We have departed Russia by a bouncing bus, heading from Ulan Ude to Ulan Bataar, the capitol of Mongolia. The journey lasted 14 hours, plenty of time to not only stare out the window, but also watch two films and reflect on the first three weeks of our journey.
Starting in Moscow, we had the great joy of relaxing in the sun, visiting different parks, and eating as much ice cream as we could handle. We rounded off our experience with a visit to the Bolshoi Theatre. The Theatre was showing an opera- Der Rosenkavalier, which was a confusing mishmash of eras in theme and costume, but well sung and interesting nonetheless. The sunny days were a great conclusion to my year studying there, filled, as usual, with lots of unexpected things (Hippos in Gorky Park), many fun things (celebrating with my classmates), and plenty of bureaucracy (finishing my degree and getting all of my visas sorted).
We then explored Russia by train, spending three days on the Moscow to Beijing sleeper, hanging out with a German tour group and a Russian businesswoman, and eating plenty of instant noodles before finally arriving in Irkutsk. The region was intended as our highlight, and didn’t disappoint. Irkutsk was our gateway to Lake Baikal, a stunningly large lake with endless options for outdoor lovers. We walked along the railway tracks, we camped on the beach, we stargazed on hills, and clambered over rocks. We paid our respects at the holy sites on Olkhon island and watched the marmots scurry between the feet of cows and horses.
We passed through forests, sand dunes and fields, and had lovely evenings reading and chatting with new friends. What followed was a few days in Ulan Ude, a quaint, friendly and colourful city, where we met heaps more people on their way to Mongolia, as well as new friendly locals, keen to give us a helping hand. We took countless photographs of the massive Lenin head, made delicious risottos and then finally set off… to the grand adventure that awaits us in Mongolia!