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From Irkutsk to the island of Olkhon

If you once decided to take your bike with you to Irkutsk, a trip to Listvyanka certainly isn't satisfying. A frequently chosen destination is the major and most beautiful island of Lake Baikal – the island of Olkhon. The easiest way to get there is to always go northwards from Irkutsk. During the first kilometres traffic is still fairly heavy, but it gets fewer and fewer after a short time and allows relaxed riding. You now ride on a tarred road through a slightly hilly terrain, and always going northwards you will reach the village Bayandai 130 km away. The surrounding landscape here is beautiful already, but nothing in comparison with what is still to come. Due to the meagre forests along the street the route is somewhat vulnerable to wind though.

In Siberia, you can usually spend the night wherever you like, which means that if you carry a tent you can pitch it wherever. Making a fire is totally unproblematic, nobody is going to say anything, but put out the fireplace carefully – forest fires occur frequently anyway and for their battle usually nobody feels responsible in Siberia. But if you prefer to spend the night in one of the nice old Siberian framehouses, just ask in the villages and you will always be able to find something for a few roubles.

In Bayandai, the official road northwards proceeds until Katshug. To get to the island of Olkhon though, you have to turn eastwards in Bayandai. From now on, the route is much more exhausting because of several serial ascents. But in exchange, the landscape becomes more beautiful. The good quality of the street lasts for about 70 km. Just directly after the little village Kuret the street ends and turns into a gravel road, on which it isn't too pleasant to ride, but it is no problem for a mountain or trekking bike. After a fairly short ride you will come to a street again in the village Elantzy. The remaining way to the island of Olkhon is characterised by the permanent change between sections of gravel roads and streets. But due to the street construction machines there were at the wayside in August 2003, it is assumable that soon further road sections will be tarred.

You get to the island by a regular ferry, the short passage is gratis for bikers. On the island of Olkhon, the official road only leads to the village Khuzir. The road is quite bad, because apart from gravel there are also many holes which don't make the riding very pleasant. It is true that after Khuzir there is no official road anymore, but for the first 20 km after the village the quality of the road remains the same.

In the region of Peshshanaya a road section follows which is 5 km long and so sandy that you will have to push your bike every now and then. Even if this section might invite you to turn back rather than to ride on, you should keep the ambition to carry on, because afterwards an excellent forest track leads you to Cape North. From Cape North, a good choice is to head for the small village Ussury as well, but you will have to take the way back trough the sandy section again. Once the island of Olkhon is explored, the only possibility with the bike is to ride back to Irkutsk again (because further northwards on the west side of Lake Baikal it is impossible to ride) or to organise yourself a boat in Khuzir, which brings you to the east side of Lake Baikal (generally you come to the village Ust-Bargusin).


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30 Jan 2006

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