Hiking around Lake Baikal

The plan this morning was to get up early and go for a hike around a part of the lake. We set the alarm early enough and woke up but it was so cold outside that there was no way we were going to start hiking before it warmed up a little. The sun came out and soon enough the temperature rose a little and we were on our way. First things first we decided that we were going to try and have a big breakfast then snack our way around the hike. Mostly because it was only around about 0 degrees so we didn’t want to stop for too long as we would soon get very cold.
We found a cafe and to my great delight it had bacon listed as an option and Sarah had the choice of pancakes. Brilliant! Alas no. It took me a while to work out what was on the plate presented to me and I eventually realised that it was the fat that health conscious people cut off of their bacon! I don’t know what they did with the meaty park but it was nowhere to be seen! It was also appetisingly cold.
We picked up some supplies on the way to the start of our hike and were soon hiking part of the Great Baikal Trail. We had read that the trail is fairly new and that its possible to volunteer to help build it, we figured that the first section at least would be in place and we weren’t wrong. The sign posts and directions were very clear and we were soon hiking through the woods up a valley.
We haven’t really done much hiking through woods and it was really quite a treat. The autumnal colours were spectacularly beautiful and even though it was bitterly cold in the shade it was really a wonderful start to the walk. We were also alone which again was something we haven’t experienced in a while (since we arrived in China anyway). The only worries we had were that it really did look as though a bear or a wolf could appear at any minute but we had a couple of walking sticks and were talking loud enough that they would hopefully hear us and scarper.
As usual we didn’t quite know what or where we were going but we presumed a hike around the lake would give us a view and sure enough the gradient of the path increased and we were both shedding layers as we started to warm up. As we got higher there was more and more snow on the path and the white floor with the yellow, orange, brown and green trees was truly a beautiful site. We have decided how much we like seasons!
As we got to the top we expected to be able to gaze out over Lake Baikal but instead we were treated with a bitter wind which cut through us like a knife. The hill top was too wooded for great views which was a bit of a shame but we took a couple of photos and quickly descended a little ways to get back out of the weather. The walk back down was even nicer than the walk up as the sun had come out and was really making the colours stand out, I am not sure if the photos really do the colours justice.
The hike hadn’t taken nearly as long as we had thought so we treated ourselves to a late lunch down by the lakeside. There was a market selling fish, Omul, which is caught in the lake. Sarah had hers hot and smoked and mine was smoked and dried and raw. We sat in little booths right by the waters edge and devoured them with our fingers with the locals. They really did taste great.
Considering the weather and the time of year there were quite a few people about, presumably on day trips from Irkutsk. Everyone was devouring the fish and sitting or strolling by the lake it was all very peaceful and relaxing, so relaxing that we decided to go back and relax and warm up for the rest of the afternoon. For dinner we ate more Omul, this time pan fried and raw in a salad and also had our first Borsch soup. A combination of beetroot, beef and onion. A little similar to a french onion soup and absolutely delicious.
The visit to Lake Baikal has been absolutely wonderful. We have certainly felt very relaxed and revitalised and its also been a real treat to stay in such a small village in such a beautiful location. I think we could have spent quite a bit longer here but you never know, one day we might be able to return and hike the Great Baikal Trail all the way around the lake (spring time maybe!). T

Typical homes in the valleys around the lake.  All fenced in and most of them had their gardens dug up for planting food.

The number of colours on show was amazing.

The higher we got the colder it was!

Our view of the lake wasn’t the best from the top.

It looks very wintery in the shadows.

Fish from the lake for lunch!!

Great spot to hire a cabin to eat (some warming vodka wouldn’t have gone amiss)

Russians eating and drinking in their hired cabin overlooking Lake Baikal.

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