This is an extract of an old diary (over 6 years ago now). This is who I was and what also brought me to who I am now. I thought very carefully if to make it public was the right choice. I never thought I would have an opportunity to do so. Everyone suffered for someone dear to our heart. I know. This is why I want to share these notes. This was just the very beginning of my darkest moment in life. Maybe one day I will write about it. Maybe not. This is also the beginning of when my interest towards painting and drawing started to grow. It is also a description of adventures, landscapes and feelings, indeed.
This is Siberia.
I had no phone and no friends. Eventually I left after 2 weeks (after going to Mongolia) on a solo travel that brought me across China for a month. I was so broke that probably the easiest choice was to come back, but I didn’t. I kept traveling on my own. And thanks to this trip a became a traveller.
I just turned 23 and this was the first biggest life experience. Before I travelled alone but just in Europe. I don’t have any notes of China. I was traveling so much that I didn’t have the time, the energies and the focus to write. This is the last piece of writing I have. It is long. I know. For a dyslexic it’s a lot to keep up. I believe though that if you are passionate about something, you can read it until the end, whatever are the difficulties.
This is life, after all. Enjoy!
Finally I got off the crazy minivan. Gosh I thought I was about to die. It was incredibly hot. I wanted to run away as far as I could from him, from myself.
We went to a small info point next to the port. There were two pretty Russian girls who were attracted by P.,. P. was attracted to them too. “I want to have sex with these girls”, he laughed at me. He hurt me, again and again.
We were already late for the ship. We were also late to walk towards Bolshoi: a village of 30 people in the heart of the forest of the Baikal Lake. Bolshoi was 20 km further from Listvyanka. So we decided to sleep in the tent along the river. We walked around for a while to find the right place to rest and to cook something. We ended up next to some cliffs, they were located on the river shore: it was gorgeous.
I was looking at the lake, the water was clear, a forgotten stream. The water was flowing relentlessly cold and far from my body in the most unexplored place in the world. It seemed that the water wanted to celebrate its impetuosity and its victory. I was breathing it. I had freezing sensations on my dark olive skin. I was looking at the waves, it was a divine show, almost sent by forces of heaven. Ancient heroes were coming to earth to release human being from their pains.
The waves were round and well defined. They were tiptoeing in fascinating shades of the colour of the sky: an intense blue shown by the most hidden oceans. I felt so thrilled by the exhibition of natural forces. They seemed to be on the lake just to demolish the human beings’ frivolities. It seemed that nature wanted to talk with me about how she was happy before human beings took control of the earth. The water was being abused from appalling cement systems and for this reason the earth wanted its revenge now. It wanted to let me to die for its beauty. It was an allure that not too many people were capable to glimpse or feel. Perhaps nature is for just a few people who can appreciate and understand it. I felt favored by nature. I could feel every breath along my static body. I could feel the nature in my veins and in my burned mortal being.
The panorama of the lake was totally flat as if it was the lake, unlimited. On the other side of the lake, I struggled to make out the mountains. It looked like they became darker because of the mist. They were baffling, almost unreachable and absurd. Reflected in the water the hills were still wavy. It seemed that I was almost able to touch them with my hands. I felt as I was violating nature. They could lose their amazing and memorable charms. Along the Listvyanka coast there were different types of ships: small, big and medium sized. People were waltzing around the ships showing off their humanity.
The waves were created by their own shadows almost pushed by artificial forces.
I was sitting on a big stone looking at the lake when I realised that I had to help them with the food and with the tent. So, I stood up and while they were looking for some wood to light the fire, I prepared the dinner.
Earlier we bought a bottle of vodka with coke and a big bottle of beer. You could find a weird plastic package of 2L of beer just in Russia. It was the worst beer ever. I opened this bottle and I started to drink it. Then I again went to sit on this stone and started to peel some raw vegetables. When the guys were back the food was almost ready.
P. started again to argue with me: “I still don’t understand why you are here with us!”. He hurt me. He broke all my bones, my muscles, my brain and my heart. I don’t remember what I said, but I still remember what I felt as it was yesterday. Suddenly I stood up and I went for a walk. It was a very long walk. I cried. And cried. And cried again. (the only time in my life I cried for a man). The appalling feeling that I didn’t know anymore who this guy was. Who was the men I was in love with?. I thought that I worked hard for this huge trip, I was doing two jobs to be sure to have enough money for myself, and the only thing that he was able to do was to let me down all the time. It was my fault, an huge fucking fault. I felt guilty. Why was I in love with this man? He wasn’t the man that I knew before. I did not know him anymore.
I went around for a walk and found an huge abandoned house made by wood and some other materials. Suddenly I glimpsed a pallid yellow light coming from a small window on the back. I chased the light trying to find out if there was somebody. Who could live in a damaged house right on the cliff of the Baikal . How these people could look like? I jumped in the small dry stone wall. From the window I tried to have a look of what was inside. Someone used to live there?. So I opened the window and I got inside. The living room was falling apart and inside there were some ancient paintings and some pictures on the wall completely covered by dust. Some sofas here and there, a desk, books and some newspapers on the floor. There was a very strange things about this newspapers. Some articles were cut and left it on the floor. As soon as I started to make sense out of it I heard somebody coming down from the first floor towards the grand floor. I was scared. I stood up I opened the window where I came from and as fast as I could I slipped out. Someone lived there. I’m sure that He/She realised that somebody was inside the house. I started to run towards the hill in front of me where there was a sort of camping with cottage houses. From there I could see this house clearly. I opened my eyes as much as I could and glimpsed somebody. He/she was looking at me from the window I just got out. I started to run down the hill towards the tent were the guys were. Who was the guy/girl behind the window? what was hidden in this old house? and overall why all this old newspaper article were on the floor? I probably understood what happened in the house. You don’t want to know. It literally looked a scene out of a film.
“Where the hell have you been? We were looking for you, I was worried !”. “I’m sorry I was just hanging around looking at the landscape, Do you know that on the top of the hill there is a camping?”. I said. He look at me really piss off. He wanted to kill me. I could see that he was really worried about me. We started to eat while outside began to get dark. The lake became black with some white shapes made by the moon light. It was a fabulous night show. I was impressed in what the nature was able to show. We started to drink and have a dinner with roast potatoes. I never seen in my life cooking the potatoes as P. was doing. There were ten potatoes under the stones wrapped in silver foil and then placed on the top of the fire. In about an hour they were ready. We got drunk and we started to talk about life. Later on I took P. arm and drugged him to the lake shore. I was aggressive. “We have to talk”, I said. “I have nothing to say to you”. “I have to say something to you”. I said. Both of us started to get mad at each other and shout. P. said “your are a child, you don’t realised what you saying to the people you don’t know”, “I don’t trust you”, he said. I started to cry as a child. I didn’t cry so much even when my mother had a cancer. I tried to run away and he blocked me saying “where are you going?” “I’m going away, now!”, I said. “You don’t go anywhere, because it’s night, you are in the middle of nowhere. Go back in the tent!, show me that you are mature person”. He shouted at me. He slept outside. The next morning I was sad. Incredibly sad. I took off all my clothes, while they were cleaning up around. I was completely naked and I dived into the water. It was -4°. They were incredibly surprise of my behavior. After I was sitting on the stone, looking at the lake, P. came and asked “How are you?”.
“Fine!.” I wasn’t fine, I was completely broke.
I went to the info point and asked at which time the next ship to Bolshoi would arrive: it was 1 pm.
I took a coffee in front of the lake, it was an amazing sensation and feeling. I realised that I could not allow him to let me down so deeply, no after all the sacrifices I made for this trip to happen.
So we took all our stuff and we went towards the port. The guys asked me if they could leave all bags with me. I would go by ship to Bolshoi and they would walk. “Yes please, go!” Finally a few days without them. I felt better. I was on a little terrace drinking a coffee. I was writing my diary while I was waiting for the boat. Suddenly I heard a voice from far away “ Ale!!”. It was Mark voice, the guy who we met on the Transiberian train. “Hey Mark” I said. “Ehy Ale, nice to see you again, what you doing here?”, he asked me, “I’m waiting for the ship to get to Bolshoi” “what about you?” “Ah you know I wanted to do the same, but I just booked the hostel and I have all my stuff there”, he said. We started to drink together. The view was wonderful. I liked him, he was funny and kind.
Suddenly I realised that the ship arrived. “Ehy Mark come with me, and tomorrow we can come back by walk.” He look at me surprised and he said straight away: “Sounds like a big adventure!, I have nothing with me but I’ ll come with you.” We were on our way to Bolshoi.
We could see from the boat the amazing water . Transparent and pure. I felt so good. The clouds were suddenly together in a grey vortex. The rain started to fall stronger and stronger. So we went inside the boat. The see seemed wanted to eat every thing above it. The boat was moving so much that the water came inside the boat. I was worried the sea would crush us. We arrived in Bolshoi after 20 minutes. A forgotten village. There were a lots of horses around and the sun was back again. I remember that we talked about war and how the society can influence relationships. Then we talked about love.
I wanted to sleep for a bit, I was exhausted. I couldn’t sleep. I think I never slept during this trip. Mark went to explore and to buy some beers and again vodka. We didn’t have enough!. I was on the sand and the sun was hitting my body, my colour skin was brown. Indeed also Mark was confused about my origins. He came back after 20 minutes and we started to drink some beers. “Ehy Mark let’s have a dive”, I said. The sun was really hot, and the panorama was something very rare. It was amazing. Mark began to take off his clothes and I did the same. “Ehy Mark you should take off everything”, I said. “What?”, I took off my snickers and said. “Yes, it’s amazing sensation dive in the lake without anything on”. He was naked too. Sometimes people feel embarrassed. It’s nature after all. The water was freezing. We could stay inside for about 2 minutes than it was too cold for both of us. After a while the guys arrived. They shown us pictures, they were amazed by the landscapes. The day after I me and Mark were going to do the same. They said that in their way they met a Russian crew from S.Pietrosburg who were going around the Baikal lake to take off the rubbish and researching about how much the lake was polluted. P. and his friend were completely exhausted. They went straight away to have a dive and after to have something to eat. I turned my back and I saw three amazing horses playing with each other. They were made by a shining brown skin with a beautiful black crest, there was a pony too! Oh, it was gorgeous. They were incredibly happy to be together and free. I felt so happy for them. They were lucky horses. Afterwards I stood up and went to look for food for everyone.
Suddenly this funny lady with his son came on the front door with a motor-scooter and she said: “We are going to fish and we’ll be back around 11 pm”. It was 5 pm. This was really bizarre. It was more important to go to fish than 4 potentially customers out of the door?. Yes!.
I came back and I said that there was no food till 11 pm. So me and Mark went around to find a nice place to sleep. We climbed in this gorgeous hill with waterfall, stones and amazing view above the lake.We ended up to camp next to the Russian crew the guys met the day before.
Nobody wanted to go to get the food. A deep dark was coming. I said “I’m going, I’ll be back in 1 hour” P. said “I’m coming with you”, “I don’t need you.”
I was alone in the Baikal lake forest. I was on half way, and was already deep dark. However I managed to get to the supermarket, buy some beers, potatoes and some other stuff. For everybody.
The lady’s son asked me where I was camping: “we are in the other side of the lake, One hour walk” . “You can’t go there all alone. It’s deep dark and there are bears”, he said. “I know, I will be fine”, I said. “Have you got a light, at least?. “Not really”. He turned to me and gave me this little light. “It’s all I have”. “young girl you will risk your life”. He tried to say between body language, russina and english. “Thank you!”. I shouted at him while I was leaving. “Good luck and be safe”. He shouted back. I could see he was really worried for me.
On the way back, it was deep dark. I was scared as never in my life. I could not see anything, even with the light. I started to sing, this was my only way to keep the bears away.
I started to walk as fast as I could. It was one hour of walk still, alone, deep dark in the Baikal forest. Why the hell did I put myself in such a terrible situation?. I supposed I wanted to show to him that I didn’t need him by my side.
From the forest were coming strange sound. They were clearly bears. I couldn’t run because the path was so small that I could fell from the cliff and eventually die. I couldn’t see anything.
Suddenly I hear a sound of walking feet. Who was it?
P. showed up: “Are you ok? we were worried about you”, I had a big breath after almost 2 hours of trouble in the dark. “You are a brave woman”. He suddenly hugged me and kissed me on my cheek. When we were back, Mark asked “Ehy, how are you? You could tell me that you were going alone. I would come with you! I would never had the courage you had. You are strong!”.
The Russians were around the fire. They were singing really peaceful songs and they weren’t drinking. Suddenly P. said to me, “Ehy these people are really boring, they don’t drink, smoke and so on”, and I said “well, the world is beautiful because is various, fortunately not everyone are like you.”
He look at me really disappointed. Probably, I was much more diplomatic and clever that he would ever be. Years later he would realise this, paying a big price.
I had nice talks with the Russians guys around the fire for a bit. We were still waiting for the potatoes when they were off to sleep. The guys started to talk about society, politics and all this kind of stuff. I was exhausted and I didn’t want to drink even. I was drinking so much.
“Please, don’t go around the tent alone, stay with us on the bench” P. said. I was really tired.
I was listening to everything P. was saying to Mark. All the conversation.
I was in love with him. He was my brilliant guy. Suddenly the voices irritated me so much that I stood up and went to sleep outside next to the cliff. The night was freezing.
The feeling was just one: I’m in the most beautiful place in the world with amusing landscapes and I couldn’t enjoy it as I wanted.
I just wanted to go down to the river and make love with him, one more time.
It was the end, for real.
It was early morning. I felt cold through all the night. I didn’t say anything.
I stood up while the Russian crew was already cleaning up the area. Afterwards they left, I went down the cliff and I breathed as much as I could the clean air. After half an hour everybody was awake and we started to clean up around too. Suddenly started to rain and we hid under a small kiosk. Mark and I were ready for the adventures through the Baikal forest!
P. and his friend were going to stay an other day in the village because the next ship was coming the day after around 2 p.m. .We arrived in the bizarre supermarket and we bought some stuff for the long walk. When me and Mark were about to leave, P. took my arm and asked me “where are you going to sleep tonight?”, “I don’t know probably on the river in my sleeping bag” I said, “please, go in the hostel with Mark, I don’t want to think of you alone out there during the night ”. He whisper. “Ciao”. I said. He let go my arm and kissed me on my cheek with a worried look.
So here we are to start our walk through the Baikal forest for 27 km. Our equipment was 2 big bottles of beer, 2 fish, a pack of crisps, water, sleeping bag and a lot of excitement. We started to talk: “ I love P. but at the same time I want to be as far as I can from him. He doesn’t love me anymore. He said this in the middle of Russia. Can you imagine? we have another month and half ahead together. I have to leave them as soon as we got back to Irkutsk. I want to travel on my own” I said almost crying. Mark kept walking and said “ well, I don’t know him and I don’t know you I can’t say anything. The only thing that I can suggest to you is do what you feel is the right thing to do”. He said. And I thought great advice. I mean I knew this before too.
“Hey Mark let’s pick some mushrooms”, “ehm… I don’t really have any ideas of which mushroom are good ”, he said. “I know!, when I was a child I used to pick up mushrooms with my uncle who was a farmer. It was a nice period of my life, I didn’t have to think about anything, I was just enjoy my life and growing up. It was the best period of my life, and you?” I asked. “Yes it was for me too, but I lived all my life in London so I never really enjoyed the nature, my parents didn’t have time to bring me somewhere out, in the field” he said timidly. We were walking on a narrow path, on our left the high cliffs and on our right a forest was waiting for us…
There was a crossroad: “Alex, straight or right?” emh… “right!!” Of course because if there is no ‘deviation’ in my life I’m not happy! Still I don’t know why I said RIGHT! Then we realised it was a wrong decision. We stopped for a while at this crossroad to have a lunch on the bench. Suddenly from the middle of nowhere appeared a guy talking on his phone. Mark and me were impressed also because both of our phones didn’t have a signal. “how is possib…”I didn’t let him finish that I whisper to him, “Yes, I thought the same, I have no idea”.
Why the hell there was this guy in the middle of nowhere?. The guy looked at us with sinister gaze as if he wanted something from us. As soon as Mark realised this too, he said “hey Ale, let’s go! I don’t like this man and how he looked at us. Above all we don’t know how he can possibly talk by phone and be alone in the middle of nowhere.” “Yes, let’s go!”. I didn’t question anything, I agreed with him. We stood up and we started to walk. We began to talk again about the society and the world. I was leading the discussion most of the time. I don’t think Mark was particularly sensitive to thoughtful guy. Maybe my conversation was a little too much. We were completely lost in the Baikal forest. There was nothing around us: no human, no houses, no car, no streets, nothing and it was unforgettable.
After 3 hours of walking, Mark started to complain: “Ehy Alex, where are we?” “ehm, my friend I know about this please as much as you know, so don’t ask me” I said, I was surprise from his question. “Well, because I remember the pictures from the guys, they were walking next to the coast. We are in the middle of a proper forest, why?” he asked me. “I don’t know” I said. “Alex, are you sure that we suppose to go right and not straight?” “Ehm you asked me straight or right, and I said right, now I didn’t think about…”, “Alex, I’m almost sure we didn’t take the right pathway. We supposed to walk along the cost not through the forest”, “Ehm, perhaps you are right” I said almost embarrassed. “Shit, we took the wrong way where are we now?”. “Relax Mark, we will get there some how”. I felt that the enthusiasm from this amazing experience was going slowly deep down. Mark was quite upset and scared about the consequences of my choice. I mean both of us didn’t remember which way was the right way, right? “Ehy Alex, I remember!”, “what” I asked. “ he said: “I remember what the guys said about that junction. They said that we had to carry on straight along the coast”. I thought, well done but is too late now!. I was without words.
Suddenly Mark said, “ehy Alex, is there somebody?”, “yes I can see, who’s that?. They were two Russian hunters with horses. In this crazy adventure we missed hunters. I was scared. Mark went towards them without any kind of inhibition and asked in Russian how many km we had left for Latysvianska. They looked at each other and said “Well, is a quite long way about 17 km”.
After 3 hours of walking we had still 17 km. Mark now was really worried. We carried on our walking for at least other 6 hours. At some point started to rain and unfortunately the path was so full of mud that I kept falling. I was completely covered by mud, under the rain, in the middle of nowhere with a friend who I had to calm down all the time. Yes, as always I was the main character of my beautiful adventure. “Alex we’ll never going to find our way, we need help, we need to find somebody that can help us to find again our way” He said quite desperate. “Ehy Mark please, don’t worry, calm down, we’ll find our way. Do you see this hills in front of us? Well I’m sure that behind them there is Latysvianska and we will be safe.” “how do you know that?” “Well, I already experienced these kind of situations in my life, just please Mark relax and let’s enjoy the panorama (and the rain, I thought).”
The landscape was completely green with different lights of it. The sky was grey and so the colours were dark and with no vibrance to it. I had a lot of thoughts during this long walk. The nature allowed me to have the privilege to understand, but what?. I was completely covered my mosquito bites. I started to worry. The more bites I would get, more worried I would become
We passed those hills. We met a family on the horses going towards the forest. “sorry how much we have left for Latysvianska?” Mark asked always in Russian, “Well, a couple of kms” “Really? Beautiful!, Ehy Ale you were right” He said, “I know Mark” I said winking to him.
After 40 min we were in Latysvianska. I collapsed. The mosquito bites were too many. I just remember that somehow I was injected something. I came back to life.
Apparently Mark told me that as soon as I fainted he run to the hostel and found a doctor (how lucky was that), who understood very quickly the situation and injected me some Epinephrine (adrenaline). I was in an anaphylactic shock. “You are lucky young girl, 2 more seconds and you could die”. The doctor said.
I almost died.
We went along the river just to clean up the mud from our clothes and I took off my trousers, and while it was raining dived half of body in. The water was incredibly cold, Mark couldn’t believe it. “Ehy Alex you are crazy, come out. You just had a deep shock and now… please, get out”. I didn’t care. I just finished one of the best experience of my life (well except that I was about to die) .
I just needed to finish my trip in the best way possible (next day I would leave the Baikal forever and couldn’t have other chance to dive in). The lake was amazing, Mark started to take pictures of me. “Ehy Alex, I like you. You are completely crazy!” He said. “I don’t know if is a compliment but I will take it as a positive note, thanks!!” We went to the shop and we bought some beers and food: pasta with tomatoes. When we arrived to the hostel, there was no place for me to sleep (I mean come on).
I asked to the owner if it was possible for me to sleep on the floor in the kitchen. It wasn’t a problem. “Ok, give me €5, and you can stay). “Hey Alex, I can sleep on the floor you can take my bed”, Mark said. “Don’t worry my friend, you are very kind, but I’m getting use to sleep everywhere and you paid for your bed, so thanks but I’m fine.” I said with a big smile. “alright Alex I wouldn’t insist with you, I understood what kind of person you are.”
We went into the kitchen and we prepared the dinner, Mark cut some onions, while I was cutting other stuff. After half an hour the dinner was ready and Mark said to me: “Alex this pasta is wonderful, I can taste the Italian touch, really good”, “Thanks Mark”. He cleaned the dishes and we had a few more beers and some chat with some guys in the hostel. Mark was saying to everybody what kind of adventure we had, and how we could be in a situation like that for 8 hours. The guys couldn’t believe it. We were really brave, they said. I thought was ok.
I left the guys with a big smile and a last advice for them: “guys If you ever wanted to go to Bolshoi by walk, please go always straight,!”