Published: July 7th 2011June 21st 2011
A room with a view
The view of Lake Baikal and the snow peaked mountainous backdrop
Being met in Irkuskt by a fella resembling the likes of the 'wheres wally' character, we were put in a van and driven for over an hour to Listyvanka, the next stop on our trans siberian adventure.... Arriving at Listyvanka was lovely... you know it was sunny, we were at the worlds largest inland lake, it was picture postcard perfect, and we could have a little chill time... what more could we ask for?
We both had our heads full of cold due to Mongolias harsh weather previously, so when we turned up to this luxurious log cabin, we were elated, and quickly made ourselves home in our room for some well earnt relaxation. Somehow (probably due to the constant walking in the larger cities) my ankle had given way, and i was reduced down to a painful hobble for a few days. We thought that for the morning, we would shower up, lay on the comfortable looking beds and watch a DVD on the laptop... Brilliant!! The best plan ever!!
Being the male and carrying all the odds and ends, I went into my bag to retrieve our laptop bag which also contained the charger and a couple
Filling the gills full of smoked omul!
of external hard drives full of movies. Delving my mitts into my backpack (which acts as a closet,storage shed and gift shop all in one), I find the laptop to not be in its usual place... this is weird, so systematically, I rip every piece of clothing, souveniers, food, books, cups and dirty undies out and manically throw them on the floor... STILL NO SIGN of our brand new laptop... Im scared by this time, not at the thought of losing the laptop, but the thought of telling Stef... Not that I have much choice... shes wondering what im doing and swiftly asks... With my heart pounding, the squeaky words leave my lips 'I cant find the laptop, have you got it?'. 'Why would I have it?', she replies... and my heart sinks as she comes to help look for it... Knowing its not here, I tell her it must of been stolen on the train, and not to worry as it was only a few hundred bucks, and we would never get it back now...
Now Stef isnt the kind of woman to take this news lightly.. I feel like a naughty school boy at this time and
More culinary delights
The local dish of Plov and Shasylik
explain that it must have got stolen from our cabin in the night by some shadey Russian... Stef kicks it up a gear and says she saw my bag open this morning in the train with the computer sitting on top of the bag just before we left, and it to be more likely that when i pulled my bag from under the seats, that it fell out and is still on the train. What a bummer, and i resign myself to the fact that it is lost forever.. Well Stef aint having none of that!! She gets our paperwork out and finds the emergency numbers of our Russian contacts - surely there must be something she can do... She goes downstairs to the reception of our hostile looking host, and asks to use the phone... But due to the fact our russian voabulary consists of 1 word (thankyou), she has some major troubles. Eventually, the woman tells her to go away, and 'NO', she cant use the house phone or her mobile phone... Friendly so and so!!
Stef comes back upstairs fuming and tells me we have to go to town to find a phone and make some
Yep, this was one of the signs we could figure out - JUST
calls... Trailing behind, we make our way outside and down the hill toward the main street... By this time, my foot is severley aching, and im hobbling along like a 90 year old man with a prosthetic foot... It was killer pain, annoying and felt amazingly dabilatating. Stef was watching me scoldingly, and i tell her to run along if she wants, and i will catch up. I arrive at a hotel a good 20 minutes after seeing Stef in the foyer on the phone. After a hobble/run, i walk through the doors with a thick sweat and get the update... Stef has asked the receptionists to use the phone, and tried numerous times to call the emergency number to ask them the number for 'wheres wally' to ask him to try to retrieve our computer. After another good 20 minutes and no luck with with contacting anyone, we sat defeated in the hotel foyer wondering what to do.... About to walk out, the hotel phone rang, and we heard the girl say Stefs name, shake her head and was about to put the phone down... So with a swift sprint by Stef, she wrestled the phone receiver out of
These ex army vans are everywhere - Look ace and are 4WD - Still manufactured for their versatility
the receptionists hand and started babbling down the phone... Eventually with us using the hotel as our own office, and many a call forward and back, we got in contact with 'wheres wally' (the only english speaking person in the region from what we could gather), and he gave us some hope. He said he didnt think he would have a chance of finding it, as now it had been 3 hours since we departed the train, but would give it a go.
During the time that Stef was doing the detective work to find the beloved laptop, I had sourced a Russian simcard and got a contact number that the 'wheres wally' detective could ring us on. Resigned to the fact that the laptop was more than likely now being used by the russian mafia to launder money to Australia, we hobbled miserably back to our once bright chalet, and flopped on the bed and cried ourselves to sleep for a few hours...
With a timid knock on the door, we awoke from our slumber to find the owner of the chalet hand Stef her phone, she wearily greeted the caller, and with a smile brightening up
Chuckie wanna play??
The spooky doll left in our room at Auntie Flanges
the room, said her goodbyes and handed the phone back. The 'wheres wally' detective had told Stef not to worry... the carriage attendant had found the laptop and its contents, handed it into the left luggage section at the train companies head office, and he had tracked it down, promising to return it the next day...
With our spirits lifted, we headed into the village to check out the sights... Seeing the lake up close was amazing - Lake Baikal extends 640 odd kms from north to south and is 60km wide. It contains nearly 20% of the worlds freshwater and contains more fresh unfrozen water than americas great lakes combined. At its deepest point it reaches 1640metres, and when diving there you can get vertigo as it is so clear that you can see up to 40 metres down..
The village of Listvyanka on the lakes southern shores treated us with some typical local cuisine. We ate smoked omul (which is a trout like fish) which they smoke everywhere - up lanes, down side streets and in the markets. This combined with Plov (a rice with carrot mixture cooked in huge pits) and Shasylik (barbequed pork kebabs of well proportioned size) ensured we were full and content for the day. There was only one more mission to forfil - getting ourselves some water - Now im not sure if its been mentioned previously, but understanding Russian, decoding the cyrillic alphabet and even getting a smile off the locals was bloody hard work, so after 3 bottles of sparkling water, we eventually got a bottle of still and made our way home for the night.
After another deep slumber, the next morning we were woken by another hard rap on the door - in a pair of jocks, I hobbled to our bedroom door to find 'wheres wally' staring at me with his beady wally eyes and red beanie, and our laptop in his precious little hands.... I was going to kiss the man, but instead opted on giving $100 Aussie dollars as a reward for him going out of his way to help us!! Our day was off to a good start. We then went down for breakfast and packed up our gear and took the journey back to Irkutsk to our new homestay for the night. This is where we met a fondly named 'aunty flange..'
Now we dont know the owner of the houses real name, but she looked like an 'aunty flange', so this is what we named her. We were taken into her house which was a nice enough place to stay, and after a good half an hour, and with multiple people coming and going in the house, we thought we may just be in a drug den... We thought we should get out of the house for a while to let her business continue, so we said our pidgen russian goodbyes and headed to the towns markets.... We weren't to be disappointed. It is still to this day, the best fresh produce market I have ever seen. There was rows and rows of meat - every and any type and any part - this was followed by cheeses, breads, fresh veg and fruits, flowers, lollies, teas, and even hardware. The size of this place was enormous, and we left with our arms full of salamis, cheeses, crackers and fruit for our marathon 3 day journey on the train the following day.
The rest of day saw us enter 'The Liverpool' pub where we walked through a phone box and down some stairs to the bar. We played some cards and ordered beers - somehow - and figured out that with there list of 15 beers, only 3 were available!! Disappointing, nevertheless it was still beer. We retreated back to 'aunty flanges' drug den, and went through the night listening to comings and goings of people, and ensuring our door was shut tight.