Hi Folks, sorry not been in touch sooner but as I said before we spent 3 days on the train, then a 3 day home stay with some Russians by Lake Baikal so couldn't get access to the tinternet! It seemed like ages ago now that we got on the train for our 3 day epic, stocked up with loads of snacks to eat on the way. The trains as we have got on them have become more basic, but there was only three of us in the cabin this time so had a bit more room. We got on late at night so it was a couple of beers and bed. I got up at 2am to get off at our 1st stop which was the 1st train station just inside the Siberain border. I was taking a picture of the train in the station when I got told off, aparently photography was barred for some reason. I could have been arrested and taken away and the first the others would have known about it would have been in the morning when they woke up. The rest of the group don't drink really so not much partying as been done so far. Also everyone started to become ill on the train so, understandably weren't up for drinking. So I was really relieved when a Ukranian (Sergei) came from next door looking for someone to have a drink with, so a couple of us joined him, in the spirit of international relations. He did well he only had a bottle of wine but ended up sharing all our beer. We tried to converse for an hour or so using the Russian phrasebook but gave up with that. From what we could gather he was a swimmer on the way to a competition. It was hard to get anything he said as he was so excitable at drinking with us, he talked non-stop. The carriage attendant and the trolley joined us for a few drinks as well. The rest of the trip was uneventful apart from me waking up on the last morning with the trots everbody else had, had. It was really bad timing as everyone was queing up for the toilets to have a wash!! We arrived in Irkutsk about 11 and transfered to a homestay on Lake Baikal. Rita our landlady had heard already we were all ill so on meeting us insisted we all had some peppersorns which would cure us. The afternoon went by and I was still pretty ill so Rita insisted that I had a shot of vodka and salt. I really didn't want it but she was pretty insistant as are most Russians. All they had to do during te Cold War was say let us in and I am sure after the fifth time of asking we would have said oh go on then! Anyway back to the vodka, I drank it and managed a new sprint record to the toilet (which was an outside drop toilet, just like being in Yorkshire again)before I was violently sick! It did seem to cure me for a while though. Lake Baikal is a huge fresh water lake and very beautiful. Most of it was frozen so we were able to walk on it, only after we waited for some locals to do it first mind. We then took a small hovercraft ride on it, where he was doing spins on the ice. Yesterday we went on a 10 mile hike through the mountains by the lake with Ritas husband, Sasha. That was really good we walked up and over a montain had a bbq on the beach, did the brit thing a went for a paddle in some water were it wasn't iced up!! We then back round the side of the mountain, which was a really dodgy track with some quite dangerous drops. Ross who I share with had a tumour removed from his brain when young so no has a poor sense of balance, so Sasha and had to hold him and escort him all the way back! Sadly we left the homestay this morning and we are now back in Irkutsk for the night. This is our last stop in Russia before heading off into Outer Mongolia. I have enjoyed Russia and really glad I came but I will not be in a rush to come back. Looking forward to Mongolia and staying in the Ger (felt tent) camp.
ttfn Gary x