Our train arrived in Irkutsk on a Monday morning (June 18th). We stayed at Admiral Hostel, which was a pretty decent place. We started out on the wrong foot because the driver wasn’t there to meet us (turns out she was just running late) so we took a very expensive taxi. But then they let us do laundry for free because of the mix-up so that was nice. On our first night we got upgraded to the private room, which was much appreciated.
After showering, surfing the internet, and napping for a bit, we went out in search of food. We found a pizza place (a nice English speaking customer translated for us), I got two scoops at Baskin Robbins, and we bought a few provisions at the local supermarket.
After that we were pretty much in for the night. The next morning we left for a two night trip to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal, organized through the hostel and Lupine Travel. It took seven long hours to get from the hostel to the “fisherman’s guesthouse” where we stayed. First we explored the guesthouse, which actually had several different buildings with guestrooms. There was also a dining building, outhouses, and outdoor showers. They served us a delicious late lunch of pork ravioli. (Most guesthouses on Olkhon Island include three daily meals in their rate.)
Next we set out to explore the “town” and ending up drinking beer on a gorgeous beach. Too bad it was too cold to swim!
Back at the guesthouse that evening we enjoyed another delicious meal — chicken pasta for dinner. (I was surprised at how much I loved Russian food! The use a lot of dill, my new favorite herb.)
In the morning we were picked up in a “Russian military jeep” (more like a van) for a tour of the north side of the island. There were two Russian families on the tour with us. And the guide spoke no English. (Just like the people who worked at the guesthouse. They all communicated by writing numbers in the dirt. It worked!) We saw lots of beautiful scenery but after seven hours all of the overlooks started to look the same. So at one of the stops we decided not to climb the hill to see the view. Which was where you can see seals! We were so disappointed we missed that. Also the ride was extremely bumpy. It was the only time I’ve ever felt carsick. I really thought I might vomit (but luckily I didn’t)! The tour also included lunch which was vodka fish soup, cucumber tomato salad, bread, and tea.
We had dinner at the guesthouse (fish and pizza… weird combo!) and later that night Daniel went with some of the other guests to watch the sunset (around midnight!). After a hearty breakfast the next morning, we were off on the ferry and back to Irkutsk.
Back in Irkutsk, we ordered a pizza for dinner and hung out around the hostel. The next day we ventured out for beer and German food and then later that evening got back on the train!