The Trans Siberian – route marker 5,642km

Greetings from Ulan-Ude! Same ring as London? New York maybe? No, you’re wrong. More like Poffadder. The towns claim to fame is that it has a gigantic statue on Vladimir Lenin’s head. Ulan Ude is a shower stop for me – I can’t stomach the idea of a 35 hour trip to Mongolia so decided to have a pitstop in this metropolis.

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Leg 6 of the Trans Siberian to Ulan-Ude

I last wrote when I was on my way to another metropolis called Irkutsk. It’s one of those places I just can’t get the pronunciation of the name right – it’s impossible for me to say it correctly. The town itself – nothing to write home about really – your typical Russian town with Stalin-esque buildings of grey concrete with the occasional wooden house thrown in here and there. What makes Irkutsk a must see though is it is the gateway to Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal – what you need to know:

  • Contains 20% of earths fresh water (in other words – it’s gigantic)
  • The worlds deepest lake at a depth of 1,642 m
  • 636 km long and 79 km wide
  • It freezes over in winter (take a second to think how cold it must get there in order to do this).
  • Tasty fish called Omyl live in the lake – get one smoked – awesome!

I think the best way to try and make the most of the lake is to trek around a bit of it, so off I went on a 2 day trek to one of the villages on the lake called Bolshiye Koty. Another random fact – you can only access this village by boat or by foot. Unless its winter, in which case you can drive across the ice.

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Trekking to Bolshiye Koty

The hike is incredible and it certainly gets the Dinks in Transit stamp of approval!

It starts off with a walk through taiga forest (a snow forest characterised by coniferous forests) – it’s crazy walking through this as you’re surrounded by naturally growing trees that are incredibly tall, almost blocking out the sun. All you smell is that pine scent – I’m telling you, I could totally do a Christmas here. The negative 40 degrees may be an issue though!

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Taiga Forest

When you eventually reach the lake, you are blown away by its sheer magnitude. It looks like the sea – water up to the horizon, cliff edges, beaches! We had lunch on one of the beaches and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in southern Turkey. A bit of a quirk for me is the water is so clean, you can literally walk up to the shore with a cup and drink straight from the lake. I tried it well expecting that I may need to find a private tree in 10 minutes but all was good!

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20 kilometers later, we arrived in Bolshiye Koty. A small town, mostly inhabited by researchers studying the lake and the physics behind it. In winter, the town pretty much dies as how do you study what’s in a lake when its frozen over?

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Bolshiye Koty

Another day of trekking the next day took us to Scribber Rock – more of the same incredible views – you can’t get bored of them. After lunch, we returned to Irkutsk where I took the next 2 days ‘off’ (yes I’m permanently off Brad, shut it). Nothing remarkable here – had a haircut which was a catastrophic disaster – the language barrier struck again and instead of getting what I thought I asked for, my head got shaved and now I look like a member of the KGB. Honestly, the last time my hair was this short was at birth.

Next stop, Mongolia. I can’t wait – the Gobi desert is one of the reasons I chose to do this leg of the trip – should be great!

Cheers for now,

Dinks

4 thoughts on “The Trans Siberian – route marker 5,642km

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