5. 2. 2015
They didn’t manage to get gas in other packaging here but they say it’s pure gas and that we can just buy some bottled water and use the bottles :-) It was too much for us to do yesterday evening so the only thing we did was to buy 2 dozens of bottles of “gazirovanoj vodoj”. As it was clear we couldn’t drink it all, we just poured it all out straight to the bathtub. The landlady looked a bit stunned as she was probably wondering what a weirdos we are that we buy loads of water only to pour it out...
So, the next morning we began with transporting the gas from the tiny bottles to the plastic ones - as it was -20 ºC (-4 F) outside, it was not a pleasant thing to do. Then we had a generous breakfast and it was time to say goodbye to our landlords. We loaded the van with our stuff and after 10 a.m. we were ready to leave for the lake. Our driver, his name is Roman and comes from Irkutsk, has a “charošuju mašinu”, a Mitsubishi van which he bought used but straight from Japan. It’s a great car except for the fact that the wheel is on the right side :-) That’s why Pavel had to sit on the front seat next to the driver (actually he sat where the wheel should be in this country) to check the road and cars going in opposite direction and navigated the driver. Fun! There were some 90 km (56 miles) across the beautiful mountains ahead of us before we reached the lake and the village of Kultuk from which we set out for the lake. It was at about 1 p.m. when we finally got there. We pulled out our sleds from the van and set them right on the ice. Time to go...
We were taken by surprise when we saw the lake for the first time. The southern half of the lake was (according to all information) supposed to be snow free, just ice...but the lake is all white covered with a layer of snow after the heavy snow last week. There are only some 5 - 10 cm (2 - 4″) but still we can feel it when pulling the sled, it’s much more difficult but there’s nothing we can do about it. At least we know that it won’t lead uphill :-) At about half past 1 p.m. we were ready and finally stepped on the ice for the first time. Soon we had the first kilometers behind us. The ice was quite smooth without any big cracks. Even the weather was quite pleasant - no extreme cold or strong winds and at times we even caught a sight of sun. There were few snow showers at the beginning; probably only to make it clear to us that we are in Siberia.
As we were pulling our sleds, once in a while a car full of shocked drivers passed by. They were staggered by the view of two crazy guys bundled up in expedition clothes with full sleds behind them (we have some 105 kgs - 231 lbs. each). Soon it was time for the first snack so we sat down on the sleds and pulled out one of our nutritious snacks. I went for the “magic” instant pudding and Pavel had one of his homemade bars made of butter and sugar. He looked happy as a baby who just got a lollipop :-) It must be really tasty - well I’ll have a loads of those too, so I will see myself. But we both looked happy not only because we had something good to eat but because we were THERE, on the lake we had always dreamed of, on the lake which we might as well hate in few days when the Siberia shows us its dark side...So many times we had wondered about this moment and now it’s really happening. As we’re both crazy about the ice and cold we really had a great time today! We were huffing and puffing as the sleds are sometimes hard to pull, especially if the snow gets deeper but we were still smiling. And we even had the time to enjoy the magnificent view of the rocky wall on the left side - there's a railway which is literally cut inside of the wall since long time ago.
It was getting dark so at about half past 5 p.m. we decided it was time to set up the tent. Pavel had made some improvements on the tent, everything was tested and checked...BUT only in the temperatures which the winter in the Czech Republic can provide us with. It showed up that the great, new, membrane, one-layer tent we have gets too stiff in very low temperatures and that we cannot stretch out the poles in the tough fabric. It was snowing hard and we were kneeling on the ice shortening the poles with a saw instead of being inside of the tent eating dinner. But I have to say we dealt with the problem easily and we didn’t even cut our pants :-) Once we cut the poles, we had no problems setting up the tent and then we finally got into that small hotel of ours. We also had to persuade our stove that Russian gas is as tasty as the Czech gas and soon we had our dinner ready. It was huge! We had a hard time to eat it all but as we didn’t want to disappoint our nutritionist, we made it all the way to the bottoms of our cooking pots :-)
Now we are lying in the tent by candlelight (for the atmosphere and feel of warmth :-) working on this post, so you can read it soon. We hear noisy bangs from outside as the ice is cracking. Baikal is saying hi to us by these bangs, I guess. I was just telling Pavel that those are bursts of applause to us from the lake :-) We’re having a great time. We know you all envy us - not only the pleasant temperatures we have here but above all our hotel which stays on the top of the largest reservoir of drinking water in the world. Hi to all of you!