Russia Diary x Irkurtsk : Lake Baikal & Arshan Excursion

Thursday, 30 July 2015

In many odd ways, Irkutsk reminded me of Kampar -- a little town where I studied my degree for two years. There wasn’t much going on there. No malls, no theatre, parks whatsoever. But it’s a pretty decent place to live in if you ask me. 

So instead of walking to the aquarium or making stops at museums, we decided to join the daily boat tour to Lake Baikal. The ride was cold but calm, and definitely helps if you need some time away to clear your mind!

Our tour guide, Katya is a petite young lady which reminds me of a classic Gryffindor prefect. Katya shared with us interesting stories behind the lake. For first-timers, we are asked to sprinkle some water into the lake while asking the lake deity to bless us for a good weather and smooth boat ride. 

While mostly everyone stayed inside the boat, I was having the most amazing albeit cold me-time on the deck. Of course, the hot cup of Ceylon and some buttery flaky cookies helped! On the way, if you are lucky, you might even spot a couple of curious seals! 

We reached the shore only to find out that we needed to hike up some boulders to reach the Circum-Baikal Railway. I can remember significantly how strained my necks were when we were walking on the tracks. You just have to keep watching where you’re stepping and still manage to look up across that beautiful scenery.

After the boat tour, we had a HUGE dinner at a grill diner. While there are 6 of us at the table, we ordered the fish and meat platters that could serve 10 hungry Vikings. And we’re not even sorry when we hit the sack almost immediately.

I woke up before 5 am the next day, to get ready for our Arshan excursion. Apparently there are so many options when it comes to excursions in Irkutsk. Arshan excursion took almost the entire day, but it was worth it. Definitely recommend it to nature-lovers!

Kate, our tour guide took us to a few monasteries and street markets before the amazing hike to the waterfall! She reminded me of Lilly Moscovitz from Princess Diaries!

Throughout the hike, I was left behind from the group. I couldn’t understand why but I was so slow when it comes to admiring every detail of the forest--the trees, the path, the bugs, the scent of fresh pines, the odd rock shapes, the hikers’ shoe prints. And when I look up ahead, I realized I was all alone.

After taking a few stops on the way, I finally reached the waterfall! I’d be lying if I tell you that I wasn’t tempted to jump into the water but had second thoughts after looking at the current.

So, I filled my flask with the sweet tinged fresh water and hesitated my way back to the van. Of course, that didn’t happen without me getting my favourite new-found ice cream first.

We had Buryat cuisine for late lunch and relaxed quite a bit while others made their way to the hot spring. Being the curious traveller, I couldn’t sit still at the table without food. So off I went alone (again) strolling around taking pictures!

I couldn’t remember much of the journey back to our homestay, except that I have Jason Mraz & Tristan Prettyman’s Shy That Way track on repeat while I slipped into slumber.

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