Beautiful Baikal

Pictures are up all the way back through our first days in China! I’ll keep working and get Vietnam up too!

An hour-long bus ride had us at Lake Baikal the next morning. We pulled up some rocks and lunched on the shore among Russian holiday-makers and one man brave enough to face the 15 degree water.

Our hike was going to take us north along the edge of the lake, but I’d made a poor copy of the map, so we started rather blind. At the tip-top of a 500-meter climb, our unofficial trail joined the Great Baikal Trail, which aims to go all the way around this largest lake in Russia. We quickly realized we weren’t as alone on this mountain as we thought. Pairs of hikers met us going in the opposite direction; one woman laughed at the 5-liter water bottle Colin was carrying, miming drinking out of the lake. The book does say that the water is almost drinkably pure, but we weren’t keen to rely on that tepid recommendation. We’ve been hiking with too little water too many times to go in unprepared.

At the base of the hill was a campsite just waiting on us. Colin strung lines to fix us a tent while I started a fire in the ring still warm from previous campers.

Not overly warm on that Siberian lake-front when the sun went down

A couple curious neighbors offered us food and tea; they were drinking from the stream feeding the lake. It is certainly clearer than any lake I’ve ever seen, but everything I’ve ever heard about drinking from lakes and streams is “don’t.”

The rest of our hike followed the edge of the lake and more than once got dangerously steep. The hill was wooded with birch and covered with wildflowers. Occasionally the bluffs would yield to a sandy shore; boats ferried professional Russian campers to these prime beach locations.

By mid-afternoon we made it to the town Bolshiye-Koty—Big Cat. A few cows wandered freely from yard to yard, and I saw only one car. On the return ferry, we were squashed in beside two middle-age couples in a holiday mood. They played Russian techno on their boom-box and pushed beer, vodka, and sausage on Colin and me. The sausage was the chaser.

We had another half day in Irkutsk before getting back on the train, and we made it a very lazy day.

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