Only these views were worth visiting and covering 5000 km!
We came back towards evening and while drinking some spirits we continued our conversation with the youngsters. In several hours after confecting stories and laughing I left them, but Slava kept on fabulating and the most impressionable guy Ivan – the first – the four trusted everything.
At about 1 pm we had our breakfast and dinner as well. That day we planned to visit Tunkinskaja valley and village Arshan where one could find a lot of springs. Before leaving we had visited rock Shamanka where one could find many tourists, some natives selling handmade things and artists painting the landscapes. On our way back we also met up with the guys we had got acquainted with on the ferry, ate fish soup and finally bathed nearly in Baikal – in a bay where the water was even warmer. We spent half an hour on a shore and took salty fish and made our way further, to the ferry.
We were the 14th in a queue to the ferry. It headed out and came back, two times it stopped and waited for something. While we were waiting for our turn I managed to walk around, take pictures of some natives' graves which you can see on the hills, meanwhile Slava talked to a taxi driver , who had moved to Olkhon from Irkutsk and was absolutely satisfied with his life there. We were waiting for 5 hours and then found ourselves in the ferry. On the shore we saw a big queue from touristic buses. Good bye Olkhon! We liked you a lot!
Tunkinskaya valley, Arshan
300 km separated us from Irkutsk, and we didn't noticed how covered them. Following taxi drivers' directions we went to the city and in the darkness we reached a notch somewhere not far from Kultuk. I was fined be a policeman since for I had overrun in Shelekhov and we were also warned to be more careful on the passover because there were lots of rapid scents and downhills. We had heard it about this passover before from VladSafari whom we had called before our arrival in Irkutsk. He said the passover was extremely difficult since “when you drive high the engine overheats, when down – the gearbox.” But in reality it was not so frightening even in compare with the passovers in Sochi. That's why we didn't notice how we overcame it – we had to slowdown only once because of a car accident.
It was raining, the weather was crying.
We reached Arshan at 4 am and it was foggy and it was drizzling. Having made a trip around the village and frightened some native drunk guys we didn’t find any place to stay at – either it was booked out or closed. The natives were somehow aggressive judging by the way two women slured to a simple question where the resort Energetik was. So we made up our minds to leave the village and sleep in the car somewhere far from the road. Our supper consisted of beer and salty fish from Alkhon.
When we woke up we saw someone’s dog eating the rests of our fish. Around one could see landscapes and the mountains. We planned to stay in Arshan for one day and go to the springs but there was no sun and it was drizzling so we decided to go towards the village Mondi which was situated on the very border with Mongolia. While I was taking pictures of the landscapes Slava allowed some native buryats to make fotos with our car .
On our way back we saw some weird monuments and cows who stood right in the middle of the road and didn’t move at all. The weather got better close to Mondi and we hoped it was also good in Arshan so we decided to come back and find a place to stay at till it got dark.
We came across some resort for children “Sagaan-Lali”, one part of it belonged to children and the second turned out to be something like hotel where one could book a decent room for 580 rub a person. There was also a balcony with the view on the territory of the resort.
After having some rest we went to check these springs. One of them was not far away and there were some tourists around it. Someone drunk out of it, someone washed his feet…I tried the water and it tasted absolutely nothing. Just some trick for people. We got disappointed about it and dropped into a small café where wanted to taste some national dish called “posi”. Actually they tasted like Russian “pelmeny” they were just a bit bigger and one could see boiled meat inside. By the way you had to eat it with your hands. Slava and I stated pelmeny were tastier and more hygienic.
We spent the night in «Sagaan-Dali» and in the morning made our way to Ulan-Ude. It was the first deviation from our route since after Arshan we had planned to go to the village Allah, in the north-east of Baikal. We changed the plan because of a heavy rain in Tunkinskaja valley and for the first time during our journey we decided to check up the weather in the internet and we had it right: it was sunny in Ulan-Ude and in Allah such a weather was awaited in 3 days . In half a day we found ourselves in Ulan-Ude and stayed at “Buryatija” hotel.
We stayed in a double room. There was a shower unit, a lavatory, a refrigerator and we also had a real soviet wired-radio outlet! And it really worked and broadcasted their native songs. From our window we could see the biggest Lenins` head-monument. For all these pleasures we paid 700 rubles per a person. We checked into the hotel for 2 days. In the evening we went for a walk and the first place we visited was the local «Arbat». Though the weather forecast on the web had promised no rains, it started to rain. That’s why we had to go to the nearest supermarket to seek escape from the rainfall. While buying beer and pistachio nuts it stopped raining and the sun came out. Happy and satisfied we continued our trip.
The local «Arbat» was very much alike in every particular with the Moscow Arbat. But it turned to be not as long as ours. While we were gazing around the street finished. Its length is only 500-700 meters. At the end of the street there were different old buildings and churches. On our way we noticed different posters with various religious communities like «GANGARIES. The religious community of voodoos». So after our walk we went back to our hotel. On our way back we bought bear and potato crisps to make our evening more interesting. While approaching to our hotel we noticed Toyota and two persons around it, they were doing something with the car. We decided to get acquainted with them.
They turned out to be a nice couple, Frederic and Josephina had already been for a year in a journey round the world by this Toyota. They began their trip from their native country Belgium; they went through the whole EUROPE then Africa. From Africa they went to Japan by sea, by a ferryboat. They went through the whole Japan, afterwards went to Vladivostok, and again by sea and them made a real cool dash to Yakutsk and from there to Ulan-Ude. Cool! It was really cool. A journey around the world is my second dream after Baikal… After sharing impressions, after discussing the way they went through we shook hands, wrote down their contacts and went to the hotel. And they stayed to pack their bags to continue their extreme vacation!
It was becoming darker. According to the stories we had heard from people we used to meet there were supposed to come out different ghouls which hid themselves under the masks of drunken Buryats. These ghouls, according to the stories, were ready to tear to tatters anybody, any tourist, they were even ready to tear to tatters themselves… it didn’t matter for them who it was; the process was of more importance. Of course I wanted to watch this, so I took several bottles of bear and went outside, sat on the stairs of the hotel to wait for THEM…
The first ghoul appeared in 15 minutes, but it turned out to be not a ghoul, even not a Buryat, and even not drunk. It was a man of middle age who was quarreling with a woman on the phone, which hadn’t come to him on a meeting. Then there came another man, they talked for a while about different usual things and went each their own way.
The second ghoul didn't also looke like ghoul. It was an ordinary man, not drunk. He saw me and asked what I was doing there. I answered something like: “Nothing” and he sat next to me. We sat in silence. Each 10 minutes he phoned some lady, and between these every 10 minutes he also phoned his wife, whom he had left at home with their sick son. In a very sweet voice he was saying something like this: “honey, don’t worry, I’ll be home soon.” In 30 minutes appeared a woman called Mahsa, which looked like a real sex-bomb and they went to the hotel. Behind of me he left a bottle of Gin Tonic, not opened.
The third man I saw was a real Buryat. Nothing interesting. He was trying to persuade me to buy real golden watch for 500 rubles.
Then a couple drew my attention to. Vasiliy and his wife (I can’t remember her name) were real Buryats. We talked till the first streams of the sun. They told me about different places I should visit, about beautiful places I should go, about their difficult life in Ulan-Ude. We discussed relations between native citizens and tourists. We talked about life. They sang me 2 or 3 native songs. It was a nice night, we had a nice conversation, while talking we were looking at people in the street…
The morning and the following day were good. The sun was shining and we had big cultural plans. We planned to visit the Buddhist center “Rinpoche bagsa” on the outskirts of Ulan-Ude, then to visit Ivolginsky and Gusinoozorskiy Datsan. They are located in a dale surrounded by the mountains – very picturesque. The new Datsans (Buddhist monasteries) are being built, and Dalai Lama himself visited Ivolginsky Datsan in 1992 and encouraged local people to continue their religious practices.
“Rinpoche bagsa” - is a new Datsan. It was founded in 2004, and we could see it clearly: the fresh painted walls, new windows and doors, everything around it very nice and clean. Inside you may see an extremely big golden statue of Buddha. There are also special places for monks. Everything inside is covered with carpets and different things or their religion. An extreme number of security cameras and tourists from different countries killed the filing that we were in a saint place. So we didn’t stay there for a long time and went to Ivolginsky Datsan, 25 km away from Ulan-Ude.
In an hour we reached Ivolginsk. Ivolginsky Datsan surprised us with its size. It is amazing. Nothing common with the previous Datsan. The first thing we saw was a little market with different souvenirs. The number of tourists was bigger… we entered the territory of the Datsan and walked for a long time between different buildings and temples. We made a great deal of photos! The main Temple surprised us with its luxury and variety of decking. A great amount of different things seemed to melt with the Temple, it seemed that they were part of it, everything was in harmony. It was great! This Temple was different even from our Christian churches. It felt comfortable here, like home. These things I never felt in our Christian churches. But unfortunately Ivolginsky Datsan was a very touristic place and it seemed to loose its absolute purity. We bought some souvenirs and continued our trip. We went to Gusinoozorskiy Datsan, the second name Tamchinsky Datsan. This Datsan is situated 150 km away from Ulan-Ude. The road to Datsan was quite normal, but the more we drove away from the town, the worse the road got. After a while a policeman stopped us. “Inspector Berdikberdikov. The reason why I stopped you: trite interest”-said the policeman and smiled widely. We talked for a while, he told us about the road and we moved further. Soon the asphalt finished and the road changed into gravel. After jerking along for 30 minutes we reached our goal. Gusinoozorsk looked like a big village, quite gloomy. You could still feel here the spirit of the Soviet Union. Barbed wire attracted our attention. It was almost on every fence. Maybe it’s not safe here. Nevertheless we found the Datsan that interested us. Dead buildings in the middle of the town… gates were not closed; doors and windows were batten, nobody around. Dead silence. It was like in a very scared movie. Strange… according to the web information and different guides this Datsan was supposed to be a functioning Datsan… we could notice immediately that it was an old building because of the condition of the doors, the floor, the small bits of plaster… This Datsan was built in 1741 year. The dead silence invited us to look in, to see, what is inside... But it was impossible. After making some photos we went back to our car and then left this mysterious place. The way to the hotel took 2 hours. On our way back I topped up the oil in my car.
In Ulan-Ude we called Igor Valentinovich, he was supposed to come to Ulan-Ude next day. We asked him to connect with his brother, because we had problems with our car. We had to buy new heater plugs. So we agreed to meet next day. At this point we finished our impregnated day.
In the morning we left the hotel and went to the local History Museum. A long story about the history of the region, great expositions of local and Buddhist culture, introduction to main laws and values of Buddhism cost us only 100 rubles. We paid the money to a guide who was happy to tell us about good and bad, white and black in Buddhism. Now I understand why monks spend all their life studying religion.
While walking around the museum there came Aleksey, the man that was to repair our car. In 30 minutes he finished and we took direction to a village named Alla, it’s to the north-east of Baikal. There we were supposed to find thermal springs. We didn’t know where we would live, but that was even better! A real adventure!!!
The roadway “Ulan-Ude – Ust-Barguzin – Alla”
We left Ulan-De at 5 p.m. and about 7 p.m. we were already on a ferryboat that took us to Tataurovo. Asphalt finished and the road changed into gravel. The same story. We decided to let air out of tire, the same we did in Olhona. It was better, but still the car jerked along. Ust-Barguzin is 250 km away from Ulan-Ude. The second ferryboat was waiting for us there. We reached the place we needed only 5 hours later. Of course we hoped that the ferry port would be opened, but… the night was far advanced, so we decided to rest and to sleep for a while. Slavik as usual slept in the car and I slept just on the shore in my cozy sleeping-bag. I slept under the sounds of the wind and the water!
In the morning we topped up the gas tank with diesel oil (the most expensive diesel oil on our way- 21.50 rubles per liter) and went to the other bank of the river Barguzin by ferryboat. Full of energy and in a good mood we drove to the Barguzin Valley. While we drove the mountains began to appear, but on the both sides of the road there were trees that hid from us the beauty of the mountains. I was afraid not to make some photos of the mountains. But soon we approached the forest and a beautiful valley opened its magnificence for us. On the left side of the road we could see hills covered with green grass. And there, thruough that grass we saw small quite ground-squirrels. On the right- we saw how the river Barguzin occupied the territory, coming down the bankers. On the islands around the river we could see horses and sheep and, what is interesting, no stockmen around. The sun was shining and you could see the fleecy clouds in the sky!
And so the road went and went until we reached the village Kurumkan. We found a hostel with very law prices just in the middle of Kurumkan. 300 rubles for person.
When we wondered about hot water the hostess smiled and said: “well, you`ll have hot water only after you boil it yourselves in a pail.” Our plans changed and we decided to go straight to the village Alla, hoping to find a more comfortable place.
When we reached Alla we realized that it was a poky hole of a place. But very interesting and unusual. There were tumble-down houses, dirty children paddled in mud. Although on our way we found a piece of civilization. It was a new built park with little asphalt roads and pretty benches. There was a football field on which the cows were put out to grass. All the shops were closed, although it was only 5 p.m. We followed the direction to Hostel “Alla”. On the arrow we read: “Hostel Alla. WELCOME”. Civilization? Just in the middle of the forest? After a while we saw a man and a woman, they were the hostesses of the hostel. We got acquainted and they gave us a room in a small house.
The Hostel itself consisted of 3 houses. The first house was divided into 4 rooms and a small canteen where stood only 1 table. The hostesses lived in the next house themselves, and the third house was not build yet . The hostel was situated just on the brink of the mountain. There was another small house which looked like a real banya (baths) and in the middle of the room there was a hole in the floor, from which the hot water of the geyser jetted out. The smell was awfull! Near the banya we could sea the river Alla, coming down from the mountains. The water was cold, but clean and very tasty!
In the evening we were invited for supper. We had a very delicious mutton-soup. Then we had tea with milk. At that moment there were only several people in the hostel: hostesses Torshik and Rimma, their niece Vika and her grandmother. What a grandmother! Being 80 years old she moved with the energy of a young lady. She smoked cigarettes and drunk vodka with us. Late at night she danced and sang songs, so nobody could make her go to bed. Well, I wish everybody such a strong health!
Before going to swim to that hot geyser the Torshik made us fullfill one native custom. We filled our glasses with Vodka, then sprinkled it in the direction of three mountains (three gods), then sprinkled it on the stones of the fire and then drunk till the end what was left in the glass, saying thank you to Gods for everything we have. Then we went swimming, leaving Torshik and his friend to pray to Gods.
For the first several minutes I thought I would die because of the smell of the water. It smelled like addle eggs. It is the peculiarity of sulphuretted hydrogen water. But after a while I got used to this smell and it became easier to breath. I took off my clothes and entered banya. What a feeling. It was so cool! And the water was very warm! And if in Arshan there was a special construction through which the hot water poured THEN HERE THE WATER POURED RIGHT FROM UNDER THE GROUND. No constructions, no pipes, no tubes, the water came from the ground and tickled my feet. Near the banya there was another geyser from which the water also poured and it was not so hot. This water is good for different kinds of stomach diseases. We tried that water and really felt much better!
After all those cool procedures we sat for a while with Torshik and finished our resources of “Stariy Melnik”. Late at night there arrived a school bus and Torshik was very annoyed that they arrived late at night since he was waiting for them in the morning.
While Slavik was sleeping I went down to the lake to make different beautiful pictures. What an amazing nature! Fresh air mixed with the sounds of the forest and the river! What a picture! Rize up your head and you’ll see beautiful rocks with green hills! You are surrounded by big pine trees!!! Snags on the ground, bugs, and little lives living in their own world… what a picture!
Afterall I decided to observe my car and to repair what I could. Oh my God… there was really much to do…
That day we decided to go to the Saint Nose Island. Saint Nose is the only large mountainous peninsula in Baikal Lake. Igor Valentinovich with his team was already supposed to be there. We somehow knew the place where we should meet, but still we argued to call out with them. Just for a moment imagine, that “MTS” and “Beeline” doesn’t work. Only “Megafone”. It seems that cellphone operators divided our country between themselves in this way. Because in Altai we found out that in that region the leader of “connecting people” was “Beeline”. So, while traveling around our country you should buy sim-cards of each operator of our country! Of course clever people will advise us satellite communication, but, ladies and gentellment, sorry, the price is a little bit different…
So, before leaving to the Saint Nose Island we had to pay for a night, supper-breakfast- dinner. When we arrived we didn’t settle the price. We planned to pay an average price. What a surprise for us was to pay ONLY 150 rubles for both of us! And this is for food, for bed, for a good company! Such a fairy tail!
Saint Nose Island, Chivyrkuy bay
It took us three hours to get to the Saint Nose Island. In order to enter the national park we paid 160 rubles and moved further. And again I was surprised by the large territory of the island. When I saw it on the map it looked so small, it seemed that I could drive throughout the whole island during an hour. But we were already moving along the isthmus for half an hour. And the other half an hour we moved into the direction of the village Kurbulik. This was a difficult trip because at the beginning it was an upward sloping road and then the road was falling gradient. If it rains it is practically unreal to move along this road. Those, who go up the road, ask to get out of the car, and when the car goes down a log is being tied to the car… such an adventure!
When we reached Kurbulik and to our disappointment we found out that the phone didn’t work here because of the distance! No phone, no connection. Questions: “Have you seen Nissan here?” to the native population didn’t help us at all. In order to call Igor we had to go back to the isthmus approaching that difficult road.Damn it! I had only his “Beeline” number, which didn’t function here! All right, we had to fix a camp ourselves, but we got upset we couldn't meet our friends… and… then the phone rang up and I heard Igors` voice! Since the connection I asked him to send me a sms giving us the coordinates of their location. Using the navigator we came to the bank of Baikal just right to their car! We were very happy and glad! That was because we met our friends and also because that was the last point of our Baikal Trip! At that moment 8000 km were behind us. Everybody is alive! Everybody is ok! So we decided to drink for that and have a rest for a couple of days. “All-Russian off-highway festival” was waiting for us! That was kind of a bonus! And this is more than 3000 km at a stretch!
Next several days we did nothing. We toasted on the beach, gathered mushrooms, in the evening sat near the fire, talking about life and all other things. After sitting near the fire and getting hot of the fire I even probed the extremely cold water of Baikal. I should say being as sober as a judge I would never do that. In the daytime Igor repaired his car, there was really much to do.
These two days the weather was perfect. But, unfortunately the place we had chosen for our camping was not very good. The thing is that in the morning the water was still cold and when it was supposed to get warmer the shadow of the trees prevented the sun to warm it. And besides, the window was blowing one hour from one side, the other hour from the other side. That didn’t let us swim. The other thing I understand after beer! The water after beer is warm! I was also surprised by the lack mosquitoes. Maybe they were blown away by the wind? I don’t know. Or maybe the gulls had eaten them? There was a great amount of gulls! We made really good photos, good pictures for a book or a magazine «Nature».
The third day of our stay on the island was the last one. After dinner we planned to go to the Festival in Altai. But in the very early morning we decided to visit the Ukshanii Islands. We planned to go there by a small ship. The thing that interested us there was the Baikal seal. (I specially bought good lens for this purpose, Canon 100-400 ISL). Igor Valentinovich found a ship with a captain, settled all the questions with him, found some more tourists to go with us and there we went! It was so exiting to go to the savage scenery of Baikal! We were looking forward to meeting the wild black animals with big eyes. In Siberia they are called “Ushkans”.
At eight o’clock we started our trip! It was a cool ship. I mean there was a cabin and all that stuff. Inside we found a gas stove, a sink, a latrine and a twin bed. At the bow there was a parasol. Several chairs and a table - all for your comfort. The speed of the ship was 13-15 km per hour. A whiskered, wildly smiling man was our captain. Two teenagers helped him with different things.
The open Baikal was more impressive then it was near the bank. The wind was colder, even if you wear rain coats it was cold, it was really rolling and I felt sick. After the trip I had different mixed feelings. On the one hand I like this kind of a trip, on the other hand I felt tired and exausted after it. I don’t know, maybe because I’m strange to such kind of trips.
It took us three hours to get to the Ukshanii islands. A unique park with extremely wild, beautiful nature! And there was an ungodly number of ants! They were everywhere! The guide took us to a special platform from which we could see those mysterious animals… we began to wait. While we stood on that platform it looked like they felt our presence and were afraid to come out. One, another, but only their little nebs. The group of tourists went back to the ship and I was left alone… I was waiting for them. And again, it seemed as if they felt everything that was happening on the land. They realized that everybody had gone and returned to their normal life. They went out of the water several times so I could make good pictures. Cool. My mission was completed. Hooray. Satisfied I returned to the ship.
On our way back the weather was better, it was already midday, the sun was shining and it was not so cold! After returning on the bank we said good buy to everybody and continued our trip. Now we were taking course to Altai.
The biggest interval (Saint Nose - three thousand km-Altai)
We were on time at the first ferryboat, but we failed to catch the second one, so we had to find a special twenty-four-hour ferryboat. So we began to look for this ferryboat. It was a real adventure, we could see nothing because of the darkness and after a while we turned left and… got stuck in the mud mixed with the water… damn it… but it turned out that we were on the right way! We only had to full the headlights what meant we want to go on the other side of the river. Yahoo! 120 rubles a person and we are on the other bank.
In the morning we reached Irkutsk and drove through it. While being in the town we observed different beautiful small houses. It was really a nice town. Then with the help of some man we found the highway we needed. There happened something with our navigator and according to it we were somewhere in a snowed valley. Thanks God some kind man helped us and we were driving to Krasnoyarsk.
For about week and a half we traveled along Buryatia! And what we saw? So many different things, nature, people… the territory of our country! It is so big! So huge! So many people we met! And I should say that we saw practically nothing. To understand, to feel the atmosphere we should spend more than a week in every place. All the people we met - they were so different. Sometimes very kind and open, ready to give the last piece of bread, sometimes ordinary alcoholics, who lost their faith in their country. Muscovites are different, they are something of the golden mean, it seems that they are ready to help, but then they think: “why do I need to help everybody?” Of course you, my dear readers, are the kind of people who are always ready to help, you are not angry with the life, but we are in minority.
Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts… meanwhile behind us there were hundreds of kilometers. Suddenly there appeared rather an old man on a bike on our way! Could you imagine, he was on his way to Baikal, he started his trip 35 days ago from Poland! Such an extraordinary man! To go to Baikal by bike! One needs enough courage to do such a thing! We made a photo with that heroic man and wished him good luck!
Another 100 km we were saving people. There were three troubles on our way: one car got stuck in mud and so the next two. We did our best helping them and continued our way.
We were ready to save anybody again but after half an hour we needed help ourselves. My car “exclaimed” strange sound so I had to get out of it and do some repairing. Again.
At about 5 a.m. we reached Krasnoyarsk. It was early morning so thanks God nobody saw 2 dirty tired men. We found our hotel “Zarya”, entering the hotel I exclaimed: “Good morning lady, we had already been here, and we liked your hotel, we are very dirty and tired, so we want to have a shower, will you help us?” The hostess was really surprised, but gave us the key from a room and we coulndn't wait taking a shower! Fresh and clean we continued our expedition.
The lady reminded us of our little debt and we paid her 100 rubles for her brilliant work- she let have a shower!
The way from Krasnoyarsk to Kenmerovo was really good. The road “Belovo-Barnaul” was really ideal. No halls, no hills, well planned and built! But we had to pay: 20 rubles for an ordinary car and 60 rubles for trucks. No ferry tales about free roads in our country!
The inside screws.
Approaching Barnaul something happened with the car. This time we had really big problems.
Just picture to yourself the place where our car broke. A road almost in a desert. No trees, no lamps, no people around. Dead silence. Different cars passing us, mopeds, drunk teenagers driving those mopeds and nothing else. “Padjero” stopped and two guys, who were also going to the festival, offered their help. Using their car we tried to find a shop to buy the necessary stuff for the car. It was really hard to find a shop and it was harder to find the necessary things. We thanked the guys and they made their way further to the festival.
Another car stopped, another group of people going to the festival. They lended us their flashlight and after half an hour we took of the wheel group!
Anyway we moved slowly, reached the nearest road traffic accident station and fell asleep till morning.
In Barnaul we found a good shop where bought everything we needed and followed our course to the all-Russian Festival of special utility vehicles!
Closer to the festival we met different cars with different stickers. Fields grew to little hills and then big mountains. This was the Chuya highway that i`ve read so much about! The road was ideal, great mountains and rocks, the river Chuya, hawks… what a wonderful picture! We decided to make photos on our way back. Now we were driving to the festival! We were a little bit late for the opening of the festival, we missed the regular procedure of making a collective photo of all the participants of the festival… well, ok, but we were pleased we did come to the festival. Alive and happy!
The Second Offroad Festival, Altai
Well I should say I was very pleased with the way everything was organized. Everything was done with love and every detail was taken into account. The food, the drinks, the music, the competitions! The organizations of the festival had even built special lavatories for us. Everybody felt the atmosphere of a party, all because of good organization! There were even stairs going down to the river for a convenient enter to the water! Parasols, tables! It was really nice!
After dancing a little we went to bed. We slept right near the scene, thanks God the music stopped playing at 1 am so we were able to have a good rest. In the morning we watched the competitions and went to banya! Clean and fresh we walked around our campus, making pictures of the nature and of ourselves!
The competitions impressed me a lot! So, I’m ready to write about this super-mega competition! First of all the driver was given a mask which he was supposed to wear. He saw nothing. The man that seats near the navigator exclaims smth like: “To the left! To the right!” saying this he kept the driver in the right course. After passing by a special road section the eyes are opened and the driver is given a pneumatic gun. He is supposed to touch the spot in a given target. After he has to kiss any girl in any place he wants! After the navigator had that mask on, he had to drive 30 minutes with his eyes covered, afterwards pass the water and in the end organisators met him with a bottle of beer! You are supposed to drink this beer carefully, not losing even one drop! The mask doesn’t let you do it carefully. After drinking you go back to the car and drive to the finish! Well, what I should say! I drove the car with my eyes shut, shouted, kissed hands, drank beer and had a GRAET DEAL OF FUN! THAT WAS REALLY COOL! REAL DRIVE!
In the evening, having drunk a pretty deal of brandy we needed fun! And there it came! Disco!
I don’t remember what was going on at the disco quite well, just because I saw only somebodys’ hands in the air and several altaians among ordinary visitors of the festival.
Meanwhile we met our friends who invited us to go to Teletskoe Lake next day. We didn’t plan to stay at the festival for the whole week,so we agreed with pleasure!
I was sleeping in a tent that I had fixed last night somewhere in the bushes… and … Oh my God!!! All my legs, till the kneels were dark grey!Since it got dusty while we dancing we also got dirty! In the darkness you couldn't see how dirty you were.
After breakfast our friends, sleeping in a tent close to ours found us and we went to the plateau Ukok, which was close to the borders of Kazakhstan. On the check point we had to give the permission we were heading there, but we failed, because the policemen decided that Slavic was a Ukrainian spy. So we went back and our friends continued the trip without us!
On our way back to the campus we made a great number of photos! I can't stop repeating: “What a nature!”
In the campus we met those guys that had helped us when we had got stuck in mud. That time we were in time of need, and this time they asked us to help. Their car broke and didn't want to move. We agreed to meet with them at 11 in the morning and take them with us on tow.
GO HOME! Through Almetievsk!
We left the campus with our friends on tow. We moved carefully and slowly.
Everybody told us it would be difficult to move with the car on tow, but we did it! Going down the road their car, being heavier and bigger, went first, so to say we controlled them. The guys even liked it!
The next pass Seminskiy we passed in the same manner.
All the way we were moving 80 km an hour. Once we had a stop to have supper and buy some food. The guys bought us some honey, saying thank you for the help!
In Biysk we were stopped by a policeman, who accused me of my driving at a high speed.Then he asked another policeman: “How many do you have? Only seven? Take that car,”- and pointed at Padjero, the car that was on tow. Strange thing… how can they accuse the driver of Padjero if it was on tow?
When we reached the center of Biysk we left our new friends and went our own way.
I made an interesting conclusion: driving 100 km an hour we spent 16 liters a km and driving 60 km an hour we spent 13 liters/km. How could it be?
On our way home without having a sleep for almost 20 hours we decided to stop and have a little nap. 20 hours and 600 km! That was a real record for me!
At 1 pm we passed Novosibirsk, at 9 pm we were already in Omsk.
All the way we were trying to find a service center for our car.
Some guys helped us to find a service center “Fenix” and we were there for almost 2 hours. We called our friends with whom we were at the festival and agreed to meet with them. We also phoned Igor Valentinovich and also agreed to meet with him. When everybody met, we organized a column of three cars and drove into the direction of Moscow.
In Chelyabinsk our way drifted arart. Igor Valentinovich with his family stayed at Chelabinsk, our friends went to the service center and we went to Almetievsk, to the grandmother of Slavic, she was already waiting for us! And banya as well!
Bashkortostan road is another story. I’ve never seen such a picture before. Every km there were policemen who were watching after the cars in the monocular. No way to overcome a car. Because of that the traffic heavy!
Almetevsk and further...
The city met us with lonesome roads and policemen. We were stopped by a policeman and checked our documents. And to our innocent phrase «We are from Moscow, have covered 15000 km and now are heading to grandma» he reacted weirdly. He seemed to think something like: «Hm...two guys unshaven, stinky, in such a car...and there is only 1000km to Moscow ... And it’s 2am…. But all the documents are ok. Smells fishy, but nothing to find fault with...» So he had to let us go and we saw him watching us leave.
Grandmother didn't sleep, was waiting for us. We had dinner, spent some time in a banya , where we got disappointed about out teint which had disappeared. But it was great in the banya with gold beer. And you sleep so soundly after banya!
We slept really well and woke up after midday. We packed our stuff and while Slava showed pictures to his grandmother I checked the car and fix some things. Towards evening we left for Samara. This time we followed GPS since there were extremely many roads in Almetevsk and we could get lost.
We passed Samara at night and saw a night life of the city. Then we moved towards Togliatti where we doped the car with the cheapest fuel – 10 rub. It was foggy and one could see a big moon. We passed Sizran, towards morning Penza where for the first time after Almetjevsk we could find some radio waves which helped us to fight with sleep. The Ural mountain were behind and we saw familiar fields and forests. The weather was the same but there was still something differen, something what separated us from this life in behind the Urals and here in «Europe». Maybe it is not the weather but the people?...
Right after we left Kazan one could feel Moscow was close: traffic jams. We were driving along Ryazanskoe (Moskovskoe) highway. The traffic became heavier since it was Monday morning. In several hours we were in Bronnitsi. There were so many vans closer to Moscow. We were looking for the road sign where it would be written «Moscow» to finally end up our journey and take a picture, but after Lyubertsi we didn't notice it and like heroes crossed Moscow Ring Road.
The journey was over and I was a bit upset. There must be some chimera as it was with the trip to Baikal during 3 years. Now it came true and it was replaced by some new more interesting ones. The enlightment has come! We should make consequences. At least in my head there happened some small revolution and now I perceive things differently and find some new meaning in the world around without paying my attention to unnecessary things.
I wonder what will happen with me after a round world trip? Starting collecting maps...
the car – Ford Maverick GLX, 1995, TD27, reduction gear by UAZ + 33” Cooper Discoverer ST
the distance – by odometer 18596 km, if taking into consideration the ratio of gear – aprx. 17000 km.
Diesel oil – 2377 liters.
(the cheapest in Togliatti – 10rub/l, expensive – in Ust-Barguzin– 21.5 rub/l)
Diesel oil costs – 39463 rub.
Time– 30 days
Penalties – several times 100rub (high speed), two times 500rub (opposite way)
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