Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daily life in Baikal

After the longest leg of our journey we got to the shores of Lake Baikal. This is still Russia, but more than that, is the land of the Buryats, a nomad people that made Baikal their home.
More than 2 hours by Bus from Irkutsk, we got to Bolshoe Goloustnoe, a small village where we woud stay in the next couple of days. Here life is simple. The closest they have to a traffic jam is at the end of the day when the cows decide to return home. Yes, because, often enough, you see way more cows on the street than people, or cars, or anything else.

Other than that, people have a strong preference for the use of sidecars, something that we never really understood why.

First sidecar we saw (first of many) with the passengers waving at us a... hmmmmm,.. a local welcoming sign

This one we could admire upclose. They look even more cool like this

And another one...
Modern daily routines, as most of us know them, would be impossible here. With no water distribution system, the water comes from a well and bathrooms are actually composed by two different things:
- The Toilet, always outside the house (here, just besides the tractor), which is basically a (deep) hole on the ground with a kind of a seat on top. I have to say that, in fact, it was nicer than many others along this trip.

The bathroom and the tractor

- The Banya, a kind of a REALLY hot sauna (around 60ºC) where people should hit each other with bay branches (to open the pores). After that you're supposed to throw water to the hot rocks to create steam from time to time and sweat, and sweat, and sweat... And when you're tired of sweating just mix a bit of cold water with hot water directly from the "furnace" and poor it on top of you. I have to confess that when we did it, the room was a bit colder (we didn't create steam and the doors were not closed completely at all times) but it was suffocating none the less. And thinking that outside it was freazing (around 5ºC)... we had our share of temperature shock! All in all, it was a great experience and I wanted to do it properly the next day, but it was decided that they would only heat up the furnace enough for us to have hot water for the baths (which meant, being in a room around 45ºC!).

It was special to experience this, especially because we could realize that this was not something for the tourists to see/do. All around the village we could see the same toilets and banya just outside the main building of each house. But Bolshoe was much more than this. It was about the amazing landscapes, forests to walk through, and a lake, an imense lake, just there, from which you can just take water from and drink it!

A view over the village

Village's church and lake Baikal

Some people say that a bath in lake Baikal will give you 1 year of life. Considering that, I must have added 40 days to mine!

A visit to the Dry Lake. It was a lake... that dried...

But the walking there was really worth it

Taking water directly from lake Baikal in a bucket. We drank from the bucket (and nothing bad happened to our body afterwards)

But above all, it was a place where we met this amazing family. That would contradict all our theories of Russian faces (we then understood that they were Buryats, that might explain why :p) as even their eyes would be showing this amazing smile.
And it was here, in one of the nights, that I had some of my favorite moments of all the TranSiberian trip (which is something really, really hard to pick). It was the night that, inspired by the vodka after the dinner and a wonderful atmosphere each one shared a bit of their cultural roots by singing traditional songs. It was GREAT :) Even if Isa tried to ruin our (Portuguese) reputation by screaming one of our Rancho songs :p (video might come later).

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