Leaving Chita we learned that Siberia was setting a forty year record for rain. As we were riding out we encountered an area where villages were flooded and areas cordoned off with what looked like evacuation activities.
Our 650km ride from Chita to Ullan Ude was basically dry, but lots of road construction, so we arrived at the Hotel Mergen Bator pretty tired. Staff there spoke English very well, and we knew we had arrived into a tourist area. We only spent the night as we were making our way to Olkhon Island, and trying to time our arrival for the forecast sunshine.
From Ullan Ude we travelled to Irkutsk, a long hard ride. 460km in pouring rain through many long muddy potholed roadworks. The rain gods were definitely not on our side. We arrived at our small hotel, Hotel Irkut around 6:30 dripping wet….the staff did not bat an eye. They were incredibly friendly, and once again spoke English well.
We woke to sunshine the next day and spent the day looking around the city and shopping for a waterproof covering for one of our dry bags whose zipper had broken. Irkutsk has a pretty downtown area, lots of coffee shops, parks etc and an area developed specifically for the tourist trade. We are seeing more busloads of tourists as we ride closer to Olkhon Island.
We left Irkutsk in sunshine and it stayed with us all the way. We lost Tom at a fork in the road and did not meet up again until the ferry crossing.
He arrived about twenty minutes after us. There are crossings every thirty minutes…. it was organized chaos!
We were a bit concerned about the road conditions on the Island as there is no pavement. What met us was lots of compacted sand and gravel, with tons of washboard, ruts and muddy patches.
It took us about an hour to do the 37km, arriving with the bike and riders quite shaken.
Olkhon Island is beautiful and worth the journey. There are many beautiful beaches and developing hotels.
When we first arrived at our accommodations there was a bit of culture shock as it all seemed a bit haphazard, but once we settled in it was great.
Leaving Olkhon Marian took a shuttle to the ferry to spare the bike and Lindsay. It was a most scary ride. The not friendly driver was speeding all over the road, bouncing close to edges, crossing over hills on the wrong side with all the passengers quiet as can be, just praying to get there .
Back from Olkhon to Irkutsk, weather good, spent the night at the same hotel in Irkutsk.
Then on to Ulan Ude for a night.
and then to the border town of Kyachta to spend the night before crossing the border into Mongolia.
We got to the border crossing by 8:15 am and were being processed by 8:30. Everyone was friendly, but as usual, the process for leaving one country and entering the next with a bike took three hours! Lots of doing things in triplicate, and waiting patiently for all the questions to be answered