Sunday, May 25, 2014

Moscow to Beijing - day 5 - Lake Baikal

I woke shortly before the train started to follow the shore of Lake Baikal. This would also be the day we would leave Russia and entered Mongolia.

Suddenly, there it was with the morning sun reflecting on it. 

The lake is lined with various houses and small buildings.

The train line hugs the coast and passes through more than 200 tunnels. You can read more about this feat of engineering here.

Ski slopes on the mountains just to the south.

Numerous small streams enter the lake, presumably carrying the water from the melted snow.

We wondered why these trees were bent over. Perhaps the snow was so heavy.

Some rich person built this mansion. No ordinary Russian could afford this.

The water is quite clear. When we were in Queenstown, NZ last year, the tour guide told us that Lake Baikal has the purest water in the world with the lake at Queenstown number two. The water is so pure it won't conduct electricity.

It was difficult to take photos from the southern side of the train so I missed out on some mountains covered entirely with snow. Here is a partially snow covered mountain.

Ice in the water.

I suspect the whole lake shore has houses like these. Life might be good by Siberian standards by the lake. I wouldn't build here because of the constant noise of trains passing by.

Every now and then, some old broken down building. You have to wonder what is the history here. Why is this building like this?

Old railway wagons.

Solar panels! Why here?

Another dilapidated building.

Final view of the lake. 

My phone showing our location.

Suddenly, the birch trees were gone.

Udan Ude at 5642 km from Moscow. From here we would branch from the traditional Trans Siberian line to Vladivostock and head down to Mongolia and China.

I have no idea why the bears are significant.

However the guide book mentions -

Military bases in the area meant that Ulan Ude was off limits to foreigners until the thaw in East-West relations. In 1990 Princess Anne led the tourists in with the first royal visit to Russia since the Tsar's execution. A local official declared that her visit was probably the most exciting thing to have happened since Genghis Khan swept through on his way to Moscow in 1239.

When the Swedes left at Irkutsk, they were replaced by a very nice couple from Kuala Lumpur. They were retired pharmacists and they had traveled very extensively all round the world. They were interested to hear that I would be visiting their city and I might be able to meet up with them again.

We did not see many animals in fields so far except for some horses. Finally some cows.

Pine trees and a drier landscape.

The scenery started to look more like Australia with brown hills.

For Marianne, this reminded me of the view at Beechmont.

I think this is the most dilapidated wagon I have ever seen.

Rob finally surfaced and was disappointed that he had slept through Lake Baikal. We should have woken him up and we apologized for not doing so. He recovered quickly from his disappointment and I suggested that he take photos of this lake (Gusinoye Ozero) and tell people that this was Lake Baikal. And honestly, could you tell the difference by looking at this photo?

We were now in a very different climate from Siberia.

The border with Mongolia was approaching. John was fretting that he did not have a piece of paper showing that he had registered at a hotel. I had obtained mine at my hotel in St P. Naturally we ( I ) made him suffer with suggestions about what would happen to him as he was dragged from the train.

Naushki. Last stop before the border.

Fortunately, nothing happened. The Russians took our passports together with the little departure piece of paper that I had filled in when first entering Russia. After a half an hour or so, our passports were handed back to us. They take the passports away to an office to process them. The check on the train is only to make sure that the photograph matches and the requisite departure slip matches the passport.

This bench and dog looked so out of place in Russia that it still puzzles me.

Rob and I were quite amused by the use of the word 'disgusting' in this translation. 

A Mongolian engine was hooked up as well as the Mongolian dining car.

Our passports went into this office to be checked. 

Angelika, the German / Irish girl. She had a bubbly personality and fit in well with the rest of us. Her job was to promote Guinness to Germans.

Rob and John enjoying the late afternoon sun. John was feeling more relaxed since nobody had been interested in my hotel registration paper. 

I doubt that this was the official Customs sniffer dog.

These ladies were the Customs people. We were not let off the train until they had gone through the carriages. The one on the left was the one who questioned us. The job of the girl next to her was to climb all over the carriage looking in the usual places that goods might be hidden in. I said to the first girl 'I bet you wish you had her job'. She had real trouble not laughing and keeping a stern face.

The sniffer dog's boss turned up.

I was going to show a photo of our Beer supplier but thought better of it. He must have had cases and cases of the stuff and a fridge to chill it. As well as 100 rubles, he would take US $3.

The guide book says that this fence is electrified.

After a few hours, we headed into Russia and I suspect this is the actual border. John was quite relieved.

A series of lights went up the hill. We could not make out what it was for.

The Mongolians came aboard at Suhbaatar and checked passports again. If you are using a US passport you don't need a visa but Aussie and UK passports do require one.

John and Rob had Real Russia organize their visas for them. They were pleased with how that process went.

No comments:

Post a Comment