After Ulan Ude, I soon reached the coast of the biggest lake in the World. Baikal. The road skirted the lake from its midpoint to all the way South and the road kept showing the lake from time to time. I couldn’t see it’s end on any side! It looked like some trick photography. Awesome. It also became cold as we hit the lake and that was nice. I stopped at a picnic point and parked and sat on the stones by the lake. It was eerily silent. In the distance, a family was swimming. A few cars parked near my bike and I got up to go. I found a motel near the lake and parked for the night. It was more of a homestay.
The next morning, I got directions and took my camera and towel and walked. I went along the highway then broke into a small lane that went through a shanty village. After that I came to the Trans Siberian Railway tracks! I crossed them. A platform speaker type boomed in Russian and I ran across two sets of tracks! They must have seen me on satellite! I found a grassy path and followed it to the lake, crossing a man fishing in a pond. There is so much water in Russia! We waved to each other and the path led me to Lake Baikal. I was alone. Sitting by the lake on stones I meditated on my quest. This lake is huge and endless. So is my desire to see and search. But search for what? Who knows. I wore my swimming trunks and got in. The part of me that was in, became senseless. It was icy. My top half poured water on myself and tried to leave, with or without the bottom part. Nothing worked. I prayed to Baikal. I felt her smiling at me. A living being you have to ask permission from before getting in. I thanked her for this experience and calmly walked out. I took some pictures, but they could not capture what I could. The living entity. Tons of water and marine life, all breathing and existing. It was a life defining moment. I turned around and walked back. The man was still fishing. The rail track speaker started and soon two trains crossed each other. I patiently waited, crossed and exited through the village, met the highway and went to breakfast.
The Trans Baikal roads are nice, though repairs are on. I got into Irkutsk and navigated to my hostel type: Modul. A crackling in my ear got Irina to me on my mobile and she said: you have just crossed me, I am the lady in the blue blouse and will walk you to your hotel.
I had connected with Irina Vaulina-of Angarsk-100 km away, on Facebook a year ago. She is a journalist and a great fan of my uncle Mr. Raj Kapoor. She had planned my stay here with meetings etc. Looking for a lady in a blue blouse was not desirable and I did find her faster than her blue blouse, which was grey, white and blue.
Parking Sunbeam and my DirtSacks, I changed and we cabbed it to the Ganga, an Indian restaurant, owned by two 25 year olds. They were living in Russia for the past 25 years and had come here to study and work. Marrying Russians, they stayed back and anchored themselves with the economy. Manish from Bihar and Deepak from Kerala were partners in this enterprise and I would be their F&B guest over the next two days. While Irkutsk is not a Moscow, it has its own character and story. Irina took me to the riverside to see the view and generally chat. Extremely peaceful.
We got back to a party atmosphere and met the entire Indian community! A surprise was an Indian biker: Abijit Rao from Kerala who had booked in from Mongolia and was enroute to Europe. On a Himalayan. I admired his spirit. Just 28 and a sound engineer, he has been Stan-Camping for the past month!
Indian talks soon upgraded to Beer and Whisky and this was followed by a stretch limo ride back to a scenic point in Lake Baikal.
After two weeks of riding, to talk in hindi and eat dal chaval was great. Everyone was talking tourism. I was talking drunxx!
The next day, I met the local press. Inspite of the brief, they still couldn’t believe my RTW or Abijit’s ride. The day ended very soberly with Dahi Kadi and rice. Delicious!
The next day we met some local painters who were world renowned and a Professor of French language and culture. The paintings were lovely and not to be outdone, I showcased my wife’s art blog. They liked it.
After this I went for a tyre change, as was prescribed in India at 4000km and Maneesh took me to an automotive plaza, where you could build your own vehicle from scratch. I took a Mitas-button for the rear and Michelin for the front. These two days, we met the members of the Vampire bikers club, who also kindly donated a front wheel tube for Sunbeam. I requested Maneesh to help Indians process the TSB route on their bikes and he agreed. A Facebook announcement followed and bikers started connecting with him. I see a lot of Indian bikers coming here. Ofcourse, we have the Nightwolves here who also want to help and have been helping me from Vladivostok, looking over my shoulder.
I left Irkutsk after a bike wash and am writing this today, on the end of June 2017, from a highway motel near Zabituy. Good night.