Need to make this a short one because we are off to Mongolia tomorrow morning. Up at 3:00 am picked up at hotel at 4 and on the train shortly after. Probably no Internet for a at least 3 days will be with the Nomads in the Steppe.
Yesterday my have been the best day so far. We took the Cicum- Baikal railroad around a portion Lake Baikal.
This lake,deep in Siberia, is not the largest lake in the world but close to it. It is the deepest though and holds 20% of the world’s freshwater. It is a long and boring story but the Russians had a lot of problems and used this section for about
50 years. Now it is local line with every other day service to take care of some small villages that have no other access except in winter they drive on the frozen lake.
To get to the beginning of the ride we took a ferry across the Angara River from Listyvanka to Port Baikal. A twenty minute ride. A special train runs daily during the tourist season and was waiting for us. There
were a nimbler of large tour groups but we had Lena as a guide so we had good seats and she was good. She has lived here all her life, comes from an educated family, teaches English and is a translator for UK and American companies doing business in Russia. Real smart and after she found out what our backgrounds were she became very interesting. More about her when I get home.
The train moves very slowly so you can take in both the scenery and if you are rail nut or engineering guy you get to see what they went to to get it built. Just before it was ﬁnished the Japanese started a war
with Russia and it was essential the Russians were able to get the army to Manchuria. So they tried with car ferries across the lake. That worked great until the lake froze.
They then tried an icre breaker and also resorted to laying tracks on the ice. They ﬁnally got the line completed in the early 1900’s but by then they had worked out a deal with Japan.
The line remained a part of the Trans Siberian until the ’50s when the current line over the mountains was completed between Irkustk and Sludvyanka was completed.
We stop about every half hour and they let you out on the tracks so. You can enjoy the views and and check out the construction. There are large groups of Koreans, and Russian school kids on board so it is sure nice to have your own personal guide to tell you what is going on. As I mentioned there are many villages along the line that have no access other than the train as access except in winter. At a village along the way Lena tells us we will be stopping for lunch but when the train stops weneed to get off ﬁrst and move quickly in order to get a seat.
It turns out that a babushka and her daughter run a little canteen /cafeteria just for the tourists. Our tour company has arranged a more formal lunch than others get and it is part of the deal.
The Russain translation of the village is called «half way» there are a few photos of the operation. The ﬁrst course was a great borsch soup. Followed buy a piece of fried Chicken and crepes and home made wild raspberry jam. We were the only ones to get it. This village has year round population of 9. All women. The men have all died.
We then continue the journey to the connection to the main line in Sludvinsky and the back to a hotel in Irkustk. On the way we get great views of lake as we climb the mountains.
Friday 21 September
We get a short driving walking tour with Ivan and then set out on our own walking. We need to pick up a few supplies for the 26 hour ride to Ulaanbatoor in Mongolia tomorrw morning. Along the way I guess we looked a little lost as we tried to ﬁnd a supermarket.
Two young women came up to us and said can we help? They then began asking a lot of questions about why we’re here. They lived here all their lives and were just starting their ﬁrst year at «University » what we call college. They were enrolled at the Institute of
Managment and were hoping to ultimately go to New York for an Internship. I think the real reason they stopped us is to practice their English. Rey were quite nervous but real nice. We took some pictures and walked with them a bit and we parted, never to see them again, like so many of the people we meet.
Earlier we were looking for a place to have supper later in the day and we ran into a Russian women with her two year old. After Pete said below and the boy answered back she suggested a place to eat and it.
Turned out great.
Well that it for now. Back in about three days if all goes well.