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May 5th 2006
Published: May 5th 2006
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The farm at Krestovka, Lake Baikal, Siberia.The farm at Krestovka, Lake Baikal, Siberia.The farm at Krestovka, Lake Baikal, Siberia.

This is where we stayed for the three days. The cabin had no running water and only electricity at night. It was very cosy and homely though!
On Saturday April 29th Patrick and I arrived in Yekaterinburg station at 2am to board the next train on our Trans Siberian adventure. After a late night trip to the supermarket for some provisions we boarded the train at 3.30am. Our cabin was inhabited by two drunk Russians who scarpered when we arrived. They appeared to be having a bit of a party in our cabin so we were relieved that we were not going to be sharing the next 3 nights with them! Given the late departure time, we got down to the business of sorting out our beds and baggage without delay and fell asleep straight away.
The next day was spent in leisure in our cabin and around the train. We still had no occupants in our cabin and a day having the cabin to ourselves was luxurious! We hopped out of the train at various stages to avail of the food on offer from the platform babushka's. Blini's, sausage rolls and boiled eggs were some of the many treats available and made a nice change from the pots of noodles that we are now completely sick of!

The journey from Yekaterinburg to our destination of Irkutsk
Pulling a pint of teaPulling a pint of teaPulling a pint of tea

The glorious samovar, provider of endless cuppas.
was our longest stretch on the train, a whopping 3371 KM in total! Our first day on the train was fairly sedate, spiced up only by the arrival of a drunken Russian called Sergei who invited himself into our cabin, sat down, closed the door and rambled on in Russian for about an hour. He didn't seem to realise that we didn't understand him and after a while we got a bit tired of miming and he wandered off.

He departed the next morning at Krasnoyarsk, dressed in his Sunday best, and we waited to see if someone would arrive to occupy the two remaining bunks in our cabin. Since we are travelling second class, or Kupe, it's a bit of a lottery who ends up in your cabin. We had been really lucky thus far, but unfortunately our luck was about to change.

At 9.30 am (Moscow time!), two Russian men arrived into our cabin, swaying from side to side and reeking of booze and fags. Patrick and I exchanged glances and groaned inwardly. Oh no ... not more drunken exchanges we thought! One of the men got off the train and left his buddy to get
Sergei finally asleepSergei finally asleepSergei finally asleep

This may be the world through his eyes, blurry as hell!
on with his journey to Irkutsk. In his slurred speech, he introduced himself as Sergei (yeah, another one in 24 hours!!) and told us he was off to Irkutsk. More inwards groans from us, we were going to be stuck with this fella now for the whole day and night! Since he was so clearly sozzled, we assumed he'd take to his bed and sleep it off for the day, but no... he trundled down to the restaurant carriage and arrived back with chocolate and a bottle of local Siberian vodka. Argh!! It was only 9.30am! I decided at that point that Moscow time was not for me, and fast forwarded my watch on 4 hours to local time, well at least it was lunch time now! We crept up to the top bunks in the hope that he'd leave us to ourselves, but that wasn't his plan! Sergei insisted that Patrick down some shots with him, thankfully he accepted Catherine's pleas to be excused. After about 5 hours of him rambling on and us attempting to understand him and steer the conversation away from the depressing economic state of Russia, which at one stage almost reduced him to tears,
Walking tour of IrkutskWalking tour of IrkutskWalking tour of Irkutsk

The opera house.
we made our escape to the restaurant carriage. We enjoyed some delicious beef stroganoff with fried potatoes here and took our time returning to the carriage. We wandered around the train, passing through carriages filled with children on their way to a ballroom dancing competition in Irkutsk (!). On our return Sergei had passed out and was snoring like a Siberian bear. We left the door open to attempt to release the stench of drunken Russian and hoped he'd be gone for the night. No luck. He awoke later on and continued where he left off with his bottle of vodka!

Finally we dropped off to sleep wishing we had oxygen masks to keep out the smells erupting from our friend below. We awoke in the morning to the providnista telling us that it was time to get up and get ready to go. We looked down to the lower bunk to see how Sergei was getting on and realised that he'd invited a new buddy in and they were toasting each other with more vodka and it was only 7.30am. This man had some stamina. At 9.20am the train rolled into Irkutsk and we escaped from the train
The start of the ice hikeThe start of the ice hikeThe start of the ice hike

Having a stroll on the ice at Lake Baikal.
and breathed in some fresh air! We were met by Jack Sheremetoff, whose hostel we were to be staying in for a night. He whisked us off in his van and deposited us less than 10 minutes later in his lovely clean flat with a fantastic hot shower!

At the hostel we met the brilliant Anna and Neil from England and the lovely Zelda from Switzerland. These were to be our comrades on a three day trek to the Eastern Shores of Baikal. On our first day in Irkutsk though we strolled about the pleasant town centre and swatted up on the history of the Decemberists (a group of aristocratic exiles who were sent here in the nineteenth century). The town of Irkutsk has an interesting history and was actually the warmest place we had been in Russia so far! So far so good in Siberia.

The next morning we set out on our trek to a farm called Krestovka on the Eastern shore of Lake Baikal. Jack Sheremetoff is known as "The Baikaler" and we highly recommend looking him up if you make it to lake Baikal. He is a real expert on the area, has fantastic English,
Cracks begin to appear on the iceCracks begin to appear on the iceCracks begin to appear on the ice

The ice starts to break up and water flows between the ice islands.
is good fun and can arrange trips all around the lake.

We arrived in Krestovka at lunch time (after passing by the homes of the indigenous Buryat community) and were amazed at the beauty of the location. It is a remote farm nestled in a valley on the Eastern shore and despite it being the 1st of May the Lake was still frozen! Our hostess was a friend of Jacks and she treated us to an amazing lunch in our log cabin that was to be home for the next three days. Our first taste of local Siberian food was seal lard! Neil and Patrick led the way by tasting some. It is traditionally served with vodka but we just ate it straight. Not the most delicious of foods but apparently it is very popular in the Ukraine. At this point I must mention that the seal was not hunted by the farmers in Krestovka. It was accidentally trapped in their fishing nets as they were fishing in the lake.

After lunch we went for an ice walk on the surface of the lake. Due to the extremely cold winter, the lake was still frozen and we were
Cold as ice!Cold as ice!Cold as ice!

Catherine well wrapped up as usual!
able to walk out at least one hundred metres across the surface of it until we saw a large crack in the ice that was the beginning of it breaking up. Jack told us how locals regularly drive across it during the winter when the ice is one metre thick. They even attempted to run a train across it to get supplies to the army when fighting the Japanese!

We continued walking to a neighbouring bay hugging close to the cliff face when things suddenly got a little bit scary. As we were walking the ice seemed to be groaning beneath us and we were all getting a little anxious. Jack walked ahead and he realised that there was no way forward and we would have to climb across the rocks to get to the next bay. We all began to carefully pick our way across the rocks avoiding the melting ice when we reached a gap in the rocks that required a bit of a jump. Anna unfortunately came a cropper on her jump and ended up taking a dip in Lake Baikal. It was a pretty scary moment but we all made it safely across to the
Ice formations on Lake Baikal viewed from the hills above KrestovkaIce formations on Lake Baikal viewed from the hills above KrestovkaIce formations on Lake Baikal viewed from the hills above Krestovka

As the ice melts and breaks up it forms patterns.
next bay. After a long walk home in a storm we were exhausted and feasted on some fresh home made fish soup in our log cabin.

The next day we trekked across to the spiritual White Walls that are sacred to the Buryat community. This was a lovely trek across two valleys and we were glad that this time it was taking place on solid ground. We had picnic and campfire when we got there and returned back to the farm by seven. It was now time for a Banya!!!!

A Banya is a traditional Siberian steam room that in this case holds two people. It was split into three rooms. One for changing, one for washing and one for getting very sweaty in as you beat the crap out of each other with leafy sticks. No seriously, one person lays down in the steam room while the other person leathers them with foliage. Brilliant fun!!

We again feasted that night on seal meat and fish cakes and the next morning we travelled back to Irkutsk. This time we stopped on our return at a Buryat restaurant and ate their traditional dish of "Posi" a large meat
Siberian detoxSiberian detoxSiberian detox

The aim is to thump your buddy with birch to allow the steam to open up pores and remove toxins. Works a treat!
filled dumpling. Delicious!

Today we set off for Listvyanka for the weekend. This is a small village on the southern coast of Lake Baikal. We are there for the weekend and then we return to the Trans Siberian train for our trip to Mongolia.


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Siberian feastSiberian feast
Siberian feast

After a full days hike and a relaxing banya we were rewarded with a slap up home cooked feast including a freshly cooked seal joint (right).
Leaving the farmLeaving the farm
Leaving the farm

Here's our group and our host. L-R: Anna, Zelda, Neil, Patrick, Bean an ti, Catherine.
Frozen Lake Baikal Frozen Lake Baikal
Frozen Lake Baikal

The lake on May 1st, viewed from the hills east of the lake at Krestovka.


5th May 2006

anonymous dog
surprised to see they have "Bean an Tí"s in siberia! Ha ha. And we got everybodys name except the anonymous ice dog! poor fella

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