Lake Baikal/Irkutsk, 19-22 Jul
Irkutsk Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Our transfer to Bolshoe Goloustnoe took just over two hours along bumpy roads. Really felt like we were heading into the middle of nowhere.
On arriving at our izba (traditional Siberian accommodation) we were served lunch by Tamara, our host for the next couple of days. We had a great borsch soup, which was delicious, followed by sausage and buckwheat porridge, which wasn't so delicious. At least it wasn't more salami and guerkins!!
After lunch we took a stroll around the village. It wasn't the most pictureseque place I've ever seen but it was right on the edge of the lake, which was pretty special. We climbed the hill behind the village to get a panoramic view across the village and the lake. That was spectacular.....It was so peaceful, despite my gasping for breath! The small hike clearly took it out of me.
We then went for a swim in the lake! My god, I have never been in such cold water. By the time I'd waded in up to my thighs, I couldn't feel my feet! Apparantly I've now added 25 years to my life, so the Siberians say anyway.
We headed back to our izba to take our first traditional Russian banya. This is a very very hot sauna, where Siberians relax and wash after a hard day. There's no running water in most Siberian villages, so water has to be pumped from a well and heated, therefore no showers. You use a bucket. It was quite a fun experience, and also after 3 days on a train, a much needed one!!!
No running water also means an outdoor 'drop' toilet, which became affectionately known as simply 'the drop'.
We had dinner with the others on the trip and washed down the meal with some beers and vodka bought from the local shop. The evening was pretty pleasant, exchanging laughs and travel tales...
The following day began with a hearty breakie before embarking on a 8km walk around Lake Baikal. The walk was fantastic as the scenery was so beautiful. We passed various groups of Russians holidaying on the shore line. What bathing beauties they are! And some interesting choices in swimwear!!
We had almost reached our lunch destination when we walked past a van driving along the shore, which was rather odd because the shore line was pretty narrow and sloped.
We finally got to lunch at a pretty log cabin set back from the lake. We had an Omul fish lunch - a popular fish from Lake Baikal - in both soup format and fried.
After lunch, we sat by the lake to wait for a boat to arrive to take us back to the village. This allowed us to soak up the scenery once more and enjoy the sunshine.
The boat trip was fun. It was a fishing boat from the village, complete with the day's catch. I'm assuming the fish was Omul - it looked kinda boney.
That evening, post banya, was spent much the same as the previous one, except we headed to the local village pub for a post-dinner bevvie. Definitely a different experience to pub life in the UK... The bar maid served us the oldest beers she could find - complete with a layer of dust, and groups of locals kept coming in and out surveying us with suspicion.
The following day we transferred back to Irkutsk for the afternoon. We arrived at our homestay which looked like a bomb site in Beirut. Not really what we were expecting.
The afternoon was spent walking around the town. We grabbed some lunch at a place called Cafe Mamochka, which was quite nice. It's self service, so felt a little like being in a school canteen, but the food was pretty tasty.
Our walk took in the Church of Our Saviour & Spasskaya Cathedral.
After braving the Central Market for supplies for the next train leg, we hooked up with some of the others from our tour to head to dinner.
We managed to find an Italian place which meant a hearty feed following all that fresh air in Lake Baikal. An early night was then on the cards as up at 4am the next day to catch the train to Ulaanbaatar.