Friday, 28 September 2007

Lake Baikal (Far Eastern Russia)

They said the world was flat, they said beating the sound barrier was impossible, they even said eating bread crusts would make your hair go curly. So it’s understandable that we borderlined on sceptical when this infamous they informed us that Lake Baikal was in fact the worlds largest fresh water lake, volumous enough to consume the contents of all America’s Great Lakes, and vast enough in area to cover the entire of England. However, when we stood on the edge of this gigantic aquatic spectacle it became apparent that the omniscient they may have finally potted the black with this one.

We stayed on an island within Baikal called Olkhon Island, an island highly regarded within the Shamanic religion as a place of great positive energy. There even resided the odd holy stone or pillar which would grant the gift of good energy to any person whom threw monies at it. With promises uncannily similar to those of Powergen we couldn’t resist casting a couple of Roubles into this mystical power meter and waited with baited breath for our Ipods and Mobiles to recharge… once again following Powergen’s business traits the goods never arrived, and the helpdesk failed to help. We were left dejected and without battery life.

Our residence for the 4 days we spent on Olkhon was with Nikita’s Guesthouse. Nikita himself is an ex-Russian table tennis champion, and currently coaches the national team (or so they told us anyway!) And his guesthouse is a Mecca for everyone who travels the area, and it appeared to be frequented throughout the day and night by persons from all over the island for drinks, chat, and tours. It was with a ramshackle collection of nationalities (from within the former USSR, and as far a field as New Zealand) that we enjoyed numerous days fishing, trekking, and generally chilling around on beaches.

Our exploits with the fishing rod failed to reap the kinds of rewards our campfire and rumbling stomachs craved, but it was still an enjoyable 4 hours spent sitting at leisure on rocks and outcrops with the sun on our backs and the cool calm waters tickling our toes. After a couple of false starts and the usual novice errors handing reels and hooks I got underway and set about putting John Wilson to shame. Unfortunately other members of our work detail ran into a couple of hiccups, and spent the majority of their time untangling irreversibly tangled line, cutting the offending line, tying a knot in the line, and then promptly retangling the line again… and so the cycle continued until the American contingent of our team lost his hook and weights somewhere in the deep, dark abyss (reaches a Mile deep in parts!).

All in all though, we agreed that Lake Baikal lived up to expectations and ticked all the right boxes. So with boxes ticked and expectations fulfilled we made our way back to Irkutsk to catch our 6AM train to Mongolia… which we managed to miss in spectacular fashion, so we caught a later 8:30PM train that same day.

So its good bye Russia, and hello Mongolia, it’s been emotional.

**(This was written as we left Baikal at the beginning of September, but unfortunately i've not had chance to update the internet until now, sorry!)**

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