Lake Baikal - known as the freshwater sea

November 19, 2006

Well yesterday we had an early rise, up before the sun to find that it was snowing. Given that all the other people in the Hostel were from Canada or France, it was only the Australian (aka. us) who were jumping around in excitement about snow flakes. We had to explain to them that this doesn't happen all that much in AUstralia and then we had to explain to them that we in fact have summer at Christmas time. That really blew their minds.
Anyway, as I was saying. We got up early, as we were venturing out of Irkutsk to Lake Baikal, which is a giant freshwater lake that looks more like an inland sea. Very cool. To get there we had to catch a electric train for two and a half hours. Now these trains are typical of Russia Public transport. Cold, bench seats, and a large population of children that insist on leaving the doors open at either end of the carriage. It was an experience. When we finnaly arrived there at this train platform in the middle of nowhere, we followed the icy path through the tree into trying not to slip over. It was beautiful. The fresh snow was all powdery beneath my feet, and this incredible crisp white. The path had not been walked on since the snow had fallen so it looked like a really dense cloud was layering the floor of the forest. The trees were like big skeleton like sticks poking out of the ground. There were so many of them though that you didn't notice that they didn't have any leaves. Walking on the path wasn't so easy. Pretending to be an intrepid explorer was not so easy when walking down the slope of a hill. Everytime you would step on what you think is solid snow you might find a big rock underneath and fall flat on your butt. Fortunately on did it once on the way down and came out of it with only a sore finger. Steve wasn't so lucky, hurting his finger quite badly.  
Anyway, we made it down to the valley and found this cute little wooden bridge to cross over the river that ran through there. It had almost completely frozen over and you could hear the water running underneath. Really calming. The hike continued through the valley until we reach what looked like a small village. Full of little wooden houses, most of whom looked like farmers. We walked up past the houses and headed for the Railway line. Once there we were overlooking the amazing viw of Lake Baikal. It was beautiful. The sky was still foggy from the snow and so the hills on the far side of the Lake were cut into sections. in some parts it looked as though the Lake was merging with the sky. We made our way further down to the water edge and there is where we ate some lunch and built a fire.  
Now i could try and escribe how cold it got but there is no use. We were rugged up so much and still our finger tips were numb. The icy breeze that was bouncing off the water made it worse, but it was worth it to see the view.
We had to rush after that point. We powered round along the old railway line to the station platform. There we waited for 30mins for that same train. By now the sun had set and the temp had dropped again. It was nice to get home and have a shower, but it was a great day!

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