In the last report about Russia, we were still amused about the fact that we had to answer the same questions to the employees of the border authority and the FSB when entering the country. And that our answers were each entered into a Word file. We assumed that the information we gave would be lost somewhere in the flood of data and would never reappear.

We were wrong about that: After the uncomplicated exit from Mongolia, we drove past the line of cars on the Russian side as usual and were admitted to the control area after a short wait. We were astonished when the lady at the counter asked us for our second passports and already knew our travel route!

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

In the first supermarket in Russia, we were still surrounded mainly by Mongolian customers who bought cheaper food here, e.g. 200kg of sugar😊.
Not only the shopping tourists, but also the local population (44% Buratians, 53% Russians) seemed much more cheerful and cordial than in the area around Biysk.

On the way to Ulan-Ude we did not miss a visit to the Ivolginsk monastery. In the colorful temples, we were especially struck by the generous donations of food: Rice, honey, milk, cookies, chocolate, oranges, bananas, … with a smile we wondered if the gods were happy about the package of Neapolitan waffles opened specially for them😉?

We reached Ulan-Ude in the pouring rain and, since Russia is excluded from most booking platforms and international payments, unfortunately without prior online reservation of accommodation. Soaking wet, we had to ask hostels on site if they could accommodate us and our bikes. In addition, we again needed an obligatory registration. After the first three accommodations were unsuccessful, we were no longer picky and took what was available: two beds in an 8-bed dorm, which we shared the first night with a TV addict. The second night we were joined by a snorer and the third night by an insomniac alcoholic… Accordingly, it was very easy for us to leave the hostel and, despite little sleep, set off with a lot of motivation towards Lake Baikal.

A member of the Warmshowers platform organized a boat trip from Turka to Olkhon Island. Very uncomplicated a tour boat took us on the four-hour crossing. In the early afternoon we landed at Uzuri Bay, from where we hiked to two viewpoints over the impressive cliffs. We took two days for the approximately 70km drive from the north to the south of the island, which was appropriate given the sandy roads.

From the south of the island, we wanted to take the hydrofoil to Listvyanka and save ourselves the 400km overland ride to Irkutsk. When we reached the southern end after a morning of tedious bumpy ride, confusion arose briefly: no one knew about the hydrofoil that was supposed to go from here to Irkutsk… Someone said we had to go back to the main town of Khuzhir! The information of another lady “the rocket goes to the sun” did not make the situation clearer for us😊. We already saw ourselves cycling back the kilometers, but trusted our prior research and first treated ourselves to a coffee. It turned out that the hydrofoil (in common speech “rocket”😊) should arrive and depart a few kilometers further north. “The rocket goes to the sun” was perhaps simply Russian humor😀. Calmed down, we pedaled back over the hill to an old barge that served as a landing stage. In fact, a hydrofoil had docked there.
Very relieved, we waited at the “port” for the five-hour flight in the rocket to Listvyanka😊.

The stretch between Listvyanka and Irkutsk was an endless hilly ride… 1km uphill, 1km downhill, in the valley a 100m long bridge, but otherwise not a flat meter. We didn’t even want to look over the hilltops after the climbs because the next mountain prize was already visible from there. Good that the visit of the open-air museum Tal’tsy provided a break!
In Irkutsk we found a super accommodation, could do laundry and stroll through the attraction-poor city. Here we ended our Baikal vacation and started the 4000km drive to Vladivostok. To hopefully escape the winter, we expected daily stages of at least 100km. We can earn rest days by exceeding our targets. That’s how our planned economy works😊. Whether this goal is too ambitious remains to be proven…

On the section from Irkutsk to Chita, Siberia didn’t want us to move forward too easily. Every day we had to deal with any combination of endless hills, headwind, mosquitoes, track and rain😉.

In addition, the southern shore of Lake Baikal was scenically disappointing. Forest blocked the view of the water and on the narrow road the many traffic was unpleasant. Also, the nights between Transsib with freight trains every minute and the main road were not particularly relaxing.
However, the climate and the wind conditions at the lake ensured a low number of mosquitoes. We appreciated this only after we had left the area and even our four-stage defense strategy consisting of long clothing, spray 1 for the skin, spray 2 for the clothing and smoke spirals failed. There was no thought of a cozy supper in the warm evening light. It took a lot of courage to go to the toilet, which resulted in countless mosquito bites on the butt.

From Ulan-Ude to Chita we chose the shorter and flatter side road via Khorinst and Sosnovo-Ozerskoye. During the first days we pedaled on the small asphalt road through beautiful, autumn colored moorland. From Sosnovo-Ozerskoye the road unexpectedly became bumpier and finally a sandy track. In response to our question about asphalt, a truck driver had only a gleeful smile🙄. Only naive tourists can get the idea that roads other than the main routes are paved in Siberia. From Romanovka the rain started, which turned the track into a mud track. Oh boy, were we glad when we got asphalt under our wheels again from the change of province from Buratia to Chita!

However, we owed many cordial encounters in the small villages to our supposed shortcut. We were often asked about our origin and route (the only thing we understood in Russian😉), many motorists waved or honked encouragingly at us and we felt very welcome in the Republic of Buratia!

This post was written on September 4, 2023 and published on October 7, 2023.