18.07.2018 28 °C
It is pouring in Ulaam Baatar and we need to get ourselves and our luggage to the station, we take good drainage for granted in Australia but where
we have travelled within minutes of the rain starting you are wading ankle deep through water that means our luggage as well. A mini panic on the platform, as we prepare to board the train, John can't find his passport anywhere, so in the rain on the platform he proceeds to unpack his bags!!!!!!!! he eventually found it. I carried it from here on!
We are now travelling in a Russian train and were greeted very warmly by our Russian conductress who seemed to be going all out to dispel any
image of sullen Russian officials.This cabin was smaller than the last one, just two beds, but much more comfortable, we continued through Mongolia, a little more mountainous but still bare of trees and still quite a few yurts dotted along the way.
About midnight we reached the boarder, the Mongolian inspector checks all our paper work and then departs. Official people are coming and going then the Russians come on board, our documents are all checked and stamped, more officials coming and going. We are then asked to leave our cabin and a young uniformed Russian woman looking like a temptation that James Bond may encounter enters assisted my another official with a ladder, she climbs up to the ceiling and with a special tool undoes panelling in the ceiling, then pulls down these contraptions bolted to the wall either side of the door (we had been puzzled by what they may be) which became a step ladder to climb up to a space up high!!!!! The process continued for a couple of hours with officials getting on and off and other people having to leave their cabins while other things were checked. This all finished about 3am .
We awoke the next morning in Eastern Siberia and saw a large body of water to our North, it wasn't the sea but you couldn't see across to the other side and it just went on and on without seeming to end. Later we found that this was Lake Baikal the largest freshwater lake in the world - it contains 20% of all the worlds fresh water - it is stunning.
Looking out of the train we saw increasing numbers of homes, all with amazing veggie gardens in the back, there were green houses for the winter and well ordered rows of a variety of different crops. Siberia is more heavily wooded than Mongolia with Birch, Larch and Cedar trees.
We arrived in Irkurstk about mid-afternoon in......you guessed it....pouring rain, and Siberian drainage is no better than the Mongolian variety. We were expecting to be collected by our Air B&B hostess but as no one arrived and we had the address we decided to hire a taxi. The car was ancient and when he opened the boot to put our luggage in it was full of a whole pile of garbage including some old wheel rims which he just dumped by the road, we squashed in and he 'took off like the clappers'. I am sure that it had had working breaks sometime in the last century. He was diving into puddles that would wash up over the car when it wasn't being showered with muddy puddles as the other cars did the same to us.
He eventually dropped us off at some derelict looking courtyard which did not look very promising to say the least. A long tale ensued that included climbing multiple staircases in crumbling Soviet style buildings and landing in a Hostel called Rolling Stones during the recording of a promotional video,. We went to everyone in the street but no one knew the address. I then located a Hotel nearby so we made our way there, still in the pouring rain, they were fully booked!!!!
An hour later and feeling somewhat the worst for wear we found ourselves in a very nice Hotel named for the Agarra River where they were warm, inviting and sympathetic and I at last could fall into bed while John went out to reconnoitre.