Lake Baikal

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May 6th 2007
Published: August 6th 2007
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Walking in taiga, full of Siberian spring flowers and blooming azaleas. View through trees to sparkling lake. Picnic at the top of the hill. Blissfull, apart from slightly fear of being torn apart by unseen bears. Back to hotel - disaster! Covered in ticks! (well, 1 anyway). Read the guidebook, no worries, only japanese-encephalitis-carrying ticks in these forests. Aaaarghghgh!

Wake up next morning, still alive. Thank goodness for that. Go paddling in lake - narrowly avoiding frostbite. Apparently a dip in Baikal (meaning 'sacred sea' in language of buryat people) adds 5 years to your life. Nico cunningly jumps on to a small rock poking out of the water about 2 ft from the shoreline. I tell him that this doesn't count but he he laughs and wraps his jumper round my blue and shaking feet. Amazingly after the initial chill passes my feet turn into wonderfeet which feel no pain and no cold and I sit happily beating Nico at stone skimming in my bare feet for a good half an hour. The lake is amazingly clear - 40m visibility, thanks to some fishy microbe thing that eats water-clouding stuff or something. Whatever it is it does a
Baikal sunsetBaikal sunsetBaikal sunset

Cheesy, but good
fabulous job. I paddle back in on wonderfeet and get as far as knee deep before the magic wears off, the cold starts to feel like its burning holes in my skin and I yelp and splash my way back out. Baikal is intensely deep (worlds deepest lake, holds 5th of planet's freshwater) and deeply mysterious. It sits on active fault lines and is lining up to split Asia in two and form a new ocean in a million years or so. I have picked up a lot of facts and stories and half truths and chinese whispers including the above about Lake Baikal from people, books and the internet and it's hard to know which are actual true - is it 1 kilometre deep, 2 kilometres, 9 kilometres, 1 mile, 3 miles? All of these answers available at a google search near you. I know for a fact that is sharply clear, translucent, sparkling, sun dancing of tiny ripples, black and white stones glistening on its floor, ice cold, fresh, beautiful and pure. I could get carried away - even consider diving in, but hypothermia just isnt fashionable these days so reluctantly leave the waters edge as the hazy sun sets red over western hills.

Nothing like being beating with a bunch of sticks to waken one from dreamy reflection. A trip to the banya (Russian sauna and baths) is on the cards for this evening and being beaten with a birch twig brush is an integral part of the experience. Leave totally refreshed, smelling of trees and hopefully not scarred for life. Again, don't feel the cold and wander around in a t-shirt for the next few hours.

The rest of our time in Listvyanka is spent in our own wee world - hiking, eating, talking, getting chased by wild dogs (not a good moment), and generally wandering and round and taking life easy. Our wooden guesthouse is warm and welcoming and perfect for some well earned chill-out time.

Time flies and next thing we know we are back on the bus for Irkutsk...

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Nico eating OmulNico eating Omul
Nico eating Omul

Cousin of salmon found only in Baikal. Also found in other places. Hard to get a definitive answer. Jaws seems interested anyway.
Azalea in Siberian taigaAzalea in Siberian taiga
Azalea in Siberian taiga

Forest covered in this like purple mist
Nico eating borscht at lastNico eating borscht at last
Nico eating borscht at last

No, I have not photographed every bite he has eaten. Near enough though.
Beautiful lake, so coldBeautiful lake, so cold
Beautiful lake, so cold

Nico deliberately making me wait in ice cold water for photo

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