Monday, July 7, 2014

Olkhon Island (AKA 4th of July Party!)

We wanted to do something special for 4th of July (my first ever outside of the US). So we decided to go to Olkholn Island, the largest (only?) island in Lake Baikal. It is considered onf of the 5 world poles of shamanic energy by the Buryat people.

This is the place to go if you are in Irkutsk for any length of time. However, it is an 8 hour bus ride there and back with limited amenities on the island. We went as a large group of 6 Americans and only got one day on the island.

We got there about 4 pm or so and wondered around the island, getting to see Shaman’s Rock. The destination on the island. It was a bit chillier than expected due to the wind, but oh so beautiful. We cooked our own dinner both nights we were there. The place we were staying wanted an arm and a leg for us to eat their prepared meals.

Shaman's Rock

Saturday dawned nice and lazy. No one told us that the tours all left at 10 am, so when we showed up at 11, there weren’t any still going. So we rented bikes. Which was an AWESOME idea and tons of fun! I definitely recommend it. Besides you have to admire the business model. Wait for all the tours to leave, stand outside with your bikes and a sign saying 400 RUB/day.
Me, Hayley, Adam, and Steve

Hayley, Steve, Adam, and I rode together (early starters) and rode out to a little point, through a tiny village (is there something smaller than village?) where we just relaxed and took in the beauty of Lake Baikal.

Upon our return to town, we had ice cream (and hot chocolate, cuz why not) at Hedgehog Icecream (it rhymes in Russian Ёженне Мороженне). Because why not?

Then Steve and I bailed because we wanted to still have feeling in our legs. Later we all joined up and ate dinner. Then we had a бання/banya for 2 hours. It was one of the most relaxing things ever. A banya is essentially a sauna. We spent time in and out of the sauna, and Hayley showed us how you were actually supposed to bathe in there and how to do it. It did get SUPER hot at some points.
A memorial to those locals who died in the war. 

The next day started early, when we had to catch the bus back into Irkutsk at 9 am. We had expected the ice cream place to be open (because the sign said it would be) but it was not.

It was fun to go visit Olkhon Island, but unless you can spend 2-3 days here, in my opinion it isn’t worth the hassle and cost to get here. Visit Listviyanka to see the lake and beauty.

See you around the globe!

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