The Hitchhiking Trip to Siberia – 2009
On the road from Ulan-Ude to Moscow
He dropped us off on the Selenginsk junction, from where around 1.30 PM we hitchhiked another KAMAZ. This time we were lucky, because the driver said he’s going to Irkutsk. We said we are going to Irkutsk, too. He said he always picks up a hitchhiker on the road, and so he kept telling us stories of all boys and girls he ever offered lift to. “Oh, and have you heard the story of that prisoner, who escaped from jailed and pretended he’s a foreigner hitchhiking in Siberia?” he would ask. And since we didn’t know this story, he would continue: “Yeah, that was funny. He reached Irkutsk and even appeared in news on TV. They showed how some policemen helped him to get a ride. Eventually, he reached the city of Novosibirsk, and there he was finally caught by the police.”
Around 15.30 PM we were passing through Babushkin, when I suddenly noticed a wide white field on the left side of the road. “What’s that field over there? I haven’t seen it two weeks ago?” I asked Sin. And she said it was the Lake Baikal, frozen. Baikal? The majestic lake I’ve seen two weeks ago on the way from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude now was nothing but a field of snow and its sacred waters were hidden under the thick layer of ice.
It was 4.00 PM when we stopped at the rest area and went in the roadside café to have dinner. It was the same café where we ate on the way from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude. I was washing my hands when a 40-45 years old man came in. He wore a big fur hat. Upon seeing me, he said some words in Georgian language. “Gamarjoba. Genatsvale.” “Psycho,” I thought of him, but when later I noticed the tattoos on his hands I realized that he was not a psycho at all, but a jailbird, just released. We were already having our dinner, when his wife and son came in. They bought a bottle of vodka and a smoked fish.
“Well, son! Let’s drink For our meeting! You were waiting so long, and here I am now!” said the man and they emptied their glasses.
“Yeah, finally I met you,” the son replied.
“How long I haven’t seen you?”
“You were away for quite a long,” said the wife.
“Shut the fuck up, you bitch! I’m not talking you!” The man yelled at her and then turned to his son.
“How long?” His voice now was calm.
“It’s been five years.” There was sadness in young boy’s voice.
And I also felt sad. And later, when we were back on the road, slowly passing by the frozen Baykal in that KAMAZ truck, the whole scene in the cafe was in front of my eyes. The criminal was so rude to his wife, and yet so kind to his son. He probably had killed someone or did something else, something cruel, but when he saw a little kitten mewing from hunger, he spoke to it, “Oh, poor little kitty. I will ask them now to cut off the fish’s head and then I’ll feed you.”
We were near Vydrino when the driver suddenly said that he needs to stop in the village and it might take long, since he’s going to visit some friends. We agreed that if we’ll not be able to get a ride, he will pick us up later. It was about 6 PM. We were hitching, our thumbs were freezing, and all the cars were passing by. I went to look for a place to pee, but all of a sudden I sank into a snowdrift up to the belt. Sin began laughing out loud, and so did I.
Soon we got a ride on a Jeep for 50 km. The driver and his wife were silent all the way. It was already dark, when they dropped us off by the rest area near Baykalsk. Now we needed our flashlight, becasue there was no light on the road. It was very cold. And we were saved by our previous driver on his big KAMAZ truck. He picked us up again, and around 11 PM we arrived the city of Irkutsk.