Siberian Summer Time
Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
124Trip End Ongoing
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So back in Irkutsk we had a bit of a lie-in and then planned a lazy day strolling around before having an early night ahead of our 5.15am train on sunday morning. Unfortunately this wasn't to be the case as we met Geoffrey ('Le Freestyler') and Julia from the Caledonia in town and planned to have reunion drinks that evening. We attempted to do our walking tour still but in the scorching Siberian heat (36 deg!!!!) it was hard going. Luckily we found shade in the parks alongside the Angara river where we could take plenty of ice cream breaks. Irkutsk is a very pleasant city - clean, nice wide streets and a nice mix of grandiose stone/concrete architecture with a good smattering of classic Siberian brightly painted wooden houses.
After stocking up with more pot noodles and packing our stuff we headed out for the evening to meet Geoffrey and Julia, quite fittingly next to the memorial to trans-siberian construction workers. Rather than go inside in the still considerable heat we did as the locals do and bought some cheap beer from a kiosk along with some paper 'bottle sheaths' (i.e. brightly coloured paper bags - we think this makes it legal to drink in public...?) and sat out by the river watching the sun set.
The giggling Danish girls that we had met on Train no. 2 turned up in our homestay that night and it turned out they had a minibus coming to pick them up at 4:45am which we were able to shotgun seats on. During the drive to the station the only traffic on the streets of Irkutsk was a fleet of taxis carrying western backpackers out to the train station to meet the trans Mongolian Train no. 6.
The early start did mean that we got to watch the sunrise as our train wound along the southern shores of the lake.
When we woke later the scenery was starting to change, the thick forests of Siberia were already giving way to the flat grassy plains that Mongolia is renowned for.
Well they didn't disappoint. A seven hour sweat-a-thon to get out of Russia and into Mongolia. First the passports are collected. Then the train is shunted around as they extract the dining car from the middle of the train (not sure what harm it was doing). Eventually we are allowed off (bear in mind that for half an hour before any major stop all toilets on the train are always locked until you are good distance away again).
Where I stayed