A trip to Buryatia, Siberia (see feature image) is incomplete without spending hours upon hours bumping and bouncing in a bus. A bus takes you through multiple climates, ecological zones and types of existence. After nine days of long bus rides, one day of which eleven hours were spent on the bus, I gained an understanding of Buryatia and what goes on there. This blog features the things I saw on the side of the road, caught in fleeting moments as we sped by in our beloved bus.
- Torn up roads. We were lucky to encounter the number of paved roads that we did, but a large portion of roads are still made of dirt, with plenty of holes and bumps. Our driver, Ruslan, kept us safe and sane, avoiding the worst of the car-sickness-inducing terrain.
- Trash and tires. Waste is strewn over the ground everywhere – bottles, plastic bags, you name it.
- Animals. Cows and dogs frequently block traffic, and on the sides of the road they are joined by horses, birds, cats, and goats.
- Potato man. This Mr. Potato Head look-alike stands by the road between Ulan Ude and Kyakhta, waving at passers-by. Photo credit: Julia Preston.
- Shamanistic spirits. This carved log is stuck in the ground among the trees, with an owl-like face and arms folded in front, reminding me of No Face in Hayao Miyasaki’s Spirited Away. It is a shamanistic spirit, several of which I saw around Buryatia.
- Burnt forest. Dark scars made by wild fires appear across the region, bringing into contrast the whiteness of living birch.
- Graves. This picture was taken in a graveyard of exiled Jews, but single-person burial markers dot every road in the region.
- Tanks. A couple dozen tanks sit lined up on the side of a mountain in the steppe region southeast of Lake Baikal. Why they are there, I cannot say, but it may have to do with the nearby border crossing into Mongolia. Photo credit: Maya Costales.
It’s surprising how much one can learn simply by looking. I can’t say I’ll miss sitting for hours in a crowded bus, but I am glad to have seen Buryatia in all its beauty and diversity.