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

Post 85: Ulan Ude

(‘Post 80’: During a frantic ‘cut & paste’ session I failed to upload Post 80 which explains our journey from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal and places certain subsequent events into context. I’ve added ‘Post 80’ correctly today )

We’ve skirted the border of Mongolia and here in Ulan-Ude the influence of that vast and sparsely populated nation is very strong. The faces, the food and even the street signs are more ‘Oriental’ than ‘Occidental’, …… the religions of Christianity and Buddhism seem to meet here in perfect harmony and as if to welcome us to Ulan-Ude, the scenery as we approach the city from the east has even reverted from forest to steppe.

The city is large and in comparison to the miles of open land that we’ve crossed to reach this place if feels very busy and polluted. Ulan-Ude is cluttered with tramlines, railway lines and power lines, …. it feels just like all other cities here in Siberia, .. it feels as if it is intruding upon an otherwise perfect landscape, … it simply feels totally out of place in it’s natural surroundings. It’s difficult not to view these places with a ‘western eye’, … but the impression one gets is that just prior to completion of any construction project; road, house, office building, hotel etc., the construction company lost interest and moved onto projects of greater interest. Apart from the natural landscapes, nothing here in Siberia feels ‘Finished’.

The people that we now meet on the road are mostly merchants, ….. this is the ‘Silk Route’, but today their wares are slightly different. At least half of the traffic heading west against us is comprised of modern Japanese cars travelling together in loose convoy. The cars, all new and right hand drive models, are imported to Vladivostok and driven by wide eyed and sleepless young men towards Moscow. The fronts and rear quarters of the cars are protected against the road debris by masking tape, the tyres are changed to part-worn replacements and the odometers are no doubt disconnected. If you ever purchase a new Japanese car in the UK with ‘delivery mileage’, …… then you might wish to enquire what the true ‘delivery mileage’ might actually be.

It had been difficult saying goodbye to Rik as he headed down to Mongolia but as with Fred and Asi, …. I’m certain that our paths will cross once more before our respective adventures are over. It’s been especially good for Alan to have other spirits riding with us for so many of the miles and he seems to thrive on the companionship. Although Alan prepared for the journey before departure from England, I think that ‘Travelling’ has come as something as a shock for him. Reading the accounts of other travellers provides a taste for the possibilities, an insight into the adventure, …… but I feel that living on the road and overcoming all eventualities is a difficult reality for Alan to accept, ….. but we’ll get him to Vladivostok.

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