At the risk of invoking every Russian stereotype you have ever imagined. . Most Russians appear to have a real affinity with vodka! But served ice cold I can understand why. . As a single malt whisky lover a cold shot of vodka is a disparate but agreeable experience.
And all the trees that weren't in Kazakhstan? - they are in Russia. Millions of them.
Mile after kilometer! of endless roads with trees. no views, just trees! Silver birch and conifers by the score.
The petrol stations have a system where you pay up front for what you think you will need and then either pay the difference was collect the change once you've filled up. Which is fine now I understand it. It was more than just a bit confusing when the first petrol station I stopped at had a woman behind a mirrored window talking through a speaker with a sliding slot to put the money in before she switched on the pump. With no eye contact on my side, communication was somewhat difficult!
By Friday I've had to push on a bit. . With over 6000km to cover in 3 weeks I can't hang around. Consequently I've not had much time for film or photo's stopping to catch "that" shot puts an enormous dent in my average speed and covering 800km in one day means that is crucial.
One night stops in Novosibirsk and Krasnoyark were just that, neither being places you'd really visit. Although arriving after dark in a strange city is always fun! Seeing flashes of lightening illuminate the slightly yellow smog was a dramatic introduction.
My Friday night was a tent in a woodland next to the continuous rumble of the trans Siberian railway, but it put me within a days travel of Irkutsk on Saturday which is right on schedule. An early start ensured I covered the distance easily and at some point in the day I seemed to enter a Russian version of Lincolnshire. Dense forests of trees gave way to rolling hills and farmland with islands of trees amongst the sun ripened golden cereal crops. The only difference seeming to be the size and with collective nouns of combine harvesters working together to reap the crop.
Irkutsk arrived at 52° N 104° E and 40°C! Russia had been pretty cool until then! I'm sure Irkutsk will be cool in other ways that most of the Russian conurbations I have passed through so far could never be.
So after 3 big days of covering the kilometres, 800 on the first day and 1000 split over two days to get here its time to have a day off to explore some of Russia that I have only passed through along the way... So far I've seen trees, road and trees and some fairly messy big cities, I'm sure there's more to offer than that? Lake Baikal and onto Ulan Ude on Monday will I'm sure be a highlight.