Arriving in Irkutsk on the morning of Tuesday 29th October, I left the station to walk to the hostel but it was quite a bit further than I thought and, 45 minutes later, I was climbing the stairs in a rather run-down building to the hostel. However, once inside the hostel (basically a flat) things looked better as it was clean and in good condition. After checking in, having a shower (at last!) and dumping my bag, it was off to see what Irkutsk had to offer.
Unfortunately I was a tad tired after the long journey, so I really didn’t explore the place as well as usual but, to be fair, there is not a great deal here. Irkutsk is really a jumping off town to Lake Baikal, as far as travellers are concerned.
Getting back to the hostel, I managed to arrange the bus trip to Olkhon Island, on Lake Baikal and also the accommodation at Nikita’s Homestead: The bus was due to leave at 10.00 and would take between six and seven hours and cost RUB600 (around £12). I also met my dorm mates who were Severi (from Finland) and Angel (from Spain) and they were both off to Olkhon Island on the same bus.
As there was nothing else to do in Irkutsk and the hostel was very quiet (just us and another couple), the three of us decided to pop out for a quick beer or two and sample the delights of Irkutsk at night. Actually, the first bar we found (as recommended) only sold foreign (i.e. non-Russian) beer and the first couple were utterly tasteless. Thus it was that I found myself drinking Newcastle Brown Ale in eastern Russia as Severi had bought a round of them. As the evening progressed, we ended up in a proper Russian hostelry and continued on until closing time; 2.00 a.m., can that be right? Anyway, it was off to partake of some late night fodder (a Subway, can you believe it?) and finally back to the hostel at 4.00 a.m. for an 8.30 a.m. alarm!
Despite the fact that none of us had packed, and it was a mad rush to chuck everything back in the bag, we did actually make the bus, which turned out to be a mini-van packed with 14 people wearing bulky winter clothes; just what was needed, a six hour journey after a bit of a session!