Hello all- well what a time has been had! Ups downs and loop the loops is the only way I can think of to describe the last few days. Let’s start from where I left off...
When I woke at 5am, believe it or not, there was a truck loitering nearby and so, as instructed, I knocked on the window. The chaps inside had clearly not been informed of the plan etched on paper the previous evening, or in hindsight, it was the wrong truck altogether, but either way, they basically told me to P’off as I began barking at them through the window and pointing towards the cafe, in the hope they might help me deal with the dogs in order to rescue Grettle from the back yard. I took my queue to leave and thankfully, having plucked up the courage to enter the yard, found that the dogs were chained just far enough away to prevent them from getting me as I hurriedly hauled Grettle out of the mud and sand and back into the open.
I set off early in order to catch up on lost time and made it a fair distance before the snow began- and wow- did the snow begin! I was filled with relief as I came across a little café sign, which in Russia means, more often than not, a place to sleep as well. It was a great little rustic hostel and so molly and I nabbed a room for 5 dollars and Grettle dozed outside.
Once I had changed and vaguely attempted to make myself look like I hadn’t just risen from a mud bath, I headed to the bar for an icy cold brew.
I was soon joined by two men who had parked their mayonnaise truck for the night. They offered me something pink and as pink things usually are, deadly, and so the remainder of the evening is sadly somewhat hazy, but when I woke a little later than planned in the morning, I looked out of my window to see at least 10” of snow! Holy F*** I thought- should I go or should I stay? Time was of the essence.
Potentially still a little drunk, I decided to pack up and go. The mayonnaise men, one of whom was still on the lash, had risen from their truck and held Molly while I skidded and slid my way to the road. The sun was beginning to melt the snow and so I thought I’d give it a go. I popped Molly on board, all wrapped up in her woolly coat and was just setting off when one of the chaps stopped me and informed me I was about to drive in completely the wrong direction; East. This is when I considered perhaps the pink potion had not quite exited my system, or perhaps i am so used to going East for the past two years, it has become almost second nature. I turned around and off we went; West.
We didn’t get far. I came to my senses a couple of kilometers further on and decided to turn back to the café until the ice and snow was gone from the road- I would have certainly continued if it was only my life at risk but having little Molly on board, I couldn’t bare the thought of a tumble. On my way back to the café, I met the mayonnaise men in their truck once again. They had gone to the local for cigarettes and so we all sidled back to the café together and spent an hour or two drinking coffees and hairs of dogs.
Time did the trick and the roads slowly became rideable once again. I set off by about mid-day and made it to the western end of Lake Baikal by the evening. The vast lake was completely frozen over and glowed like an expansive pearly mist beneath me; it was a stunning spectacle and one which rather took my breath away. The truth is, despite the lake being one of the biggest attractions for travelers in this part of the world, I had no idea I would be passing by it and so when I first saw it, I couldn’t work out what it was- salt flats perhaps? Some scientific experiment? It looked like some kind of huge sheet of silver foil in the middle of the mountains.
Perhaps it was to do with the monumental scale of the lake that prevented me from recognizing its true identity, or perhaps it was simply that I had never seen anything like it before. As I rode along the water’s edge, I was filled with that thrill one feels when faced with something so special, so beautiful, so fresh and so unique, like a painting that hits ones senses in a way that none other has done, that delves one into another world of possibilities and of madness; of the unknown. As I neared the end of the lake and the sun began to set, fatigue kicked in and I found a cabin on the water’s edge to spend the night.
By the morning I was a whole day behind schedule and so I woke early to try and catch up on lost time. I was doing awfully well when I suddenly felt Grettle wobbling beneath me and pulled over to find a flat tire! Luckily I had just stopped at a gas station and so having pumped up the tire temporarily, i only had to drive down the highway the wrong direction for about 5 minutes before I was back there once again.
The guys there were a fantastic help and luckily I had all the tools needed for Grettle’s operation. During this operation and much attention placed on Grettle, Molly got awfully impatient and I think rather jealous, and began to whine continuously. The nice lady behind the till asked if she would like some food and then reappeared moments later with two chicken feet. Molly was ecstatic, I was disgusted, the chaps were highly amused but all in all, the chicken claws solved the problem and left Molly content and quiet until Grettle was ready to roll once again.
Although rolling is not quite the word to describe how she felt; it was more of a bumpy, nerve-racking wobble down the highway. The reason being, that the tire had not inflated all the way around the rim. I had been assured by the chaps at the gas station that after some time the tire would pop into place. Some time passed but alas no popping was to be had. I hopped off to check this at one point and was soon approached by a bloke who asked if I needed any help. I showed him the problem and he told me to follow him, so off we went in convoy (he was driving a 4 by 4) to his bikers club. When we arrived, a helpful chap sorted Grettle’s tire out with lots of soap and lube and all was well once again. With time now slipping away however, I declined the tempting offer to spend the night with the bikers and scooted on another 100 km to find this café and a place to sleep.