After a quick breakfast and use of the facilities created by the archaeological team (in my ongoing review of outhouses, this would rate near luxurious perfection), we hiked up nearby hills to see limestone caves which had imploded over time. A local legend claimed that an old cave held huge amounts of Chinese gold though no one had yet found said cave. We trekked back to the van via a steeper alternative route and drove away from Sagan Zaba bumping down forest roads to a warm pond for a quick swim and then north to a completely different environment. Why didn’t I swim in Lake Baikal? It’s bloody freezing cold, thats why. I did enter it briefly to prove a point but it was not a body of water to go for extensive swims in.
The area where we had slept next to Baikal the previous night had trees and limestone cliffs, now we found ourselves surrounded by Steppe. Treeless grassland stretching as far as eye could se. Anton took me up one mountain from which it was possible to see the mouth of the Anga (“big mouth”) River as it emptied into Lake Baikal. One this mountain (Shebete) were the remains of a wall ringing the top which was apparently built by nomads in the 4th and 5th century AD. Do we have some section of our brains where evolution has placed the idea of spontaneous wall building?
To cross the Anga River we had to go into town (Yelanzi). This was also fortuitous in that we had a chance to grab some of Baikal’s famous native fish for a babarbecue supper: the Omul. This involved more than it should have. The shop girl told Anton that they were out of fish at first until he sweet-talked her into admitting that they were holding some for someone and finally batting her eyelids she gave Anton four fish. Anton said that if it had been a woman instead of him this would probably have been impossible.
Our camp site for the night was on top of a cliff (Aya) overlooking Lake Baikal. The natural firepit and barbecue was very relaxing and the fish was incredible. The lake was so cold that this fish needed to be quite fatty to survive in the freshwater. As such the fish reminded me of salmon. Mmmmmm yummy. As the sun set on Lake Baikal the stars poked out and the view was absolutely serene.
The rest of the night on the other hand was not so pleasant. It was hot then cold and sometimes stifling at times depending on which direction the wind decided to turn. Not much sleep was had by either of us.