Biking begins... the hard way!
Sludyanka Travel Blog› entry 5 of 37 › view all entries
As my train pulled into Irkutsk station early Wednesday morning, everyone was busy preparing themselves for arrival. I sat back and waited until the car was empty before approaching the provodnika (the lady who is resposible for the carriage) and miming that I would like to leave through the locked, but much closer, back exit. Fortunately she understood my request. Unfortunately she made me do all the hard work, and I fell on my ass while trying to pry open the stuck metal lever. I poked my head out the now open door and sighted my colleague Zack waiting on the platform. Zack helped me unload and assemble my bike and before I knew it, we were biking through the busy streets of Irkutsk!
We stayed in Irkutsk only long enough for me to secure a Mongolian visa, which ended up taking about 3 days.
Our goal was to bike from Irkutsk to the Mongolian border, about 600 km away.
We biked about 30-40 km and the rain never let up, even turning into hail at one point! We were soaked, but I was glad I brought new rain gear, even though it wasn't a complete set. In addition to the bad weather, we had many hills to climb up.
We started late the next day, but the weather was behaving itself in the early afternoon, so we could make some real progress up the hills. After a couple hours toiling away, we reached the top of the hills and began the thrilling descent to the town of Sludyanka, on the shores of Lake Baikal. It was a fun ride down, but I had to be careful of the cars.
We pedalled a dozen kilometres or so past Sludyanka before setting up camp for the night. By passing under the Trans-Siberian railway tracks and fording a foot-deep stream on our bikes, we were able to locate a beautiful campsite within steps of the lake. The trains passed constantly, but I didn't mind because it was fun to wave to the people inside and coerce the engineers to blow the whistle. One train was even treated to some public nudity, which they all seemed to appreciate. Zack and I found stones on the nearby beach and skipped them across the waves of the icy cold Lake Baikal as darkness approached.