August 20, 2009 - 8/19 – Irkutsk to Sludyanka 78m/125k**

Irktusk to Slyudyanka Bike Ride
Wednesday August 19, 2009
78.9 miles, 12.6 mph average speed

          Riders notes follow the narrative.

Aaahhh… it’s good to be getting out on the road again, even with the difficulties of language, roads, accommodations….. It’s 47 degrees and misty at 7am as I leave Hotel Victory in Irkutsk (pop.  591,000).  There’s so much traffic heading into town that I can’t hear myself think for the first 10k.  The first picture of the day is of Shelekov, a suburb 17k from downtown Irkutsk. 

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It’s amazing what you can do with heavy wood.  Thick exterior and interior walls, floors, roofs, sidewalks.  The streets are dirt.  Were it not for the wiring and the cars, they would not look out of place 100 or 200 years ago.

A little past I come to the first distance sign.  Ulan Ude, my next night in a hotel, is 431k away.  The following two signs are a warning (which I of course cannot decipher) and of an incline (which I can). 

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My next few days will be on just one road.  M-55 runs from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude.  And it turns out there are incline signs all over around here, for good reason.  I climb a stunning 7,000+ feet today, 6,000 of it between Irkutsk and Slyudyanka – the planned destination for the day, and another in the 6m/10k past it as we search for a campsite.  Along the way…

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Bob riding up a switchback

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a representative picture of the road

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I pass dozens of street vendors – same as in western Russia.  They leave their wares, pinecones, berries, mushrooms, on little tables or in buckets by the side of the road, and mostly stay back in the trees (amid piles of their own trash) waiting for someone to stop.  Just trying to get into the cash economy.  They don’t like their pictures taken so don’t even try.

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I pass over or under the Trans-Siberian railway 3 times today.  There are trains on it constantly, it seems. (really maybe one every 15 min.)

After a bunch of relatively steep (8-12 degrees) short (.5 to 1.5 k), there’s an irritatingly short, steep downhill from the 3,300 foot level back to the 1,500 foot elevation of Lake Baikal.  Kultuk is the first ‘town’ of any kind since Irkutsk, about 63 miles ago.  It has a couple of cranes and train tracks,  and the usual collection of homes with gardens and fence.  Along the roads, there is a nonstop wall of fences and homes, and here they have wooden sidewalks.  No hotels or restaurants, it seems, but some shops and street vendors for food.  Here’s the Kultuk vista and a street view.

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In case you missed it on my last bike ride in Russia (2003!), here’s how they do the RR crossings..  try to drive past this..

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Alexsey and I stop in Sludlaynka and pick up a fresh chicken, some tomatoes, a cucumber…  We nee to find a place to camp on on the southern shore of Lake Baikal and find a dandy one about 10k east of Sludlanka.  Here’s the campsite and the view of the lake from inside and outside my tent.  Alexsey (my support driver) sleeps in his van.  He is turning out to be a wonderful guide travel companion.  His English is better than he thinks. 

Here’s the chicken cooking and Alexsey at our dinner table.

Alexsey and I stop in Sludlaynka and pick up a fresh chicken, some tomatoes, a cucumber…  We nee to find a place to camp on on the southern shore of Lake Baikal and find a dandy one about 10k east of Sludlanka.  Here’s the campsite and the view of the lake from inside and outside my tent.  Alexsey (my support driver) sleeps in his van.  He is turning out to be a wonderful guide travel companion.  His English is better than he thinks. 

Here’s the view (yes it rained), the chicken cooking and me at our dinner table.  Washed up and drank from Baikal today.  We’re filling our water bottles from it.  Incredible.

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Did I mention the Spanish white chilling in Lake Baikal?

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Alexsey drinks Cognac, so the wines just for me.

Riders notes:
Crossing the old bridge in Irktusk, you have 10k in heavy city traffic, fortunately most of it heading into town as you leave.  Get a local map and plan your ride to connect with M55 – it’s a bit tricky.  A couple big hills heading out of town, then moderate rollers until about 25k.  At that point you’ll climb from 1,500 feet to 2,800 feet, then descend quickly back to 1,500 and then climb to 3,300.  These two climbs and the descent between take up about another 25k. 

There are, I think, only two places to stop for food along the way.  A café at 23m/37k and another at 43m/69k.  I had lunch at the second one… pretty good.

The roads are in relatively good shape, and the traffic once you get out of Irkutsk is light.  After the two big climbs you’ll face a number steep moderately long (.5-1.5km, 8-12 degrees) steep rollers for 35k before a very quick desent back to 1,500 feet in Kultuk.  Then it’s relatively flat into Sludyanka.  Heading out of Sludyanka there are a couple moderate climbs (500 feet)… then we went camping.

SPECIAL NOTE:  To get to Baikal’s beaches… mostly rocks but it seems with grasses a little inward,  you need to find a river.  The Trans-Siberian railway is a giant block.  They build bridges over the rivers, wide enough to drive by to the beach…

2 thoughts on “8/19 – Irkutsk to Sludyanka 78m/125k**

  1. Tom Cox

    Bob,
    We savor these posts. What are the road surfaces like…rural South Carolina? In the photo of Shelekov, there are long green structures with a semi-circular roof…are those green house type things…every lot seems to have one? Do you receive information from the English speaking world…Western Europe?
    Tom and Millie Noon EST 8/21

    Reply
  2. Tom Cox

    Bob,
    After bluegrass on the porch, we had grilled fish …plus Yukon Gold and Blue Lake stringless from the garden…plus Romas blah blah. Really…we would rather be skinny dipping in Lake Baikal… 20% of the fresh water in the world…awesome! 93 degrees in Charlotte today…a shower. You be careful now…you hear.
    Tom and Millie

    Reply

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