Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 79: Irkutsk

As the ‘Brothel’ charges by the hour and we’ve paid for a full day, …. we don’t need to ‘check-out’ until 10pm. We call a taxi and ride into the city under dark skies and torrential rain. The roads and pavements are totally flooded, … both pedestrians and vehicles making progress where they can. We’re dropped off on Karl Marks Street and head for the Mongolian Embassy in order to secure Rick’s visa. They will not accept money and payment for the visa has to be made through a particular bank in the city. We head off and find the bank but they can’t complete the transaction at that branch. We find the second branch and then the third and finally the fourth, .. all stating that it is only the ‘next branch’ of this particular bank that can meet his needs, … welcome to Russia.

We avoid the rain and dive into a café for relief. Across the floor, above the heads of several diners, …. I see two waving hands, … beneath them the beaming smiles of Fred and Asi our Swiss overland friends that we’d last seen heading east some three days earlier. We share stories over good coffee and arrange to meet again at 7pm to go for dinner.

We return to the first bank and amazingly find that the very same cashier who had earlier refused Rick’s transaction is now happy to complete it. He pays the money and we take the receipt back to the Mongolian Embassy, ….. which is now closed. We smile into the security camera, … we wave papers and money and finally a returning employee allows Rick to enter. The visa will be ready for collection in 48 hours.

With time to kill, .. we wander the markets of Irkutsk and stock up on smoked sausages, fruit, herbs and spices before moving on to an internet café. It’s dark, the computers are old and teenagers occupy most of the booths. We read emails and update our blog’s as best we can between computer crashes and power failures, …… we long for public WiFi.

At 7pm we meet Fred and Asi as arranged but there’s a problem, ….. my 'false wallet', telephone and camera are missing from the zipped pockets of my jacket. I return to the internet café, … now teaming with even more teenagers. I explain the problem of the ‘lost’ items but they have not been found. I point to the security camera’s high on the ceiling and the kids immediately find their computer games far more interesting than the scruffy ‘Anglian’. I’m invited to return the next morning to review the tapes but hold little hope of ever seeing the camera or telephone again. It’s not something that I’m worried about, …… the camera was cheap and I’d transferred most pictures to my laptop but the cell phone is slightly more complicated. I think I’ve got most numbers backed-up on my second phone, …. but so far in Russia my second phone hasn’t found a signal.

On a brighter note, … Alan’s cashcard is working again and as soon as I find a new camera, .. I'll post more pictures.

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