The plan: 4-5 days of hiking and (wild) camping. And of course see bears. Naturally. Well, the part was actually on the wish list of the men present.
Still, the few days in Irkutsk were great. Invaded the hostel with five guys (I should have received commission for 4x customers recruit customers!) And met a Huppendorfer and a Brazilian working in China who speaks Spanish, English, Chinese and Russian as well – we had the hostel transformed into our personal flat share in one fell swoop. Feel-good factor high 10!
With a newly acquired camping mattress and parasitically nested in a tent that I do not own, including equipment such as stoves etc., we went to Lystianka. And from there on the Great Baikal Trail.
Uphill, downhill, evening shower in the freezing cold Lake Baikal and a night in a beautiful clearing later we reach Bolshiye Koty the next day. Personal highlight: Andrej and his Banja. Also at night at 11 p.m. especially for us .. and Andrej. He came right away. This little sleepy place right on the lake where everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful. Definitely worth a trip!
However, a real beginner’s mistake happened to us: After an unplanned hostel night, Banja and a lack of ATM – cash all! You couldn’t pay for the ferry back (and this is the very first time on this trip) with a card. And it is also sold out. Direct hit! Heroes at work! But there was Ekaterina, who suddenly gave us the missing 700 rubles and pushed us to the places that were still free. And so we made it back to Listwyanka that day. Two more nights at the lake. Quite directly. With a view of the water’s edge while lying down. Great days – even without a bear.
Things I learned in Russia
1. You walk left. And that very consistently in and around subway aisles. If you forget it for a moment, the oncoming bulk will remind you very quickly.
2. Learning Russian characters opens up a whole new world. Can you read the Cyrillic alphabet a little bit words can suddenly be recognized – an H is an N or a C is an S. The meaning is then often revealed, since the words can then sometimes be known or derived. E.g. supermarket is supermarket if you know the letters. What an illuminating moment.
3. Toilet paper goes into the trash bin. That was actually new to me. And it takes a bit of getting used to it, to be honest. But getting used to it should still be worthwhile for me. As I realize later, this was the first country, but by no means the last country with this habitus.
4. Four days without a shower .. no problem. Long live dry shampoo. And the rest worked somehow. There was a tiny wash basin. That was supposed to be just the first lesson in vanity. I find: no problem for me. I am ready for nonexistent comfort. Ready for wild camping.
5. You have to have tried banja. And a real, quaint one. Extra hot, with a hat and a tap. For the latter, a branch of thistle is dipped into the infusion water and then … let’s say: the muscles are stimulated.
6. Always a handful of cash in the pocket. Extremely helpful. Especially if it is a little more than for a sandwich and a water and you are somewhere in the nowhere. In case it gets scarce: Insane how quickly someone simply helps without any guarantee that he/she will get the money back quickly, easily and without complications.
7. The Russians are incredibly friendly – at second glance. At first, they often seem cool and distant to me. You can hardly be more wrong! Friendly, helpful, welcoming, curious – that’s what they are. And they can partying, the Russians! 😀
And then I can take the train again … with the Transmongolian Railway to Ulan Bator.