The morning after the Baikal shore hike I awoke to the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know if it was the cold or from dehydration. I drank a few liters of water, took some Advil, and went back to bed. When I woke up at noon, all I could think about was staying in bed all day. For a moment, I wondered if I had contracted the swine flu LOL. Anja convinced me to get out of the house and go on a hike. I did and I am very glad for it. It was a cold but beautiful day and we saw some beautiful Baikal countryside and mountains as well as some more of lovely Sludyanka.
The total distance from “downtown” Sludyanka to the suburbs was probably all of about a 500 meter walk. As we crossed from the apartment buildings to the single family homes, I saw a classic Soviet sign that was left over from the pre-91 years. I snapped a photo and thought that it came out very nice (above). Once in the “burbs” we experienced braying sheep, barking dogs, and a nice little community of Russian people going about their daily business. The houses resembled many of the other examples we have seen in Siberia. Even though the women try to dress in the “typical” Russian sexy feminine way, I noticed that the level of affluence was much less in this region of Russia than in the bigger cities. Many of the people had older boots and jackets and their clothes were a little “dated.” However, they still made a good attempt to put on a fashion show, outdated as it may have been. Some were busy cleaning after the animals, others were carrying water from the local well, and some were sweeping snow from the front of their homes. As I walked through the town I realized what a hard life these people have and was thankful for my country and the lifestyle that we are afforded.
At the edge of town, we were immediately in the “woods” and we enjoyed the sounds of the birds chirping and the water gurgling as it passed under ice packs and then re-emerged in melted areas of the river. The trail zigzagged back and forth across the river crossing over little wooden foot bridges. At the half way point, we enjoyed some hot tea and watched the water as it swirled under the bridge in an area that was unfrozen. It was cold but also very peaceful. Aside from the birds and the water, the wind blew in the trees and all else was quiet.
While sipping tea on the bridge, I suddenly I saw a black fish dart out from under the ice and then disappear under it again. I told Anja what I had seen and she came over to watch to see if it would come out again. A minute or two later, this little “fish” came out from the ice, poked his head above the water, and then grabbed the side of the ice with his little clawed hands. He looked right up at us as if to say, “Go away, you’re disturbing me.” It turns out that this little “fish” was some sort of mouse. His skin was smooth and looked like an otter or beaver pelt. He quickly jumped back into the water and swam under some nearby ice. I grabbed my camera and caught a photo of him just before he disappeared again.
If we hiked to the top of the mountain, we would have some spectacular views of Baikal, but the sun was setting, I was cold, and we decided to return to our house. Anja ended up staying in the Baikal area for another two weeks and she was able to see the frozen top of the lake as the winter months set in. We were just able to see Baikal over the Sludyanka houses at the foot of the mountain that we “started” to climb. I’m not worried; I know I’ll be back. But the next time it will be in the summer.
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