I head back inland on the dirt road.
I’m sad to leave the sea behind. Around me, the heavily forested landscape has mellowed to farm land – and big hills.
Forecasting some challenging times ahead, I’ve brought an uplifting playlist of Western culture. Biggie Smalls is instrumental in getting me up the long climbs. But nothing can save me from my new and unforgiving Brooks saddle, which constantly challenges my rear end.
Thankfully, there are rest stops. Found at the village boundaries, they are accessorised with the now familiar coloured ribbons, and are usually accompanied by offerings of small change, large piles of empty vodka bottles and many cigarette butts, despite the smoking ban.
A blend of consumption and devotion, their natural setting casts them as shrines, power-ups on the long pilgrimage to Olkhon.
There’s the picnic shrine, with its small wooden shelter. Built for a family of four, I crave the company, but eat my snacks in solitude.
Then there’s the bar shrine. A table without shelter. It provides enough comfort for a quick round of vodka shots, before announcing the last call.
And finally, there’s the washing line shrine. Two posts and a line between them. The wind whips the flags into chaotic clumps. I bet it’s a nightmare untangling them on washing day.