Irkutsk Finally!

We’ve barely started and I’ve already lost track of what time it is. There is a 2 hour difference between Prague and Saint Petersburg and 5 more, I think, between Petersburg and Irkutsk.
22. 2. 2010

Moreover, we left Prague with a delay and when we landed in Petersburg, it was dark already...How can I keep track of what time it is? And, I forgot to mention a short layover we had somewhere in the middle of Siberia. We were told about this one minutes before we got on the plane in Petersburg and I was too sleepy to remember what was the name of the city or at what time we were supposed to get there :-)

Except for the confusion about different time zones in the destinations, there were no problems at all, smooth! We were worried that there would be problems with the extra weight, oversized baggages, visas or loads of food in our sleds but it was nothing like that. We were both shocked how smooth it went, we couldn’t believe it as when we searched for info about Bajkal at the very beginning (some half a year ago), we were warned by all that to get there will be very complicated. People told us that we would need to bribe everyone from the custom officer to cleaning ladies at the airport, that we would have problems to get all the technology (satellite phone, modem, laptop...) through the customs and so on. Everything was supposed to be a problem and very complicated but it just wasn’t like that! Thanks to the support from the Rossia Airlines we received a 90% discount on the extra weight (some 120 kgs - 264 lbs. in the end) and then in Petersburg where we were entering the Russian territory they only stamped our passport and that was it. We passed by number of all kinds of officers but fortunately they paid no attention to us. What else is there to wish for? Suddenly we found ourselves standing in front of the Irkutsk airport laughing like fools, happy that we were there. There was even a pleasant weather - a bit overcast but only some -11 ºC (12 F) which may sound like really cold to someone but it is much warmer than we had expected. It was -38 ºC there last week as the people who picked us up at the airport told us.

A girl holding a sign saying “ BERGANS BAJKAL 2010” was waiting for us at the airport. Perfect organization, a complete service, there was nothing for us to worry about. We collected our baggages, loaded them in the van waiting for us outside and within a moment we were in the center of Irkutsk. On the way we stopped in a supermarket to buy up the rest of our supplies and soon we were in the apartment where we are staying for the night, it belongs to a family who rents rooms to the tourists. When I heard Vašek’s crazy stories about his previous travels in Russia, I found it hard to believe him as we really had no problems at all. No even with the communication - most of the people spoke perfect English and Vasek spoke in Russian with those who did not. I must take my hat off to our coordinator Tatjana Sizova who is in charge of the logistics here in Russia. THANK YOU, Tatjana!

After we moved our stuff in the apartment, we focused on repacking of our four sleds. We went through the equipment, clothing and food again, we tested the communication technology once more. Suddenly I realized that it was 9 p.m. already and that it was time to write today’s post so I can sent it today. There will be no time to do that tomorrow morning. We’re leaving for the village of Kultuk on the southernmost side of Baikal right after breakfast. Then it really begins!

22. 2. 2010

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