Day one at Lake Baikal

We arrived in Irkutsk this morning at around 9am, our carriage attendant woke us all up a good hour and a half before the stop so we had plenty of time to pack, which we needed! We’d had a lovely last night, Oksana (Florine’s Russian friend who ran the estuarine car) entertained us all with free food and wine in the restaurant car, it was a struggle to leave. Not because we didn’t want to but because she wouldn’t let us! My belly has paid the price today…

Once in Irkutsk we got in a car and had an hours drive to our guest house at Lake Baikal. After a shower – some us got a hot one and some of us got a cold one unfortunately! – we had a delicious breakfast and headed off, refreshed, for some snow-mobiling. The scenery around Lake Baikal is stunning, it really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The Lake doesn’t freeze until the middle of winter, usually around January. This meant our snow-mobiling took place on some of the surrounding hillsides. We only had a forty minute session, apparently there ‘isn’t enough snow’ to do their normal route, but wow it was so much fun! Unfortunately we didn’t have time to swap drivers so I was a passenger with my Tom and Florine a passenger to Aussie Tom. It was a pure winter wonderland surrounding us as we teared through the forest, I absolutely loved it.

Afterwards, our honcho Ksenia, took us up another hill to look at the stunning view across Lake Baikal. We took the ski lift up, girls on one seat (me, Florine and Ksenia) and the lads behind us on another. It was such a lovely relaxing way to get up the hillside – we were all very tired from the train journey. The views at the top were stunning, just beautiful. By no means could we see all of the lake, it is the deepest fresh water lake in the world and is actually the worlds fifth ocean! – see the hyperlink above to the Lonely Planet guide. Me and Tom (my Tom) have had some lovely photos together today, I’m really looking forward to getting some printed when we get home. My goal for this holiday is also to get some amazing landscape photos on my DSLR and have them blown up big for the dining room, or maybe the snug when we get home.

We walked down from the viewpoint, naturally I was the first to fall on my arse walking down the snowy hillside but it’s fine, I totally styled it out. We visited the local market and had some lunch, I played it safe and had soup as my tummy has been playing up. We also tried some of the local fish, Omul, which is only found in Lake Baikal and was delicious. I looked at the market for another Russian doll but none of them were as beautiful as the one I saw in Moscow – why didn’t I buy it?! We then took a gentle stroll back up to the guest house – which is lovely by the way, such a luxury a after four days on a train. 

Before dinner we experienced a Russian banya! Ksenia showed us what we had to do; sit in the sauna for ten minutes wearing these woollen hats so that our heads didn’t overheat – I know, doesn’t sound right does it? – then whack each other with bunches of branches soaked in warm water, run outside and throw snow over yourself. All of this whilst sipping a special Russian herbal tea. It was so liberating! It was extremely hot in the sauna but we’ve all become accustomed to extreme heat after the four days on the train. Throwing the snow on ourselves afterwards literally burnt. It was painful! After another refreshing shower, we all felt very relaxed. Relaxed, refreshed and ready for bed.

We’ve just enjoyed a delicious dinner in the guest house, this evening will be very chilled and we’re all well and truly ready for bed. We have a full day of sight seeing planned for tomorrow! I can’t wait to take more photographs.