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Baikal: winter journey. Part 3

Buryatia

The name Barguzin came from the Buryat language - “Barga”, means a real wilderness. Well, at the end of our trip to Lake Baikal, we reached this wilderness. Not everyone gets to Ust-Barguzin though, most tourists prefer to return to Irkutsk after exploring the islands of the Small Sea strait.

Local beauties are not so popular. But I have to say, Chivyrkuysky Bay, with its capes and bays and all their funny names - Okunevaya (perch), Zmeevaya (snake), Molodost’(youth), Krutaya (steep), Omulevaya (omul fish) is one of the most beautiful places on Lake Baikal. There are rocky islands: Shaggy, Naked, Perch stone, Cormorant's, White Stone, Honey cake. But it is prohibited to visit them, because they are strictly protected nature reserves.



On a sunny day we drove through the gates of the Zabaykalsky Nature Reserve, we obtained permission to visit the reserve and rushed towards Podlemorye - the eastern slope and the coast of the Barguzinsky ridge. At one time, the Evenks of the Shemargin clan lived there - reindeer herders, hunters and fishermen.

The peninsula that washes by Chivyrkuysky Bay, the second largest after Barguzinsky Bay, is called the Holy Nose. And this is the second "nose" on the Russian map, another one can be found on the east coast of the Kola Peninsula, which separates the Barents and White Sea. Previously, there were even more Holy Noses, especially near the coasts of the Arctic Ocean. So that's what, without any creativity, Pomors called the complex capes, which caused a lot of problems for boats.



The Holy Nose of Baikal rises to 1,420 meters above lake level. Surprisingly, once the Holy Nose was an island. An isthmus formed instead of a wide strait - the Barguzin and Small Chivyrkuy rivers brought too many silts there. The strait turned into a swamp and ultimately became shallow and dried up.

If you go up to the observation deck, you will see only absolutely uninhabited open spaces. Baikal under a snow blanket, snow-covered taiga. Silence. However, there are two settlements on Holy Nose. We stopped for lunch in one of them - Kurbulik. Nobody was on the streets: the playground "Omulek", was covered with snow, the ships were frozen in the snow, waiting for navigation. It seemed residents didn’t go outside unless they needed to.  A hot lunch in Kurbulik needs to be booked in advance, the rare tourists are usually fed in a local club - a former school, converted into a museum, which looked more like a historical dining room. Omul is the main ingredient in the menu - fish soup and fried fish with buckwheat.

 

You can’t get away from omul on Baikal, it is served every day for lunch and dinner: fried or cooked. Our group even made a funny joke about omul dishes: “Let's pray for our lunch so that we will have omul again for our dinner.” The fishery of omul is prohibited, but local fishermen are allowed to catch some.

 

Local men go ice fishing for several days. They live right in the trailers, with a hole in the floor to fish in warmth and comfort. The ice hole does not freeze, so they can watch the nibble right from the couch. But it is quite visible that fishermen are often suffering a hangover. The Buryats, in general, have a complicated relationship with alcohol. The fishermen are not hiding it though, they like to joke that they drank more than they caught. But they agree to show the catch - a few frozen omul. They say that Chivyrkuisky Bay is the only place on Lake Baikal where Baikal sturgeon can still be found. It is strictly forbidden to catch them.

 

We stopped to take pictures at the next ice cave with splashes (well, it’s impossible to stop shooting such beauty), we drove west and reached Zmeevaya Bay, where hot thermal springs beat from underground, right onto the shore of Lake Baikal. To my surprise, the area was quite civilised, there were changing rooms, wooden paths, swimming pools and benches. There was steam above the pool - the temperature of the water at the surface was about 38.5-45.5 ° C, even ice melted at the shore nearby. This natural hotub is also a kind of pleasure which you have to survive: while your body is in the hot water, your ears are getting ice glazed with frost, and after that,  you have to rush to the changing room and dress like a soldier in a minute.

The day on the bay passed quickly, we returned in Ust-Barguzin in the dark with a light aroma of hydrogen sulfide. And the same schedule again: dinner (omul, of course), a bathhouse and a good night’s sleep. The next morning we left for Ulan-Ude. It was about a four hour drive and a good time for nap. Just a monotonous picture of a snowy forest was outside the window, a strip of the road and a dream of a good cup of coffee, which was so lacking on this trip every morning. After visiting the Ivolginsky Datsan, and before dinner in the city restaurant we had just one must-see sight in this dull city - the Lenin Head on the Sovetov Square.

This is the terrible heritage of the USSR, which has remained there since the Soviet era and has already turned into a trash attraction. A head 7.7 meters high was installed on the 100th anniversary of the former leader in 1970. No doubt, this is the biggest Lenin head in the world! Just think about it: somebody had approved the layout of the headless leader! Well, there is nothing more to see in Ulan-Ude. Lenin in the darkness symbolically finished our winter loop on Lake Baikal, this white, absolutely icy winter adventure. We had only to take the night train and return to Irkutsk.

The Four Seasons of Russia project is supported by the Russian geographical society www.rgo.ru
A visit to winter Baikal is recommended by the Russian geographical society.


 

Also read about Baikal:
How I Met a Shaman at Olkhon: What Spirits of Ancestors Explain
Baikal: Winter trip. Part 1. Listvyanka. Taltsy
Baikal: Winter trip. Part 2. Olkhon Island, Ogoy Island.
How I spent the night in a tent on the ice of Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal: What do we know about it?
Ivolginsky datsan: A cloister that gives happiness
Questions and life hacks about a winter trip to Lake Baikal

Translation: Irina Romanova, Instagram: @astrabella1

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