First of all. Happy Birthday to Jaxon. Jaxon is Dennis’s daughter Sarah & Tim’s youngest, and a lovely boy. He turns a whole 5 years old, today. I bet you are looking forward to going to school Jaxon and it will be great to have your big sister Charley to look after you.
Leaving our camping spot on the edge of a forest this morning, we had only travelled a few hundred yards on the road to be met by 4 very powerful tanks – Dennis has corrected me and advised they were armed personnel carriers, coming out of the woods. Whatever, I am pleased we had packed up and they weren’t whizzing past our campsite with us still in bed.
En route for Ulan Ude we crossed the Selenge River. This river runs into the south east side of Lake Baikal via a large delta. Just after this we came to the village of Novoselenginsk. Our map showed a large museum sign here and looking at the guide book, it advised us the museum was dedicated to the “Decembrists”.
Not knowing who the Decembrists were, we thought we had better go and find out. The village is a typical southern Siberian shanty town of wooden shacks. The museum, however, could not be missed. A colonnaded-mini-brick mansion. Sadly, although beautifully presented and furnished with 19th century furniture with photos and exhibits, everything was in Russian. Google gave us the answer. The Decembrists were a group of mainly military nobles who wanted to overthrow Nicholas 1st and install his brother, Constantine as Tsar. In December 1825 they attempted to do this, but Nicholas’s forces easily quelled their revolt. As the uprising took place in December, hence the name “Decembrists”. The 5 leaders were executed, 30 others imprisoned and the rest, with their families, exiled to southern Siberia.
Onwards to Ulan-Ude. What a pleasant surprise. A lovely city. Unlike most other Russian cities, an obvious feeling of civic pride. Flowers, fountains and sculptures everywhere and workmen keeping up appearances repainting fences and bollards.
We had not intended to stay long. Just a quick look at the 7.7m high statue of Lenin’s head in the main Square. Apparently it is the world’s largest Lenin head and was installed in 1970 to celebrate Lenin’s 100th birthday.
Beyond the square we could see some Mongol Rally cars lined up, so we went to investigate and to see if there were any of the guys we had come across along the way. Yes, the 4 European boys we met yesterday – a German, a Belgian, a Frenchman and a Spaniard from Ibiza.
They greeted us warmly. The beer was flowing to celebrate their successful finish. We took some photos and chatted to some other young English participants, before heading off to look for a shop to sort out our WiFi once again. This, hopefully, should be the last time. Once again we were distracted by the surroundings. A very pretty pedestrianised street. Flowers everywhere and more fountains and statues.
Back on the road eventually, but another stop at a supermarket for yet more provisions. Concerned it was getting so late we hurriedly made our way out of the city. Dennis began to express concern that we had not refuelled and we were soon among forests of pine and silver birch and nothing else. We debated whether or not to turn back, but kept going and fortunately after about 70ks a fuel station came into sight. Just as well as for the first time during the trip, we had used up all the contents of the spare jerry cans. We still had over another hour’s drive to get to the shores of Lake Baikal. It was already after 6.30 and it gets dark by 8pm. Coming across a picnic spot by a river at the edge of the forest we pulled in. It proved the perfect place.
Just an after thought. You may be wondering why the Mongol Rally ends in Ulan-Ude across the border in Russia. Apparently the Mongolians were getting upset at the number of cars (most pretty destroyed) that we just abandoned after the rally and decided to impose hefty tax on the cars entering the rally. So, to avoid this the cars are now only temporary imports into Mongolia, as they now exit into Russia to complete the rally.