Thursday, August 13, 2009
We arrived in Rubtosvk after dark and tried to find a hotel. No luck. I didn't want to keep driving around and looking so I asked a taxi driver (by sign language) if he could show us the way and we would follow him. He agreed to do it for 100 roubles or about $3.00. After following him through town he pulled over in front of a hotel but just then another car pulled over with us and a guy said come with me and I will take you to your friends. I had no idea which friends he had in mind and this sounded vaguely like a acam I had heard about but he had his child with him in the car and he looked honest enough so we decided that we would follow him and see what happened. Before we left as I was about to pay the taxi driver the 100 roubles this guy takes my money and goes over to talk to the driver. Apparently the taxi driver was charging too much so the guy talked him down to 50 roubles and gave me the change. So far so good. We followed the guy to the central square and sure enough we ran into an English team that we had met a few other times along the way. Ross and Ian were parked in the square and when we relayed our story about this guy brining us together they said they had never even seen him before. Apparently the guy just saw another rally car so thought that we must be frriends and got us back together. This worked out really well for Ross and Ian as they had no idea they were sitting in front of a hotel and they didn't have any roubles to be able to get a hotel even if they could find one. I lent them enough roubles for a room and we went in to have a look. They ended up with this massive suite with a foyer a large dining room, bedroom and bath. We took a small room accross the hall.
Being Friday night in Russia the square was pretty full of people drinking, singing, hooting and/or hollering an interesting place to say the least. When then went out to get our bags, a rather large Russian guy was looking at the cars with a few of his friends and looked up at us and said hello. It turns out this imposing man was named Mike and he was doing his Masters in philosophy, worked as a radio DJ and spoke fluent English. It was around 10:00 at night and we were famished so Mike insisted on taking us to a restaurant which was wonderful. The place had a traditional Russian décor, meaning that everything was big and built to withstand the Russian people. He ordered us food and drinks, saving us from the cyrillic alphabet menu and as the food came so did another guy from across the room. If Mike was big, this guy was huge! He sat down and started drinking and talking in Russian and Mike was able to translate that he was offering us drugs, booze, girls, he was a professional race car driver and, after the Russian left, that he was very, very dangerous He was a Russian mafia guy, xenophobic, and said that he was much better than us. It turns out that Rubtosvk is surrounded by four different prisons and as a result attracted the likes of the Russian mafia race car driver. But all was good and we returned to the hotel for a great sleep.
The next morning we awoke to a blistering hot day and a long drive to Irkutsk. So we drove all day, then we set up the bed in the car and drove all night, then we went to a café to have a few eggs, then drove all day, then made up the bed and drove all night and meeting a couple of English bobby’s who’s third team member had been trapped in between Russia and Kazakhstan for 6 days because of a visa glitch, not in his passport but in the computer. After 2000 km and 40 hours of solid driving, we made it to Irkutsk, and an hour later to Lake Baikal. Surprisingly, the drive wasn’t too bad, except for some roads in truly terrible condition that brought us to a crawl, and the scenery, which was nice at first but resembled northern Ontario, without the Canadian Shield and for 2000 km.
Lake Biakal is very nice though. kind of chilly and stony but a nice spot none-the-less. We then had most of the day to relax and walk around the beach town, see some of the lake and eat some delicious fish. We then returned to our quaint guest house nestled into a valley to get a good night sleep.
Today we double back to Irkutsk so that we can follow the road around the lake and get close to the Mongolia border so that we can cross it in the morning. It’s reputed to take 6-8 hours, just on the Mongolian side.
Tomorrow, Mongolia! …maybe.