Camped overnight outside the centre of Buddhism in Russia,

We asked the deputy head guy of the whole place if it would be possible to film the next morning’s prayers inside one of the temple. It was a long shot but we’d been doing a lot of filming around the Buryatia region and wanted to continue this. It took us a while to track the man down, going from house to house, pointing out to a passing monk a dead dog being eaten by some evidently hungry ones. Of course, the boss said no when we finally asked him but only after asking us whether the Russian Orthodox monastery, that we had visited a week before, had allowed us to film inside their church – damn, we hadn’t even thought of asking them.

Ulan Ude

Shot of vodka in Ulan Ude

Stopped in the capital of the Buryatia Republic to make some repairs to Jigsaw’s front shock absorber mounts; to splash around in the torrential rain that seems to follow us whenever we visit a city; to go see the giant Lenin head for which Ulan Ude is “famous” and to try and figure out how this can be a capital of a republic within a republic…

One of the many illusions we had about Russia was that everyone would be offering us shots of vodka, toast after toast. It hasn’t been like that and, while we understand that we have avoided many centres of population and such on our mad rush eastwards, we were wondering what had happened to that aspect of Russian culture. Well, today, after five weeks, we got our first shots of vodka; stopping to ask directions to the local Ethnographic Museum and finding some office workers having an office party.ulan ude party

Selenga Delta

We took a detour off the main highway to visit the lower reaches of the Selenga Delta, an area of Lake Baikal where the great Selenga River arrives in a wide shallow estuary. Around here, we found the waters were actually warm enough to submerge in but never deep enough to swim. Even Vaga came in for a splash along the sand banks.

From the beach we gave a lift to a babushka who sold us some lean, organic beef for dinner – she spoke some English since, she told us, she used to holiday in Pakistan – and by evening we were looking for a place to camp. Dunia, an occasional vegetarian, was less than impressed with the red meat, though, wondering how good a life the cow had led. The next events told us something:

Entering a larger village we ran into the back off what must be a daily occurence for these people – the cows coming home. A great herd of cattle was being driven skilfully along by a cowboy with everyone standing around watching them. We thought, like us, that they were just out to enjoy the show but, following the procession, we saw individual cows amble up to their homes past their waiting owners who shut the gate after them, disappearing inside. By the end of the settlement, the whole herd had dispersed to their separate abodes, the cowboy rode off across a field into the sunset and we carried on impressed that we had just witnessed the cows coming home.


Rattling sound coming from under my feet? Front end of the bus bouncing up and down like a ship on a the high seas? Can only mean one thing: The front offside shock mount snapped again. We’re on the way of Irkutsk, picking up speed and so we make a U-turn and go in search of a welder.

Now this had already happened just as we were arriving into Irkutsk but, in our haste, we stopped at the first place we saw by the side of the road. At the time I could see it wasn’t a very good job – the welder didn’t even remove the bracket and it couldn’t have been a clean weld. Sure enough it broke and this time I wanted a good clean weld and extra piece of metal stuck over the crack.

So we find ourselves at the gate to a massive collection of workshops and, after negotiating the formidible security protocols, we drove in gingerly over the rough ground with piles of scrap and sharp bits of metal everywhere. We found our man and his collegue and immediately they got to work  – once I’d pointed out how to dissassemble the suspension, of course. It’s an easy thing to work on, the Dodge 50, but if you’ve never ever seen one before…

Repairing Jigsaw's fron shock mountThere were afew jobs to be done before they could get round to sorting our problem out so we spent some time making friends with a bunch of puppies who had come out to sniff the foreigners..

Vaga with Irkutsk puppiesThese guys were good – the weld looks neat and tidy, the patch they used to strengthen the piece has been put on where it won’t foul any movement in the leaves that are clamped just above. If anyone needs a bit of welding done in Irkutsk – go the place on the map below – the second guy was studying engineering at university but I think Andrei in the far south corner will be around…

Olkhlon Island

Okhlon Island is the largest island in Lake Baikal and after more than a month of driving our first few days of just doing nothing/relaxing.

This area has been inhabited for thousands of years by people who held shamanist beliefs and understood the area as spiritually significant. One theory that seeks to explain this is that the island traps an expanse of water that becomes warmer than the rest of the lake – an important point as the lake – being fed by glacial rivers, frozen for most of the time and the deepest, most heat consuming body of freshwater on the Earth – is bloody cold all year round.

The guidebooks say that western tourists rarely last more than a minute in the waters of the lake but can swim more comfortably here on the west coast of the island. I think that’s an exaggeration: we had watched Conny and Radka go in with their wetsuits but, apart from that, in a day spent on a well-populated beach by Shaman’s Rock, I didn’t see a foreigner last more than 20 seconds.

How to make pet ID for your traveling dog

Front and back of a Pet ID sample tag

How to make your own Pet ID Tag

Read on about how to make your own special ID tag for your traveling pet. But first an ad: If you’re having problems at the design stage of making your own tag, take advantage of a very special offer from Earthcircuit’s Media Design Team: send us your details, what you’d like on the tag, images of your truck or whatever – and we’ll send back to you a PDF that you can take and get printed somewhere local to you. All for just US$10 for a unique, bespoke design. See below for more details…

Front and back of a Pet ID sample tag

Traveling around with a dog from country to country is a very nice experience. Don’t let people try to convince you that it’s better to leave your pets at home. That’s maybe a good idea for a short holiday but, if you’re going away for months and months, it would be less cruel to take your furry friend along with you – otherwise they’ll be wondering the whole time where you’ve gone and what they’ve done wrong.

One of the tricky things to work out is what to put on the dog’s ID tag while you are both away from home.  Your phone numbers are going to change and there’s no point keeping the metal disc that your local pet ID scheme gave you. Maybe some of the countries you’re headed for don’t do animal ID schemes at all, with a population of dogs that have hardly been troubled with a name, let alone a collar and tag. Some countries like to think they have an active animal welfare program when in fact all they do is round up any stray dog they see, take it to an “animal rescue center” and then put it to sleep. Maybe, even, you’re shifting from Cyrillic to Hangeul to Latin, from the empty uplands of North Asia to the steamy, tropical beaches – how to second guess the global citizen who finds your lost dog and is wondering whose it is?

Designed by EarthcircuitThe solution is to make your own ID tags, tailored to you and your dog’s unique situation. Traditional engravers, working on metal, sometimes find it hard to include the @ sign; they may not have a small enough font for your dog’s sixteen digit micro-chip number; most definitely they are going to struggle with a graphical image. With this technique all you need is a computer in a city big enough to have a store around that can print out plastic cards similar to ID cards, bank or credit cards or, if you have time to wait, you could use an online service.

  1. Using software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, you design your tag on computer – divide the size of a bank card into the shapes that will be your final dog tag. A bank card is 85.60 × 53.98 mm (3.370” × 2.125”). Your image should be set to 300 pixels per inch or the equivalent before you start and saving in a PDF format is usually the most useful for the person who’s going to print it out. If you’re having problems at this stage, see below for a fantastic offer that could save you hours…
  2. Things to include are, of course, your name and email address. The microchip number is good for those moments where you need to show the number but don’t have the machine to read it. If your dog is registered somewhere already, you can put the number and a phone number – maybe even a map of the world with a little dot to show the origin of all this information. Finding a lost dog hopefully involves no more than searching around where you’re staying rather than an international rescue effort – if you’re traveling in your vehicle, put your license number and country code – or even a little picture of your rig. Remember that you have the reverse of the card to use too.
  3. Print the tag out, duplicated over and over so that you fill the size of a card.
  4.  You then cut them back down into their shapes, smoothing round the corners, and make a little hole to fit onto the collar. Scissors for the edges and a low-speed drill for the hole – be careful, hey.Sample Pet ID tag showing the layout on a bank card

Just checking now how long they last: Vaga’s had hers for over six months now. By the sea, the metal parts of her collar have rusted and, where it touches, the plastic is stained yellow. The thin transparent layers of the card have separated from the printed core but the printing’s still clear and true. And when it finally becomes unreadable, I still have another six duplicates.

Fantastic Offer from Earthcircuit’s Media Design Team

$10 gets you a digital image of a pet ID tag. Fill out the form on our contact page to register your interest and we’ll get back to you with a choice of designs. You can also direct the design yourself to make it your own personal creation. After a few days, we’ll have the final product ready – an immaculate PDF file that is ready for printing out.






Leaving Irkutsk and driving towards Lake Baikal, the landscape has changed dramatically, becoming much less forested and more open grassland or steppes – a vision of Mongolia and reminding me of central Turkey.

We pull off the road via a Shamanist shrine cum picnic spot and park up on the edge of a vast meadow. Radka’s in the mood for mushroom hunting – the tasty white ones are everywhere around – and before long we’re quite a distance from the trucks and closer to a herd of wild horses who seem to be edging towards us.

We have a quick discussion – are wild horses dangerous? Do they attack? Maybe they have just spotted Vaga and, identifying a possible predator, have moved the herd closer to ward her off. We all look at Vaga but she’s sniffing at a clump of grass pretending nothing’s happening. Anyway, we’ve filled our pockets with mushrooms so we edge slowly back home…

But the discussion about these wild horses continues – are they truly wild or are they rounded up in winter? How else would they survive the freezing conditions and the long, dark nights? They just seem like normal horses and unlike, say, a yak, which we understand to be a woolly cow.


It’s becoming something like the Groundhog Day driving this section of Russia. The hundreds of kilometres between cities always seem to take twice as long as thought – not so much because of the road conditions; certainly not because of too much traffic and despite spending practically every waking minute of the day driving. What is it then?

We’re driving east. And we’re not driving at night – the chance of hitting some deeper than expected pot-hole is too much. Plus, we haven’t a clue what time it is; we’re still running on Kazan time – our own little private time zone out of sync with our surroundings by 2 or 3 hours. But we can’t escape the fact that the sun is rising that much earlier every day and setting sooner and, with the short summer nights at these northern latitudes but falling asleep with exhaustion after dinner every night anyway, our body clocks are getting a little messed up and we’re in a kind of permanent state of jetlag.