Lake Baikal/Irkutsk, 19-22 Jul

Irkutsk Travel Blog

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Russian Orthodox Church in Bolshoe Goloustnoe

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.

Panoramic village view
  Note to self....get back in the gym!!!

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'.

Soaking up the view
  I was very glad I'd bought a head-torch....Pretty handy when going to the loo at night!

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.

The tour group walk around the lake
  Having passed most of the group, the van then stopped and a man got out and whilst putting on an 'official' cap of some description, he started ranting at us in Russian.  Clearly we had no idea what he was going on about so called for our guide, Leona, to deal with him.  Following a brief exchange, she then walked off with him towards the van and got in!  We waited for maybe 20 minutes before she reappeared! The next thing we know, he's driven off and we're told that apparantly she was missing a piece of paper that allows her to take tour groups around the Lake - sounded very odd to me.

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.

Lake Baikal
  It was possibly THE most boney fish I've ever had to endure.  Some of you will appreciate what a trauma that would have been for me!!!

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.

Lake Baikal
  Believe it or not, we decided not to stay for more than one, and then headed back to base in complete darkness (no street lights) trying hard to avoid the multitude of pot holes and roaming cows.

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.

Fishing boats by the lake
  We caught the end of a wedding, so the bells were ringing, which was fun... This bride had clearly opted for the serious meringue style of dress, with lots and lots of frills - not really my cuppa tea but she seemed happy.

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.

lucian_32y says:
Great experience the Trans-Siberian! I hope to do it next september.
Posted on: Jan 21, 2008
Andy99 says:
Great series of blogs on Siberia and the Trans-Siberian!
Posted on: Jan 19, 2008
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Russian Orthodox Church in Bolshoe…
Russian Orthodox Church in Bolsho…
Panoramic village view
Panoramic village view
Soaking up the view
Soaking up the view
The tour group walk around the lake
The tour group walk around the lake
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Fishing boats by the lake
Fishing boats by the lake
Smurf skimming in Lake Baikal
Smurf skimming in Lake Baikal
Victorious
Victorious
Skipping along the lake edge
Skipping along the lake edge
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Interrogation
Interrogation
The wait during interrogation
The wait during interrogation
Not sure
Not sure
Butterfly by the lake
Butterfly by the lake
Tradition Siberian lace cabin, c…
Tradition Siberian 'lace' cabin, …
Smurf enjoying the sunshine
Smurf enjoying the sunshine
Soaking up the view
Soaking up the view
A friendly dog on the shoreline
A friendly dog on the shoreline
Our transport back to the village
Our transport back to the village
Enjoying the boat trip
Enjoying the boat trip
Lake Baikal shoreline
Lake Baikal shoreline
The catch of the day
The catch of the day
The banya
The banya
Exiting the drop
Exiting 'the drop'
Village life
Village life
The village
The village
Post swim in Lake Baikal
Post swim in Lake Baikal
A village calf
A village calf
A cat
A cat
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photo by: nidge76