Irkutsk, Russian Federation
Outside the station in Irkutsk I meet Laïm, who is also trying to dodge the touting taxi drivers. Together we walk across the bridge over the Angara river into the town centre. It is 08:30 on Sunday morning and the place is deserted. We stop at the only open café, the Irkutsk equivalent of the one Alan Sugar sends his losing teams to. It is grim! We compare itineraries. Laïm tells me I should have taken the cheapest class on the train here instead of the mid-range option. He has fifteen days for Lake Baikal while I am making do with just two. Somewhere there is always someone who has done your journey faster, slower or cheaper. They have seen more or gone further. None of that matters, of course. With the effects of three days on a train gradually lifting, I hoover up the free snacks and tea on offer at the charming tourist information office, say goodbye to Laïm and get the first bus to the lake.