|Rolling and rumbling on we moved from Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia to Irkusk, Listvyanka, Russia with an eleven hour border crossing in between. Every frightening stereotype you may have associated with Russian border guards is quite accurate. We filled out paperwork in duplicate and then triplicate. Our passports departed and then re-emerged three hours later, stamped with visa intact. Svetlana, or so I named the provenista (carriage attendant, yammered at us in Russian until we nodded and assured her that we understood how to fill out all of the Russian forms. We were eventually allowed to leave the train to use the W/C and also replenish our supplies of beer, vodka and home made dill pickles. (We bypassed the vodka - although I am sure it would be the perfect cure all for the sniffles that we all seem to have contracted from Deana.) So with beer and pickles, all was right in the world again.
We arrived in Irkusk, Russia at 8:00am on the 28th. We were taken to Listvyanka straight away. It is a beautiful fishing village, now a bit of tourist attraction. We stayed at with a Babushka (grandma-ish home maker) in her home. We had to eat three enormous Russian meals a day. I am not complaining but it is a bit of a shock to the system after surviving on pot of noodles and ritz crackers on the train. We really enjoyed having some home cooking and sleeping in a proper bed for two nights. This home was fully equipped with a banya (sauna) building. Apparently the custom is to sweat the grime off of ones body; however, to appease some western sensibilities there was a shower within the room to douse yourself in cold water on occassion. It was an awesome part of the homestay. We went for a six hour hike on and over mountains surrounding Lake Baikal and my legs are exhausted from it today. I am actually looking forward to the 52 hour train ride to Yekaterinburg to have a rest.
As part of the fun of our next lengthy train journey we are having an instant mash potato moulding contest. Deana and the team designed the rubric for marking the creations. It should be abundantly entertaining especially if we can convince Svetlana, the carriage attendant, to be the judge.
Well it will be a few days until we reconnect again. We hope everyone is doing well and we look forward to updates from the other side of the world.