Freezing!!

Irkutsk Travel Blog

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biggest garfield!!

Arrive in Irkutsk around 10am and meet our new Honcho, Kosta. Off we head to our hour and a quarter transfer to the town of Listvyanka on the bank of lake Baikal. The lake is the deepest in the world and holds 20 percent of the worlds fresh water. We check into our hostel which is gorgeous!!! Little villa type arrangements with views over the lake and cute little cottages surrounding it. We had a chat about or options for the next few days, dog sledding, scuba diving (its minus 23 outside!!)  and a Russian sauna. I signed up for the sauna today and the sledding tomorrow.

After a bit of a clean up we went for a 10min walk down to the lake edge and took some pictures…it was freezing!!! Noses, eyelashes, clothes were freezing solid….

down the street
I have defiantly never felt that sort of cold!!! Oh and did i say it was windy too.

We popped into a restaurant with a beautiful view over the lake and had some Russian dumplings in broth for lunch. We then wandered back to the hostel and had some rest time before our banya (sauna).

We went in and got undressed and robed in a bed sheet, then into the 80 degrees sauna in a pine room, after time in there we came out into a cooler room and had a cup of hot tea. Back into the sauna, this time Kosta kept putting more water on the coals so the steam was much more intense, not out to put our feet in the snow and another cup of tea. Back into the sauna, this time out for a full stop drop and roll in the snow and a cold glass of water, back in the sauna and now for the good bit!!! Round one of being beaten with 2 bunches of pine branches.

our dogs
We lay face down with an option of sheet on or bare bum. First round I went sheet on and he just hits you from foot to head and back down again in varying rhythms a few times with the wet branches. It was AMAZING!!!! After a bit of a cool down and  everyone elses beatings it was my turn again and the sheet came off as I felt the full experience was needed. After that we were done, it was such a sensory overload with the heat, cold, drinks, smell, touch. So so good.

After a shower to get all the pine needles off we went into the hostel restaurant for our dinner. Salad, chicken and rice, breads, oranges, tea. The best meal any of us had had for ages!! We were all so tired by this stage we all tottered off to bed to sleep like babies

Thursday 4.

i can be an angel!
12

Breakkie at 10 and then non set off for the dog sledding, it was about minus 20 today sp a bit warmer but the wind was pretty much gone so felt like a huge difference. Walked about 50mins to sledding, we could hear the dogs from blocks and blocks away, they were so excited!!

We went in and the boys got rugged up first while the guides harnessed the dogs up. They are beautiful alaskian huskies which are bred there and trained and raced by the owners. There were 8 dogs per sled and 2 sleds so we took turns over the next few hours on a 5km run which took about 20min each. They go up to 50kmph!! We all started sitting in front of the guide and most of the guys then stood up and swapped to steer….with 2 exceptions. Of course one of them being me!!!!

We were not far out from the start when believe it or not a cat ran out across the path.

bridhe graffiti
Yep in minus 20 degrees in the middle of nearly nowhere, next to a sledding run a cat ran out in front of 8 dogs I happened to be tied to. It seems to not matter how well trained a dog is they will still chase a cat. So off the track and into the trees after the cat we go, I bailed fairly early on the piece when I saw the size of the tree I was about to be wrapped around. The next few minutes consisted of scrambling, chasing, tugging, redirecting and just a general bit of a shit fight until we were back on track.

However after a few seconds the guide stopped and signalled for me to swap with him, as you can imagine I was not thinking this was such a good idea after having just been dragged through the undergrowth but I did as I was told and got up. He told me to stand on the break which is basically just a bar that digs into the snow. Then he got off the sled and went up to the dogs, I hadn’t noticed but one of the dogs was on the wrong side of the centre rope and half out of his harness so when that was sorted out the guide came and relieved me of my breaking task (think heavy, think heavy) and let me sit back down.

the lake and me

The rest of the run was a bit calmer but I am certain one of the boys up the front had ADD as he just couldn’t seem to concentrate on looking forward!!! There was a point on our way back when we were going through tall trees with the sun setting on the snow that was a pretty special moment. Overall a great experience.

Unfortunately the other exception was when Melleah was having her turn with a different group of  dogs there was a run in with an unrelated dog, she had some pretty heavy falls and hurt her ankle, not good.

Started back to the hostel now, stopping in at a bakery on the way, they specialised in filled pastries, I got one filled with Omul (a fish unique to the lake) and one with meat called a brilash.

  Way way too yum. Weight gain here I come!!! Back to the hostel and had a rest then some of us went back out to the lake for dinner.

We went back to the restaurant we had lunch in the first day after finding out most of the other restaurants around town were closed. I ordered the dumpling soup again and a salad of ferns J also got a bottle of Russian champagne. Had to try it! It was very similar to the sparkling grape juice I had as a kid but not at all unpleasant.

Friday 5.12

Showered and fed we decided against a hike up the hill cause it was pretty overcast and went down to the local market instead.

Lots of smoked fish on sticks, semi precious stones, carvings, and onyx from the lake. Some really lovely stuff. Then as local tale demands it we went down to the lake side to dip our hands and feet in to its icy depths. Hands only 2 more years of life, add feet and it is 5 years and if you go all in 25 years for you. I managed to do hands and feet as did Jay, Anna managed to do hands and bottom thanks to a sneaky piece of ice, Scott, Blair and Tom braved it and went all in.

Back up to the hostel for our transfer at 1pm back to Irkutsk. After a wee pit stop at the bakery (rice and egg filling this time) we were on our way. Once there we had a very brief internet stop, pharmacy, soup lunch, bit of a walk and a beer. Then picked up again and swung past a supermarket for train supplies. Off to the train station for what was gonna be an 8.45pm train but it was late so didn’t leave until 9.

50pm. Got on and cracked a couple of bottles of red and chowed down on a great meat and cheese plate care of the lovely Anna. Then attempted to watch a film with a glass of cognac but when the cognac was finished so was I and off to the land of nod I went.

Saturday 6.12

Had a pretty restless night but still woke up early, spent the morning and early afternoon again reading books, chatting and generally just hanging out. At 2pm we arrived at the Russian border, 2 hours later we saw our first sign of an official, she took our passports away and didn’t come back for about another hour. Then customs came through and search the cabins, lucky for us they don’t really worry to much about searching through everything tourists have it is the locals the pay more attention to.

After all this carry on we were finally able to cross over to the Mongolian boarder. It is only about 20mins between but long enough for our rather full bladders to breathe a sigh of relief now the toilets were briefly unlocked. It was a case of repeat process on this side. A little bit faster I think it was only about 2 and a half hours on this side. Then off we went again down through Mongolia. We very briefly had a room mate who actually an off duty train attendant but she seemed to disappear fairly quickly. There were however a large collection of pretty colourful Mongolian police type guys. The head guy in particular seemed he would be more suited to the Mongolian wrestling league. He managed to get so drunk, wandering around in his long johns with belly hanging out that he seemed to think if he yelled Mongolian directly into our faces we had more of a chance of learning the language. Not the case. When we finally managed to lock him out we settled down to sleep

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biggest garfield!!
biggest garfield!!
down the street
down the street
our dogs
our dogs
i can be an angel!
i can be an angel!
bridhe graffiti
bridhe graffiti
the lake and me
the lake and me
Irkutsk
photo by: nidge76