Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.
We are currently parked at the back of the Baikal Hotel (the old Intourist hotel) in Irkutsk, I am not sure the hotel know we are here, we have not booked a room and nobody has asked us to pay.
The drive north from Ulaan Baatar to the Russian border was mostly on good tarmac and the border formalities fairly straightforward, if a little slow. The only slight hitch was being asked point blank in good English if we had a GPS with us. We said we had and pointed out that we had declared it on our customs form. We were then told to fill in a new customs form without the GPS. There was no suggestion that we should not use the GPS in Russia, only that it should not be declared on the customs form. I suspect that most "western" vehicles crossing from Mongolia to Russia have a GPS with them. In Irkutsk I bought a 4x4 magazine (See www.4x4polniy-privod.ru) that includes a review of, and adverts for, Garmin GPSs. Very strange.
Back in Russia we have had to get used to random police checks again, one or two a day, after our relaxed time in Mongolia. Shame.
On our way round the southern edge of Lake Baikal we made a 70km detour to the monastery (a Christian rather than Buddhist sect this time) at Posolskoe.
The monastery is being re-built, apparently by volunteers living in tents on the lake side. The monks sell souvenirs in the temporary chapel/shop set up in advance of the main building being ready.
The detour should have been a 70km loop, but only 5km short of re-joining the main road we encountered a 2 metre height barrier guarding a bridge and had to return the 65km to the main road. The monastery does not get many visitors in campervans I assume.
Our latest (2004-07-28) "text" from Maureen, who is returning to the UK via the Trans-Mongolian express, reads:
I've just got back to Ulaan Baatar. Leaving 20.45 tomorrow (Thursday) will see you at the reunion. Take care of each other. Maureen.
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