We were scheduled to drive via Bratsk to Severobaikalsk, at the northern end of Lake Baikal, after which we would re-trace our route partially and then use an old logging road to head south to Irkutsk.
After encountering heavy mud on the BAM road that forced us to turn back, we were faced with a longer drive if we were to go to Severobaikalsk. Further, considering the muddy condition of the BAM road, we expect that the logging road south from Ust-Kut will be equally muddy. Considering the potential for long delays, we decided to cut out Severobaikalsk from the route and head directly to Irkutsk via the M23 highway.
We made the 600km drive in one day, making for an 11-hour drive yesterday. That put us into Irkutsk three days ahead of schedule, so we booked a hotel here for two days to get some rest. After a well-needed shower, we visited the hotel’s Chinese restaurant that has some very nice food.
Tomorrow, we will head for the southern shore of Lake Baikal, where we hope to find a nice camping spot with views of the lake. The lake is only about 1.5 hours drive from Irkutsk, so we should have some relaxation time. Just hoping that the weather cooperates!