The 'Blue Eye' of Siberia

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November 29th 2008
Published: November 29th 2008
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In our log cabin
Hi again, it's convenient that it gets dark and cold so early here- gives me plenty of time to write blog entries. Thanks for all your comments and messages.

We've just got back to Irkutsk after having a few days at Lake Baikal. Baikal is the biggest (volume) lake in the world and holds something like 20% of the planet's freshwater. Apparently it's on a fault line which is continually growing so the lake will eventually become an ocean. We took a bus there from Irkutsk that takes about 90mins on one snowy road that goes up and down hills all the way. We were headed for Listvyanka a little village on the lake-shore.

The approach to the village was amazing- we could just see the massive expanse of the lake with huge snowy mountains on the opposite shore. Listvanyka consists of 3 little valleys that all slope towards the lake. The lake-front bit is a bit manky with some ugly hotels but the valleys are gorgeous- just loads of little Siberian wooden houses and pine forest all around. We didn't have any accommodation arranged and no map so we just headed up the village. Pretty soon an old lady jumped out at us. She didn't speak a word of English but we ended up staying in a log cabin at the bottom of her garden for 3 nights! It was fantastic. We payed the same as we're paying for our dorm in Irkutsk but we had our own amazing cabin in a beautiful valley. We had no running water-toilet or shower but as soon as we got there 'Galia' lit the wood burning stove and put loads of pans of lake- water on to heat up for us (the lake is incredibly clear and un-polluted so we drank and washed with its water). The toilet was a long-drop outside so a bit nippy on the cheeks. Actually though it wasn't that cold by the lake- it must be a few degrees warmer than Irkutsk.

So for the next few days and nights we just wandered around the village/lakeside, walked as far as we could into the forest and hung out in our cabin. The lake freezes in December so at the moment it is so cold- the pebbles on the beach are frozen together and all the boats and piers have icicles that come right down into the water. There was absolutely nothing going on in the village. There weren't even any Russian tourists much so it was very peaceful and the weather was great.

We had our first meal 'out' in Russia- we decided to treat ourselves because we needed to try 'Omul'- a fish unique to Baikal. It was really nice (and expensive). The next day, we found a market that was selling hundreds of Omul for much cheaper. So we bought 2 hot ones and ate them with bread for lunch. Then we bought 2 smoked ones and ate them with bread for tea.

Whilst staying at Galia's we were able to try out a traditional Russian 'banya' (steam bath). She had another little hut in her garden and we arranged the time when we would have our banya (she wrote down a time and we said 'da'). The banya involved getting naked in a sauna and whacking each other with bunches of soaked pine-branches then poring cold water over ourselves to cool us down. We didn't last long as it was so hot. Then we zoomed back to our cabin in the snow and got warm again in front of our wood-burner.

Today we caught a bus back to the city and we'll have another full day in Irkutsk before we get the train out of Russia to Ulan Bator. We arrive on the 3rd. Lots of love x x x x

Additional photos below
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29th November 2008

great stuff, well written, keep it up!
29th November 2008

wit woo
sounds brill- not sure how public you should be making your strange pine stick naked steam rooms!! pics are cool. see you not very soon xxxx
29th November 2008

Hi Guys, great blog so far!!! Sounds like you are both having an amazing time. I am such a wimp, i think it is really cold here in the UK and have about a million layers on so i don't think i would last long where you guys are - maybe drinking all that vodka makes it all easier... xxx
1st December 2008

-5 in Hay-on-Wye!
Erin's not a wimp! - we've just returned from a weekend in Hay-on-Wye - it was -5 ... and there you were in Russia, all cosy in your log cabin! Your fantastic blog journal and gorgeous photos make us all feel so much part of your adventure. You both look terrific - fit and healthy! Next stop, Mongolia - safe journey! Love Bon-Mum xxx
2nd December 2008

It's snowing in the Peaks!
.. well, it hasn't lasted long but it did give us a tiny sprinking of your adventure! Lots of love, Bon-Mum xxx

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