Gill’s Reflections on Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Our herd of cats lands at Irkutsk airport, Eastern Siberia, where fortunately there is knowhere to get lost – it’s a country airport. The air is cool & clear for the first time since I left Canberra. The light is pale & crisp like a highland Aus town. Strange foreign people live here – not like Chinese at all… The lettering makes more sense than Chinese characters though.

Inexperienced as we are, with no hosts to help us,we cram onto a public bus with our cubic metre of bags, instruments & costumes & get off the bus only about a km walk from our hostel.

At last I stretch out & have an hour sound sleep before my friends wake me to go to Lake Baikal, one of the deepest fresh water lakes in the world. I follow them through Irkutsk feeling like I slept very efficiently, I I grab a strange brown drink from a stall which turns out to be Kvass, just the thing for a girl on a 30 hr day.

The bus to lake Baikal goes through forest for 50mins & then we stop at the little holiday village beside clear, cold water stretching as far as th eye can see, hazy mountains loom in the distance. To me it looks like Bateman’s Bay…I am so glad they woke me.

We paddle & breathe & explore the foreshore. I follow the narrow stony beach past stalls selling ornaments made from local gemstones & local woods, embroidered cushion covers etc.; past people in bikinis sunbaking; I find a food market & buy smoked fish & apples & eat the as I continue past derelict buildings, picnics, a woman dressed in traditional dress….

We dream of taking a boat ride but return to the hostel for a few hours before our 2am rendezvous with Transiberian Railway.

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