I owe you $A6.50
I left Chita feeling great, completely revived after having the Far East beaten out of me with some dryed branches in Andreys sauna from hell. They're onto it these Siberians. I forgot to mention that while at Andrey's place with all his mates I expected the bottle of Vodka to be cracked open at any second and for all of us to be good and hammered by midnight. But, as with my bikey mates in Vladivostok we had drank nothing but tea and Kvak, a non-alchaholic Russian favourite. Until, that is, we came inside after they had tryed to roast me in the sauna and out of the fridge came the beers, this was great, better than Vodka after having sweated out four times my body wieght. Andrey announced that they had a very special beer for me and handed me the usual half liter stubby common to these parts. Expecting it to be a 400%- chilli-infused-tourist-killing beer I treated it with suspision until Andrey said the words that can bring an alcoholic to tears - "Alcohol free!". He followed on telling me that he and his friends didn't really like drinking alcoholic beverages!
Starting with a Buddhist lecture given by a German in Vladivostok I should of known this journey was going to be strange. I was actually genuinely happy for the alcohol free times given that I was riding a motorbike on crap roads with crazy drivers in a foriegn country. The easily led amoungst you may take this as a sign from the heavens to give up drinking or kama or luck or some other thing I don't beleive in, but not me. I took it as a challenge that being stone cold sober with a stomach full of excellent Russian food I should ride as far as possible tomorrow, there were no excuses'.
And that I did, I left about 8am and some 12 hours later I arrived on the banks of the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Baikal. This had been one of the places I had really wanted to see for a long time and the big lake put on a show not to be forgotton. As I left Ulan Ude and made towards the lake I could pick its location by the giant storm clouds moving about above it. Being so large and deep the lake creates its own little weather system. It must of been nearly 30 degress in Ulan Ude and for the next 200km or so I witnessed almost every type of weather known to man. From tearing winds trying to force me off the road into the thick Siberian forrest to lightening to fog to rain, I copped it all with a grin from ear to ear. Riding along at 120kph through low fog with massive bolts lightning in front of you, rain behind and a patch of blue sky over to the right is a truly bizzare experiance. I stumbled across a guesthouse at a place called Tankhoy on the bank of the lake completely wet through and 102km short of my mythical 1000km day that I will still attempt to do before arriving in Copenhagen.
The cost for a bed was $A6.50 and being useless I did not have the correct money only a "large" 500 ruple note that nobody could exchange. A young Russian fella, said he would pay for me as he liked motorbikes and before I could work out some deal with him he introduced me to some German Students who where staying there doing research into the tourism possibilties around Lake Baikal. They spoke perfect English of course and during exchnaging stories I had forgotten all about the 150 ruples I owed the Russian who's name I never got. He seemed to disappear later leaving me with a free nights accomodation and in debt to yet another all too kind Russian...