Mongolia/Siberia June 2019

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MONGOLIA..SIBERIA..LAKE BAIKAL KAYAKING TRIP JOURNAL 1

JOURNAL  1

Amtrak from Klamath Falls to Union Station downtown Los Angeles. Then a 12-hour direct flight from LAX International airport to Moscow, 5-hour layover then a 5-hour flight to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.

May 17th Friday day 1 of traveling: Angie picked me up at Steve’s place where I had been staying for going on 5 weeks, which I really appreciated. It gave me time to recuperate from the Appendix operation and finalize getting my gear together. She dropped me off at the Amtrak station around 4 and it didn’t open until 8:30 and the training didn’t come thru until 10:00. Long time to wait. It turned cold and windy. I had to move all the bags 3 different times and it beat the hell out of me. Obviously, I had not recuperated as much as I thought I had.

It wasn’t long and I wasn’t feeling well at all. In fact, downright lousy.

I had made a drive to K Falls a couple of weeks before, just to make sure I wasn’t going to have any issues with my baggage or stormy and that turned out to be the case.

The train arrived on time and fortunately I had booked a berth and within 15 minutes of getting on the train I was laying down with Stormy at my feet. I was not feeling well at all.

May 18th Saturday day 2 of traveling: With the berth came all 3 meals and I managed to pull my self up and out of bed and did go to the dining car and eat all 3 meals. At the appropriate stops, I took Stormy out for a walk. We have traveled so much together that she knows what the stops are for and what she is supposed to do.

We arrived at Union Station on time, about 11:00 at night. I had called 22 different Motel/Hotels between Union Station and the airport and all of them were booked. We slept on the floor in a section they had roped off, the station basically shuts down for a couple of hours. Fortunately, I had my ticket and all the bags and there really wasn’t much choice for them but to let me stay there. It was a long night to say the least.

We did go out for a walk for a while. There were homeless people literally sleeping everywhere. Also, along the train tracks, thought the entire trip down thru Central California and into LA there were dozens of homeless camps along the tracks with 1,000's of people living in tents, makeshift shelters and old RV’s. A pitiful site and I hear it is like that all over California now.

May 19th Sunday day 3 of traveling: I called a Uber SUV to pick me up and take me to LAX International and he arrived at about 8:00 AM. At the airport at 9 and he dropped off out front of the Aeroflot Terminal. I had to wait all day before I could figure out what was going to happen. I had been communicating with the head baggage manager, he found me and took half my bags to his office for overnight storage. Stormy and I pushed a cart with the balance of the bags over to the new Bob Hope USO and spent the night there. It was the 1st good nights sleep I had in 2 nights and it seemed like I was going to start feeling better.

May 20th Monday day 4 of traveling: At about 8 AM we pushed the cart back to the Aeroflot terminal and had to wait until 12:00 noon before the Aeroflot ticket terminal opened for the flight that left at 4:05. By now pretty much all of the Aeroflot ticket agents knew what was going on and they brought my bags from the office and we weighed them, and I got checked in. Fortunately, I was very prepared and none of the 7 bags weighed over 50 lbs. The baggage cost and Stormy $75 was $1,175 for 1 way. My round trip ticket was $1,200.

Stormy went in a medium size kennel I had brought; she went right in when the time came. I wasn’t happy about it at all, she didn’t seem to mind so that helped. We boarded on time and the plane left on time.

May 21st/May 22nd Tuesday arrive Wens day 5/6 of traveling:  I say 21st and 22nd because you gain a day. I started to feel better as the hours went by. Anyone who has had a long flight like that, it was tough. Particularly when you get older. It was just a long flight. I enjoyed absolutely nothing about it.

Once to Moscow they were waiting for me and checked my paperwork for Stormy and made sure my visa was in order, which both were. Then they took me down to where they brought me Stormy and we were able to go out and spent about 2 hours in a good spot. Stormy acted like she had been on a Sunday drive, she wasn’t stressed at all.  

However, she wasn’t too happy about going back in the kennel, but she did. She doesn’t like me disciplining here so she always works hard at pleasing me and pretty much obeys.

Then we were off to Ulaan Baatar for the 5-hour flight.  This meant I entered Russia and exited Russia so my visa got stamped for both.

May 23rd Wednesday day 7 of traveling:  We landed in UB at about 7 AM. Took me a couple of hours to get out of the airport, gather up all the bags, get Stormy and spend an hour explaining to them that there is no such thing as a “Pet Passport” and there was no such thing as a fee that needed to be paid to bring a pet into the country.  Once they understood I wasn’t a “soft touch” out the door and into the cab we stuffed all of the gear/the kennel/Stormy and off we were to downtown to the Zaya’s Hostel where I had booked 3 nights. It was my intention during these 3 days to get caught up on sleep, get the gear/food I had a list of, find a driver and head up to the lake, the 1st segment of the trip.

Great place to stay. Clean, quiet, the owners, 2 brothers spoke great English, the meals were good, and they had their guys bring all my bags into my room, which gave me multiple times to go thru everything. I couldn’t had made a better decision. They were all very respectful and treated Stormy very well. In fact, so far, I had absolutely no issues with bringing her or any difficulties.  

John Stamfi  was waiting for me, a Vietnam Vet who had been living in Mongolia for going on 20 years and we walked down and went for breakfast to get acquainted and plan to get what I needed. I obviously was beat and once we got thru with breakfast I went back and slept for the rest of the day and was up at 3:00 AM, which is about what it was going forward every morning.

May 24th Thursday day 8 of traveling:
John came back the next morning and took me around to the Sporting Goods store, two of them. I managed to get everything I needed. Then he took me to a couple of markets, but I really didn’t find what I was looking for. Not easy to get around with all the traffic.


I have had plenty of time to plan all of this, so I knew exactly what I was looking for and pretty much had accomplished everything.

May 25th Friday day 9th of traveling: Another day of going out and finding what I wanted. I found what they call the State Department Store just down the street and it turned out to be just as nice and 1st class as any store I have ever been in. That is where I ended up getting everything and not going any where else, it was just a 10-minute walk down the street.

Some quick observations on UB. UB is at one time or another the 1st, 2nd 3rd polluted city in the world. It sits down in a hole, has 3 coal fired energy plans and the Ger’s burn coal in the winter, 8 months plus or minus out of the year for heat. And there are 1,000's and 1,000's of Gers. There is huge mining boom going on, so there are literally 1000’s of buildings being built in one stage or another. It is quite a site to see all the cranes in the air, everywhere. The traffic is horrific. There are throngs of people. It is dirty, trashy and of course smells and is hard to breath. 

It is one of the last places in the world I would go for a vacation. Now I am not throwing Mongolia into that as you shall see as the Journal’s progress. No different than any place else in the world for a big City.  All the small shops support families.

The unemployment rate is somewhere I was told between 25% and 30%. A disaster in the making. Alcoholism is rampant as I am told but drugs aren't that big of issue. Tattoos are also the order of the day, but no body piercing. I did not see one instance of it. Everyone, now I mean everyone is glued to their phone. The taxi drivers, the policeman in the intersection directing traffic, everyone driving I mean everyone. I thought the Americans had it bad, but this is an epidemic.

People are nice, but do not respond to a hello, and walk right by you like you don’t exist. The males are arrogant, but I am sure that is the “personality” of the people. The women also just walk right by. They are very polite and stiff in the stores. But once the ice is broken, they have a good demeanor and a good sense of humor, but tough to break thru that.

The picture above right is bear spray and a baseball bat with a cover on the top so when it is my backpack no one knows it is a bat. For the drunken Mongolian or Russian who thinks he is going to give me a bad time.

May 26th Saturday day 10th of traveling:   I decided to stay and leave Monday AM which gave me all the time I needed to make sure I had what I wanted. Also, I told myself I was going to go out to the Genghis Kahn statue and museum, so have decided to play tourist tomorrow for 4 or 5 hours tomorrow Sunday.

I believe I have gotten everything, including a new pair of boots. Imagine, coming all the way to Mongolia to get a new pair of boots. Once again, I am very happy with the Zaya’s Hostel these guys are organized and do a great job. I also think they do a lot of tours/guiding. I have met people from France, Germany, Japan, Britain and America. A lot of Earth Watch folks, trying to save the world.

May 27th Sunday day 11th of traveling:
Tourist day, said I was going to do it and I did. Another American, a lady from Kansas I think, Earth Watch I believe, is going to go with me and share the taxi. We left about 10 and at 1st it was enjoyable. Then the road turned to literally Hell. It just beat the hell out of my stomach for over an hour and half. If I would have known wouldn’t have gone. I wish I would have had my back brace on for both my stomach and my back.

We got to the statue area and the pictures tell the story. 

We had to traverse the same road back and then went up to the top of a Soviet World War II Memorial that was erected in appreciation for the Soviets protecting Mongolia during the war.  

I was glad to get back to the hostel. I walked down the street and got a nice bowl of traditional Mongolian beef and noodle soup, the second time actually and a cold coke.

Didn’t take me long to finish up packing and getting things together and I was out.
















May 28th Monday day 12th of traveling: I don’t think I have mentioned it, but the time I have been waking up and getting up has been around 4 AM. That is a good thing because I like to get up early when I am on the water, the sun comes up early and get right on the water and have my breakfast in the kayak as the sun is coming up over the hill. Now that is tempered if I am on the wrong side of the lake or in a canyon, but I like to have my miles for the day no later than 2, because the wind invariably comes up.

The driver I had hired was at the hostel at 9:00 just like it was planned. We loaded up and headed out of town which took approximately 2 hours because of the size and because of the traffic.

Once again, I made the huge mistake of not having my back brace on, the road was as bad as the yesterday and it beat the living hell out of me until we got to a much better road. This trip is approximately 400 miles and the MPH are 50 I think, and nobody seems to speed. There are police check points it seems about every 75 miles and we even went through a sobriety check point. All of this keeps everyone pretty much in line.









































The further we got away from UB the less traffic we had and soon there was very little. The country was just as I had expected. If you were to shut your eyes and open them you would think you were in Eastern Oregon, or around La Grande or Elgin or Baker or even around Condon and Fossil. It looks like they are starting to farm, which is a huge transition from a Nomadic Herder’s life.

As for the herder’s there were many, many herds of goats, sheep, cattle and horses. I did not see any herds of yaks or reindeer; I think they are in specific areas. A lot of the prairie has been eaten down and is not growing back. That is the result of the goats and sheep. As we got further north, the prairie was much greener, and the grass lands were much healthier.

We stopped in good size town, got something to eat and about 20 miles further we just pulled off and I put my tent up and the driver slept in the back of his van. 1st night in the tent.

May 29th Tuesday day 13th of traveling:  I got him up early and we were on the road by 5. The Mongolians are not early risers, in fact most shops don’t open until 10, the better ones at 9.

The weather turned very foul as we got to the higher elevation and further north. Very cold and windy and it was an indication that perhaps I had arrived a little too early.

We arrived in Khatgal on Khuvsgul Lake. This is where the 1st part of the journey was to begin.

The lake is still frozen over. Imagine that. You would think, somebody throughout the last 2 weeks, in the tourist business would have had a clue. Wouldn’t have made any difference, I normally don’t change my plans or adjust my missions for any reason. But this was going to require some on the spot decisions.

I managed to work my way around the village and arrived at the New Roots Coffee House, ran by an American and I think a Ministry, I must confirm that. He sent me in the direction of the Mongol Ujin Tourist Camp and boy was that a God Send.  

The lady that runs the place, Dawa for short is her name,  speaks great English and is quite a whirlwind. More on that later. I have rented a Ger by the day, $30 a day, includes breakfast and a good one at that. If you eat lunch or dinner that is extra but not much. Easy walking distance to the lake and downtown.

I won’t have any problem resupplying above and beyond what I brought, there is everything here to be had.

Once I got my bags inside, I took the time in the late afternoon to unload the bags and get everything laid out on the other 3 beds in the Ger. It became apparent to me I had a lot of stuff. Way too much.



























Stormy and I went for a little walk and I think I was in the bed by 7.

May 30th Thursday day 14th of traveling: I am going to make these journals traveling until I get on the water. The ice won’t be off the lake until around the 15th to the 20th. Nothing obviously can be done. I have already got my kayak together, put all of gear for the 1st 2 to 3 weeks in it to make sure of the room and I have plenty to spare, which means when I get back here, and pack up for the next month or so it will work out just like I planned. There are the positive results of practicing the 5 P’s again.

Stormy and I have been walking out to the lake every morning and evening and will continue to do so. I will probably have them take us and the kayak down to the lake, less than a 5-minute drive and spend a few hours out on what open water there is here in the bay where the Eg River flows out. The only river to flow out of the lake.
 











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JOURNAL 2

  • Mongol Ujin Ger Camp Khatgal, Mongolia

May 31st Friday 15th day of traveling/waiting: I spent some of the day going thru all of my gear again, repacking and packing. Then I had Dawa’s husband help me put the kayak on top of their car and he ran me down to the lake so Stormy and I could paddle around the open water there was and then on down to the outlet of the Eg River.










































Dawa, had mentioned that if I wanted to, her husband and a horse handler/guide would take me on a 5-day 4-night horseback ride. Why not I said. It has been 30 plus year since I been on a horse, but it is just like riding a bike, you never forget. I did forget how sore my behind was going to end up being about the 3rd day.

June 1st Saturday 16th day of traveling/waiting:  The guide showed up with the 4 horses, 3 for riding and 1 for a pack horse. We loaded up and were off thru town about 10 AM.










































The 1st day was riding on pretty much flat ground and took a good way from town. Our 1st nights camp was in a good place. It was not warm by any means. They build fires to cook and of course for warmth.

The 1st thing they do is boil water for tea and rest and relax and have tea and sweet rolls or biscuits flavored with garlic. Then they set their tent up. They both sleep in the small tent. The guide is up throughout the night checking on the horses.















They don’t get up to early, so we were back on the horses at around 10. We headed up in to the mountains in no time.















For some reason, they both decided to go one way and took the wrong canyon. We ended up in a box canyon. Two choices go back the way we came, or traverse basically straight up and over the ridge. That is what we did. A challenge and an experience.















This is a Golden Eagle’s nest. Notice Stormy heading down the hill to confront the mother Eagle. 

Then the father showed up and they both ran her off. There is one baby eagle in the nest. We saw several of these large nests, on the top of the larger trees and had been blown off by the wind. I saw no nests in top of trees. Several in the rocks. These Golden Eagles do not eat dead animals. They only take live animals for food.















These 2 pictures are on top of the crest of the ridge. Very cold and windy.















Once we walked the horses down to the bottom of the canyon we were where we should have been if we would have ridden a little longer and taken the right canyon.















Not the best place to camp for the 2nd night, but we were tired, it was windy, and it was cold, and I was pooped and so was Stormy. She had gotten tangled up in the back legs twice of 2 horses and she was not happy. That was after we had got down off the ridge. She did not want to go any further and wouldn’t keep up with us. I had to walk her on her leash for miles until we got to the camp site for the night.

Up the next morning at about 7. It was cold, had rained all night, everything was frozen and there was a couple of inches of snow up on the ridge we were going to ride over to go over to the lake for the ride back to town. We decided to not do that and fight the weather and rode back the way we came and took another canyon over to the lake.




























Stormy likes everybody and everybody likes Stormy. The picture of the small flat rock laying up against the bigger rock has some great pictorials on it. It would be a keep sake for sure, but against the law to take them.















Here you go. For eternity you can be looking out over a beautiful Mongolian Valley.















Yaks.                                                                                                                              The 1st site of the lake, frozen over.















3rd night camp site.                                                                                                Ice crystals on the lake.






























Nice ride back to town along the lake, with some tough spots. The trail hasn’t had any attention for years. Looking at Khatgal as we get close to town. Stormy and I walked all the way back, I was tired and sore.

Because of the box canyon and the weather, the ride turned out to be 4 days 3 nights and that was enough for me.

June 5th Wednesday 20th day of traveling/waiting: Rested most of this day, because I was obviously tired. I do spend time on the computer, trying to get things in perspective on the website for the Journals/Pics, for getting the information/pics to Julia for the book and making sure the inReach map stays updated and is working.

I have a very sore behind, but once I get moving and walking don’t notice it

I decided to get all of my gear out, lay it all out, put the tent up and make a list of it all, take a video and take some pics. Quite a site.
















List of Gear/Food for Mongolia/Siberia Kayak Trip 1st 2 Weeks for 240 plus or minus miles

Kayak

Feathercraft Tandem Expedition
Life jacket
Life jacket for Stormy
2 sets of paddles
2 ropes each end for securing kayak
Piece of rebar for securing kayak at night
Light spinning pole and reel/box of lures
2 seat water tight covers
1 clear bubble for Stormy’s seat
1 rain skirt for main seat
Sail and sail mast
Landing and take off drone table
1 large bottle of water
Pee bottle
Patch kit with various glues/material
Day pack
Gloves
Rain hat
Sleeve gloves…gloves sewed on to the
arms of a new good rain coat… cut them off go all the way up to the arm pit (Had them made)
Rowing gloves/bike gloves
Thumb braces for the arthritis
Fire starter/fire starter matches
3 Bear spray
3 Air horns
Various foods for snacks, beef jerky, candy bars, protein bars, dates, nuts
Lip balm
Super glue
Leather Man
Survival Knife
Roll of duct tape
Machete stored up in the kayak
Rudder with foot petals for steering
Umbrella for light wind sailing
Walking stick
Baseball bat
High top waders with boots
Dry suit uses above boots
NRS river boots
Cooking/Food
Table
Chair
Cook set
3 pots with lids
1 frying pan
2 spoons
2 forks
1 knife
1 steak knife
1 spatula
2 military P-38’s can openers
Gas cook stove
2 large gas containers
1 fire lighter
1 kitchen towel
Scrubber for cleaning dishes
Small bottle dish soap
Cup for hot
Small bottle cooking oil
Various teas and honey
Beef jerky
Dates
Trail mix nuts
Dried apricots
Bag of rice
Bag of spaghetti
Bag of pasta
3 tins tuna fish
6 soup packages
4 packages of mashed potatoes
4 packages of pastas
4 Gravy mixes
Bag of oatmeal/nuts
Bag of Mongolian biscuits
Bag of Mongolian sweet biscuits
6 Oreo cookie rolls
20 candy bars
30 protein bars
4 potatoes
4 carrots
2 onions
1 garlic clove
Salt/pepper/seasoning salt
Soy sauce
2 water bladders
Water purifier
Electronics
Goal Zero solar system with Sherpa 100w inverter
3 panel solar receiver
Camera
Phone/for use with drone
Parrot Anafi Drone 3 batteries
inReach
Notebook/for use with inReach paring
And 20 kindle books
Laptop/mouse
Large capacity storage pack
4 Thumb drives for storage
3-way USB
All charging cables for all electronics
Tent/Sleeping
Tipi style 8’ x 8’ tent
Air mattress/slips into pouch I had sewed on the bottom of the bag
Sleeping bag/with stuff bag
2 wool blanket inserts
2 sm pillows 1 for head 1 for knees
10’ x 10’ piece of plastic for under tent
Rain cover
2nd Rain/Shade cover I made
Tent pegs/hammer/pieces of small rope
Center tent pole
6 large black plastic garbage bags
Stormy’s stuff
Collar
2 small dry bags full of dog food
Various snacks
2 canvas feed containers for water and food
Collar/leash
Service Dog cover
Warm coat cover
Clothes
1 pair of deck pants/shorts also
4 pairs of socks
2 long sleeve shirts
1 short sleeve shirt
1 pair of sweats
1 raincoat
1 wind breaker

About noon I suddenly felt my right front tooth fall out. It had cracked and just flipped out. Unbelievable.

Once I got done with all of the gear and put it away, Dawa said she had to go to Muron the next day which would be Thursday and we could mail a box off all of my bags I brought the kayak in and all of the gear to Irkusku to a Kayak/Sporting Goods store I know about and we made plans to leave at 8:00 AM.









June 6th Thursday 22nd day of traveling/waiting:   We left right at 8 and arrived about 9:15.  We walked into the Dentist office, had to wait about 15 minutes and I was out of there at 10:30 with a new front tooth. $20.00. Unbelievable. Dawa got a cavity filled and some work on a chipped front tooth and I think that was about $30.00.

Then we went to the Post Office and sent the box of bags off to the Sporting Goods/Kayak Shop in Irkusku. Then we went and had a pizza in a nice restaurant at a hotel. She called a friend of hers, who is the Director of the Large Park/Preserve on the Western side of the lake and he said I do not need a permit to camp on the bank of the lake along the park. He was interested in where I was going to camp, so he is going to come by and I will show him where I expect to camp on the inReach map. He also told me he knows of no water on the river that is dangerous enough that I can’t paddle, which is in direct contrary to what Ernst is telling me. That is another story unto itself I will relate when the time comes, and I know what I am talking about.

After lunch, Dawa went to get her nails done and I wondered around the town square for an hour and a half.  Goes to show you women are the same all over the world.

When she was done, we went to the grocery store I got a few more things and she got some supplies for the kitchen. Then back to camp. New tooth and all.

The weather was beautiful all day, except the wind consistently comes up in the afternoon and that is why I will be on the water by 5:30 every morning. This waiting for a couple of weeks is going to put us into the beginning of the good weather.

When I got here the hills were still very brown. Now they are very green.

June 7th Friday 23rd day of traveling/waiting:  There is a Frenchman here who rode a horse up from the Gobi Desert about 750 Kilometers I think it was. He had lost his phone, so all he had was a compass. A feat unto itself, because it was out thru the hills, the mountains and the steppes. Now that was a hell of a thing to do and accomplish. But here is the real part of that story. He had never been on a horse before in his life, bought one and did the trip. He just sold it in the last 5 minutes while I have been working on this Journal.   Amazing. Dawa calls us both “Not Normal”.   Seems like I have heard that before.















Went for the usual walk to the lake this morning, Stormy loves that. Beautiful day again.

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JOURNAL 3

Mongol Ujin Ger Camp Khatgal, Mongolia

June 7th Friday 23nd day of waiting/traveling:
June 8th Saturday 24th day of waiting/traveling:
June 9th Sunday 25th day of waiting/traveling:


June 10th Monday 26th day of waiting/traveling: I will run all the last four days together. After all, absolutely nothing was different on either of the days. Just being patient, started to exercise again, we walk every morning and evening down to the lake, about a mile down and back. Looks like this morning the ice may be going off. The owner is going to drive me North up the lake here later and it will get us up high and will be able to see the main body of water to see if anything has changed since we rode by on the horseback ride.
All the kids are happy






They pour a lot of concrete with these little mixers


I have started the “Tabletop” book we are going to do on this trip. Also have the Journal’s updated and posted and when I leave will get the kayak in the water/packed up take some pics.

We went up to the “lake police” as they are called and talked to one of the guys. He says the 15th or 16th so the date for the ice to go off remains the same.

June 11th Tuesday 27th day of waiting/traveling: We went out and paddled again for a couple of hours. A lot of ice has gone off in the bay, in fact all of it. So, I had the owner drive me up to the top of a hill overlooking the lake, and sure enough it is still frozen about 5 miles up the lake and completely. Frustrated, because if I were to leave, I would get to a point quick where we would have to camp on the bank. Not a lot of difference doing that vs here, but it would require eating up supplies.

I am leaving Friday, regardless, that is my plan.

June 12th Wednesday 28th day of waiting/traveling: We went out an did another little paddle around the open bay water today. Trying to keep my days filled in and stay active. Went to the New Roots Coffee shop where the internet works well. The Wi Fi here at the Ger Camp is not working well at all. I ordered a dark pound cake to take with me and will pick it up Thursday afternoon, with the plan still to leave on Friday AM the 14th.

June 13th Thursday 29th day of waiting/traveling: The plan is still to have the owner of the Ger Camp to take me down to the lake shore at a rough boat launch site this afternoon about 4. I will set my tent up, get the kayak packed up what I can and get up early and leave finally.

Went back down to the New Roots and finished up on the internet what I could. Went to the store and got a few more things I thought of. And away we go.

Thursday waiting to go down to the lake

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Journal 4 The Beginning

Khuvsgul Lake

June 14th thru June 23 9 Days

KHUVSGUL LAKE

Younger Sister Of Lake Baikal


The most scenic destination of Northen Mongolia, Khuvsgul Lake (Khovsgol Nuur, also spelled 'Hovsgol') is the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia by volume and second largest by area holding 2% of the world's fresh water. Located near the Russian border, at the foot of the eastern Sayan Mountains, it is nicknamed "Younger sister of the Sister Lakes (Lake Khuvsgul and Lake Baikal)". The area of Khuvsgul Lake, raised well above sea level, is 2760ms. Its length is 136 km and width 36.5 km, and up to 260 m deep.

Khuvsgul is a land of thick forests, rushing rivers, sparkling lakes and rugged mountains. This stunning area were set aside as Lake Khuvsgul National Park (2500 hectare). In recent years, this spectacular landscape of water and mountains that is sacred to so many has become the destination of more and more travelers, from all around Mongolia and beyond. Heading through the endless pine trees and into the open valleys dotted with the white gers and grazing herds, you'll be wondering if you haven't set foot back in 19th century Montana.

The highlight of the area is the ethnic reindeers' herders called Tsaatan. This ethnic groups of Turkic origin related to the Tuvans are the most exotic and mystical people with small numbers, inhabit in the amazing beautiful taigas. Tsaatan people worship "the Eternal Blue Sky and Mother Earth" and retained an ancient, unusual culture based on shamanistic rituals and forest-based reindeer-herding. Shamanism, rather than Buddhism, is the religion of choice in these parts.

By Mongolian standards, Khuvsgul Lake is touristy, but this ensures good facilities, and once you get a day's travel from the main town you'll likely have the place all to yourself.

If you love fishing (a fishing permit is required), then you'll get excited about Khuvsgul. The lake is full of fish, such as lenok, salmon and sturgeon, and the area is home to argali sheep, ibex, bear, sable, moose and a few near-sighted wolverines. It also has more than 200 species of bird, including the Baikal teal, bar-headed goose, black stork and Altai snowcock.

This is a place in Mongolia where one can get sense of total unspoiled wilderness. The area is paradise for outdoor travelers and there are plenty of room for activities like hiking, birding, fishing, horseback travel and kayaking.

June 14th Friday Day 1 of on the water:   We got down to the boat ramp, such as it is and got set up, tent up, kayak in the water, all the gear sorted and ready to pack in the kayak 1st thing in the AM.


Some kids showed up about 1:30 in the morning, I am sure drinking the Vodka and listening to music and did not leave until about 3:30. So it was a long night. I started packing up at 4:00 and was on the water at 5:00.












There approximately 3 million people in Mongolia and plus or minus 70 million animals


Hate to send somebody who didn’t see very well to go get the cake.







1st night in the tent/camp set up for the trip. 




 Lot of nights left to set up and break down. If only the water would stay as calm as you see in the background.

Packed up on the 1st morning, Stormy in her seat and her friend not wanting us to leave laying in the foreground. This dog ran along the bank for several miles until we got out of town.













Started raining within 45 minutes and it didn’t quit raining for over 36 hours. The most miserable beginning of any trip I have done.



And here I thought I would have the whole lake to myself. This is the beginning of the tourist season; I think this is a Religious Shrine that they bring the Mongolians to. This is probably the 1st trip of the season.



In Khatgal yesterday I saw tour buses, backpackers, trial riders in dune buggies with folks from Israel. A clear sign that the tourist season has started.

In the last couple of days, I have met two guys riding desert bikes they rented in Ulan Baatar from Edmonton, Canada. A girl from Placid Lake, NY on an expedition to finish her graduation from college, all alone. She had been harassed by a couple of drunk young Mongolians, so I had her follow me to my Ger and gave her 1 of 3 cans of bear spray I had. A hitchhiker/trekker from Germany what had been all over the world. A couple that stayed at the Ger 1 night from Israel. A couple from Germany who went down to the Gobi Desert with a Guide. 5 guys from Yugoslavia and that were on desert bikes and I think the rode all the way to here across Russia. Two guys from Hungry that were on the 2nd part of drive thru this part of the world, on their way to Irkutsk to fly back home. They are from all over the world. Mongolia is just starting to be a tourist destination.

A very miserable 1st day and the ice one sees in the picture is a foreboding picture of what is to come.


I managed to get a fire going on the 1st nights camp spot. I don’t know why; it was raining nonstop and I was more comfortable and warmer sitting in the tent than I was standing in the rain by the fire.

As the hours went by things got damper and more wet and it was to get worse.

June 15th Saturday Day 2 of on the water:


This picture tells the story at least when it comes to perhaps staring the trip prematurely.


I have never been much of a selfie guy, but this 1st morning I wasn’t having much fun.












Lots of rain. Lots of fog. Lots of very cold and damp weather. But no wind as the glass like condition of the lake shows.




Getting ready for the 2nd nights camp site up. It was as miserable as it looks believe me and lots of ice to contend with.

In the trips I have done, at no time can I remember the trip starting out so miserable. For a week prior it has been very sunny and halfway warm. Although the wind/a good stiff breeze was blowing almost constantly down the lake by 10 in the morning. Not so now. No wind at all, so that is what made this possible.



2nd night’s camp site. Not a bad spot, but I had to walk up the hill a way to find enough of a flat spot. Raining constantly.


I don’t care who you are or how tough you are or how much you have done. This is a picture and what I was faced with taking off on the 3rd morning and it wasn’t a pretty picture.



I finally remembered I had an umbrella on the kayak, I got it out and it help tremendously by keeping the rain off me and out of the kayak.

June 16th Sunday Day 3 of on the water:

3rd day about noon the sun came out and I paddled around the point and the bay was iced in. No turning back because there had not been a camp spot for miles, pretty much cliffs for all morning long. So far there have not been that many good camp spots.



Here is what I had to work with is all. A very small area on the rocks, slopped, nothing even remotely close to flat. But the sun was shining.

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Here is what I ended up with, I flattened out a spot up on the high side for the sleeping bag and blankets to lay in and just lived with the rest. You can see everything laid out today which I managed to get everything dried out, repacked and put away before it started raining again late in the day. Notice the ice still locking me in.



Not a kayaker’s dream water. Impossible to paddle thru something like this. I had no clue as to would it just be tonight. A day or more before it broke up or blew someplace else.

I heated some water up and shaved and cleaned up a little bit.

June 18th Monday Day 4 on the water:


What a difference a night makes. The bay was completely free of ice this morning at 5 AM where last night it was complete full of ice. We packed up, packed the kayak and set out on a beautiful, sunny morning at about 6:00 AM. If it is like this, I have a bowl of rolled oats with trail mix and raisins with some milk. I don’t know if it is cows milk, yaks milk or goats milk, but it works. I haven’t been making tea a much as I would like to, because this new gas stove I have, with the cylinders that are smaller than the Green Propane bottle, isn’t going to last as long as I would like them to.


What a gorgeous morning. Not even a breeze and the reflections off the water were picture perfect.

We paddled for close to 3 hours which put it at about 10 AM and we took a break and went for a walk. I found this pretty flower sitting in the middle of a small spring fed meadow and it sat right in the middle of the meadow and was the only one.


Around every point was another picture-perfect view. After 3 days of almost all fog it was refreshing.


The 1st water fall I have seen.

Notice how clear the water is.







come around the point and here the bay is completely closed in with ice. I know there is no turning back because there is no camping spot for several miles behind me. As I look down to the end of the bay, I see what appears to be the perfect camp spot. But how to get there. 

I decide to get out on the bank, put my dry suit on, break the ice along the bank and pull the boat behind me. Below is a link to the video I took of doing this. I put the camera on the platform in front of my seat. Took me well over an hour to go the ½ mile to get there.


Stormy waiting patiently while I put my dry suit on.











June 19th Tuesday Day 5 on the water:

Once again, we woke up in the morning and the bay was completely free of ice. Now what you don’t see is an ice bank lying about a ¼ mile offshore. I could have packed up and paddled back around that ice pack, but that would have put me out in the middle of the lake, and this is not where I want to be at any time of the day.

I decided to take a break today for a variety of reasons and just see what the day held on the ice. My thumbs and wrists were/are sore. They could use a break since we are just starting out. My back was bothering me terribly last night but this morning it feels quite good. Same spot on the left lower side where the wall of 2x4’s fell on me up in Anchorage, Alaska a long time ago. It has bothered me ever since. I knew I should get caught up on my journals and keep up on the book. It is very difficult to do a journal when you get behind on them, I know this from experience. I am already 2 weeks behind on the original schedule waiting on the ice. I have lost at least 1 day out of the last 4 because of the rain and the ice, so I am resigned to the that I will have to work hard at getting caught up on my schedule to make the Class Reunion on September 20th/21st. It is going to take me a good 15 days I think to do this lake because of the challenges. Really doesn’t make any difference at all.





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I am not going to have enough food, but I can resupply at the village Turt on the north end of the lake. Shouldn’t take me longer than hour to walk into the grocery store and get what I want. I bought a can of “beef” not really knowing what it was other than it had a picture of a cow on the can. As it turned out, it was beef in a gravy. I had brought some fresh potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic with me, so I made a hobo stew last night, but that can of beef with the gravy in it and cooked on some coals. You talk about good. So hopefully the village up north has some and when I resupply to head down the Eg the kayak will be packed in the front and the back with at least 12 cans of that meat and gravy.

As the day has progressed the ice is shifting and moving, and I think we will get up in the morning and it will all be gone or at best a way to paddle out into the open water. I can see no ice, even with the binoculars I have in the distance as far as I can see but wouldn’t surprise me.

I heard and saw the 1st boat on the lake so that is a good sign. There is an island just off to the left that is a rookery for sea gulls, I think, because I remember reading something about it.

I will be caught up on the journals, also will get some work done on the book. I have the solar out and have charged up the power pack, after using it to charge up the laptop. The zipper on the rain fly broke and so I sewed some ties on and it works well. If that isn’t closed good, the wind and rain can come in. One of the best things I did was make/sew up this 2nd rain fly that kind of acts like a porch.

I have noticed for the 3rd time now that the lake is dropping a little bit every day. It certainly isn’t full and that is why there is not enough water flowing out of the outlet to get the kayak out of the lake. I will get a ride about 15 miles down river so when I get in the river, I have plenty of water and current.

The picture below shows where the kayak was last night, and the water was right up to the lake side.

We will get all packed up tonight before we go to bed, so it won’t take as long in the AM to hit the water. If the weather will hold, I can make up a couple of days if my back will hold out. I miscalculated which side to paddle up the lake. I should have taken the west side, because I have not seen any ice at all over there, and I think that is because there are fewer bays if any. That is the difference. The ice gets in these bays and lasts longer. Then I could have come down the lake on the east side and by then the ice would have been gone. Not a big deal.

For sure if you are like me and like to camp where there is totally wilderness and absolutely no humans, then follow me. Because we are going to be camping in some of the most pristine and beautiful country, I have ever been in.

I will have mashed potatoes and brown gravy and finish off the last of the sourdough bread.

Here are 3 pictures from the drone.



It won't be long, and I will have this drone figured out!



Impossible to paddle thru this!



This is where I pulled the kayak to open water.

June 20th Wednesday Day 6 on the water:

We got up the usual time about 5:30 and as you can see no such luck with the ice going out of this bay. I just don’t want to sit around another day. I decided to walk up to the point that I came around Monday noon and had to pull the boat thru the ice…link to the video…to find a good camp spot an it was well worth the effort because this is a good camp spot.

Upon returning I just wasn’t sure it was the thing to do. I tidied up and had some tea then had some breakfast and it just felt like it was going to be a great paddling day and I just didn’t want to miss it. I walked back up to the point and I could see since I was there about 2 hours ago, the ice seemed to be moving away from the bank and away from the point, giving me access to the open water much better than it was just 2 hours ago. That was enough for me.

























Once there, I climbed up on some rocks, got the dry suit off, pulled some dry clothes out of the kayak and once I was ready, away we went and thankful for it.

So far, it was the best paddling weather we have had.

I made it close to the point, which was my goal, took close to 3 hours. Considering I didn’t get started until 11:00 I decided to just be thankful I was away from the ice and found another great camp site and hope to get a routine going in the morning with the open water starting on the water at about 6:00 AM. I have no idea with the way things have gone but should be up at the North end of the Lake in 3 days, gone into the grocery store in Turt and be paddling around the end of the lake and head back down the lake. We shall see.



I have never had such a challenging start of a trip. Ever.

June 21st Thursday Day 7 on the water:

Our best day for paddling yet. That isn’t saying much with all the challenges. Awake at 5 out of the sack at 5:30 packed up and on the water by 6:30 and it was beautiful. I paddled for almost 7 hours which considering what I been thru these past 6 days I was beat.

04445I have seen absolutely no one since seeing all those people in that power boat several days ago. I did see/hear one of the smaller tour boats on the Rookery Island and saw the large tour boat going around the island

No animals. Very little waterfowl. No fish.

Last night the thunder and lightening carried on for hours then the wind blew thru the top of the trees. I don’t think the tent moved one time, but we were in the trees.


It stayed calm all day and it is calm now almost 6. I fried/cooked up some potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic in some mushroom gravy and once again it was delicious. Couldn’t eat it all so will heat it up in the morning really quick and Stormy and I will have it for breakfast.

I am 2 ½ days from the end of the lake. I hope to be in Turt by Monday 10 AM and then heading around the north end right after hitting the grocery story.

I had hoped to do this part of the trip in 12 days it is going to be 15 or 16 with the weather and ice delays. Once again, I won’t know how these delays are going to impact the over all schedule until I get on the Eg and down into the Selenga to see what the current is like in both rivers.

From the drone looking back from where we came.

Great place to camp on a bluff looking out over the lake. This is not normally what I do because I am exposed to the wind.

With some luck the weather will be calm again tomorrow.



I am tired but sleep well and waking up refreshed. It is the lower left back that is the issue.



June 22 Friday day 8 on the water:

I was up at the usual time and on the water by 7. I have not got the packing up the camp and the kayak packed down to my usual organized way of doing it. I am going to work on that. I don’t like working so hard nor do I like getting stressed about it at the beginning of the day. Especially when I am sleeping well and waking up feeling good. Hopefully my back is getting use to what I am putting it thru.

 We were lucky last night that the wind didn’t come up. As I mentioned, I normally won’t camp out in the open like that and especially up high on a bluff. Stormy just won’t leave me alone in the evenings if we don’t go for a walk. Once that is done, she settles down. She sure has this down and really works hard to make it easy on me when it comes to her staying out of the way and understanding the routine. She doesn’t like seeing me or feeling that I am stressed out any more than I do.

We made good time for the 1st 3 hours. I feel like I am getting my strength back and getting my paddling rhythm down and once I do everyday hopefully will feel like we accomplished something. This is the 1st day out of 8 I have felt like we did. I even got to sail for a while, just not enough of a breeze. If I can’t sail faster than I can paddle, then I am wasting time. I can paddle 2 to 2 ½ miles an hour, so that means the breeze/wind must be about 4/5 MPH to make it worth it.



Came around a corner and here is a resort being built. It is being built by one of the mining companies for their employees and guests. All private. Crazy how they do things here. There was only one guy in the whole camp that spoke English and he worked for the mining company. He was very nice to me. We didn’t stay 20 minutes and back on the water.







Lots of pretty wildflowers.





















This is a Russian family on holiday from Irkutsk.

About 2 if felt like it was going to rain. My wrists/thumbs and forearms are obviously getting a hell of a workout. I would have like to be able to be in Turt by noon tomorrow, not going to happen. So I will get with in an hour or two of paddling distance, spend tomorrow night, hit the grocery store at 10 AM when they open and be back on the water and perhaps around the north end of the lake for the 10th nights camp on the west side and headed back.

It is not going to take near as long to get back as it did to get to the end of the lake. I have only 2 bays to get across then it is a straight shot. The only thing I have noticed is it rains more, almost every afternoon thunderstorms on that side over the mountains, so I will just make sure we have camp set up when I need to miss the down pours. And hope I can get some down the lake 6/7 MPH winds and sail as much as possible.

June 23 Saturday day 9 on the water:

Up at 5:30 and on the water at 6:30. I still am not happy with my overall system for breaking camp and packing the kayak up. Normally I can pack the kayak up the night before and there is little to put in it other than the tent and sleeping bag, blankets and air mattress. However, I must pull the kayak up on the bank out of the water, because it seems a lot of wave action occurs at night. The moon, the stars lined up I don’t know. In order to do that, I have to have the kayak unloaded or there is no way 2 guys can lift it.

Pretty much foggy, damp and cold all day long. The sun came out several times. I bet I took my gear off and put in back on at least 6 times. Very frustrating, but I better get used to it. I just have this feeling though that the weather is going to take a turn for the better soon

0-381000I came across this Russian family camping on a 2-week vacation. The 2 men weren’t very talkative, but the ladies and the kids really enjoyed me trying to tell them what I was doing. Then one of the men brought over a really old map of Lake Baikal that I wished I couldn’t have kept. I will try to find something like it.

As I planned, there was no way I was going to make it to Turt. My wrists, forearms and back need a break, especially my back. We are at a small beach type park, not far out of Turt that I am sure they use for the summer months. No one around as usual. I did meet another family from Irkutsk. He owns a bakery and I hope he friends me on Facebook, very nice couple with 2 kids, wished I would have gotten a picture.

A guy couldn't ask for a better traveling companion.

We don’t have to be in a big hurry in the morning. The grocery stores don’t open until 10 AM and we have maybe 3 hours to paddle. I couldn’t have finished it out this afternoon.

I am going to start Journal 5 beginning tomorrow.



The only flowering bush I have seen on the entire East side.

...

Journal 5 Return to Khatgal On the West Side of Khuvsgul Lake

June 24 Sunday day 10 on the water:

Usual time we are crawling out of the tent. Fog, fog and more fog. Everything stays damp, wet an it is a damp cold especially when there is a wind or even a slight breeze.

I had spent some more time late in the afternoon, despite being so tired, to once again repack everything, consolidate and basically start getting ready for putting on the Eg River. I am going to be load with food, I don’t want to have to stop and deal with any villages for weeks if I can get by with it.

My goal was to get to Turt, get the groceries on my list I had been making and get back in the kayak and paddle out of town a way and call it a day. The fog really settled in and there were times I couldn’t even see the front of the kayak. Very stressful. Even with the in Reach I struggled for hours trying to keep a straight line. The in Reach has a lag time so for awhile I would be going north, then east and then west. Finally, I just gave up because I was trying to cut my paddling down my crossing some open water and headed to the bank. That was a task in itself just to keep going straight.




























After about 6 hours I finally was approaching Turt but couldn’t even see the bank and I was 50 feet off of the bank. Now and then I would see an outline of a building. As I could see in the in Reach we were just about periductular with the village, the fog lifted and it was like it never was there. Very surreal.

And low and behold I was right in front a very nice Ger camp with cabins also, I wasn’t 50 feet off the bank.

One guy came out and helped me with the kayak. He was from Irkusku and was a Priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. So were the two friends they were with. He spoke some English and helped me talk to the owner and I decided to get out of the kayak, spend the night, get cleaned up and have the kayak packed so all we had to do was put a few things away and take off.















Once again, I took everything out, went to town and bought what I could find on my on my list and repacked everything. I had them cook me some dinner, washed up and shaved and was asleep by 9. Late for us.

I had decided if the weather was good for a lake crossing, I was going to head straight across about 8 to 12 miles and not do what there was left of the lake.

June 25 Monday day 11 on the water:

I stuck my head out of the Ger about 5 and could see the weather was going to be good for the lake crossing.


We were on our way at 6:30. Stormy had a couple of friends there and she didn’t want to get in the kayak. The 1st time she has been reluctant, but I didn’t blame her. I really didn’t want to get in it either.

It took us almost 6 hours to get across. That is close to 12 miles, nonstop. If I haven’t mentioned it, they surmise that a kayaker takes about 20,000 to 25,000 paddles per day. Do the math on 2,000 miles plus or minus 90 days plus or minus. That is a very long time for anybody to be in a kayak, let alone a 72-year-old guy and his dog. The fog rolled in on top of the water from down the lake, but it wasn’t very high, so I could see the tops of the hills I was shooting for.

Once I got close to the shore, I could see it was going to have some nice camp spots, so I decided to just call it a day and that is what we did. Great camp spot again. Got things set up and took Stormy for a good walk, which she just loves.

Couple observations. Be thankful you don’t have to live in Turt, Mongolia. I still haven’t seen any wildlife. With the warmer weather the flies are coming out, have only seen a couple of mosquitos. My face is getting very wind and sun burned. I do have sunscreen. I get back to Khatgal I am going to see if there is a drug store and get some of that white cream you cover the top of your ears and nose with and more sunscreen. I have been wearing my hat.

Overall, I think my back is adjusting. My thumbs/wrists are taking a little longer but over all I feel great and that is more than I can ask for.

At this time I expect it to take 3 ½ days to get back to the Ger camp. We shall see.



No question this dog knows how to relax.



Lots of beautiful wildflowers.






June 26 Tuesday day 12 on the water:

Up and at them this morning and on the water by 6:30. After paddling so hard yesterday to get across this bay with the wind blowing, I went to bed very early. I built a fire and heated up a flat rock and put it on my back and it really did wonders. So far that was the worst decision I had made. All I had to do was just sit tight, rest a couple of hours and the wind changed directions and it would of just blew us across the bay.



The bay we crossed. It looked a long way and it was.




















No question I was 3 weeks early.

Another good camp site, but I was so tired I didn’t cook anything for dinner. We had stopped and heated up what was left of last nights dinner, a stew I had made and some rice for it to go on.



Meadow after meadow of wildflowers.







June 27 Wednesday day 13 on the water:

Not quite as early this morning but we were still up and on the water at 7. The wind blew out of the north all night long, no rain, one of the 1st days/nights it hasn’t rained. I wised up quick and I am always prepared, including pulling the kayak up on the bank.

One certainly can’t say the views aren’t majestic.

I tried to sail, but the wind just kept coming from all four directions. I have never seen wind swirl around as much as it is on the west side of the lake. It must have something to do with the mountains that are along the entire length of the lake on the west side.



After giving up on the sailing, we made great time with the wind to our back. Every time we came up on a bay that had a meadow in it and a canyon up in the mountains the wind just howled from the canyon and it was a lot of work to get around and across those meadows. But once we did, we covered a lot of water.



2:00 was approaching and I decided to stop at one of these meadows and found a good spot up in the trees, even though the wind has been blowing nonstop. It had been blowing out of the north, now out on the lake it looks like it is blowing out of the south, with the wind coming out of the canyon from the west. But we are in a good spot.

Stormy is waiting patiently for us to go on a walk, but I am so tired of the wind I am hoping it blows itself out. If not, I will take her for a while. I saw 2 deer across a little inland pond, the 2nd time I have seen the deer. They are very small. We saw a couple on the horseback ride.

One of the few days I did not take a picture of the camp site.

A couple more observations. I felt good this morning. I am getting in shape and even at my age, I can feel myself getting stronger. Once I get on the Eg, it will be a completely different type of paddling. I will have the current, shouldn’t have to deal with the wind as much and certainly no open water. However, until I can feel confident, I understand the river, I will be very careful every time I come around a bend, staying in the slack water to the inside and out of the current going out and around the bend. That is where the root balls, or the trees will pile up, not on the inside where the slack water is.

June 27 Thursday day 14 on the water:

Not the best of weather today, a lot of wind blowing in all different directions. We were up the usual time and still made good time. I had a bay to cross the 1st thing and when the wind/breeze is in your face, it just makes for tough paddling.















We made good miles and I decided to stop a little early, around 2:00 because I was tired and even at that time it is an 8-hour day on the water.

Stormy is always ready to stop, get out, roll on the grass and get some exercise. She is so good about being in the kayak.

June 28 Friday day 15 on the water:

This camp site for the night before the last day on the lake, was probably the worst one of all. It was close to several Ger camps. Lots of people. Lots of noise. Ground was damp. They like their basketball here in Mongolia, so some kids not far away played way into the night. The Mongolians don’t go to bed early and they don’t get up early.

Camping with the Yaks.

A man who must watch the property came over to me and told me there was a $5,000 Mongolian dollar charge for the camp spot. That is about maybe $2.00.

It had been a very long day, one of the longest. The weather was perfect all day long for a kayaker and I tried to take an advantage of it. I think we were on the water close to 10 hours with few stops. Pretty sure we did close to 20 miles and it could have been miles more.
















I thought we were headed to a good spot for a camp spot, but it is hard to see the lay of the land when the water is smooth as glass. Unfortunately, I misread, and we had to paddle for another good 2 hours to find the bad camp site, but it could have been on the rocks and we would have to take it, I was done for the day.

I estimated from my inReach map we had around 16 miles left to go, that is a full 8 hours of paddling and hoped the weather would cooperate.

June 29 Saturday day 16 on the water:

Up again early. I am feeling great when I get up and get going. I noticed on the 14th night that I could turn over in bed. Before that it was almost an impossibility I was so sore and my back hurt so bad No more. I am also noticing I am not as tired once I get the camp site set up. That is a good thing obviously. However, there is some downside. Right now, everything is dead. There hasn’t been any sun to charge things up with the solar charger. So not much to do. Which is not good when you have a lot of time on the bank.



We hit the water at 6. Once again, the 2nd day in a tow, great paddling weather and we just kept at it. I paddled for a good 5 hours straight and finally stopped and had some bread and sliced meat.
















Mongolia is not only known for the Gers, but tipi’s also. The difference is the put an entrance on to the front/the door of the tipi and that is the 1st time I have seen it done that way. Next tipi I do, and I have one more in me I will have it done that way.



Nicest boat on the lake.

Once we got into the channel that leads into Khatgal, we were able to sail right to the boat ramp. I walked up and 20 minutes later, the gear is in the Ger, the kayak is sitting out along the side of the Ger and I am getting things squared away, separated and ready to start packing for the Ger.



Just before hitting the boat ramp where I ended the lake trip.











I plan on being on the Eg Tuesday morning at 10:00. He will drive me down about 20 Kilometers before the outlet of the river from the lake. The lake is low, so there is no way, the way I am going to be loaded that I want to fight the low level of the river/outlet because I am going to be loaded.

Once I gave Stormy a bath in the shower, which she enjoyed, took a shower and shaved, I went into the community Ger and had some tea and a piece of that cake I like. Had dinner about 7 and did a few more things with the gear and was ready for bed.

Unfortunately, the folks from UNESCO here, some of them with their kids and they stayed up and played and laughed until 11:00. So, I got up and did some more piddling with the gear.

June 30 Sunday day 17 at the Ger camp:

Up early, 4:30 AM. To early really, but it has turned cold and is raining so I built a fire. Feels good.

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Journal 6

The Eg River – The Drive Up Out of the River Canyon-

The Two Days in Erdeinbougane-The Drive to the Russian Border-

Two Days at the Hotel Before Putting on the Selenga River

Eg River

The Eg River (Mongolian: Эгийн гол, Egiin gol ) is a river in the Khövsgöl and Bulgan aimags in northern Mongolia. It is the only outflow of Lake Khövsgöl and a tributary of the Selenge river. Wooden bridges exist near Khatgal and in Tünel sum, and a concrete bridge has been built in Erdenebulgan. In Bulgan aimag there is a bridge between Teshig and Khutag-Öndör sums. Since the early 1990s there have been efforts to build a hydroelectric dam on this river. These attempts, however, have been opposed by several academic communities: archaeology because of the rich and not yet fully explored archaeological sites in area; geology because the area may have earthquakes. A dam would also displace parts of the local population as it floods some pastures and homesteads.


July 1 Monday day 18 at the Ger camp:

Finished packing all the gear and food and did a trial run packing the kayak. I am taking twice as much food as I ever have and twice as much dog food.  I made a mistake on calculating the amount of river miles I will have to do on the Selenga, which now is around 200 miles, not 420. 420 miles is the entire length of the Selenga, I am hitting it somewhere over halfway. That really helps me on my “lost 2 weeks” waiting for the ice to go off the lake.
I have done some one the tabletop book and sent the beginnings to Julie in Napa to start to come up with the lay out. I also got Journal #3, #4 and #5 posted. Having some issues with the Journal section of my website. I am hoping James can figure it out because we have spent a lot of time to make it simple. Not the case yet. But they are good enough. My plan is to leave the Ger camp about 9 AM and get to the river within a half an hour, get the kayak loaded up and hit the river.

I met a couple that had been living in Edmonton, Canada from the states, moving the Salt Lake City. They have been riding bikes along the Eg and say it is a beautiful river, smooth running. I don’t expect any issues at all. Boy was I mistaken on that statement as one will see when the time comes.

July 2nd Tuesday day 17 on the water:


We were up again early, showered and shaved here at the Ger camp by 5:30 AM. I made sure all the gear was ready to go, went for our usual morning walk when we can and just had to be patient. Paid my bill, walked to the bank and got a few more Mongolian monies out of the ATM. The driver who was going to take me about 30 Kilometers down river showed up at the time of 9:00 AM. After saying the goodbyes, we were on our way.



Dawa and her husband who own the Ger camp in Khatgal.

We arrived at the river at about 10. It took me an hour or so to get packed up and we were off.


It all fits!

The 1st day went very well, and my expectations were good of what the river had to offer. Boy, was I in for a surprise!



That tree leaning out over the water was a sign of trouble to come!



Some of the 60 Million animals in Mongolia.

July 3rdd Wednesday day 18 on the water:

What a day. On the water at 7, somewhat cloudy but not cold by any means. Didn’t sleep that good because I had changed the bed around and it didn’t work to well. I have a good sleeping bag I bought in Ulaan Baatar and 2 wool blankets. There is also the air mattress that I think is the best one I have had. The problem with the air mattress and the sleeping bag, is the bag slides around on the air mattress because it is, slick.

I have figured out to use one of the blankets on top of the air mattress and have doubled it and tie each corner to a tent stake I put up at the top of each corner of the air mattress thru the tent floor. That keeps the blanket from sliding around. Then I use the 2nd blanket and the sleeping bag as covers, by not crawling into the sleeping bag. Now why is that? Because Stormy refused to sleep or leave me alone if she can’t get under the covers and be touching me, normally down at the bottom, but she must be touching me. I don’t mind, if everything is in line.



Lots of water when it is all there and no channeling.

Now folks, you never hear me complain or make it hard on myself. But the 2nd day on the Eg has been a day to remember. It started out great but the river meanders and never slows down. It is a very fast-moving river. It will get into what I call the “marshes” and there will be various channels and who knows, I always pick the big water. I got into some channels today that were tough to maneuver and weren’t any wider than my kayak, with 90 degree turns both ways and that is almost impossible with this big kayak.

In addition, the gravel bars are tough to see and if the sun is in your face, impossible. Or if it is cloudy it is also almost impossible, but I have come close to figuring out the “channel” of the river and there can be several of them and they almost always have 2 gravel bars on each side as it meanders thru the prairies.



Once again, lots of water.

As the afternoon went by, it became clear that this was probably going to become the norm for the river, although it is getting better, wider and more water. That would make sense. I have to idea what to expect but just must take it as far as I can see it, and make sure I am on the inside for the turns, so I can react and stay out of the fast water.

We took 3 breaks today, 1 at 9, 1 at 11 and 1 at 1:30. I left my life jacket laying on the bank at the 11 break. Didn’t realize I didn’t have it on until 1:30. I was and still am devastated. This is not a river you should be on without a life jacket. I thought about walking back to get it, but I would have been 8 or 10 miles one way, a 2-day ordeal.

Very stressed about it and not happy. This is becoming in my opinion a very dangerous river and not to be on without a life jacket and have it on. Over the years, I have not worn a life jacket all the time. I normally don’t on the lakes, no need to unless I am crossing open water. On the rivers, because my kayak is a Feathercraft, it is almost impossible for it to turn over and I am normally on big water rivers. The Missouri, the Mississippi, the Yellowstone, the Yukon, rivers that just flow, no white water.

Now, how am I going to replace that life jacket sooner than later. I am hoping to run on to another fish camp that is using boats. The next town is a good 5 days away, not far off the river, so that is an option. The town I cross the border at is a long way, but if I must, I have to make it without a life jacket. For sure I can locate one in Ulan Ude, but that also is a long way.

In addition, we just went thru the hardest thunderstorm, rain and hail the size of peas I have ever been thru on the water and you got it, I saw it coming, stopped, got the tent set up and we are right out in the open. This tipi Red Canyon tent held up and every other tent I have ever had would have been lying flat on the ground.

It literally blew the rain right thru the rain cover and of course the mosquito netting is porous. What an experience.



This picture may look pretty and all of that. But when the worst thunderstorm, lightening, hail, rain and wind hit us it was completely the wrong place to be out in the open. Huge mistake for me to pick this spot when I saw it coming. I should have stopped sooner.

The storm is over, and our day is just about over. I plan on being on the water by 7 or before. I plan on doing a minimum of 8 hours on the water after breaks and maybe 10. I just reread some information I have about the Eg and it is 300 miles from the lake to the Selenga, not the 240 I thought. That is at least 2 more days on this river. Now I do think I don’t have as many miles to do on the Selenga as I original thought, about half I think, so that more than evens out.

My attitude on the water without the life jacket on will be much more acutely aware. I am concerned.



Defending their nest from Stormy.



July 4th Thursday day 19 on the water:

We were off by 7. I was very apprehensive, not the way I like to feel on the water on a trip like this. This is very remote and no roads, so no herders’ camps along the way. Nobody.

We had a terrible couple of hours of small channels, lots of brush, willows and small trees leaning over the outside edge of the water and it was difficult to stay out of them. It was turning into to a very stressful situation.

I came around one bend in the last channel we were to be in and here was a tree/log complete across the water, at exactly the bend in the river. I ran the front of the kayak on up into the rift raft as hard and as far as I can and all of that happened in 2 seconds. There we were pushed up against the log. It was raining. I immediately got out of the kayak and straddled the log. I was confident the kayak wasn’t going to be pushed up under the log, the current fortunately wasn’t that strong and with 210 lbs out of the kayak it made a huge difference.



NOT A PRETTY PICTURE FOR ME!

Once I inched my way back to the back of the kayak, I with a lot of effort got the rudder out of its holder because I knew the kayak wasn’t going to be pulled backwards with the water pushing against the rudder. Once I accomplished that, I grabbed the rope I keep tethered to the back of the kayak, one on the front as well, and continued to push myself along the top of the log/tree to get to the other side. Once there, I got at an angle as much as I could by standing as far out into the current as I could, tugged on the kayak and it just floated effortlessly to me, to the other side.

With that done, got Stormy out and sat down and heated up some left-over dinner, some tuna fish and noodles. It is still raining and Stormy is not happy, because I had her cover on. Once done eating, then I unloaded the entire kayak, pulled up out of the water, around the butt end of the log and put everything back in.

Once we took off, we continued to fight the overhanging trees and that was it for me. I made the decision that as the sight of the 1st Herder’s cabin/Ger/camp I was going to find a ride.

I finally came out into the open, out of the channel into the main river, rounded a bend and it opened and there was a valley with a good half dozen Herder places in it. That was enough for me.

The 1st place I walked up to, after about an hour of hand signals and showing them my in Reach map, the finally understood what I needed, and we agreed up on a price and 3 hours later we were on our way to town. One of their daughters, a sweetheart spoke some English and she really helped things out immensely.



The Herder's family that drove me to town.

The ride took 4 hours on one of the worst roads/trails I have ever been on. I didn’t realize how deep I was down in the valley until we had to drive up and over the mountains and down the other side to town.



What a great little girl she was!



No running water. No sewer, no bathrooms.



The bathroom for the Hotel!

Once to town, we got lucky and ran into the little girl’s English teacher at the school. Her parents owned a hotel, such as it was, and I got a room for what I thought was going to be 2 nights. I got my gear dried out, packed up, got some data for my phone for a Hot Spot which I had not had previously, don’t ask me why not.

Then I made a phone call to John, the Vietnam vet who has lived in Mongolia for years and he got me in touch with a lady in Muron, the town where I got the replacement filler for the tooth that cracked and came out. Long ways away, about 5 hours’ drive to where I was. She found a driver and he was, she thought going to be there about noon on Friday. Not cheap, but I had no choice and had made up my mind.

July 5th Friday a day off the water:


I used up all the data last night I had purchased. We slept fairly well. I went and got some more data, twice as much this time. I hoped the driver would be there by noon. He didn’t show up until about 9. We loaded up and we left at 10. I was beat. He had to be.



This is my favorite picture so far!

We drove out of town until 1 and stopped, set up our tents and went to sleep.



As good as place as any to get some sleep.

July 6th Saturday a day off the water:

We were up and on the road/trail again at 7. I have never in my life seen such bad unforgiving roads in my life.

We finally made it to the pavement at about 11 and we were at the Russian Border at 7 that evening. I got lucky again. The Mongolian border guards wouldn’t let the drive with his vehicle cross out of Mongolia. A guy, Mongolian approached me and gestured could he help me. We finally agreed on a price, he obviously had done this before, we put the kayak on top of his rig, all the gear in his car and with his wife and one child in tow proceed out of Mongolia and into the beginnings of a 5 hours Russian border crossing experience.



See the Russian Guard Tower?

No need for all the details, but the Russian border guards are very serious and unforgiving. There was a mile of cars, but fortunately we had somehow beat the rush and finally got thru. Then a woman came out and had me come inside with her and a supervisor and her, along with me answering questions, determined that Stormy was legit, I had the right paperwork, she stamped it and we were on our way. Both the Mongolian and Russian Border Security teams have this thing in their heads that one needs a “dog passport” and there is no such thing.

They know that. It cost me $375 to get Stormy across the border. Bribe, payment who knows, but that was good enough for me.

Once we found a tourist hotel, they dropped me off and hopefully will be back Monday at noon to take me down to the Selenga River which is about 30 miles West of town. That should give me enough time Monday Morning to go get some Russian Rubbles, get a Russian Cell Company simm card in my phone and on my way.

Needless to say, both Stormy and I were absolutely beat by the time we laid down after I showered and shaved at about 1 AM.

July 7th Sunday a day off the water:

Slept in for me until about 7. It is about 10:30. I already have gone thru and repacked all the gear. Had some cereal for breakfast. Did some work on the kayak, been on the computer and will be done with pretty much all I have to do to be ready to get back on the water.



Russia for sure.

...

Journal 7 : The Selenga River to Lake Baikal

July 8th Monday day 20 on the water:As usual we were up at the break of dawn and I made sure I had everything ready to load up, just in case the guy who helped me across the border shows up at noon like he said he would to take us down to the Selenga river, about 20 miles East out of town.

There were several things I had to do to make sure we were ready to go and in control. I needed to go to a bank and get some rubles. I needed to make sure that I had purchased all the supplies/food on my list that was made.

The bank was not easy. I finally found a bank that would exchange rubles out of my ATM card. I couldn’t use a credit card for a cash advance, because I hadn’t thought of putting a pin number on the 2 cards, I had brought with me. But after 30 minutes of utilizing Google translate, the girls finally understood what I was trying to accomplish.

Once that was accomplished headed to the grocery store, which was right across the street from the tourist hotel we were staying at. They had everything I had on my list.

When I walked out the door of the store, my ride was just opening the gate to pull into the back yard so we could load up the kayak on top of his car and put the gear in the back and the back seat. 2 hours early, which was great because I was ready to go.

It didn’t take long and we entered a little village off the main road, and we were on the banks of the Selenga and it was just what we needed. A large, free flowing river compatible to the Mississippi, the Missouri, or the Yukon. And a absolutely beautiful day for the 1st day on the river.

Once we were unloaded, he wanted a picture and he was off.



A guy who did what he said he was going to!

It didn’t take long and we were loaded up and ready to shove off. I took a quick walk with Stormy and took a few pictures.

One of the lasting impressions I will have of Russia is it just seems to be falling apart. Everything is broken, old, falling apart, in disarray, not finished and deteriating. The garbage like Mongolia is everywhere and it is overwhelming. It is a constant.



The deteriating of the buildings is everywhere.

What a great 1st day, absolutely no issues at all and it didn’t take long and I felt like we were in sync and in control of the water.



Shade for Stormy, very hot.

Our 1st camp site couldn’t have been any better.



Constantly finding good camp sites.

July 9th Tuesday day 21 on the water:

Always up and on the water. I am trying to get to a point so all I have let to pack in the kayak is the bed, air mattress and the tent. Doesn’t seem to always work out that way. I am either tired, or distracted or unengaged.

We are getting lucky on the weather, but it is that time of year.



Ready to go before the sun is up.

Not a lot to content with on a river this size. It has no floating debris in the river. It has no root balls or trees on sand banks to speak of. The river is high and flowing very quickly in most areas if one will just let the current keep the kayak in the main channel.



Doesn't get any better than this for a river kayaker like me.



Never an end to the various landscapes.

Another beautiful uneventful day of paddling on the Selenga River. Once again, we found a great campsite, in the shade, out of the wind if it comes up and the weather is beautiful.



This has to be an old Russian Orthodox Church 100's of years old.

I kicked up a couple of chucker’s walking up to this old church.



A very happy dog to be out of the kayak.

July 10th Wednesday day 22 on the water:



The mornings are peaceful and calm.



Trying to spot something to interest her.

Another uneventful 8 hours on the water.



Another great camp spot.

July 11th Thursday day 23 on the water:



The Russians like their statues.

I have seen statues in the villages of Lenin and Stalin. Lots of statues of Russian Military heroes.



They burn a lot of coal and it shows in the air quality.

We are headed into Ulan Ede, which is a large town in Siberia. It is the capital of this state/province not sure what they call them. I am going to stop and go to the grocery store, I must replace my tent, both zippers are broken, and the floor is rotting, and it is time.



Starting to see downtown Ulan Ede.

I had no idea on where to stop but was going to just get into town and see what happens. As I approached downtown, the river flowed to the right a bit and there was a walkway along the river, and it looked like a large shopping area just on the other side of the walkway.

There was a guy fishing right there on the bank with his wife and two kids and he spoke a little English. He pointed out the grocery story and the sporting’s good store for me, with in a short five-minute walk. Unbelievable. What luck I was having. I asked him to watch Stormy for me and my gear which he gladly said he would.

I first went to the sporting’s good store and purchased a tent. Now I don’t know what I was thinking but it was the wrong one as the day unfolds and we get to a camping spot and I put it up for the 1st time, about 10 miles downriver.

Then I went to the grocery store. I try not to go to the grocery store without a list, I have just so much room I must deal with. However, I am trying to keep at least 30 days of food on hand and just keep replacing it.

Once I was done, went back to the kayak, loaded up and we were off down river.



Looks like an abandoned brick factory but who knows.

Once out of town, I found a camp spot and that was another day on the Selenga and good day.

Once I got the new tent set up and realized my mistake I was so upset with myself I didn’t even take any pictures. But the fact was, it was about 6 times to big. I have no idea what I was thinking.

So I accessed the situation and decided the only thing I could do was to paddle across the river in the morning, take the tent with me, go to the village across the river on the hillside and find somebody, to somehow get back to Ulan Ede to the Sporting Goods store and rectify the situation. I knew it was going to be an all day deal and I was not pleased with myself. I also knew I was going to have to leave Stormy tied up with the kayak and that is not something I like to do for any length of time. We both get terribly upset when I have to do that.

July 12th Friday day 24 on the water:


I didn’t want to get to the village to early, because these Russians don’t seem to get moving too early in the mornings, like the Mongolians. I paddled across the river, found what I felt was a good place to leave the Kayak in the trees and good place to tie Stormy up, really no way for anybody to see anything except a boat come by and there just wasn’t anybody on the river doing anything.



I didn't know when I took this pic it was going to be an all-day deal.

Once that was accomplished, I grabbed the tent and head up to the railroad tracks that would get me down to the village about a mile. This is a very busy railroad system here in Russia. A train comes by about every 15 minutes one way or the other, it is a dual track system, and a lot of them are passenger trains. On the way along the tracks to the village, when a train would come, I would just get off to the side and sit down while it passed, less than 10 feet away.

Once I got to the village I took the 1st road up the hill and spotted a young guy sitting in the garden having a cigarette and I think it was about 7:30. I said hello and it startled him and he called out for his dad and they came and opened the gate to the back yard. Between the two of us using Google translate they understood what I was trying to get accomplished. Get back to Ulan Ede and get another tent.

His dad told me to just give him a minute and he would help me. I thought that meant drive me is what we talked about. His son probably about 25 years old was a great guy. Once he came back out, he was dressed and the 3 of us started to walk down and out and around a road, that I swear you couldn’t drive on. I have never seen such poverty, bad roads, poor living conditions in my life. But they seem to be happy.

As it turned out, we got into a van that would drive us to the out skirts of Ulan Ede and from there he called a taxi for me and he was on his way to work, which up until then I didn’t know that was what he was doing.

Once the taxi finally got there, it turned out the driver was a Jehovah Witness, great guy and he followed my directions and I took right to the front door of the sporting’s good store. It was 9:30 and they didn’t open until 10. I had him drive me around to the grocery store, got a few more things, went back and was patient until the door was open.

Once inside, it turned out that their internet system was down and therefore I couldn’t get a refund on the credit card, so I just gave the tent to one of the young boys who was helping me. I found the right tent and had made the decision on the way into town to purchase another, smaller sleeping bag. The one I had was for very old weather, bought it in Ulan Baatar while I was getting ready to head to Lake Kovosogul staying at the Hostel.

Then I had him stop at a store where I thought I purchased some more data for the hot spot for the cell phone but more on that later.

We headed back and I had him take me right to the place where we got in the van to head to town, 4 hours earlier. When I got there, the young man was sitting there waiting for me, I thought to just say hello. No, he told me his mother had made a table with the Google Translate and I took that to mean she had fixed something to eat and it would have been very rude of me to not go. I didn’t want to leave Stormy any longer but really had no choice. I grabbed the new sleeping bag and new tent and we headed up the road to his house.

Once we got back to his house and after a few minutes, I knew this was going to take a couple of hours so I told them I was going to go back and get Stormy and I would be back within the hour. Once I got back, I brought some clothes with me I had intended on giving away and the sleeping bag I replaced and gave them to the young man, who probably had never had anything like the bag or clothes before.



This is the young man who helped me.



Waiting for the fish and meat to cook. His brother.



Dinner is ready. Carp.



The family next door where I took the Russian Sauna bath.



Once we ate, I got to go next door and they had gotten the Traditional Russian sauna bath house hot for me to take a bath before I left, and I certainly appreciated that.

We said our goodbyes and Stormy and I headed down the railroad tracks one more time, almost 10 hours since I had left the kayak that morning. A very long stressful day for me.

July 13th Saturday day 25 on the water:

After spending the 1st night in the new tent and very satisfied with it, we head out, losing a day to the tent fiasco, but all ends well that means well and I meant well at all times.



Back on the water headed to Lake Baikal.

Cloudy day, but a good break from the hot, sunny weather we had been having. No wind to speak of and that is a huge blessing.

There was a good road along the river right going down stream and as I looked at my in Reach map I had no idea where it went or where it ended, if in fact it did. Once I got around the corner, under a railroad bridge and a new one they were building, the ferry explained my bewilderment.



This ferry even carried loaded logging trucks.



A canoer’s and kayakers’ nightmare.

This is what I had to contend with on the Eg in the channels and the channel was no wider than the downed tree.



2nd night in the new tent.

We keep getting lucky on the weather and very lucky on the good camp sites.

July 14th Sunday day 26 on the water:


The days have kind of got away from me on the Journal, so I am struggling to get caught up and remember what happened on those days.



Even with the sunny days, there is a lot of haze.



Fairly clear in this picture.

As we move down river, I am endeavoring to make sure I stay to the right, always taking the right channel that will take us down into the Baikal.



Another good camp site.

July 15th Monday day 27 on the water:

The idea all along was to follow the right channels and it would take us right down to the Baikal. I don’t know what happened, but I got off the right channel and ended up in a channel that was taking me down to almost the center of the Selenga Delta. Not a pretty picture. I twice paddled back up this channel and just didn’t go far enough I guess and didn’t get out of that channel.

I ended up down in the middle of the Selenga Delta in a couple of hours and it was extremely stressful and knew I was in for a hard work out to get out of there. As I knew I was approaching the lake I saw a wind generating blade turning around out over the marsh. I made my way to it, and it turned out to be a cabin for the “preserve” that the Selenga Delta is.

No one was there but someone had been recently They had cleared the weeds/grass out from around the buildings and the covers for the windows had been left open. I decided to stay there on the front area. I washed the clothes I was wearing, shaved and took a quick pot bath and organized. I climbed up on the roof on a ladder that was in the back and could see the open water about a mile away. That was going to be my way out in the morning.

I made sure everything but the tent and the sleeping stuff was in the kayak so we could get up and go.

It rained like hell that night for hours.



Beautiful afternoon while we were there.



Good place to end up after a huge mistake.

July 16th Tuesday 28 on the water:


We were up and out of there well before the sun was up. My only hope was no wind and if it was going to blow it was to my back so I could sail. I had our life jackets on. When we packed up, I have never, never seen so many mosquitos in my life in one place. It didn’t take long, but if you opened your mouth you had a dozen of them in it.



Headed out into open water.

It was a battle to get out far enough to keep in open water. The water was full of plants and marshes.



This was no fun.

After about 6 hours on nonstop paddling this hover craft came into view and I managed to get him to stop and he pointed out across the water to where in the village I could see was the grocery store and a place I could spend the night. He spoke enough English for us to communicate. This man will enter my life again in a couple of days and it is a good story.



I was surprised to see this coming my way.

It took a full 7 ½ hours of nonstop paddling to finally get to the bank. We couldn’t stop because there was no hard ground to get on and miles away from the bank. The 5 P’s weren’t part of the last 2 days, I have no idea how I missed that channel. All turned out well, but completely beat up.



Stopped at the 1st place I could.

You can’t tell by this picture but from where I took the picture to the kayak is a bog that you sink up to your knees. I had to stop so had to make 5 trips back and forth to put camp up and of course repeat it in the morning.



In spite of… another good camp site.

While I was setting camp up and lady walked up and we communicated enough that she understood to go get her granddaughter who did speak English and she told me where the grocery store was for certain in the village about 1.5 kilometers away. They took me up to the house they were staying in for a couple of days’ vacation and let me leave my electronic stuff there to get things charged up. There hadn’t been any sun for days, so everything was pretty much dead.

I then walked up to the store and back and got a few things. Don’t think I wasn’t tired after the paddle and the walk. I went up and retrieved my electronics all charged up and they came back and the girl wanted a picture with me before they headed back to Ulan Ede.



A very nice young lady.



...

Journal 8 : Lake Baikal

July 17th Wednesday day 29 on the water:

We were on the Baikal at last and headed north and that is what we did by 6 in the morning. Wind now was the only factor I had to deal with and of course the monotony of paddling. When the weather is good about all I can do is 20 miles a day without being able to sail. That is about 8 hours on the water in the kayak with stopping 2 or 3 times. Now that leaves 16 hours of the day left, tough for the Energizer Guy to sit around like that day after day after day. I can read I have 20 kindle books on my notebook. I can keep the Journal updated and strive to. But if there isn’t any sun, then everything goes dead in a couple of days. I need the notebook to stay charged up so I can see my in Reach map.

It is challenging all the way around.



Headed north on Lake Baikal.

It has been very favorable weather, in fact if it stays like this most of the time, this is going to help. And it appears as though most of the time the wind comes out of the West/South West and that means I can sail a lot. It is hot, but I expected that.



A Baikal fishing trawler.



In the shade which on a hot day is a necessity.



We were sailing but the waves got to big behind me.

July 18th Thursday day 30 on the water:




The moon as I am packing up.



The sun coming up at the same time.

On our way and it looks to be another great day for a kayaker on Lake Baikal. The wind comes up out of the South/South West and we get to sail again.



It is a great break to not have to paddle for miles.

When I can sail, I can average 4 to 6 miles per hour. Once the wind gets better than that then the wind picks the waves up and it throws the front end of the kayak around and can even come up over the back and hit me in the back, so I just get off. If we start early, and we sail, by noon we can cover 25 to 30 miles easily.



This is a privately-owned pleasure boat.

As the day wears on it becomes more and more obvious to me, I am not going to have this lake to myself. There are literally hundreds of campers along the lake and I am not surprised at this point in time. That comes later.

July 19th Friday day 30 on the water:



The 2nd Hoover Craft I have seen on the lake.

We stop after making about 28 miles the wind is blowing somewhat, but I have had it for the day. A bunch of cars, 5 of them to be exact show up where I am camped. There are a couple of people camped out in the back.

It turns out, it is the family and friends of the man that stopped in his Hoover Craft when I was out of the delta headed to shore and had shown me the way to the grocery store. Amazing and he had turned up to have a lunch at this spot because he owns a hotel and a house not far away and there were tables set up and this is where they come.

He had a daughter who spoke great English, Russian and Chinese and lives in Beijing 9 months of the year and teaches young Chinese some classes in Kung Fu and Ju Jitsu of all things. What a sweetheart I can tell you that. But they were very, very gracious to me as the picture shows.



Having lunch with some of the locals.



Here dad is the guy in the blue shirt/shorts.

I told her dad I wished I was 45 years younger.

They invited me up to their house for dinner later. Turns out he is quite well off; he owns a large Gold Mine about 600 Kilometers into the Siberian interior. Great family. The women are very friendly. The guys act like you don’t exist. But so far that is how all the Russian men have treated me, except for the older ones. Turns out he owns both Hoover Craft.



A Cutie in any country.

July 20th Saturday day 31 on the water:

Somehow or another I have gotten screwed up on my days and dates but not going to worry about it. It just doesn’t make any difference. I spent the night, Friday night at a good spot.



More red ants than I have ever seen.



Doing something I am very good at.

At about 7 a small, young wolf came by and he was not happy I was in his walking path around the lake. He howled and barked and yipped long enough for him to realize I wasn’t going to move. Then he figured out all he had to do was just go around me. Why I didn’t get the camera out is beyond me but was more focused on him.

We took off at 4:45 on Saturday morning for a long 25 miles paddle to the next town where I had made the decision to in fact take a day off and let my body rest for a day or so. I knew it was a big tourist town but had no idea what I was in for. We arrived at the town/village about 2 in the afternoon.



100's and 100's of people on the beach.

I was absolutely shocked to see the amount of tourist/people on the beach. Crazy and I think it will be this was for another 100 miles or so because there is a main road that goes right along the lake to the next town. So much for having the lake all to myself. But it is summertime. Every Russian gets 30 days’ vacation. It is only about a 2/3 hours’ drive from Ulan Ede and that is a very big city.

I got lucky once again and got befriended by a lady who lives with her husband and 2 children in Montreal, Canada. They immigrated there years ago. Both her parents work here at this tourist camp and she came to help and brought her two boys. A great person once again and of course speaks perfect English.

She convinced the owner to let me stay in the compounds which is completely secure. The guy who works here helped me carry my gear up and the kayak and I have my tent sent up out by the fence. Everyone will probably leave today or most of them. I may just stay another day and relax.



I keep getting lucky and meet the right people.



Another great sunset over the Baikal.

July 21st Sunday day 32 on the water:

I decided to take a day off and might even take 2 days off if I can’t get everything I want to get done. Mostly on the computer. I will go to the grocery store, which is a great one and try to find some duct tape, some new kind of water shoes and a new pillow the other one has worn out. I also sit on it in the kayak.

I have spent all morning long working on the Journals and have them caught up. Now I need to figure out how to get some more data on my phone so I can get things done on the computer. I think the guy who works here knows how to use the Russian’s cell company’s online store and might be able to do it on his phone for me, if not there might be somebody in town who can do it. If not, I hope to find somebody here that will let me use their hot spot and get things done that way.

Since it is already after noon and all I have been doing is working, I am thinking I just might take another day off and I will be very rested up, organized and consolidated and ready to go again.



...

Journal 9 : Lake Baikal

July 22nd Monday day 33 on the water:

I left really early. I contemplated spending another day but why. I had bought more groceries, was all packed up ready to load the kayak and I saw no reason to sit around. I don’t do that very well.

I carried everything out the back gate down to the lake. Pulled my kayak out the gate and down to the lake and I was packed and paddling by 5:30. Not having a problem getting up early has been serving me very well.

The folks there treated me good. I do think they gouged me a little bit on what the manager charged me to pitch my tent, but I got a hot shower, slept well the two nights, met the lady from Canada and all was well when I left.



The very nice lady from Canada.



Got to sail some, not happening enough.



Way too many people on the bank for me.



You can barely see the top of the tent.

Where we camped there was a guy from Germany spending several years traveling around in this truck, which I have seen several of these kind of truck campers.



He seemed to be very comfortable.



This cat showed up and just loved Stormy.

July 23rd Tuesday day 34 on the water:




The lady/bike rider from Karstasistan.

This lady who had been riding her bike for 13 months, and I mean all over this part of the world, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Balkan countries, amazing. She spoke great English and had learned it from a guy from Oregon in the Peace Corps years ago. She camped not far from me because we were close to the road.



1 of many beautiful sunrises on the Baikal.



The number of campers on the bank continues to astound me.

It was another uneventful day. The routine is settling in and the only thing I need to worry about and contend with is the wind. It has been coming up early and blowing in my face.



Lots of Fireweed.

We had to pull over early because of the wind. It just happened to be close to a good camp set back in the trees off the lake. Several nice cabins and a huge car port type area where everyone sat and drank and ate. He had a generator, storage batteries, large screen TV, dishwasher and refrigerator.

Once again, they fed me, and we used Google Translate to communicate. I ended up spending the night there because the wind was really blowing by the time I got back down to the lake.



I have gotten in the habit of lifting my kayak up on the bank.

July 24th Wednesday day 35 on the water:

Packed up and on the water again by 5:30. It started out to be a great paddling day but once again the wind came up early and it was a struggle. We managed to get most of our miles in but had to hit the bank early for another day.



The water looks like Mercury.



Not the best campsite.

I didn’t have a lot of choice when I hit the bank. Had to climb up the bank and get up out of the wind. The road along the front of the tent I was not happy with. Only one car came by. Lots of red ants. Everywhere. Zillions of them.



Long way to have to carry stuff up and down.

July 25th Thursday day 36 on the water:


Not the best nights sleep. And I don’t seem to be eating as well as I should, even though I have plenty of food and a good variety. I think it is because it is very hot, and the wind takes a lot out of me.



On the water an hour before the sun was up.

Seems like I am getting on the water earlier and earlier. The wind just keeps coming up about 10/11 and that makes it hard to get the miles in for the day if you wait until 6 or later to start paddling.



Stopped and hoping the wind dies down.

After a couple of hours, the wind actually did die down and we were able to continue paddling for another 3 or 4 hours and got our miles in.



Not a bad campsite.



Nice sunset.

July 26th Friday day 37 on the water:




On the water before the sun is up again.

I am hoping to make it to the next town today and it is going to be a struggle with the wind.

The guy back at the camp where I ate and spent the night offered to drive up and take me around The Holy Nose, so we will see. If I do have him do it, I will ask him to come on Sunday, giving me the rest of Friday afternoon and all day Saturday to get reorganized, go to the market and try to get on line if the cell service is any good in town.



This is a couple that waved me over and fed me.

We had to fight the wind off and on. It ended up being a 21 miles paddle since we had left in the morning, but we arrived at Urst about 3:00. I immediately talked to 3 couples with their kids from Irkusku and asked them to watch my gear and kayak and I walked into town with Stormy which was a very big mistake.

It ended up being about 3 miles, 80 plus degrees and very bad decision with out any thought to it. I got into town, very disappointed and got a ride back which this guy will be the one who takes me around The Holy Nose on Sunday morning back on the Baikal.



Road I walked to town on



Once again just great people.



The kids playing in the kayak.

July 28th Saturday day 39 on the water:


Spending the day getting some groceries, had to fix a pin hole in my air mattress, washed all the few dirty clothes I had, charging all the electronics up and hope to spend some time in town on the internet. I also need to find an ATM. I can not imagine there not being one in town with all the people that are here.

As it turns out, there is one ATM in town, and it is at the Bank and it is not accessible unless it is open and open Mon thru Fri. So, no Rubles. But, once the guys who were camped next to me, or I was camped next to them understood my dilemma. And the dilemma was, if I gave the guy that was going to drive me across over to the lake on the other side the $5,000 rubles of the $8,000 rubles I had, it wasn’t going to leave me much. $7,500 rubles is about $75.00.

One of the guys gave me the $5,000 rubles and when I get to Irkusku I will transfer that out of my account into his account, I took a picture of his bank card. Bank cards are a big thing over here, they just don’t have enough of them in places they should.

Once they left, I organized, and some other folks showed up. We got to talking, and they called a friend who came and got me. I went to the grocery store again and then we went over to his house so I could get caught up on the internet and charge up a few things, no sun lately.

Then he took me back to my camp and I finished getting ready to be picked up at 10 in the morning. It rained all night and into the next day.

...

Journal 10 : Lake Baikal

July 29th Sunday day 40 on the water:


I was ready to go by 8. Put everything up underneath a roof over a large picnic table, it had continued to rain all morning long. So, I put my chair up on the table and Stormy and I just sat there and were patient.



Waiting for my ride out of the rain.

He showed up about 8:30 and said he had to go to work, but a friend of his would come and take me. True to his word, at about 9:45 his friend showed up and we loaded up, put the kayak on top, tied it down good and off we were to the other side of the Holy Nose.

The drive took about 1 ½ hours and the road wasn’t bad. We had to stop at the National Park Entrance, which I knew I was going to be paddling in for the next week or so and I “thought” the girls at the entrance understood what I was doing and they gave me a permit/document for the park. I assumed it was the right one, but that becomes a very interesting story, in the next couple of days.

Once we got to the place where all of the large tour boats docked to take people up the lake to some resorts, or just for rides on the lake, we unloaded all of the gear, got the kayak down and once again I got set up underneath a good size picnic table with a top on it. There was so much going on, plus construction on putting in new docks and parking that I decided to just sleep on the picnic table. It was raining off and on and the wind was blowing, so fixed up a wind break and Stormy and I were very comfortable.



Just got the van unloaded and kayak in the water.



These boats run tourists up the lake to resorts.

I got the kayak in the water, got it all packed up except for what we needed to sleep with. I had a blow of top ramen type soup, which I eat often. We did go to bed until about 10 because that was when the last of the boats came in and everyone left. Plus, there were 4 construction guys working on the site who were staying right next to us and they had a generator going until that time.



2 of the people working on trails in the National Park.

There were a group of about 20 people who had been working on trail work in the National Park that were at the end of the volunteering. They were from all over the world.



Once again, I continue to be disappointed at the amount of people.

July 30th Monday day 41 on the water:



On the water once again.

Everyday it seems that the visibility is getting worse. I knew there were some forest fires going on, but at this point in time, had no idea just how many there were and how much worse the visibility was going to get.



A good example of the deteriating condition of things in this area of Russia.



Enjoying the good life on Lake Baikal.


You don’t see a lot of this. But like anywhere, there are those that have it and those that don’t. In this part of Russia, I can tell you 99% of them don’t.



Headed across the bay to the East side.



A good campsite out of the wind.

When I was given the document/permit for the National Park area, as I was headed north on the east side of the lake, I showed them the in Reach map and explained to them what I was doing, before paying for the document/permit. I was instructed to stop at every Ranger Station and check in and show the document/permit to the Ranger. On the 1st night after setting up camp, the picture above, I walked down to the Rangers cabin and presented the document. He looked at it and told me, even though he didn’t speak English and of course I know no Russian, but I understood what he was saying, that I had the wrong document and I needed to go back and get the right one.

I looked at him and said, “no way”. I don’t go back and won’t. He understood perfectly. He was not happy, but didn’t appear to be threatening, so I stuck to my guns. I told him to call his headquarters on the two-way radio and that is what he did. Once the conversation was over, he still said I had to go back and get the right document. Once again, I said no way and indicated to him that he would have to shoot me or arrest me, I was not going back. I told him to call Putin, the Kremlin or his supervisor again, I wasn’t going back.

Once again, he got on the two-way radio and at the end of that conversation, he put the mic down and looked up and me and indicated I could go on. I left his cabin and wondered if I was going to have a boat show up to arrest me or shoot me.

July 31st Tuesday day 42 on the water:




We ended up paddling almost all day along these cliffs.

Once around the 1st bend, we started to paddle along some very rocky, sheer cliffs and did so pretty much all day long. I knew they were there but didn’t realize just how far the mountains came down to the water and how extensive these rocky cliffs were. There were several wildfires still burning right down to the edge of the water and you could still see the flames.



Millions of years of water erosion.



I was beginning to wonder if the cliffs would ever end.

Once we got around and past the cliffs the shoreline opened and the next Ranger’s cabin came into view and it was only about noon, but the wind had kicked up and I figured that I would just stay there, if possible. As I got closer the Ranger was standing on the bank waiting for me and I knew what that meant. He was going to tell me I had the wrong document.

As he motioned me over, I paddled up, he helped me stabilize the kayak on the rocks and spoke some English to me and he said to come in, we would have a cup of tea and discuss the situation. He was from St. Petersburg and spoke enough English that I knew at least we were going to be able to communicate.

Once inside and the tea in front of us, he explained to me I had the wrong document for the “special area” within the park, that had a 3 kilometer area out from the bank and it was very restricted and without the “proper” document I had to go back.

I explained to him, that was an impossibility, and it was not going to happen. I told him it would take me a week to go back to Park Headquarters and besides, I don’t go backwards. My whole trip as I explained to him in detail, was based upon going forward, not backwards. After some discussion, I went back down to my kayak, got my bandanna that I tie around my neck and went back into the cabin and asked him to come outside. By now, we were getting along pretty good.

I grabbed a rake leaning against the cabin, put it in his hands, took him about 20 paces from the side of the cabin, gave him the rake and had him hold it like a gun pointed at the side of the cabin. Then I went to the side of the cabin, tied the bandanna around my eyes, put my hands behind my back and told him to shoot. Then I took off the bandanna and he got the message very clearly; I wasn’t going back. Period.

We went inside and he got on the two-way radio and after an hour of going back and forth, he looked up and me and smiled and said I could pick up the right document at the next Ranger’s station and it would cost me 600 rubles for 3 nights camping in the park. After that we really got along. Turned out he did a lot of canoeing. Had climbed Mt. Everest and he was quite the outdoor guy. It all ended well. I spent the night there and he prepared fish for dinner.



Lots of mosquitos here. But a safe good place to sleep.



The Ranger preparing dinner.



Stormy with another friend to play with. The rangers dog.

There was a firefighting crew staying here at the Rangers cabin and they had just gotten back down out of the mountains. This was the 1st indication of how bad the fires were, even though I knew from the lack of visibility that there were multiple fires and I had already seen a couple. I had no idea of the extent of the fires.

August 1st Wednesday day 43 on the water:




This fire started from a lightning strike right next to the Ranger's cabin.

For miles the fire had burned right down to the lake and of course the smoke hung right on the water and the visibility became less than 10%, you couldn’t even see the bank at times if you were a short distance from the bank.



Lots of streams/water falls in this area.

We stopped for our morning break and there was bear tracks and piles all over the place. It was the 1st time I had seen this much bear sign. We took our break and got back in the kayak. The break wasn’t that long. I was nervous.

It took a good 8 hours to paddle the distance to the next Ranger’s station. As I approached, I could see 2 people, standing on the bank, one a lady the other the Ranger. I assumed the lady was the one I heard on the two-way radio explaining to the last Ranger yesterday, that I needed to pay the 600 rubles.

Once I got there, we went over and sat down on a picnic bench, she produced the document she had in her hand, I signed it and paid her 1000 rubles and she didn’t have change which was fine with me. I was legal and knew I wasn’t going to have a bad time any more from the Rangers. I had 2 more Ranger stations to stop at before getting out of the “Special Park Zone”.

They left and I sat up camp in a good spot, with a covered tabled and not 30/40 feet from the edge of the lake and the kayak.



Another great spot to spend the night.



Yes, there are elk in the park.

I fixed a good dinner. Got things ready and packed the kayak as much as I could and go things ready to leave early in the morning. I have got in the habit of putting the cereal and powdered milk in the bowl ready for in the morning and would eat once an hour or so went by after putting on the water. I also always put Stormy’s breakfast in her bowl, so I could put the dog food bag away. And I had a “snack bag” for our breaks that had cheese, hard salami, hard bread and a knife to cut the salami and cheese up.

We went to bed and it wasn’t long and the two dogs at the Rangers Headquarters were really barking and I heard them barking in multiple locations and at that time I figure a bear was probably coming thru the area. I always had the air horn and bear spray with me. Stormy had the hair up on her back so I knew the bear was not that far away. But as time went on the dogs quit barking. I settled down and eventually got to sleep. That is always a very stressful situation.

August 2nd Thursday day 44 on the water:


Once up and making the 1st trip down to the water to start the packing of the kayak, I knew something wasn’t the same. My breakfast bowl was along side the lake side of the kayak full of sand. Stormy’s bowl was laying outside of the kayak, empty. And my snack pack was gone. Then I saw the tracks.



Not a big bear but big enough.



Not 30/40 feet from the tent.

Once on the water, I realized that with seeing all the bear sign that we hadn’t been seeing, the fires were probably pushing the bears out of the high country and back down to the lake’s edge, which is where they start out in the late spring after coming out hibernation. Then they gravitate up to the high country because that is where the deer, moose, reindeer and elk have their calves and that is where the food is. There is very little food for them along the lake’s shore. And this was bear country anyway. One of the few places, being in the park where there just aren’t a lot of people.



My wrists/forearms were bothering me, so I tied them up for some support.

August 3rd Friday day 44 on the water:

As we know by now, we never dilly dally getting on the water. Stormy is always ready to go and never, never hesitates to get into her seat. If I stay consistent with that, eventually we will get to wherever it is we are going for the day, days, and weeks. One of my biggest challenges is the visibility, the lapping of the water constantly on the shoreline and the fact there is absolutely no wildlife along this lake. There are no songbirds and very few waterfowl. One would think that the sound of the water lapping on the shoreline would be something one would enjoy. But 24 hours a day and it becomes chaos noise to me, and that kind of noise drives me nuts. Motorcycles. Dodge trucks. Little zoom cars with their mufflers changed out. The TV. The noise in a restaurant, with everyone yelling to be heard and of course the loud music in stores, restaurants, public places it all ends up stressing me and I hate it. Hence, why I do so well on top of the mountain.

Our destination today was Dashaw, a Park Ranger Headquarters and once one of the most famous settlements on the lake. Evidently, once the Park was established, the people had to move out and no one but the Park employees are at this settlement now. At one time it was thriving and quite a place.



Dashaw



The Ranger.

Once I got there, I liked it so much that the Ranger suggested that I stay a couple of days which is what I did. I stayed in a cabin and we slept well, I had a couple of good meals that I fixed and got things cleaned up and reorganized and consolidated.



The cabin we stayed in.



This wasn't in front of the cabin before going to bed!



Every building had its own distinct design/architecture accents.



Stormy playing with a chipmunk. Notice it on top of the branch.



Great idea for a bench around a fire pit.

August 4th Saturday day 45 on the water:


I can tell by a map I have, that the next Ranger station was another day’s paddle 20 plus miles or so.



Visibility wasn't as bad this morning.

It was also a great day for paddling, as one can see from the flat water in the above picture. Makes it so much easier than having a breeze or a good stiff wind in your face.

Someone with an artistic mind.



The Special District end of the Park on the North end.



The Rangers cabin that is still in the National Park.

Once I got to my destination, the Rangers cabin, I took the liberty of putting my tent up and assumed that someone would be back, because you could tell someone was staying there.



Fixing dinner, lots of mosquitos, Stormy is in the tent.

Sure enough, a couple of hours later a boat shows up with 4 guys and 2 kids in it. They had been here for 10 days. One of them spoke limited English. I asked them if one of them was the Ranger, and his answer was “something like that”. I assumed they had connections to be able to stay here that long. They had a good boat and were fishing. No drinking and only one of the guys smoked. To have 4 guys not drinking was a rarity. I showed them what I had done, and what I hope to complete, and they were astounded, and I garnered a lot of respect.



Eating watermelon with the 4 guys and 2 kids.

...

Journal 11 - Lake Baikal

August 4th Saturday day 45 on the water:

The guys and the kids went to bed early so that was nice that it got quiet before 10 PM. They had told me they hadn’t seen any bears in the area since they had been there the last 10 days, so I went to sleep without bears on my mind.

We were up before the sun once again, even though it is getting so smoky it is hard to tell when the sun comes up, plus we are on the East side of the lake so one doesn’t see the sun till later anyways. No wind, and as the morning progressed it looked like it was going to be one of the best days for paddling on Lake Baikal so far.



The sun coming up. The best time of the day for me.



2nd dead Seal I have seen in a net.

I think I mentioned it before but will again. I have seen 2 lives seals and 3 dead ones. 2 dead in nets in the lake and one along the bank.

As the morning progressed the weather stayed absolutely perfect for paddling and we stopped every 2/3 hours to take a break.



This is the 1st bay I paddled 3.5 hrs.



One of the few afternoons the smoke wasn't that bad.

I normally won’t attempt to cross a bay, from Point A to Point B a straight line. If I can see Point B I know eventually I will get there. I also can judge pretty good by now how far across it is, but the visibility can make that almost an impossibility. But the weather was holding, not even a breeze so both times I crossed successfully saving me hours and hours of paddling the shoreline, because both bays were very big.



The 2nd bay I paddled 2.5 hours.



See the green line on the rocks?

Who would have thought Lake Baikal in Siberia, the deepest lake in the world and the largest by fresh water volume would warm up enough to “turn over”, but that is exactly what it was doing. And to make it worse a green growth is happening in the lake, the entire lake and all the rocks, the bottom of the lake when you can see is covered with this slippery, smelly growth. Strange.

We ended up paddling 12.5 hours this day. The longest day so far in the kayak. The time just flew by and crossing the 2 bays is what added the extra hours to the days paddle. I don’t like doing that, we both get tired of sitting that long, even though I did take 4/5 breaks, but the breaks are never for very long.

As I started to look for a camp spot, I knew there was a river coming into the lake just around the next point, so that is where we headed. I got to the mouth of the river and was sitting there trying to decide which side of the river would be less bear prone and I heard a couple of boats coming across the lake. I couldn’t see them because of the smoke, but I could tell by the different sounds it was 2 boats and they appeared to be heading straight for the mouth of the river and I got curious. So, I just sat there waiting for them to come into view.

In about 10 minutes they came into view and sure enough it was 1 boat with 4 people in it and the other boat had 3 people in it. They pulled up to me and the boat with 4 people in it, the lady spoke some English and when we got done talking, they asked me to camp next to/with them.

Now, normally I wouldn’t do that. But in all honesty, I had found myself getting a little lonely, which is unheard of for me. I wasn’t as engaged now in the paddling as I should have been. I was completely tired of the visibility and breathing the smoke for weeks. I also was just tired and somewhat down. Making the decision to camp next to them was a great decision as time will show as the journal goes on.



Following them into the mouth of the river.

I spent 3 days with them camped there on the bank of the lake where the river comes into the lake. One day the wind blew very hard so I wouldn’t have gone anywhere anyway. Here is the story.

They were from Irkusku and this was the 10th year in a row they had come to this very spot to camp. This was just outside the park boundary on the north end of the lake. They had a friend/family who lived in a pretty nice place just around the corner, who was a commercial fisherman. More on that part of the story later.

As it turns out, the husband was a lawyer and represented 5 very large companies in Irkusku that imported beer, liquor and food items and was one of the few Russians I had met so far that did very well financially. His wife, who spoke some English and their son, who also spoke some English made it possible to communicate along with Google translate. Strangely enough, there was cell service there. The son had, I think one year left of high school and he was considering going to Canada to go to college, if he could make it work. Their daughter spoke no English, but it isn’t that hard to communicate under those circumstances.



Father and son getting ready to bake fish.



The father petting Stormy.

The lawyer had his Dad with them, he and his wife and one of their grandsons from a brother of the wife, they were a great couple. The father is/was a World Champion Cross Country Freestyle skier, in fact he was the World Champion in McCall Idaho in 2000. Imagine that. He had Gold Medals and trophies from all over the world, which I got to see when I spent 4 days with them before flying out of Irkusku a week or so later at their home.



The lady in the back was the wife, the other the grandmother.

These two ladies were some of the nicest people I have ever met anywhere in my life. I got treated just like family. You can’t imagine how well they took care of me, every single day I ate with them 3 times a day. It couldn’t have happened for me at a better time at this stage of the trip. They eat and drink, that is what the Russians do. They eat a lot of fish, prepared a lot of different ways. They eat a lot of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. They also will barbecue pork quite a lot. What ever it was, it was fresh, it was delicious, and I appreciated it immensely.



The guy in the middle is the Commercial Fisherman.

The other two guys, the one on the right and the one on the left worked for him. The guy in the red hat with his hand on his chin is the Father. The fisherman was a stand-up guy. Once he knew where I had come from and how long I had been in the kayak he was absolutely impressed and treated me with the upmost respect and admiration.

As it turned out, once I knew the friend/the commercial fisherman was going to deliver fish to_________________, I asked if he would take me across the lake with him. It was only a 3 day paddle around the rest of the north end of the lake, but with not being able to see anything, not getting a permit/document for the National Park on the West side, which was about half of what I had left, I decided enough was enough. I didn’t come to make any statement or set a record and I made the decision, with a lot of thought to end the trip.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy getting to Irkusku to catch my plane and change my ticket, but I also knew if I was patient, I could make all of that happen.

My last night there, they had what was a tradition to them a large fire on the beach.



I am sure if the visibility would have been good, you could have seen this fire from across the lake.

I had spent the day breaking down my kayak and getting it all bundled up. I had already some time ago, made the decision to not take any of the camping gear, what food was left and various things back with me, it just didn’t make sense. I put it all in a pile and told them it was theirs to keep and the fisherman took some of it and they took some of it back to Irkusku. It was all good stuff but made no sense to pay $200 a bag to fly it home.

The next morning, I was ready to take the ride across the lake and the fisherman showed up about 10 AM.



The boat was going to be very full. What you don't see is all the boxes of fish.



A fellow Kayaker. A young Russian from Irkusku.



What a great family. Stormy and I ready to get in the boat. Kayaker on the left.

What made the young Russian showing up interesting, is this was his 2nd year, he had done the south end of the lake last year and was doing the north end/half of the lake this year. But even more of the story is, 4/5 years previously the wife of the father was his professor there in Irkusku, her still teaching at the college and they hadn’t seen each other since then. They spent half the night talking and reminiscing, he didn’t get up to early. In fact, he had just gotten up when we took this picture, just before climbing in the boat for the trip across the lake.



Last minute requests to bring back stuff to camp before we took off.

We were pretty squeezed in and Stormy had to sit on my lap. It was about an hour and half trip across the lake, fairly smooth. It was just to cramped and tight to take any pictures until we got to the other side.



Pulling into the bay.



Very pristine and pretty place that day.

Turned out the fisherman owned one of the houses on the water up on the right. He just pulls in, opens the garage door on the lake side and the garage door on the street side and unloads the fish right into his truck. That is what we did with my 4 bags. He took me to the bank 1st so I could get him the $5,000 rubles (about $80) we had agreed up on and enough for me to make the next few days work. Then he took me to the train station, where I found out I had to buy all 4 beds in the berth because of the size of Stormy and then it was going to be 4 days before there was a “full” 4 bed berth available. That was not cheap, but I had no choice.

Then he took me to a hotel, that was cheap and that is where he departed, and I took the stuff up to the room and settled in for a 4 day wait for the train.

At this point in time, I got very depressed and wished I had just kept paddling and I would be there where I was in the 3 or 4 days I had been sitting across the lake, and another 20 days would have done another 400 miles and just ignored the closing of the park and took my chances. I went thru the same emotional turmoil when I stopped my trip on the Yukon at Grayling, Alaska because my thumbs hurt me so bad. That was a tough time for me, and I wish to this day I would have just toughed it out. Does it make any different, no, not really. It certainly didn’t now either. I hate excuses, I can accept good reasoning.

We spent the days just relaxing, working on the journals, taking walks and basically trying to adjust.



People all over the world like flowers.



Off all place to see this sign.



The train station.

I had emailed the folks from across the lake, in anticipation of them getting home on Sunday and I was leaving on Sunday, arriving in Irkusku on Tues AM. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to Irkusku because my flight, that I had changed making sure I had plenty of time, was not until Saturday morning the 17th.

We got on the train with no problems, settled in. Stormy slept on one of the bottom bunks, me on the top bunk and my 4 bags went on the other bottom bunk and underneath the bunk. I had brought some fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, hard salami, cheese and bread to eat on the way. I had got so used to eating it across the lake and it settled well with me.

And one could buy drinks and a few snacks from the host of the berth car. I never did go to the dining car.



One of the many rivers along the 2-day train ride.



One of the many small villages along the railroad.



I can't imagine what a Siberian Winter would be like?

Now, my level of stress increased during the entire 2-day train ride because I had no idea what I was going to do for a place to stay in Irkusku, having Stormy with me and all in a much bigger city.

When we got to Irkusku, at 6AM in the morning, the lady that was taking care of that particular rail car, opened the doors for us to get our baggage out and there standing in front of the door was the couple I had spent all of that time with across the lake. I almost cried, knowing that they took the time to find out when the train was arriving, then to get up that early and come down to get me was completely overwhelming and much appreciated. What a joy.

They helped me load up my bags and we took a short 20-minute drive to their house and it was/is a very nice house.

We had breakfast and he had to go to work and they told me that I could stay there, and they would take me to the airport early Saturday morning at 6:00AM with the plane leaving at 10AM. Talk about appreciating something, that was one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me and of all places, in Irkusku, Siberia, Russia.



1st night’s dinner, Alisha is on the left and her husband standing.



Stormy had her friend again to play with.



The World Champion Cross Country Freestyle Skier.



Some of his medals.

Olkhon Island 2 days:

I had planned on spending a couple of days when I got down to Olkhon Island, and since I did not paddle down that far, I decided to take a bus from Irkusku to the Island, take the ferry and spend the day, a night and come back the next day.

Olkhon Island is the largest Island in the lake, it has some Spiritual claims and it is visited by literally thousands and thousands of people during the few months in the summer. In fact, it was a zoo. I wouldn’t recommend anybody go there for a visit. Just my personal observation.

Here are a few pictures I took. I also did a video I am working on.

I didn’t make any inquiries into a place to stay and that was a mistake, but it would have done no good, the place was packed is booked way in advance. I did get lucky and ran into a guy who knew of another guy who had room in a tipi, I found him, and it was fitting, for me of all people to spend the last night on Lake Baikal in a tipi.



A view I won't forget for my last night on Lake Baikal.

The tipi.



The owner of the tipi and the little girl in the video I did.



Looking north from a hill on Olkhon Island.



The little girl holding the Russian flag taken from the drone.



You won't ever find another store/give shop like this one.