Sunday 19 May 2013

Treacling in Siberia... Sailing lads cruise Russia

Sailing lads on the road...Joe, Rob, Gordie, in Vladivostok, 8 May 2013
[Second part of this trip report is here]
We're now in Krasnoyask, which you can see on the map below, Siberia's third-largest city.
So, we're about half-way on our current drive across Russia: Vladivostok to Moscow.  10,000 km, give or take.
The idea was Rob Bottomley's, a Yorkshire-based sailing buddy of Xena crewmate Gordon  ("Gordie") Ketelbey, with whom I also did the Cape to Cairo Rally in 2011.  Rob is here with his son and fellow sailor Joe.  Yorkshire lads.
We're in a Toyota Voxy that we (Rob and Gordie, that is) bought in Vladivostok, a right-hand drive number imported from Japan, for which the aim is to sell her in Moscow.  She's no Land Cruiser, but a plucky road warrior for all that.
While the Trans-Siberian Railway has been in place for century or more the road through has only recently been completed -- the last bit, the Zilov Gap, driven by Putin in 2009, in one of his he-man stunts.  By the way, and for what it's worth, no Russian in the Far East or Siberia has had a nice thing to say about the he-man... 
Since the road has only recently(ish) been completed, there's very few who have done the trip by car.  In most of the places we've stopped we're the first tourists they've seen, and we ourselves didn't see another tourist till Ulan Ude, 3,800 km west of Vladivostok (in between Irkutsk and Chita on the map below).
And what's this "treacling" business?? Answer later (maybe; I'll see how I feel)...
As always, click on the photos to enlarge.
This map says "Early 20th Century", but nothing much has changed on the
rail since then, other than the new BAM railway north of Lake Baikal.
The Road more or less follows the train's track.
Newby writes about it amusingly in "The Big Red Train Ride" of 1978.
Vladivostok and the navy that kept this port closed to foreigners until 1992. 

And the state-of-the-art motorised schooner.

The waterfront at Amur's Blagoveschensk.  Try saying that, after a few
vodkas. Opposite is China.

Joe and locks left by marriage-minded lovers
in Blagoveschensk.

The Triumphal Arch at Blagovenschensk.  All over Russia are monuments
to the war, for them 1941 - 1945.  And since we arrived at VE Day,
all were covered with flowers.  Everywhere.

The vast steppes.  The size of the US and Europe combined, and still with
some thousands of square miles left over...

All over, the outhouses, here feeding right into the swampy steppes.
And all over, one would rather the open air (if one is a man....)

The louring sky, new developments outside Ulan Ude -- all the
cities we saw had major new housing developments going up, most of
large size, 2-300 sq m. we guessed.

Lake Baikal and fishing boats, beached.  Looks tropical.  In fact there
was still ice and the water is 3 degrees..

Proof of the ice, near the fishing boats on Lake Baikal

Our little Voxy, on the beach by the boats an ice, Lake Baikal

Growlers on Lake Baikal

The "Agara", made in Newcastle, brought over to Lake Baikal in the late
19th Century to ferry passengers to the other side.  She's a stem-powered
ice-breaker, shipped over in bits and assembled in Irkutsk.

PF on the shore of Baikal.  The water's 3 degrees, the air 5 degrees...

All over Russia, crumbling edifices from the Soviet Era: crumbling
collective cow sheds in the country, crumbling factories in the cities,
crumbling workers quarters, like this one on Baikal, near Irkutsk.

Irkutskians from Azherbaizhan, picnic on the shores of Baikal.  They offer
us vodka, bubbly and smoked-dried fish.  Joe and Rob in background.
After a few vodkas, they whipped out a really snazzy portable barbie and
began cooking pork kebabs, offering us some.  We gently decline, as we have
a busy day of sightseeing in Irkutsk...

Lovers make use of the very short Irkutskian summer, here in the central
park, opposite our pub.  Pretty place, Irkutsk.  I remember it from
the board game "Risk"...

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