Our Trans-Siberian stop over on Olkhon Island

Our Trans-Siberian stop over on Olkhon Island

Lake Baikal contains 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water.  It is the world’s deepest fresh water lake – 1,642 m (5,387 ft) at its deepest point.  It also claimed to be the world’s oldest lake at 25 million years old. 

Our stay on Olkhon Island

We stayed at Olkhon island on Lake Baikal for a week and a well needed rest from all the long train travel.

Our stay on Olkhon island

Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

Naturally, our location on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal gave us lots of opportunities for sunset pictures:

Sunset on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

Sunset on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

Enjoying the sunset over Lake Baikal

Enjoying the sunset over Lake Baikal

At one point during one of the many sunsets, the clouds made this strange formation, which looked like an alien invasion:

Sunset clouds making a strange alien like formation

Sunset clouds making a strange alien like formation

Lake Baikal is frozen for most of the winter.  But during the summer months the water is almost zero degrees celsius.

Braving a dip in the big lake is supposed to have healing qualities.

We had to give it a try and certainly found it – *refreshing*:

Taking a dip in the freezing cold Lake Baikal

Taking a dip in the freezing cold Lake Baikal

Cape Khoboi is the Northern tip of Olkhon island.

It is picturesque and therefore attracts a large number of tour groups:

Cape Khoboi group selfie

Cape Khoboi group selfie

Cape Khoboi on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal

Cape Khoboi on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal

Stefan admiring Cape Khoboi

Stefan admiring Cape Khoboi

Lake Khoboi is also the ideal spot to observe the ‘Nerpa seals” sunbathing:

The Nerpa seals at Cap Koboi on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

The Nerpa seals at Cape Khoboi on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

The Nerpa seals bathing at Cape Khoboi on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

The Nerpa seals bathing at Cape Khoboi on Olkhon island on Lake Baikal

Buryat people on Lake Baikal

The Buryat people live in this part of Siberia.  They are spread over this part of Siberian Russia and also throughout Northern Mongolia.

Buryat people at Yalga village on Olkhon island

Buryat people at Yalga village on Olkhon island

The Buryats practise Tibetan Buddhist and or shamanism.

It is a common sight in these parts to see a large colourful sacred monument (called a “sergei”) where people can donate gifts to their gods for a wish.  Gifts to the gods include coins, cigarettes or even body hair (no really!)

At Cape Khoboi, Sebastien took this opportunity to request a few wishes to this sergei statue:

Seb making body hair gift to the Sergei shaman statue at Cape Khoboi

Seb presenting body hair gift to the Sergei shaman statue at Cape Khoboi

Khuzir village:

On Olkhon island we stayed at Khuzir village at the highly regarded (by Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor) Nikita’s Homestead.

At Nikita’s we were fortunate to see a live Russian performance:

Another highlight of our stay on Olkhon island was of course delving more into Russian food and taking a course on how to make vareniki (Russian / Ukrainian dumplings).

Stefan and our freshly made vareniki

Stefan and our freshly made vareniki

The local Russians in Khuzir village were quite friendly.

When we visited the local discobar, this youthful bunch invited us to join them to drink vodka shots with them:

Drinking with some local Russians

Drinking with some local Russians

But important life lesson learnt – never try to take on a Buryat in an arm wrestling match, no matter how many vodka shots you have consumed:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEkEQBMQh98

Back on the Trans Siberian train:

After our week respite at Lake Baikal, we were back on the train aiming for Ulan Bator in Mongolia.

The train ride between Irkutsk and Ulan Ude is usually regarded as the highlight of the Trans Siberian journey.

After days of the same Siberian taiga scenery over and over, you are suddenly rewarded with a beautiful view across the Lake Baikal:

Lake Baikal view from the train

Lake Baikal view from the train

But all this time spent admiring the beautiful scenery quickly meant our food supply ran very low…

Admiring the view of Lake Baikal

Admiring the view of Lake Baikal

Urgent pressing action had to now be taken to feed these two hungry boys:

Purchasing and eating smoked omul on board the Trans Siberian:

Omul are freshwater fish living in Lake Baikal.

They are fished, cooked and eaten.  Local babushkas in towns surrounding Lake Baikal will smoke them to then sell them to passengers on board the Trans Siberian – to the delight of these two hungry boys:

Seb about to tuck into lots of smoked omul on board the train

Seb about to tuck into lots of smoked omul on board the train

However, selling smoked omul is big business on the trains.  The babushkas now need a licence to sell them, most of them don’t have it.

So on our train, the only way we could get smoked omul was to hunt down the babushka on board who was selling them “illegally”.

With the Russian family we befriended on board, we tracked down illegal dealing babushka and had to discreetly visit her in her carriage to purchase the smoked omul.

We then sneaked them back to our carriage to have a grand feast of smoked omul:

Eating smoked omul on board the Trans Siberian

Eating smoked omul on board the Trans Siberian

This marked the end of our trans siberian adventure through Russia.

The Mongolian steppe, yak milk and mutton now awaits us.

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8 Comments

  1. Jonathan

    Great post! Would love to visit Lake Baikal one day. Would you recommend taking the Trans-Siberian railroad?

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Hi Jonathan thank you for your comment.

      Definitely recommended – it’s a lot of fun!

      Reply
  2. Liza

    Hey!!! I hope you are having a wonderful trip! Wish you all the best!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Liza.

      Reply
  3. Maria

    I’m so excited to do this next year! Can’t wait, your photos are awesome as well, it’s making me much more excited, and the fish sounds amaaaazing! My mouth is drooling already.

    Although we’ll be there in the dead of winter so I’m getting more and more aware that we may not have the same outdoor experiences that you did 😀

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      OMG Maria you’ll love it, I went to Russia in winter time before and it’s beautiful because everything is covered in a blanket of white snow. You’ll absolutely love it 🙂

      Reply
  4. Mar Wanderlust

    Love reading your posts boys! I am not sure if I can handle the stink in the train. There is no bath in the train?

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Oh yes – there’s a full bath service with jacuzzi, WiFi and top notch swimming pool facilities he he he 🙂 Joking joking – but we did read about one super expensive train which does have all this…

      Thanks for your kind words xxxxxxxx

      Reply

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