We were still a bit dizzy from the birthday party when we were leaving Irkutsk the next day, but the goal was set, we're going to swim in lake Baikal today. We decided to do it in the first possible place to reduce the amount of driving to the absolute minimum. And we decided to continue our journey with Gerrit, as after few weeks of driving alone we could really do with some nice company. The roads were so bumpy and curvy that it was hard not to get seasick, but already the first glimpse at Baikal made us forget all the inconveniences. Impressive is definitely the best word to describe it. Followed by amazing and magnificent. The first beach we found turned out to be a perfect location, so we didn't need to spend more time searching for a good camping spot. We could just grab the towels and go for a swim. And we did. And no, it wasn't cold, it was simply freezing. But it felt great anyway.
The weather in this area is changing quite quickly, jumping from burning sun to rain before you can even notice. But we didn't mind. After 4 weeks of driving a few hundreds kilometer a day we simply enjoyed the fact that we can stay at one spot and finally get some rest. And there's no better place for it than Baikal. So the plan for the next few days was set. Little driving and lot of camping, always along the water. And I can tell you it was a brilliant plan!
We spent the next day in Tunka Valley, which really offered us many wonderful views. I made 150 photos that day and loved every minute of our ride. I was just a bit disappointed with the village that awaited us at the end. Arshan seems to be more touristic than anything I saw in my entire life. And it's this awful type of tourism, meaning plastic souvenirs and popcorn on every corner, all the way to the famous waterfalls. But we did our best to concentrate on the nature, ignoring the people and the plastic surroundings. And it worked quite well, but still we decided to spend a night outside of the place, along the river. And we found a perfect location. Clean, warm water, enough wood for fire and some fantastic views. And when I thought it can't get any better than that Gerrit came up with an idea to bake a bread. It really was a perfect day.
And we got a message from Emma that they found a perfect camping spot on Baikal and are staying there for a day or two, so we decided to join then the next day. And the place was lovely indeed. Private green space with view on the lake and again some nice fire place. Before I came here I was wondering why there aren't any real camping places in Russia. But who needs a professional camping place if you can simply stop your car anywhere on Baikal? No one will bother you, you can make fire when you wish to and instead of an old rusty shower you can take a swim in the world's deepest lake. I wouldn't change it for anything.
And once again we could experience the famous Russian hospitality. There are not that many shopping opportunities in the small Baikal villages, so we didn't have that much food to share. We were even a bit worried if we all will have enough for a nice supper. But then Anton turned up with his family. They were camping next to us and heard us speaking in some funny languages, so they decided to come and visit, bringing along some Russian cookies and home made lecho. Suddenly our supper turned into a real feast! And it got even better when we admitted we haven't tried a local fish yet. Anton's wife, Evgenia came back with 3 of them. We were full before our grilled meat and potatoes were ready at all :) And it really was the best food I got in Russia so far! And once again my limited Russian skilled proved to be enough to spend a lovely evening talking about all important issues. I guess it only needs a good will and some creativity on both sides and then no words are needed. We definitely had fun! And full belly!