Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lake Baikal and Irkutsk

I am writing this from an internet cafe in Irkutsk. I have spent a long time just guessing on which buttons in Russian to push. I hope it will post.

We had a very enjoyable time staying at a village on Lake Baikal. The weather was beautiful and the scenery very nice. The village of about 500 is located on a delta at the edge of the lake. There was little other development on the lake that we could see. We stayed at a traditional Siberian log cabin along with Derek and Carol with whom we have been together since the ger camp and Mike from Canada, Helen from Australia, and Sue from the UK. There was an outhouse, but very clean. There was also a sauna which we used both afternoons. Tamara, our hostess, cooked all the meals and we ate a lot. I found that I rather like Russian food. The first afternoon we had a walking tour of the village. The full day we were there involved a 8km trip to a fishing camp along the lake. We biked the first half and walked right along the shoreline the second half. We ate lunch at the fishing camp and had a chance to swim or wade in the lake before returning to the village. The walk was peaceful and scenic. We passed by a number of people camping. In some ways it looked like an American campground but the gargage needed collecting and cows were wandering through. During both evenings we played games, Tile Rummy and Bananagrams. Everyone was very congenial and we lightheartedly decided it was Homeland vs. Colonies. (The Homeland won.)

We then came back to Irkustsk for a 2 night home stay. Derek, Carol, Ruth, and I are staying at a flat with Olga and her husband. We have been exploring the city on our own. Olga fixes us a wonderful breakfast but we take care of other meals. We have done a lot of walking, people watching, and soaking up the atmosphere. Today we leave for the 3 day train trip to Moscow. After this internet cafe we will buy some food for the train and take one last shower at Olga's flat before our departure.

I should explain more about Derek and Carol as we will be with them a lot. We have the exact same itinerary so stay at the same hotels, have been put in the same train compartment, etc. We first were assigned to the same ger in Mongolia. Carol is a retired Spanish teacher from North Carolina and is a very youthful 73. Derek is a recently retired firefighter from the UK and is 52. He and Carol met in India on a trip a few years ago and are traveling buddies. Derek is married and Carol is engaged. After St. Petersburg Carol will go to Derek's home to get to visit Judith, Derek's wife, before returning to the states. We all get along well which is good since we wind up being together a lot.

I am assuming we will have an internet connection at our hotel in Moscow so I will plan to post more then. Hopefully, I will add pictures from our time here in Siberia. All for now.

I am looking forward to hearing how you pronounce all these very unusual names of places.
Neil gave a link to the tour company pages about your trip. I read that and can see you have a great variety of experiences.
Bob and I will have a new experience as we will be 'helping' to build a deck on our cabin this weekend. Love Byrna
Sounds like a wonderful trip so far. Don't forget to take those photos. I'm eagerly counting the days until I get all the details in person.
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