A Travellerspoint blog

Train 111 Siberia

37 hours Severo Baikalsk to Taiga, and crossing the third time zone

semi-overcast 20 °C
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A lazy start to the day. Standard breakfast in the hotel (yogurt, pancakes, tea, coffe and chocalates $3 each).

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Walked for a few hours along the lake and to the "beach".

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Since we left the big cities of Vladivostok and Khabarovosk, we noticed the people were much poorer. There are so many old Lada cars that are falling apart.

Also the people look different. In adition to the "normal" Russian appearance, there seem to be two main types - Firstly a lot of Central Asian/ Mongolian looking people (especially the labourers). Then all the vendors in the market look Turk/Middle Eastern.

And now we have left the city, the tracksuit is the "in" fashion. Especially camouflage tracksuits. Worn by men and women! And smoking is extremely common. So - imagine a young mother wheeling her baby down the main (only) street wearing army camouflage tracksuit with a fag hanging out of her mouth! Welcome to rural Russia.

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Had pizza for lunch (nice but expensive $15) and then back to the train station for our next journey. Another very old train but again perfectly comfortable. This is our longest single leg of the journey, so we made ourselves comfortable for a two night journey.

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The Provodniks (attendants) seem to be getting younger on each trip. This time we got two dipsy teenages who did nothing but play with their smart phones all the journey. Consequently the train was dirty and toilets were smelly. The comfort definitely depends on the competancy of the attendants!

The scenery out of Severo Baikalsk was very impressive through mountains. Looks like they are doing significant construction and we went through a new looking very long tunnel.

A slow star.pngstar.pngstar.png 3 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 09:28 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

Lake Baikal

Hiking the Great Baikal Trail

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Made breakfast in our room (cereal and cuppa). We were really lucky with the weather as it was forecast for cold rain, but the day was perfect for hiking. The guesthouse organized a taxi to take us to the start of the Great Baikal Trail at Baikalskoe around 40km south on a terrible road ($24).

On the way we stopped at a Buddhist (?) temple, which seemed out of place except this area was conquered by Gengis Khan so maybe thats relevant.

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The village

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Transport options

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Local repair shop

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Strange and colorful cemetry in the village

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The hike (4hrs slow walking) was spectacular....

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Picnic spot at the lake

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Returned to Severo Baikal on the mini bus (1hr $6 each).

For dinner Margaret had Baikal Omul, a fish only found in Baikal. It was delicious. Interesting story
here

Natural beauty and a star.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.pngstar.png 5 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 09:27 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

SeveroBaikalsk

Means "North Baikal"

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After a comfy overnight sleep on the train, we arrived in SeveroBaikalsk mid afternoon. Looking forward to a few days exploring Lake Baikal. From the internet:

Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world's fresh surface water. it contains more water than the North American Great Lakes combined. With a maximum depth of 1,642 m Baikal is the world's deepest lake. It is considered among the world's clearest lakes and is considered the world's oldest lake – at 25–30 million years. It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area.

Like Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley, having the typical long, crescent shape. Baikal is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which exist nowhere else in the world. The lake was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is also home to Buryat tribes who reside on the eastern side of Lake Baikal,raising goats, camels, cattle, sheep, and horses,where the mean temperature varies from a winter minimum of -19 °C to a summer maximum of 14 °C

Again, it is a massive railway town with dozens of trains filled with coal, oil and timber.

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A bus waiting at the station to pick up passengers. Don't know where they are going but it looks like fun!

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Walked 15 minutes to our home stay, Dom U Baikala (means "house on lake Baikal"), $50 per night.

Walked a bit around town, went to the markets and bought some fresh produce. The town has a positive vibe (unlike Tynda). A lot of young people (15-25) who I suspect are home for the summer, but might go elsewhere (eg Moscow) for the winter school/uni season.

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Ate an OK meal at the Bison Bar a hip place doing BBQ grill, beers, cocktails etc. $20 for two meals and beer.

A pretty good star.pngstar.pngstar.png 3 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 13:01 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Train 75 Siberia

26 hours Tynda to Severo Baikalsk crossing our second time zone

sunny 20 °C
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Breakfast of pancakes and omelete ($4), bought some fresh fruit and headed for the station (20 min walk).

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Tynda station is built to impress. The Soviets built these huge railway stations in the 70s and 80s thinking people would move to the towns. Unfortunately the plan did not work and towns like Tynda have been rapidly declining. Some towns along the BAM are almost abandoned leaving behind a massive train station.

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The obligatory steam train, outside almost every station of significance.

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Train 75 runs 7,000 km to Moscow (approx 5 days) crossing 7 time zones. We are just doing a short part of the journey to Severo Baikalsk on north Lake Baikal. The train was very old (60's??), but very clean and very comfortable.

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The scenery on this leg of the trip was much more interesting. mountainous country with pine forests.

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Along this part of the BAM were the usual little towns with massive train stations, and the local people selling goodies (mainly dried fish).

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An uneventful star.pngstar.pngstar.png 3 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 03:55 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

Tynda and the BAM

Sometimes the blogs are right!

sunny 27 °C
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Tynda is a significant town in Siberia as the centre for the BAM railway - the northern alternative to the TransSiberian. From the internet:

The BAM was built so that a link would remain between Moscow and the Pacific Coast if the Trans-Siberian Railway should fall into Chinese hands. Between the 1930s and 1950s 150,000 concentration camp victims died during its construction. After Stalin’s death it was abandoned unfinished for twenty years until in the 1970s Brezhev recommenced work on it, hailing it as “the construction project of the century” and drawing workers from all over the USSR. People came and lived in tents in the virgin wilderness the railway was crawling its way across until cabins were brought and eventually small towns built around the railroad to accommodate its workers.

In 1991 the railway was completed just as the Soviet Union collapsed. Funding for the area’s mines, towns and the railway itself became scarce. Many of the former BAM workers left the area, leaving many of the towns that had been built specifically for them completely deserted, as they remain today. It has only a single set of rails, so only one train can run on it at a time. Due to how little the BAM is used today, the 150,000 people who died building it, the large number of ghost towns along its length and the US$14 billion expended on its construction, it is generally regarded as one of the biggest wastes of time, money and lives ever.

All the blogs suggested Tynda was the areshole of Russia - but I thought we should give it the benifit of the doubt. So we booked 2 nights at the Safari Hotel just accross the river from the massive Tynda railway station (yes - African safari theme hotel in centre of Siberia!).

The hotel is pretty good, huge rooms, fridge, comfy beds ($60 per night). But to be honest - it is the only hotel in town so no competition. We had a nice breakfast of porrige and pancakes ($4 for two).

We thought we could occupy a day visiting the BAM museum but it was closed. We thought we would enjoy walking around a rural town for a few hours, but it was boring and just full of ugly Soviet style concrete apartments, left over from the BAM workers. We thought we would get a good meal in one of the few restaurants (actually an Armenian restraunt), but it was awful.

So - in summary - the blogs are right. Dont get stuck in Tynda for any reason!

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One highlight was that we tried the famous Kvass. We have seen it everywhere for sale, so thought we'd give it a go. Not too bad!

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A disappointing star.png 1 star day

Posted by MikeinCairns 05:01 Archived in Russia Comments (1)

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