Lake Baikal is truly one of the world’s phenomenons that make you realise how amazing our planet really is. It holds 20% of our fresh water, if the rest of the world’s ran out tomorrow, Baikal would have enough drinking water to supply the entire Earth for the next 40 years, this fact is constantly brought up when talking about Baikal. It is the deepest, among the clearest, longest, widest, and has the most marine life… The lake holds almost as many records as Sachin Tendulkar. We took the short drive to the village of Listvyanka to eat smoked omul by the pebbly shore.
To the locals Baikal is known as the Holy Sea, since there are many legends and myths surrounding it. Most notably the one concerning Shaman rock. Old man Baikal had 336 sons (what a player he was, this is the number of rivers that flow into the lake) and one daughter (the Angara river which flows out). One day, Baikal’s only daughter enraged him by refusing to marry the feeble Irkut, preferring the longest river in Russia, the Yenisey. After being sick of told who she will and will go out with, she tried to do one. In an attempt to keep her under control Angara’s father hurled the giant Shaman rock at her to stop her fleeing to her fancy man. It was all in vain and to this day the rock can be seen from the shore at Listvyanka. I can assure you that it is based on a true story….
We took the eight hour bus ride (but it was reduced to five thanks to our nutter bus driver) to Olkhan island for a few days. Olkhan island is the third largest lake bound island on Earth, but did you hear Tom Daily complaining about his bronze Olympic medal? The indigenous Buryat people believe the Island to be a spiritual place, and among the five global poles of Shamanic energy. Some rituals are still practised here.
The entire lake freezes solid during the -35C winter, a sight I would love to see. The bus back the Irkutsk was twice as much as what we paid going there, they’re certainly not stupid are they! And with that, signalled the end of our Russian journey. Russia has exceeded all expectations, taught me that stereotypes are often a million miles away from the truth, and helped me to acquire a strange fetish for neat vodka. Next stop Mongolia….
Поехали! (pa yeh kha lay)