Arrival on Lake Baikal

After five days on the train across Russia’s Far East we arrived on the Northern Tip of Lake Baikal the worlds largest fresh water reservoir. A beautiful sight. Here in the North its not quite as accessable as the Southern parts close to Irkutsk and therefore fewer tourists find their way and instead many locals from the towns along the BAM train line are camping on the shore and enjoying the 6 week summer.

Summer it is and not only that, but the people here seem more joyful than in the few Taiga towns we had seen in the past week. We already weren’t used to smiles and friendly encounters, but Severobaikalsk restored our faith. We headed straight to the fantastic Baikal Trail Hostel run by Anya and her Dad Evgeni who basically rent out a room in an apartment to backpackers. We received tons of advice and info on what to do and where and how to go. In the end we decided to leave the hot spring spas for next time and opted for a 20km hike. For the spas we plan to return in winter time, when the lake is frozen and people drive across it, fish or build banyas – the Russian sauna.
We’re eating lots of fish now, kinds that only exist in this lake. The local market also has fruits and vegg with acceptable prices, we seem to be leaving the expensive areas in the middle of nowhere where everything is imported from far away.
On day two our couchsurfing host Karina tells us much about the native inhabitants, the Buryats, and we decide to visit their place of worship with some cookies and milk to have them blessed.
We’re the only visitors and the Lama asks us all about India and our Buddhist travel experience so far, in the 3! hours to come he will include a few extra prayers to rid us of all evil and disease. During the ceremony a bowl of vodka (2 litres) is prepared as an offering together with a bowl of milk and a bowl of cookies, a little each from everyone who had brought some to be blessed. A Buryat lady joins the ceremony late, but explains us how to join in the prayer and what’s happening. In the end I bite happily in a blessed cookie. We leave later than we thought, but I’m relieved that vodka and buddhism go well together.

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