Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The morning is cold and windy as we pack up the bikes and no else is about, cant blame them. Having the fresh air run through me is a welcome relief. When looking for a place to stop and eat.....Rule of thumb here - It does not matter what the place looks like, if truck drivers are stopped there you know the place has good food. This morning is no exception the place looks run down outside but there is trucks parked up so we pull in. The inside is warm and clean with smiling faces and did I mention these places are cheap too. Inside security monitors mean you can watch your truck or in our case the bikes outside while you enjoy your food.
I changed my gloves for the winter ones as my fingers are frozen, never thought I would actually have to use them. Even the cold can't detract from the scenic beauty of the lake and surrounding hills. We are following the lake around is southern shores as we head to Irkutsk. By the time we stop for lunch the wind has dropped off and the clouds gone bringing back the sun and the warmth.
Irkutsk - another vibrant city of people and traffic and finding our way through was hectic. Our destination is not Irkutsk but the small tourist town of Linkvanka on the western shores on Baikal. As if in a movie and being played on cue another helpful motorcyclist rolls up on a Yamaha 850 turbo and guides us through the maze of interesections and on to the road which leads us to Linkvanka.
This place is what J'ean was expecting to find in Ust Barguzin, boats, hotels, tourists etc. J'ean goes into the local info centre to some ideas on accomodation and sights to see while I stretch my legs and let the blood flow back into my bum. Along the dock side are an assortment of souvenir stands, the water is like glass and the boats sit perfectly still in there moarings.
Returning with directions for accomodation that had our budget in mind, J'ean shows me on the map and we go in search. Its while looking for this recommended place that we meet a couple standing in front of there place and show them the map and ask if they know where it is? Instead of directions we get asked if we wanted to stay at there place. Nikoli and his wife run a homestay type accomodation and the place is a maze of rooms and stair cases, you would never have guessed from the street. With his VW Passat parked outside and our bikes in the shed we go off to explore this small tourist haven.
Of all the places we have been this is definitly the only place we dont stand out, everybody here is a tourist and you can not be pigeon holed by the clothes you wear or the way you look, provided you dont open your mouth.
Kebabs for me and smoked fish from the lake for J'ean followed by a delicious russian icecream that had mini marshmellows in it.
We hit the 5000km mark today.
16 June Wednesday Linkvanka to Camp 7
Waking up in a room that has a homely feel is a nice change to the drab interiors of cheap motels or the confined space of my tent. Amoungst the other guests staying here are a French couple who we meet at the breakfast table. Nikoli is getting ready to run them back to Irkutsk to get back on the Trans Siberian train, more train travellers. I may look into this train trip at some point in the future but only as far as Ulan Ude, apart from Khabarovsk there not much past this point that has a lot of interest to me.
Leaving Linkvanka our plan was to get lunch in Irkutsk and have a look around. The traffic and roading suggested otherwise even with the help of three local guys, who suggested we follow the cable lines of the trolley buses. Lunch ended up being a late affair at a diner on the outskirts of Irkutsk. It is at this diner two young boys, maybe 6 or 7 years old, ask us where we are from. It's amazing, they cant speak english but the way they spoke Russian and phrased their questions, we understood them, it was a delight to talk with them, they too are on there way to Moskva (Mosco)
Not all days are full adventure and sightseeing while you are on the road. Some are just getting from one place to another but if you remember that it is a road trip, the things you see along the way are often just as good as stopping for hours in one place. Think of them as a collection of small skits (like a 10 second movie)
Here is a few of mine.......
Power pylon in the middle of a fesh water pond, people swimming in it....imagine a power short to earth.....Bzzzzzzz
3 sports bikes flying past at some high speed each giving a toot or a wave, then parked up on the side of the road, waving as we go past......
Guy and a girl parked on the side of the road, she sees us and starts jumping up and down and clapping.....
Kids in the small towns running to the edge of the road to see you and wave......
Road signs that point you in the wrong direction.......
Life is full pictures you just have to look back and recall the moments sometimes.
17 June Thursday Camp 7 to Krasnoyarsk
This camp site has the biggest and hungriest mosquitoes we have ever seen. We broke camp in record time and didn't even make a coffee.
You know the rule of thumb thing about the trucks..... we stopped at a small cafe and parked out side on display, sort of, where two old classics. A WWII Russian Kaz and a Russian Chev look alike. (Ok so I dont know the name of it)
Inside the diner all the tables where getting served food, although no one was sitting at them. Thinking that a wave of morning truck drivers are due in we ask if we can order. We get a table out ton the verandah and it's not truck drivers going in but women with scarves over their heads. Its not until I see a couple men with small caps on that I realise it is a communial breakfast for a religious group. Confirmed by the prayer they were holding outside as we leave.
As we travel across this great country, there are many things we see that are not so good, I for one am not going to critisize nor am I going to try and remember them for every place has its downside. However.... Kansk... will be forever stuck in my head as the worst inner city roads, worst signage its all but non existant and worst path through the city. Kansk is also the base for a fleet or squadron, what ever you would like to call them, of Migs (Russian jets) Up on a hill and very visible from a distance are the radar and communication dishes and right beside the exiting road is when you see the tails and other parts of the migs parked. Explosion bunkers obscure a full view. We both decide it is not a good idea to stop and take photos!
Krasnoyarsk, sits on the banks of the Yenisey river and is quite spread out, in fact when you look at it when coming in you wonder where to go. Sitting at roundabout interchange our first local helper arrives. Pulling up beside me asks if I have a light for his cigarette. My first thoughts are 'Ya ne kureet" I no smoke but instead of talking I hand him a cigarette lighter from my tank bag. Our local smoker just happens to be an off duty policeman and happily puts onn his hazzard lights and escorts us to town. This brings to us our second pair of helpers a husband and wife (please excuse the fact that I dont remember all there names) who while speaking a little english, decide it is also easier to show us to our destination. The motel we are looking for is temporily closed but at least now we have a reference point to use with our map in our Lonely Planet book.
I dont know what the reason is but the motels in Krasnoyarsk are all but fully booked and this is where our third saviour comes in. Although helping us was not his first intention it was certainly the biggest effort. At first he was just curious and asked a few questions and then asked if we had any New Zealand coins which I gave him a $2.00 one and he left quite happy only to return 5 mins later and help get us sorted with a motel. Two hours of his time and a lot of bargining had us a room at Hotel Ogni Yeniseyya right across from the Yenisey river.