8.10.16 Lake Baikal

Had breakfast at our hostel,  chatting to a young Korean guy, early 20s, who was travelling through Russia and eastern countries on his gap year and tried to persuade us to add South Korea to our trip. It was ace to be in a hostel and chatting to other travellers again which we haven’t done since Moscow.

We had another trip organised today, the weather was clear, blue skies and minus 6 according to our guide, I can agree it was flipping freezing. 

We stopped to get petrol and is was 20 quid for 50 litres. Bargain.

Tour stopped at a wooden architecture museum, which made the best of a massive dam that was built. The dam flooded the valley with all the villages being underwater so they took the best buildings and rebuilt them as a museum. It was full of school kids on trips  (even on a Saturday) and families.  The Buryat yurt was most appealing to Guy, there were separate living quarters for men and woman and they only met in the boudoir (along with the kids), and they were meticulous about keeping clean and dirty things separate.  I think he may defect to the Buryats soon!

We then went to see a shaman rock on which suspected wrong doers were left for a night to prove if they were innocent or guilty, however there were 2 ways of calculating the outcome, if you survived the rock spirits were with you and kept you safe so you were innocent, but also if you survived it could be that the water spirits wouldn’t touch you as your were bad. Anyhow the rock looked spectacularly small to even balance on (due to the aforementioned dam and global warming).

Lunch was at a pastry shop which was so much better than Greg’s,  we had a selection of which chicken and mushroom was the best (no photos as we were with other people!)

We were then left to our own devices at the beachside of the Lake, the facts about the worlds biggest freshwater lake are on Wikipedia if you want to see. Our guide was quite geeky, and one of his mates had calculated that if you put everyone in the world in the lake it would only rise 2cm, factoid!  It is massive. We couldn’t see the other side,  it looked like the sea to us midlanders so we dipped our hands in, it wasn’t as cold as we expected hut we didn’t take of shoes and paddle as it was still a definately below 5 degrees. However in a comedy laurel and hardy fashion another couple of tourists slipped into the lake! She was first,  went to walk on partly submerged wood, slipped, fell and silver clutch bag fell into the water, her gallent husband went to help her and ended up slipping and falling in as well, and his mobile phone took a swim as well, this all happened about 2 meters in front of us,  and we looked to help but neither of us was prepared to dive in for the phone of clutch bag, eventually all soggy belongings and owners emerged from the lake and shook off excess water. In a show of admirable restraint we didn’t laugh until they had left the beach.

Then onto a food market where the main item on sale,  from about 60% of the vendors, was smoked omul fish, a local delicacy, obviously we had to try some! Omul purchased Guy then had a look at the other stalls selling souvenirs and picked a fridge magnet for our ever growing collection.

It was interesting to see pine nuts in their natural state, bags being sold to be crunched and opened up yourselves. Never thought that pine nuts came from pine cones but it is bloody obvious when you see it in a bag! 

Final part of our tour was a 20 minute hike up to a viewpoint.

We went back home on the road that was built for Eisenhower to visit Krushchev in 1950’s, it was long and fairly straight which is usually a good thing, fast road an all, but as we were in Russia it means really fast cars overtaking randomly, on hills,  and at top speed. It is generally best to look out the side window and pray! Eisenhower never visited as the cold war started, but at least the road was built and the locals can drive like nutters!

Back home for smoked fish starter, and luncheon meat and cheese pizza with the free bread we got with the fish (probably because we were supposed to haggle!) and lots of chatting with our new Chinese friends who were all heading back to China that night to go to work the next morning.