Irkutsk (Russia), 03.10.2013
Knowing it would be a short day of just 450km, I took it easy in the morning and slept. Driving tires quite a lot, I never realised it during the day but only in the mornings afterwards, when the alarm rang and it was hard to get up. Packing the car in front of the hotel, a cold wind blew in my face. The sky was clouded and grey, it looked like rain. I hoped to be lucky like the last days in escaping the bad weather after a couple of hours driving and left Ulan Ude quickly.
On the outskirts of town there was a lot of construction going on. New wooden homes with gardens surrounded by wooden fences grew like mushrooms around here, entire hills got taken over by new inhabitants. The roads were as bad as yesterday, and progress less fast. For the first hour and a half I drove parallel to a river, then inland, before suddenly on my right the Lake Baykal appeared. Maybe I kept thinking too much about Lake Van in Turkey and the impressive sight it had been, maybe it was just the bad weather (it was raining, the sky was grey), but I had expected a lot more. There were no places to stop and admire the lake, and a rail track ran between the street and the shore. The road takes around the entire southern tip of the lake, but visibility stayed low the entire time. Some villages passed, most of them dotted with Soviet factories between the traditional wooden houses. Around 50km before Irkutsk, traffic stopped suddenly and I had to wait quite a while. The road was closed for a train crossing, and several endless cargo trains passed. There were quite a lot of vehicles on the road compared to the last days. The road winded through forests and mountains, up and down, and the weather wouldn’t get better.
I reached Irkutsk in the afternoon, the outskirts were quite bleak and grey. In town I noted the many wooden houses and tsarist tone buildings, still relatively well kept considering the time they had stood and the Soviet period they had to endure without too much care. The center of town was actually quite beautiful. I drove through Irkutsk several hours, since I checked three hotels before checking into the Zvezda, that made a good impression at the beginning although it was very expensive. I had to wash laundry urgently, and after trying to convince the hotel staff to do it they asked me for 4.000 RUB (92 EUR) to wash 10-12kg, almost three times the amount in a five star hotel in Tehran and even more compared to all other places. I found another place online, but the site was only in Russian and I had no clue if they would wash my stuff. But before I went to Land Rover, to see if I could get some winter tires and the car checked for brakes, suspensions etc. After that, I drove into town again. I found the laundry finally, but the three ladies there didn’t speak a word of Russian. One of them started writing me on Google Translate. She wrote in Russian, I read in English. I replied in English, she read in Russian. It was a funny scene, the ladies and I in front of the PC, typing and laughing, as we “communicated” through the translation site. When they understood why I was there and what I wanted, the initial “njet” attitude changed quickly, and I was told to leave my things there. The next day at 18:00 everything would be ready, for around 500 RUB. I left the place, curious of what I would find the next afternoon. Not far from the place was a restaurant the LP guide described quite nicely, and I found it easily. Food was good, but nothing spectacular, and the decoration completely overdone. There was even a guy singing Russian folk songs and made me leave quickly. Back in the hotel I found the Internet connection to be very fast, so I started to upload plenty of videos and pictures as I fell asleep.
– Km driven: 479
– Hrs on the road: 6h
– Diesel l/100km: 10,1
– Daily high: 7 degrees Celsius
– Daily low: 2 degrees Celsius