Hiking along the most beautiful lake in the world!

We just got back from a 2 times 2-day hike close to the Baikal Lake (2 times 2-days as we had to make a “blister-stop” in between to give Vera’s feet some rest…). Lake Baikal is the biggest lake in the world and the deepest one: it contains 1/5 of all fresh water in the world (to give you an idea, it is about twice the surface of Holland – yes I know we are small…). The landscapes are just magnificient and cannot be compared to any region we have visited until now.

We first did a 2-day trek with a small international group where we hiked mainly through Taiga forest before arriving at the Baikal shore. And as the weather turned good again (Vera is convinced that this is because the day before, she personally spoke to the clouds and asked them kindly to go away… some more pragmatic people think it is just hazard) we had our first official swim in Baikal Lake. It’s a bit cold to get in at first (the water is about 14 to 15 degrees) but once you’re in it is fine (well not longer than 10 minutes though because then your buttocks start freezing). And the Siberian people say that we who swims in the Baikal Lake gets younger everytime, so who wouldn’t take a swim in a lake like that??? ;-)

The next day we followed a part of the Cirkumbaikal trainline, which is a railroad now only used by a tourist train, but that has a very nice view on Baikal. About its name: Baikal is coming from an ancient “saga” which said that before there was the lake, it was a very deep and profound forest, where no people would go. There was some kind of big bird living there, that is said to be very dangerous for people in that it scared and chased anybody who tried to approach it. Then one day, a very brave man was called for help to chase this bird and he is said to have cut 100 trees in the taiga forest to make a very big bow and one arrow. With this he managed to kill the bird, which fell down on the forest and caused a great fire with big flames. People were trying to hide from the fire and running away screaming “Bai Kal! Bai Kal!” which means something like “standing fire” in the Buryat language (which were the people living there). Once the fire was over (nobody ever knew how it stopped, but it’s a saga, so you can leave that to your own imagination), water started streaming in and the Baikal Lake formed. :-)

The Russian way of hiking is very different from the European way: they are not as well equiped, don’t have expensive cooking equipment, tents and all of this “luxury stuff” but are very good survivors actually and our guide told us that “in Siberia we get everything from nature, so why not use that”. So cooking is always done on a campfire (yes, fires for lunch and for dinner) for which of course we first had to cut some trees (with a saw mainly) and then cut the wood in small pieces (with the axe of course) before cooking in big old pots could start. And it’s actually very nice sitting around the campfire at night, looking at the flames and the stars above, with the mysterious light of the moon reflecting on Lake Baikal… :-) We slept in tents though (most Siberians would sleep in forest huts, but ok, we are tourists, so we got some luxury). :-)

We also had a chance to experience the Russian “banya” (Russian steam sauna). It’s more or less like a European sauna, except that you make some wigs out of birch- or pine-branches with which you (softly!) hit your body in order to take of the “old” skin and help your body sweat. Then however, in Europe we are mostly used to taking a cold shower, but in this particular Russian banya, we could just jump into an ice-cold creek running at a few meters nearby. And although it needs some psychological strength to jump in, it is actually very nice once you get in after the hot steams: it feels like all your aches and pains are washed away with the cold water. Very refreshing! :-)

Well it was definitely a great time we had there and we are looking forward on going back there (let’s see when we have time for that…). :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. Franz
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:36 | Permalink

    I see you are really enjoying these beautiful places. Keep having fun! I will keep the envy :-(

  2. Daniel
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 10:01 | Permalink

    Most beautiful lake in the world ?
    Even in front of the Constance lake ? :eek:

    I checked wikipedia for the shore length: 2100km is maybe a bit too much for inline skating :)

    The pictures you’re taking are really wonderfull ! I am always checking for the next updates :)

    Bon voyage!

  3. Vera
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 14:31 | Permalink

    Franz, don’t be jeaulous, but take as much fun out of it as we do: you can travel a bit with us by following our website, non? :-)

    Daniel: Yep I think this one beats Constance!! :-)

  4. Posted August 31, 2007 at 16:19 | Permalink

    Very impressive pictures! Wow! In Berlin I saw the train to Moscow. The train conductors were dressed in pompous uniforms. A kind of ‘Fernweh’ (don’t know a translation, LEO says ‘wanderlust’) came over me. I saw a lot of movies about the Baikal but it’s not the same. I’m very jealous! Vera, your picture swimming in the sea is great, everyone can see you are very happy!

  5. mamma
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 18:06 | Permalink

    Ce mois passé en Russie vous donne envie d’y retourner au plus vite. Et je vous comprends, sauf que vous allez peut-être penser cela de nombreux pays que vous allez traverser -:) Il va falloir donc penser à reprendre une autre année sabbatique ? Hi ! Hi ! Baci carissimi Mamma

  6. Posted August 31, 2007 at 18:49 | Permalink

    bises et bonne continuation

  7. Posted August 31, 2007 at 19:19 | Permalink

    quel plaisir de se baigner avec vous dans ce magnifique lac!!! ma “vieille” peau est en train de partir et je me sens rajeunir à vue d’oeil. Continuez à nous faire rêver . Bises.

  8. Posted September 1, 2007 at 14:52 | Permalink

    Content de vous lire et de suivre vos aventures – amitiés des cap’s toulousains !
    Thierry R.

  9. marie-annick
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 20:39 | Permalink

    Ivana vient de me dire que vous partez en trek. vivement dans 15 jours pour d’autres nouvelles. Bon trek et bises :-)

  10. Posted September 3, 2007 at 18:45 | Permalink

    This must be a wonderful experience to jump in an ice-pool. Sounds like a commercial on the dutch TV.
    But this is real

  11. Posted September 5, 2007 at 8:58 | Permalink

    Je ne sais pas si tous vos lecteurs se sentent comme moi, mais j’oscille, en regardant vos aventures, entre l’admiration et une haine profonde…Bien que je suis trop fénéante pour ce genre d’aventure…

    Les photos sont magnifiques, ca donne vraiement envie de partir.

  12. Joao Ventura
    Posted September 10, 2007 at 19:26 | Permalink

    And while you were doing that, Rafael was coming into the world :)

    Nice to see you are having fun. I am also having my own version of not getting decent sleep, but for quite different reasons…

  13. Posted September 10, 2007 at 21:37 | Permalink

    Hello Joao,

    are you talking about a new arrival?


  14. Vera
    Posted September 14, 2007 at 6:08 | Permalink

    Joao! Congratulations with Rafael!!! :o)

    I hope he and his mother are doing well!

    But when are you finally going to make a girl???


  15. Svetlana
    Posted September 27, 2007 at 8:53 | Permalink

    Just a little note from the craziest guide in the world:) It was great having you here guys! The more people like you we meet – the happier we become! Really-really hope and strongly believe to see you here again and may be in winter time (to experience a real ice-pool :)) Good luck to you!!!