A Travellerspoint blog

Wonderful Siberia

Siberian spring is green, and vast.

sunny 31 °C

DIARY ENTRY 11TH June IRKUTSK
A layover day so we pleased ourselves. Made a plan and walked into the city centre and looked at the sights. It was a Public holiday in Russia today so plenty of mums and kids about. Walked through the markets this morning, (they were closed up last night as we passed). A huge big area, some inside and many on the street fronts. All the same stuff, as all market places are. We walked via the main drag and out to the river and back. Found a café for lunch and dawdled home. There is an enormous Mall at the back of the hotel with just about all you can buy anywhere. The food (supermarket) area was fascinating. Pay for goods at the individual counters. Some fab smoked meats, fish, etc. Scrummy cheeses, nuts and dried fruit. I could go on. Needless we stocked up on lunch food for the next few days. Even had our (cheap) evening meal at the Mall cafe. We have an early start again tomorrow so will have an early night. During our walk in the city we found 3 churches. Polish Catholic Church (brick and spires), Russian Orthodox, gilt onions on top, and inside the walls were covered with frescos, ceilings included. It was under restoration. Very impressive. The third on , unidentified, had frescos on the outside beneath the steeple, all quite magnificent.
Diary entry 12/06/12 Irkutsk to Tulun
An early start this morning after a crap breakfast with 400kms to run!!! Filled up last night with 98 petrol for the first time. 95 not being available. The car absolutely drank it, and we only just made the 400kms. Mike thinks it must have been methanol, as we dropped from 7-9litres/100kms. Found a nice place to stop for lunch under the silver birch trees. Arrived at the’ hotel’ which is situated on top of the local supermarket. We’ve slept in worse but not often. The trailer has undergone a radical mastectomy this pm, the welds supporting the front upper platform have all broken and it’s now been removed and donated to the locals. Our trip today through the Steppe was interesting with acres of cultivated grain land from horizon to horizon on either side of the road. Everything in Siberia is massive. We need a FORESTER to help us identify the trees in the Taiga.!! The book says firs and spruce but we can’t tell the difference. Help. We can identify birch and pine, but struggle with others. We must be getting very close to White Night as the sun was still shining when we went to bed at 10pm last night. Very weird for us Aucklanders. The Canterbury contingent must feel at home though. No internet here so that’s why there is a break in transmission.
Diary Entry 13th June Tulun to Kransnoyarsk
To –day we set off at 5am. Yes 5am. A bit chilly at first but we saw the beautiful sun rise over the Taiga and the day warmed. Drove 12 & ½ hours arriving in Kransnoyarsk at 5.30pm, which now is 4.30pm. So are getting even longer days. The scenery was all forest again today but calming. Road works in the morning but roads got better later. Arrived in the rush-hour but managed to negotiate the traffic to the hotel. We have a great room overlooking the square with lovely playing fountains, and over the River Enisie and the city. We are shattered after 12 hours on the road but have a layover day tomorrow to recoup, as we have another long day (850kms) on Friday. Today we did 650kms.
Eastern Siberia is a lovely place at this time of the year. We've seen vast cultivated areas where grain has been sewn, huge tarcts of forest, rolling hills and quaint villages. we have stopped for lunches in forest laybys where spring flowers abound, Irises, anenomes, buttercup, dandelion and others unidentified, just lovely.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 04:00 Archived in Russia Tagged siberia Comments (5)

Now in RUSSIA

sunny 24 °C
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RUSSIA DIARY JUNE 2012
9th & 10th June Crossing the border from Mongolia into Russia was not as bad as it was made out to be. Sure there were trucks and cars and people all lined up waiting on the Mongolian side but with the help of Tamir we managed to jump the queue and were on our way through customs and passport control pretty much as soon as we arrived. Then it got a bit slow as the passports had to be seen again and the cars had to be checked and inspected. There was a cold wind blowing but we just had to wait till it was all finished. 4hours later we were on our way on the Russian roads. The scenery changed and we drove through wooded areas and crop lands. The roads were not too bad but a few road works. Started to go the wrong way nut that was corrected. Stopped for lunch off the road and arrived in Ulan Ude about 6pm. Had a meal in the hotel restaurant and then glad to get to bed. The days are tiring so we are ready to stop at the end of them.
Ullan Ude to Irkutsk 10th. We left 8.30am and soon hit the wooded areas again. Forests most of the way. The roads are pretty rough in places and a lot of road works today. Stopped for lunch by Lake Baikal but didn’t find a terribly nice spot. The water was too bloody cold for a token swim so just looked at it. It sure is a huge body of water. Bought a couple of small smoked fish from a roadside vendor and had them on a bun for lunch. Quite delicious really. Plenty of stalls all along the road verges selling fish and some sort of ‘greens’. Finally arrived in Irkutsk at 7pm, another late finish. The Europa Hotel is our base for 2x nights. Have a free day tomorrow. Mike & I walked into town and eventually found a little café and had a simple meal of stroganoff and chips and salad & chips. Good and cheap and a bottle of beer each which cost more than the food. Back to the hotel 9.30pm.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 07:07 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Mike's Thoughts on Mongolia

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Mike’s thoughts on Mongolia
We are sitting in a compound at the Russian Border, once again dealing with officialdom. It never seems to stop. Crossing Mongolia has been a great experience. The car handled the challenges of the sand and gravel in the desert really well. Driving in the city is quite different to China as is evidenced by the minor dings and scrapes that most cars exhibit. Whereas the Chinese are courteous, the Mongolians are aggressive. They try and fit their cars through spaces which is hard to believe. Many times we saw the wing mirrors being folded in and out as they force their way through. Whilst there are light controlled intersections, they generally don’t function, because they fill the intersection as the lights change, and no one can go anywhere. And that’s almost every intersection. Mongolia is an emerging nation with vast resources. They have been under the control of the Russians, and have operated as an extremely socialist State until recently. As we have seen in other parts of the world, many of the State Assets have been “acquired” by senior Party Officials & Politicians. The people are now newly-born Capitalists and opportunities abound. There are lots of ex-pats in the hotels also looking for business opportunities.
They have preserved some of the Socialist welfare, ie, pensions etc but one wonders how they are going to keep paying them. The roading system is in a state of dire collapse with little signs of any maintenance being done. However they seem to have money to build Statues and decorate the city. Since the Russians left in the early 1990’s the politicians don’t seem to have established an infra-structure. The problem seem to be that everybody lives in Ulaan Baatar, but the place is bot big enough and there are too many cars.
The ‘group’ seems to be functioning better on the Mongolian section due mainly to the great Mongolian guide who has been travelling with us. Still no sign of any leadership from the Tally Tours staff but as we are now entering Russia I expect this will change as we will be travelling without a guide from now on. Car continues to perform well and so far we have done 3800 on some pretty dreadful roads, without a fault. On Highways we do 7litres/100kms, but in the desert we struggled to achieve 10l/kms. Both well and looking forward to Siberia.
Thanks to everyone who has posted messages on our Blog site. It is great to hear news from home, and we hope you are enjoying our blog.
Cheers, from Russia. Yes we did get through the border today, actually in 4 hours which is supposed to be good timimg.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEGAN !!! A teenager now.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 06:16 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Ulaan Baatar

Sightseeing

sunny 20 °C

Diary Entry 5th & 6th & 7th May Ulaan Baatar
We have had two days of sightseeing in Ulaan Baatar. The first day we went to a Buddhist Temple, wandered round the Central Square, and Museum. Had lunch and window shopped at the expensive Cashmere shop, beautiful things but overpriced. The city is busy & congested but not as polluted as the cities in China that we were in. The roads are in great disrepair and footpaths need careful negotiation. The weather has been a little cooler and we are quite high, as in 1000m asl,. Yesterday we spent all day on a bus excursion 96kms out of Ulaan Baatar, firstly to see the enormous Stainless Steel structure of Chingis Khaan sitting on his s/s horse (30meters high) atop a magnificent personal museum collection of bronze age bits and bobs. Secondle visiting a 13th Centuary Micro Kingdom showing the Mongolian way of life way back then. Interesting of-course but a long day as the roads were pretty crap for the most part. Mike is slowly shoving off his head cold but it has taken a while. Mine hasn’t come to much but annoyance. Today, Thursday 7th, the boys have a maintenance day and I am going to have a mozy around the central city area and possibly then read my book. Have sent some postcards so hope they get to their destinations.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 18:26 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

Mongolia

Desert crossing

sunny 20 °C

Mongolia Diary 3rd May Sqminuud to Sainshand
An interesting driving through the Gobi Desert. Mike is feeling a little better, so was able to drive, thank god. I don’t think I would have handled the conditions, which at best were rough and at worst were rocky. This was the first day for the car on rough roads, and Mike was very pleased that all the preparation in the previous months, proved its worth. The suspension and shocks handled the terrain really well, and we clearly had the best ride of the group ,across the desert. To date across the Chinese motorways we have been averaging 7litres/100kms, but the use of 2nd & 3rd gear for most of the day in the sand today, pushed it out to just under 10litres/100kms, but she is still humming. Some good photos I hope. We had 119kms of rough which started right outside the city boundary. I think everyone enjoyed the challenge. Had a couple of stops for morning tea and lunch. It was quite blustery in the open space. The 360deg panoramic view at the lunch stop was terrific. Back onto the tarmac for the last 85kms. They are building a road through the desert but it still has a long way to go to completion. Not so many trucks to avoid, only meeting some after the lunch stop. We arrived in Saishand about 4.30pm, filled up with petrol, and met up to go through the local museum. Dinner at a local restaurant, beef stroganoff or goulash was welcome and filling and tasty. It is only 8pm as I write and we have a great view out of our hotel room, out to the desert. The sun is setting and the moon is full. As it is Sunday theplace is quiet. When we went out to dinner the children were playing in the town garden area, even had a swimming pool which was well patronised.
Diary enrty 4th May Saishand to Ulaan Baatar
The desert again. Today we had 219 on the sand which was a bit rough at times. Not so easy to find our way with multiple tracks which seem to lead in all directions, so we followed a couple of trucks to get us back on track. Lunches are pretty easy as we have bread (easy to obtain), cheese (from breakfast), and fruit which is abundant at local shops. They also have great dries fruit, scrummy dates and mango. The little Espresso coffee machine has come in very handy and the others think it is a good tool. Were very late arriving in UB and the traffic was horrendous at rush hour. Went straight o a restaurant meal, then at 9.30pm it took us 1hour to get back to the hotel in a bus. Our cars are securely parked in a bus company garage. Great security. We have 3days here in UB doing some sightseeing and a day for R&R on the cars which some cars need, but not ours, she is purring.
Of interest to some --- our room number in the hotel is “1111” Roz & Helen. The Agh Bra is a godsend Ginny. The coffee machine is a lifesaver Sarah. And there is Bearly any washing of knickers Roz.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 02:58 Archived in Mongolia Comments (2)

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