Got into Irkutsk at 7.15am. 36 hour journey, 7 of which spent sitting on butts at border security - Mongolians bearable, Russians just bloody rude and behaved like extras from SPECTRE!
Have put the Russian people on notice that they have a lot to make up for after yesterday's trials!
Got off to a good start with the bloke picking us up speaking good English and having a great understanding of Siberia and Lake Baikal. He also didn't try to rip us off or threaten me with a cavity search if I couldn't provide answers for things I couldn't possibly know! Things are looking up!
Lake Baikal is the worlds deepest freshwater lake and some think the oldest as well. Had a tour including good science on its formation and history. Also saw seals which live in the lake for which no satisfactory explanation has been given for their presence - bet they had an easier time crossing the border than I did!
Spent the afternoon having our first proper chill! Swimming in pool and soaking up sun sitting in our balcony overlooking the lake - think Lake Como, Italy!
Just got back from dinner! Salted raw omul (local fish) to start then fried omul with chips for main course! All very, very good! Compulsory vodka aperitif (even Chrissie had one and didn't sip - good girl) of course - I've been told the reason why Russians drink so much vodka is because water is spelt voda! If true explains a hell of a lot!
Well done Russia, good fight back but still a way to go!
Our guide out to Lake Baikal was scratching his head wondering what to do with us as our early morning arrival meant we couldn't get into our hotel room and there was nothing open as yet. Fair play - he took us to his company's guest house where we had some freshly cooked pancakes (the Russians like their pancakes) and tea and biscuits before heading to Lake Baikal where he showed off his skimming technique throwing stones across the lake. The lake is impressive 45 km wide and 600 Kim's long and absolutely crystal clear - the deepest and oldest fresh water lake in the world. We spotted a seal swimming out a way - this is not common and no one can explain how the seals got into the lake.
The hotel was listed as a 4 star - but lacking in the usual features of a 4 star - no kettle, mini bar, lights by the bed, and beds that Huw described as hammocks but we had a view of the lake and a balcony which made up for it and we enjoyed soaking up the sun on our balcony.
Charloite is the semi precious stone only found in the Lake Baikal area - a beautiful purple colour, and I bought a piece to add to my collection.
We were told by the guide that there was no supermarket except the one he took us to (we began to see the places we were being taken had kickbacks for the guides), not far from the hotel we found a deli and stocked up on provisions from the most miserable Russian woman you can imagine (some Russians you can crack with a greeting in basic Russian or a "bye bye" but not this one!)