He hoped to go at the station. Faint hope. A none English-speaking driver waited on the platform, bearing name cards for ourselves and the Australian couple. Seizing two of our bags, he set off like Mo Farrah. We scurried behind. I kept turning to ensure the Australians were in contact. I raised my arm like a city tour guide, minus umbrella, so they could keep track of us - and their luggage!
Once again, we played the game of 'Which vehicle?' We saw a dilapidated old truck. We thought the same thing. We laughed hysterically with relief when we passed it. The car which was ours would have kept our friend Bernard busy for quite some time. I don't mind old. I don't mind shabby. But the interior of this was impregnated with dirt and tobacco odour. Our driver did not smoke whilst driving but he was suffering the after effects of his habit. He snorted constantly and appeared to swallow whatever he was snorting. Hope that didn't make you feel as queasy as I felt.
The Australian had hit the jackpot in a pristine Toyota. They are now winning
2-0 in the comfort stakes. We have been told SEVERAL times of their wonderful home stay where they had the freedom to come and go, with description of food that made your mouth water. Luck of the draw I guess, unless we upset the organiser. I don't think we did.
Our drivers seemed to be in competition too. Hubby had nodded off so didn't notice my white knuckles and green face. The Irkutsk to Listvyanka rally was taking place with overtaking at high speed.
We slowed down and the driver uttered one of three statements 'Lake Baikal'. Yes, I understood that and beautiful it was too. A few miles further we slowed again. ' Restaurant' Hmm. Well, I could see one but didn't quite understand the relevance. Even more confusing was the third and final utterance further along the village. '70' Now that had me baffled.
We turned up a side street and arrived at a pretty Swiss-style building. Our room was clean and well presented. We had a key too. Wonderful. We looked forward to a restful sleep.
The pension hostess (that is pension like a French B and B, not her age) showed us the showers and suggested we took one. Well, we had been on a train for three days. But I failed to operate the controls properly. Red hot jets assaulted my tum whilst ice cold water streamed down on my head. Aargh. Brrrrr.
Ablutions completed we were taken by car to 'The Restaurant'. Point 2 made sense now. Our landlady gave a cheery grin and climbed back in the car. We asked what time she would return. Her gaze implied 'No way Jose'. Hubby put on his best pleading face and held his hands in supplication. Once again a lady was not for turning. 'Taxi' she shouted as she sped off.
We entered the restaurant expecting to be expected. Blank looks. Using headed paper, hubby's pigeon Russian we persuaded the proprietress to phone our landlady. Still none too happy, she indicated we could eat. The four of us meandered to a window table with a view of the lake. 'Nyet, nyet' she shouted, pointing upstairs. We raised ourselves just as a bus load of Oriental Shearings clients burst through the door. They beat us up the stairs and were ensconced in the window seats by the time we had ascended.
The meal was adequate and edible. The service, not so. Plates were banged down in front of all customers. Any request was treated with an annoyed glare. Mr Australia wanted milk for his tea. We all were astonished when they presented him with a bill for the minuscule amount. C'est la vie.
It took 10 seconds to decide not to call a taxi. Glad we didn't, as the walk back didn't seem so long. It gave us chance to appreciate the glorious lake and surroundings. And to solve the third and final mystery. A very small blue and white sign which said 70. This was the turn for our chalet.
Our landlady came back into favour. She offered to do our laundry for a very small fee. Then we went off for our pre-arranged sauna. Not just any old sauna. There were bunches of leafy twigs tied with string. Not sure how hard you were supposed to hit the other person, my thrashing of hubby resulted in leaves everywhere. It reminded me of our daughter's wedding bouquet which disintegrated when she tossed it to the waiting crowd.
Hubby refused to put on the pixie hat but did take a cold shower. I merely dipped various parts briefly under the water. One cold shower per day is enough.
In an outer room a warm tea with infused black currant leaves was waiting. We drank the lot ( except the leaves).
Our excellent meal at 8 o'clock, a long chat with fellow guests then off to bed. Night all.