13th March – As we head of camp, we hit the zimnik (local highway on ice and snow). Conditions are a bit better on the road and we doing good progress along the eastern shore of the lake.
We convoy along with the german team and the hkg crew ( Sam and Gareth). We run at 50km/h and apart for a few doubtful turns, we are making good strides toward the hot springs.
The hot springs has been in our minds in the last few days as we look forward to warming up a bit after 2 really cold days and nights when temperature dropped to -28oC plus wind chill factor.
As we progress on our journey, our track starts veering a bit further from the track given on our GPS, nothing alarming as we are still on a main road and cruising along nicely.
Lost and frustrated
After maybe 60 kms our GPS shows that we are now over 13kms off our track and we are now sitting far away from the shore.
The visibility has rapidly deteriorated and we are now stuck in a whiteout, snow covering us and the tracks ahead of us.
Our group start losing morale as we realised we are lost and we are very unlikely to make it to the hot spring tonight. Some of us still holding on to a small hope that we will find a right turn along the way. A suggestion was to take an azimut and cross the ~13kms straight back to the eastern shore.
Freddy is really not sold on the idea and use his common diplomatic skills (read none whatsoever) to recommend not to consider this option. As we argue for over 10 min, what option is the best, 2 local cars turn up and we stop them in the hope to get some information.
The blokes in the car where quite helpful and after a few drawing on the snow and a map we knwo that we are on our way to Balkaiskoie, a small fishing village that has been described as quite picturesque.
Whiteout and fading tracks
Our options narrow down to either come back on our tracks or push on to the western shore approx 40km away.
As the snow continues to fall down heavily we decide to push on, probably our most valid option.
The whiteout is a little surreal, as the snow surrounds us, we lost track of the shores, the sun and everything in our surrounding. Our visibility is 20 meters max and the heavy snow makes it hard to steer the bike through snow packets. Anxiety is high as we head further and further across the lake. At this point we stop looking at our GPS given how lost we are.
We grind on and after approx 2hrs of anxiously trying to follow the fading tracks, we start to see dark imposing shades on the horizon, the coast is in sight! A sight of relief and I can see Michael’s shoulders relaxing despite the tiredness of driving all day.
Balkaiskoie – a beautiful fishing village, so they say…
It’s 16;00 when we finally arrive on firm land with a certain sense of euphoria and relief. We are looking forward to a hot coffee and a rest for the evening. As our fellow Ice Runners and ourselves congratulate for a safe crossing, we discuss plans for the next 3 hrs of sun available. Once more the suggestion of crossing the lake West to East is suggested and considered. Michael makes an interesting point that 30 min before seeing the first shades of a
The town that one of the participant described by one of the participants as a picturesque fishing village turned out to be a grim reality of what most village would look like in the northern part of the lake: basic houses with many of the with broken windows or falling apart. The grey surrounding and muddy grounds starkly contrast the pristine beauty of the lake.
With no shop or any amenities in sight and a bunch of local kids harassing us for petrol, we head on to the nearest city, Severobaikalsk
We drive for over an hour to finally reach Severobaikalsk where we score a local hotel and enjoy the simple pleasure of removing our numerous layer and sitting at a table for dinner.