Trek along Lake Baikal

Sunday 06/08

Today we do the first “trek” of our world tour: a one-day 22 km trail.

It’s a very scenic section of the Great Baikal Trail (GBT), from Listvyanka to Boshoye Koty, through Siberian forest and along the shore of Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal is 635 km long and between 40 & 80 km wide. Its total surface is equal to the area of Belgium. With more than 20,000 km3 of fresh water, roughly 22% of the world’s freshwater supplies, it contains more water than the North American Great Lakes combined. If all the rest of the world’s drinking water ran out tomorrow, Lake Baikal could supply the entire population of the planet for the next 40 years. The water of the lake is exceptionally clear and completely safe to drinking, owing to the filtering action of numerous types of sponge that live in its depths.

Tatiana, our guide for today, picked us up at 8:30am at our apartment. We went by car to Listvyanka (70 km, 1 hour).

The trail first goes uphill for about 4.5 km (1 hour). It’s the most strenuous section. At the top, we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the lake from the crest (860m above the sea level, 400m above the lake level) before beginning our descent to the lake. After a series of switchbacks, the trail followed the shoreline. The lake is amazing and so big; no wonder why locals call it a sea. The trail is great and diversified. We crossed many rivers and streams with the help of GBT-built footbridges.

Tatiana is a young and energetic girl. She did a great job in setting the pace during the whole day, with the right timing and duration for the breaks.

At lunch, while she prepared the picnic, we went for a dip / swim in the lake. Water temperature was at 16C, so we didn’t stay long. But it was nice and kids even went back after lunch. According to some local legend, we increased the longevity of our lifetime by 5 years by doing so.

During the trek, we refilled our bottle of water from sources several times

It took us 7.5 hours till Boshoye Koty (with many breaks to admire the lake). Kids walked very well; we were impressed. We should be fine for the other scheduled treks (in Tasmania, New Zealand, Chili and Peru). We had one hour to spare before the departure of the boat bringing us back to Irkutsk (1h30). Kids went again for a short “swim” in the lake (after a short rain).

It was a great day; definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far!

We arrived in Irkutsk at 8pm. Kids were hungry and Isabelle and I wanted to try the restaurant of the Belgian guy (BBB) so we decided to stop at a Papa John outlet to order a pizza for the kids. It was delivered at the apartment 50’ later.

We went to BBB, where we sat on the terrace. The menu has some nice Belgian specialties and also a huge choice of Belgian beers; really impressive. The owner was previously working for Inbev, elsewhere in Russia. We met other travelers including a Belgian couple from Brussels (with whom we share many common acquaintances). It was very nice to discuss with them; we were very much impressed that their 3 kids did a world tour after their studies, separately. The man of the other couple (an Icelander) gave me good recommendations for readings, which he described with passion. A nice (and impromptu) encounter.

We came back “home” around midnight.

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