31 hours in the train from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk; 1 hour in Irkutsk to organize marshrutka, accommodation, cash from ATM and food; 7 hours in marshrutka including ferry ride, in total around 39 hours later we arrived to Olkhon Island or more precisely – to its main village called Khuzhir.
The place is a starting point for the island explorations and does not have much to offer, apart from the famous Baikal landmark – Shamanka Rock which is a beautiful spot especially for watching the sunset.
We got dropped off as the last ones by the marshrutka driver, figuring out with locals the direction to Nina’s guesthouse, place recommended by the lady from the Information Center in Irkutsk. But since everybody knew each other there, it wasn’t a big problem and soon we were welcome by lovely old Buryati lady.
Who are Buryats? They are the largest native group of Siberia, subgroup of Mongols. They are adherents of shamanism believing that the Olkhon Island is a spiritual place.
Nina – a retired German school teacher, took a good care of us and since her English and our Russian was not that good, the conversation was going on in .. German!
The conditions were very simple but nice. We slept in a tiny chalet in her garden with chickens walking around, enjoying the fresh milk and eggs for the breakfast. There was no running water, but the shower was successfully swapped with Russian banya.
We stayed on the island for next 2 days: one day we were biking around and enjoyed sunshine on the beach with chilly dip in the lake and second we went for a tour to the most northern peak Cape Khoboy – a very bumpy off -road ride in 20 year old UAZ through the forest and sand dunes finished with ocean -like view of Baikal.
Baikal is far more impressive that we could imagine. Many times you just cannot see the other side. It is one of the largest lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world, containing around 20% of world’s supply and as one local said: “maybe one day they would be rich like Saudi Arabians“.
We simply fell in love. It is the place where we definitely would like to come back one day, but next time in the winter as it must be even more beautiful. So who is up to join us?