The train from Omsk to Irkutsk was our longest yet and took 40 hours. It was a lot quieter than the other trains and the two days were pretty much non eventful. One man we shared a berth with I believe had been on since Moscow, but smelted like he had been on since Mars. In the two days he muttered only a few words when he got off, which I’d like to think were something like ‘goodbye’ or ‘take care’, but have a feeling it was something more on the offensive side.
I had heard that shamanism was practised in these parts of Siberia, so was very pleased when we were invited along to a ceremony. Although the concept of the shaman is fairly common throughout the world, the word itself actually originates from the Tungus tribes of Siberia. People visit a shaman for all kinds of reasons, most commonly to cure illness or to ask advice.
We arrived at the small wooden house just outside of Irkutsk where the practice was taking place. A goat had been sacrificed not long before we arrived and the smell of flesh was still lingered in the air. The shaman wears spectacular robes and has prepared themselves for years to be able to connect with the spirit world.
My question to the shaman – ‘where do my ancestors come from?’, something I have always been curious about. Knelt before the shaman to avoid eye contact with the spirit, as it is believed that making eye contact with a shaman could result in disastrous consequences, I got my answer. After beating the drum and entering a trance, the shaman told me that I am 17th generation descendant of William the Viking archer.
So there you have it, I have been called many things, Muslim, Puerto rican, Spanish, Georgian, Italiano (by Tony the drunk in Hikkaduwa R.I.P) to name but a few, they were all wrong. 100% Viking.
The other thing I was determined to do in Irkutsk was to somehow find a way to watch the Wear/Tyne derby. Most of the bars I asked in I got the same response ‘Newcastle and who?’ My mission was accomplished, as I managed to watch a 10 man Newcastle team pick up a well deserved point at the dark place against a 12 man Sunderland team. Demba Ba’s unlucky deflection ending up in the back of the Newcastle net and in the process, making him Sunderland’s second top goal scorer for the season. May I add that Newcastle will always be a much bigger club than Sunderland and to quote Valentin ‘Sunderland will never survive’. SMB