Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Train around Baikal

So we figure we could have the part toward the end of the week at earliest, so we check what we could do meanwhile. There's this circum-Baikal tourist train that's supposed to be very scenery, so we decide to take the train to Slyudianka and from there a ticket to Port Baikal. We arrive late, and it's cold (30 degrees in Ulan-Ude and 15 degrees next to Baikal, only 5 hours away by train). We ask a taxi driver for a hotel and he brings us to a place that's both a geological "museum" (ok, a random selection of stones thrown out on the pavement) and a hostel with little cabins (kitchen and living room but no shower).

In Slyudianka train station we find out we just missed the train by 5 minutes (that's what we figured) and that the next one is the following day.. so we decide to go to Arshan to kill time. Supposed to be a nice place in the mountains, and we find a bus going there in 3 hours. Indeed, it's very touristic (mostly people from Irkutsk), but not so interesting either.. we find a home stay for the night and take the bus back to Slyudianka to catch our famous train.

The bus leaves at 7h30 AM and it's cold and rainy. That’s a pretty miserable trip to Slyudianka, where after a couple hours we finally manage to buy a ticket. 37r (1.5 $) for a 5-hours trip, that sure isn't going to kill our budget. It’s a small train with just 2 passengers cars and a diesel locomotive. We start 30 min late, run for 10 min and stop for 1hour.. they change the locomotive and we can keep going. So we cross numerous bridges and tunnels, and watch people camping near the tracks wherever there's a flat surface.. even with that shitty weather.

We end up in Port Baikal, pretty uninteresting so we just wait there a few hours in the brand new train station (10r per hour to wait in the lounge with sofas, pool table and music). We meet a group of Germans who spend a couple days here.. wtf? we only spent a couple hours and we already want to leave! At 1:50 AM we climb in the train (pitch black, there’s no light in this train), lie in a bunk and go for a sleep. 37r for the night, that's OK!


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