On the way to Lake Baikal

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Our journey starts out of Ulan Ude, and like much of the rest of our trip, in involves a local bus. First of course, we annoyed the ticket seller lady by changing tickets not just once but twice, due to mistakes of language and Natalie’s illness.

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Loaded up and off we go!

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We got to see a bit more of Ulan Ude, the parts where most of the people lived. The public transit system is fairly extensive in the city.

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One of the grannies sitting next to us had taken a liking to us and started pointing things out along the path. This is a fairly famous women’s only monastery in the forests between Ulan Ude and our target, Goryachinsk.

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The bus stops at this rest stop on every trip. There’s a small restaurant, a bathroom (both free and paid, with differing qualities of smell). Otherwise there’s a little river that runs by there. Not really much to see but boy is it great to uncramp.

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The bus dropped us off pretty unceremoniously on the edge of Goryachinsk. There’s a grocery store there that supplies the holidayers and not much else.

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Old vehicles and older houses populate the town – there’s a lakeside section that has some nicer, newer houses, but the main of the village is old ‘dachas’ – village or summer homes that almost all Russian families have.

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‘For sale’ says the angry barrel.

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A row of lakeside houses we passed one the way to the lake. These are much nicer than the rest of the town.

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We made it!! Natalie holds a victorious bottle of kvas on the shore of Lake Baikal. This has been a lifelong dream for her, and she’s finally there!

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There are waves on the lake surface. They’re not super strong or large, but they do tear up the otherwise placid surface.

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So there we are, walking along the shore when suddenly..

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What’s that in the distance?

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It’s people! People swimming in the lake! For us as visitors this is insanity. The lake is freezing cold and the sun is setting. But for the locals this is not entirely normal, but somewhat usual. Young men in particular seem prone to jumping and swimming in the lake on a dare, especially when alcohol is involved.

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Somewhere around this time we met a family from Ulan Ude on vacation at their dacha. With my broken russian and their daughter’s perfectly fine english we traded stories. When they asked us where we were going to sleep, we told them of our tents and pointed somewhat vaguely to the lake shore. Their response was, of course you’re not, you’re going to sleep in our house, we have a spare bed. We gratefully accepted and spent an evening eating, drinking, and playing games with the family.

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Saying goodbye the next morning. These ladies were badass. Their grandma had lived through the worst of the various revolutions, economic crises, and societal upheavals of the last half century, and here she was calmly chopping up wood for their sauna.

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Next time : the hiking begins!

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