Lets stop talking about how hard it is to wake up in the morning and focus on the beautiful things in life.
At this event there is a lot them, everyone who had a child and could bring them along did so. The funny thing about kids at camps is that just like drinks and food they become communal responsibility.
They help out with whatever they can, here Denis is without us telling him to do so, fixing the Russian flag so it doesn’t fly away.
But most of the time they roam from one tent or table to the next one, showing up and leaving without saying good-bye, because they know that they are not done with us yet and will be back.
Anton really took to copying Korean text that Hyein would write for him. By the end of the camp he got so fast and good at it that we didn’t have enough time to make new samples for him. I remember myself at an early age fascinated by a person, a car or something and i just couldn’t leave it alone. I would hang about, asking questions, hoping that i wouldn’t be shooed away.
Back home our circle of friends is just starting to have kids so almost none of them are in the age where they aimlessly hang about nearby you. Here, i got to remember my childhood and wanted to do everything they asked of us. Sometimes it was hard to say no because we also wanted to hang out with other folks.
Are we going to just listen to your ramblings about your childhood?
No! The plan for the day is to get into our cars and drive all the way to the North of the island. We here there are cool views, interesting animals and a challenging road.
Thinking that we are going to be short of gas for the drive back to the gas station we hitched a ride with Natasha and Anton. By the way, there are NO gas stations on the island and the earliest gas station back is about 10 miles after the ferry on the mainland. So plan accordingly. In our usual style of being totally prepared we filled up our main tank all the way…but for whatever dumb reason decided against filling the canister and the secondary tank… please dont be like us. Think more.
Our was smack in the center of the island so we had about 25 miles to go the northern end.
And not even half-way out Danon’s car got a problem – Oil Pressure light.
A quick meeting was held, people were called on the radio, other teams from Korandovod that were already coming back from the North also stopped. Soon our numbers have doubled and a consesus was reached. We go back and Ruslan tows Danon back to camp. Most likely there is no major issue, but running your engine dry is a VERY bad idea.
I dont mind at all, we just get to see the beautiful sights one more time.
While Ruslan was heading back to camp we were delegate with getting some Omul for dinner.
Our favorite variety is the one in the bottom center. Its not too salty, cold smoked, very fatty. Lots and lots of flavor, and when your mouth is satiated with the taste, just take another sip of beer to refresh your taste buds.
Back in camp Dima aka Danon is deep into his engine bay, trying to troubleshoot the stupid light. Boris is there with suggestions and moral support, while not forgetting to enjoy his vacation with a beer.
I tried my best to help, but not being familiar with the cars or their problems i was of little help.
Danon changed the oil, check the pressure sensor, checked the oil pump…still no luck.
While he was busy trying to resuscitate his Korando back to life other people were playing volleyball, without a care in the world. Once they were finally done, these stopped by the dying car and diagnosed the problem in 5 minutes.
Turns out the wire from the oil pressure sensor has worn through the insulation and was shorting to +12V effectively turning on the light. Danon quickly ran separate wires to the sensor and that was it.
Did i forget to tell you that he was supposed to leave early in the morning the following day to go back home to Novosibirk?
So this fix was just fun and games…it needed to happen.
But what a good place for your Korando to break down…at the meeting of people who love and love fixing them?
In the morning we did a quick calculation with everyone…trying to convert miles per gallon to liters for 100 kilometers. Even the fuel consumption figures are different between the two worlds.
With a half tank of gas even at the worst offroad fuel consumption we concluded that we can make the 75 mile trip required to get us to the nearest gas station.
The actual road was not that bad. There was some deep sand that we just plowed through with some speed and without any issues. Then came the hard packed dirt with offset dips, what i mean by that is when you are going straight there is a whole in the ground but only for one of the wheels, then a few feet later there is another whole for the other side. You have to go really slow and hear as you car is being stretched fully like an acrobat, the suspension working out all its kinks as it conforms to the ups and downs of the road.
It felt that at some points the dips were so deep that at least one of the wheels had to be in the air. But we looked at the Korandos in the rear view mirror and saw them easily dealing with it, with all wheels safely planted on the ground. So I assume we did no worse.
Between the two of us we speak fluently English, Korean and Russian. Since we started we picked up some Spanish, but what we should have studied is German. Everywhere you go in the world you will encounter retired Germans and Swiss travelers in their amazing truck campers.
Baikal is no exception, we stopped by said hello and asked if we could have a look around the trucks. This is a normal request as people are generally very happy to show off their amazing home on wheels.
I’m not sure why we all stopped here? Probably to take some pictures?
Ah…the reason we came here – Cape Khoboy, the northern most point of the island. It rises above the lake for a few hundred meters, so you get the amazing views of the blue lake and if the weather permits, of the surrounding coasts.
You can’t drive the last little bit, so you park your car and walk about half a mile, taking pictures and enjoying the views.
We got lucky with the weather, sun was shining and there was only a little bit of the haze in the sky from the taiga burning around the lake.
If you are still deciding whether you should spend the time driving all the way to the cape…don’t think just go, unless the weather is bad then you will not get to enjoy the views.
Thanks to Ruslan for taking some beautiful photos of the Doshirak team.
Also at the cape you can look down on to the beach below and see some “nerpas”, a fresh-water seal equivalent that only lives in lake Baikal.
They used to be hunted for fur and meat, but have since been placed on the protected list. Their numbers have sky-rocketed reaching the 100,000 animal mark.
The only problem is the large number of nerpa’s put a strain on the fish population and start to eat the fish that they have never eat before, specifically Omul. The local fishermen, who live off the omul, are quite unhappy about this competition.
Ah…we meet again. A quick beer for Hyein and not me, since I’m driving, and we are heading back home.
On the way back, the sand that we easily went through at speed we saw a stranded little Skoda.
Excited to help we all stopped and Ruslan with a dynamic tow strap, without any issues pulled the little car out.
Everyone was a bit disappointed just how easy it was.
We spent almost the whole day driving together and on the way back thought it would be a good idea to have dinner together.
Hyein mentioned that she loved Russian “okroshka” so it was decided that we are having okroshka for dinner.
So what is it? It’s a type of salad or soup that is traditionally eaten in the summer. Its made from hard boiled eggs, bologna, cucumber, dill and potatoes. Once you got the salad base ready you pour special sour kvas over it, making it a cold soup. We couldn’t find the special kvas in the village store, so had to use the run of the mill one.
But after a long, hot day there is nothing better than sitting down to a bowl of okroshka.
And of course we did buy another batch of cold-smoked omul that was eaten with a bit of beer and vodka.
All the familiar faces already, left to right – Anton, Lera, Marina, Boris, Ruslan, Irina, Me, Natasha and Sergei somewhere in the back.
And there it is…the final day…the one that none of us have been looking for to.
But do not get sad just yet, this is Korandovod and not just lazy camping by the lake shore. There is not a single minute wasted!
Today is the day we find out the strongest, the fastest and the sharpest eyed knights, in the King’s Tournament and the bragging rights for a full year.
The competition is similar to jousting instead of horses with have our trusty 4x4s and instead of killing our passengers we have to hit a small round target.
The knights go head to head and the ones that hit the target on the center and first move on to the next round…instant elimination style.
The spectators, young and even younger have gathered from all distant corners of the Russian Kingdom and some knights from far away Asian lands have come to show their skills.
The deep sands of Olkhon are quick to trap you in their embrace. The tires pumped down until you are slipping the rim, low range and full all-wheel-drive engaged, the knights battle it out.
A representative of the Kingdom of Koryo (aka South Korea) has come to show that they also know how to mount a horse and hold a spear.
But lets not forget that this is still a friendly competition. So smiles all around, until they found out that i punctured their tires…muaahahahahah!
A little bit of jesting to appease the one and only god here – Spirit of Lake Baikal.
And we are off…to nowhere. Our Hodori is no Arabian stallion, more like the English Draft Horse, strong and heavy.
We immediately got stuck before even coming to the arena. It took the whole King’s Court to pull us out.
Then a council was held on why this mighty steed cannot move on the quick sands of Olkhon. Turns out as usual it’s not the steed’s fault, but the rider.
The tire pressure was too high so we dropped it down, turned off all the electronic vehicle stability control and we were free to roam the great sand dunes.
We lined up at our side of the arena, Hyein took the spear, while i white-knuckled waited for the go signal.
Our opponent is the Great Knight from the Kingdom of Koryo (aka Dongkyung and Isul).
With the right tire pressure our might stallion easily defeated the Koryo team.
The trick is to have a good start in the sand, without digging your wheels too far into the sand.
We moved on to the next round, where the Knight of Siberia easily took us out of the competition while riding their light Korando.
The knights have fought bravely but in the end 3 teams were deadlocked for the first place.
So a good old race to the finish line was organized to decide the true champion.
All the teams lined up 100 meters away from the finish line and gave it their best, running nose to nose all the way to the finish line.
A photo at the finish line revealed the Champion.
Back in camp we are presented with an official plaque with our name – Doshirak. In reality it just the instant noodle wrapper.
Went to the village to stock up on omul, beer and ingredients for dinner. Met a large group of French tourist, who seemed interested in our car, so we gladly told them about ourselves and our Hodori. I tried my best to speak French but only Spanish came out. You that feeling when you are learning two language at the same time and only the last language used comes out, for me that’s Spanish.
Ah, this is not just a photo of our ladies and some Russian driver…the car is the main point here.
So the whole time we were gently driving our Japanese and Korean 4x4s this little Russian minivan was going on the same road by twice as fast.
They are official called UAZ-452 or lovingly “buhanka” (loaf of bread) by the people. Some have even nicknamed it the “BuHummer” a Russian answer to the American Humvee.
This is an awesome vehicle that has been in production relatively unchanged since 1965. There is a million different body styles, used for a million different purposes, read up more on it on the wiki – Wiki UAZ-452.
Seeing Ruslan’s Land Cruiser down the hill at the coast, we drove down ourselves without fear of getting stuck in the little muddy creek at the bottom.
As usual the kids are communal so Ruslan and his wife Irina, are hanging out by the shore and taking little rides in a boat.
Ruslan on the shore and his wife, Irina, and son, Sergei, in the boat.
With all the practice of driving in the sand, i was excited to get our Hodori covered in some mud.
Under Ruslan’s tutelage we practiced driving up the hill in rocky, sandy and muddy conditions. I have to say that i didn’t know that our Hodori is this capable in so many different environments, even so heavily loaded.
You knew this was going to happen as soon as you saw that 70-series. I have to admit that Ruslan actually proposed it himself and at first I politely refused, I don’t want to break anything.
Ruslan insisted that the reason he got the 70-series is because there is nothing to break…as long as you know how to drive stick.
So he go into our Hodori…said it was much roomier than he thought. Hyein managed to say in Russian that “Ivan love his 70-series”. Ruslan applauded Hyein on her Russian!
I don’t know why i look so serious at this point. Maybe I’m a bit nervous driving it? We are just going up the hill, with a lake behind me, on a stick and in someone else’s car….so no reason at all.
Honestly in low gear with all the differentials locked and with a diesel in first gear I literally didn’t have to press the gas it kinda just idled up the hill without even losing traction once.
And just like that…without even realizing the weeks has passed us by…no it didn’t just pass us by, we rode that tsunami of a week all the way till the end.
At the closing ceremony one of the sponsors of the event showed up and talked about his products. The company is called “Bion” and it offers a variety of camping products that supposedly have instantaneously hot water.
To show off their instant hot shower they asked two teams to compete in washing their hair. In a matter of just a couple of minutes the guys had clean heads and yes, the water was warm, but because of the competition the ladies managed to get the rest of their bodies wet as well and with the sun going down the two poor guys sat their the rest of the event shivering.
Okay, so i do appreciate the products, but for us they wouldn’t work because they are high wattage, electrical power-hungry devices that run on 220V. For regular camping this might work…not for our style though.
The moment we have waiting for, the award ceremony. It was obvious who won the knight competition, so there was little mystery during that part of the award ceremony. Congrats guys!
Other award categories included – taking a dip in lake Baikal, GPS cache finding competition and of course the pushing Korando competition.
We knew that Doshirak’s time was pretty good, so in case we actually placed we put on the flags that have been hanging in the camp on our backs.
Hyein got the Russian one and I, the Korean.
As the second and third places were announced, our hearts at our throats and barely able to sit in our chair we listen.
And before the announcer even finished saying: “Doshirak”, we were up and running around so our flags, like our capes would wave like banners behind us.
I’m sorry that Petya and Danon were not there to accept their prize…i took it on their behalf. The acceptance speech filled with tears and many thanks to everyone for welcoming us to this community.
Final photo with the communal kids…i honestly don’t even know who their parents are or if they even have them. Hm…they did go to sleep somewhere at night, so I’m assuming they had some parental units with them.
Grandmother Margarita was chosen as the honorable representative of the community for raising and lower the flag at the ceremonies. She is 76 years old and still comes out to these events…i’m sure my grandmother would do the same, given a chance.
The flag, like the Olympic torch is passed onto the next city responsible for organizing the 10th annual Korandovod meeting.
Don’t let us down, Krasnoyarsk!
I would love to thank every single person that we have met and interacted with during this week. We’ve had more drinks that we can ever pay back in kind. More people have fed us than we can even remember. I honestly did not expect such an amazing group of people gathered in one place. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
To the organizers: you have done an outstanding job. We barely got to know you because you were too busy dealing with all the events, competitions and mundane things so that we didn’t have to.
Thank you for making us a legitimate part of the meeting!
And to all the new friends we made – you foolishly left your addresses and phone numbers with us…we know where you live…we are coming to visit you!
In the morning, we watched everyone leave and as they passed by our car everyone stopped, said good-bye and gave hugs.
At some point the hugs and good-byes became so much that Hyein could not contain her emotions and shed a few tears.
To be honest, i wanted to let a few go…
Ruslan and us slowly packed and moved out.
While we were driving back, the realization that this is over and everyone is going home finally hit us.
Its like the feeling at the end of a long Sunday…when you realize the weekend is over and you have to go back to school or work tomorrow morning.
We said good-bye in Irkutsk…but in Russian we never say “good-bye” we always say “do svidanya” translated as “until the next meeting”.
We can’t wait to see all of you again, maybe this year, maybe at the next meeting.