Dink Shrink Lake
Trip Start Jul 16, 2010
11Trip End Dec 25, 2010
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I brought about 2 weeks worth of meuslix from Japan - I figured food would be a hassle (and it has been), so starting the day with what I'm used to seemed a good idea. Have mostly been able to pick up bananas, yogurt and milk along the way. I've now caught a cold to boot, though scrounging through my meds I find benadryl, hallelujah. I hope my role of tissue paper sees me and my runny nose to Irkutsk
Saturday: Arrive early AM Irkutsk. Still cannot get money from the ATM, using up my emergency dough. Transfer immediately to Lake Baikal guesthouse. Nice little room, although the bed is so saggy it could qualify as a hammock (SBR +1). Rains all day. Ate guesthouse breakfast - REAL food finally: good cheese, bread and rhubarb jam to blog home about. Napped till 1:00. Wandered out and up the valley next, to a little art gallery where I bought a couple of catalogues of a guy named Sergei Aloian who seems a cross betwen Russian icon painting and Klimt. Guesthouse only provides breakfast, so I end up eating meuslix for dinner
Sunday: Beautiful day at Baikal. Ate huge breakfast (on this trip: when you can eat, gorge; when you can shower, do it twice a day - you never know when the next chance will be...). New philosophy is big breakfast and no lunch - one less hassle to figure out. Nap after breakfast, then PM hike to top of local ski hill for view over lake. Nice hike. On way back I take a swim in Baikal, which is supposed to add decades to human life (possibly by killing off the weak) - EXTREMELY cold. I had originally considered swimming out to Shaman Rock, a little rock jutting out in the lake about 400 meters from shore, but seeing as I was entering rigor mortis 15 feet from the bank, I decided to let it go.
Found a cafe in front of guesthouse where I ate Omul soup, a potato pasty, and blueberry mufin. Doesn't get dark until 11 PM. Still ruminating about the point of travel. I'm probably thinking too much, just supposed to mindlessly goggle at big builidings, but, like, is it supposed to be "Fun"? Educational? Meaningful? What balance of hassle and pleasure? Is this even my idea? Not really - perhaps the whole take-a-year-off-and-travel-the-world-staying-in-dives-and-eating-potatoes is just some scam targeting indyhippie wannabes by Lonely Planet. Fuck, I can't even communicate with the locals. An hour of Cartalk or a day snowboarding would give so much more pleasure. Guess I'm bored. I hope this doesn't end up a colossal waste of time and money.
Monday: Another beautiful day. Slept late, ate much. Did laundry in tea-colored (though very hot) sink water (it's like a differential equation from uni! When does the yellowness of the water outweigh the cleansing properties of its extremothermicity?)
Found out where my guide worked and asked her for directions to a private art gallery in Irkutsk, I'm intent on finding this Aloian dude's works. She knows of no art galleries in the whole city (I was about to suggest the yellow pages, but then I thought, Oh, it's Russia they probably don't have the yellow pages (the Red pages! Ha ha ha!)... WTF, of course they have phone books in Russia stup). In any event, I invited Lena to dinner after work (hey, the date with a guide thing worked in Mongolia) and she kindly acceded and we had a nice dinner. Forgot to get a picture of us - she was cute! Anyway, forget about cheap eats - more than I would have paid in Japan... Slowly though as I move West things are becoming more European and less feral. Woops, culturally insensitive statement.
Tuesday: Manage to find an internet cafe. For some reason the signposting in China and Russia sucks. I guess this is what you would expect from Communist/ex-Com countries where you would never actually WANT people to find your office becuase that would just create more WORK (but no profit)
Head off to puppet theatre which is closed for July (hey, I can read the program in cyrillic remember) so I saunter through the park, which has COWS in it (I don't like cows much, as I was once somewhat attacked by a herd of them, but that's a different story...), which I don't imagine would work at Kenrokuen. Head off to intersection of Marx and Lenin to read on a bench in the shade. Wish I had a bike. Or a skateboard, even though I don't know how to ride a skateboard. Anything with wheels. I hate walking. Find a buffet style place and in my usual I-am-an-ape mode point and grunt and get my food. Head back to Superdive and manage to sneak in a shower in the basement before being picked up by the taxi, which proves prescient given the 3 1/2 day train ride to Moscow sans shower (I actually didn't smell too bad on arival, it was pretty cool most of the way). Pass a huge art gallery on the way to the station; Yellow Pages, Lena, Yellow Pages
SHORT ESSAY: Running water
There's a reason for the collocation "running". Still water (ie, in a basin on the train) is difficult to wash anything. The train requires one hand on a spring loaded handle to keep the water running, making things tricky. A tap - what a luxury! Learning to appreciate the finer things in life. We see that people in China and Africa have mobile phones, so they can't be THAT undeveloped, but this is merely a phenomenon of technology - much easier to build a cellular network than a water system. Which would you prefer to be without - a cell phone or running water? There is a theory that Sumerians became the first highly developed civilzation because they came up with a system of canals - an eye opening theory when I first heard it, but seems obvious now. Water is nice. Clean water is wonderful.
Wednesday: All day on train. Read (Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point), do cryptic crossword with my carriage mates George (or is it Herbert?) and his wife Glenice, listen to Cartalk (alas, but one show remains...) Gaze out window - by far the most beautiful landscape so far, like something by Monet. Rolling hills of open fields and silver birch forests and wild flowers and paths leading into forests - fairytale
Thursday: Mystery explained: the name is George Herbert, which explains why he didn't mind if I called him George or Herb (I figured 50% was good). These 2 Kiwis have been teaching English in China for 7 years - clearly the adventurous sort even in their 50s. Ozzies and Kiwis are the best travelmates - laid back, unassuming, and a good sense of humor.
Friday: Glory in excelsis culo! My guts are finally back to normal. Close inspection of schedule provided by Monkey Business (train tix shop) shows that we are on the train 3 1/2 days, not 2 1/2 as itinerary shows. Food pinch, but fortunately I manage to pick up a load of good food from platform vendors this AM - butter dill potatos, raspberries, milk and potatobread. SCORE! Also realize the victuals I tendered in Irkutsk include carbonated mineral water, which I hadn't realized (I like carbonated water). This must be good stuff: "Natural drinking structured water with the contents of silver" - the copywriter must have studied in Japan! Very smoky as we approach Moscow - I see peat fires burning outside my window at one point. Need an application of structured water, I think...