Excursion: Ust-Bargusin – Ulan-Ude

Two weeks ago I went back to Ulan-Ude. As I was not in a hurry I wanted to take the bus in the afternoon, and not that one at 7am. But my hostel was not able to do some reservation for me. By chance there was another Russian family, which just stayed for one night and drove back to UU that day. They agreed to take me with their car. Hence a was a little bit on pressure to pack my backpack fastly after breakfast. They were originally from Moscow and now also on holidays at lake baikal. I guess they were heading back to Irkutsk that day, because the small car was rented there. The drive in the small car on the backseat was horrible for me. After not even one hour my knees started to hurt and it was a pleasure for me having a break after 2 hours…but still the same amount of time was infront of me. Nevertheless, I was more than happy, when we reached after about 4.5 hours UU. Once again it turned out, why I’m not into hitchhiking 😉

Having a stop at the turtle rock
Bye, Bye lake Baikal…it was a very pleasant time staying here

Hiking at Svyatoy Nos peninsula

Sunday two weeks ago I started with the German family a hike to the highest point of the Svyatoy Nos peninsula. The first three hours up to about the half of the track we hiked together. Then the mother and daughter said, it was enough for them and so they made a break. I just continued directly into the cloud and eventually to the top. There the view was marginal, below 40 m, and I only could find the peak with the help of my GPS in the smartphone. Additionally there was a strong wind blowing from this site, so my hands were frozen very shortly, as I didn’t had gloves with me. There are even some prominent lookouts at the plateau, but at this day there are pretty useless. Nevertheless at good weather you’ll have just a beautiful surrounding view. On my way back I found a wind shielded place for some picknick before I returned on the same way down. As I had time, I took every rock in between on my way down to the cross, even for some light bouldering in between 😊. And then the last about 800 m altitude were a super easy hike down in a little bit more than one hour.

From time to time there are some views through the clouds
But mainly we are already in them
The cross at about the half way up
The further way up is almost only in the clouds…so relative humidity is 100% and temperature getting colder by about 9°C compared to the lake level…so not much above zero degrees at this day
View at the top plateau, as you see you see…nothing.
Except some mountain pines
Eventually reached the peak…
…but as the wind coming straight from the right the whole time, as you can see at my glasses. Not staying to long there.
Detected even some old snow fields beside the main ridge in the mist
Finally reached the stone signs and found even a wind shielded place for a snack
About 100 m of altitude below the plateau I got the first view to the isthmus of the peninsula
The way on the side ridge
Near the cross, I got this view below the main clouds
Getting down I even passed the old ranger station and entrance to the national park, at least it looked like this.
GPS track

Boat Excursion

Saturday two weeks ago we made a boat excursion at lake baikal to a small island, which is nowadays a nature reserve. We started with the typical Russian minibus in the morning as the same group as a day before. After about one hour drive we made a first stop, as Thomas got out. He hiked up the highest mountain of the Svyatoy Nos peninsula this day and didn’t joined for the boat excursion. After another 20 min we reached our small boat and embarked to it. The first stop was already at the first settlement after a couple of minutes to get some gasoline. Then we headed for about half an hour to the hot springs. This is also for locals a very popular excursion at the weekend, as they are bathing in the hot springs. The German family got off from the boat and hiked part of the way back.

Gilles, Marina, Galina, her daughter and me continued to the island for about one hour. Here we passed the ranger station and got to the observation platform for the local seals, which were called nerpa. They are going to the rocks infront of the island to sleep. For about 45 minutes we were allowed to watch them, but we had to be very calm in order not to disturb them. It was a very nice show and the time just flew by. After this we returned to the boat in order to have late lunch und drive back. The water at lake baikal was very calm without any waves, whereas in the bay the water was more rough with minor but already feelable waves. On our way back we passed to small islands in the bay, where some bird colonies are living. Then we returned to another local settlement, were we met again Alexandre who was waiting for us here. In this settlement they celebrated the day of the fishermen…just an official excuse to get drunken 😄. We needed to wait another 45 minutes for the German family before we could finally continue. On the way back we picked up Thomas who was already waiting for us. He successfully hiked up the mountain and was very happy but also a little bit tired.

Ust-Bargusin and the region is mainly influenced by the logging industry. Nowadays Chinese business men are buying almost all timber, and 60% of the local jobs are related to this industry. So more and more area is used for logging. In former years trees were not cutted beside 50km of lake Baikal, but nowadays this distance is no longer maintained, as long as one get paid for it.

Driving 20 km over unpaved road in the national park
The beach is occupied by a lot of mosquitos
Finally starting the boat drive in the bay
I don’t know exactly, but looks like some shooting range at our very first fuel stop
Now the journey can really begin
I was allowed to sit on the top, very beautiful 360° surround view, no water droplets, but extreme windy 😄
But the others also looking a bit chilly
Low hanging clouds…
…but no rain today
Yes they’re really bathing in the hot springs…it smells like sulphur (no not teen spirit, but who knows 😅), but the water is clear. Nevertheless I was not in the mood to go there.
Some are directely camping at the shore, as we did before on the other side. But I’m not sure if they hiked to this camp site.
Approaching the island
At a small bay with clear water…
…we stop with our boat
Ranger station which is always manned
Sleeping rocks for the nerpas…
Due to the flat water…
…they are coming here during summer. If the waves are too high, they would be just washed away.
In winter times…
…they maintain a whole in the ice. Also for their children which were born in March
Galina, Gilles, Marina from Israel and me
Good bye Nerpas
The lake is very calm
One of the rocks which is inhabited by birds
The birds…no it’s not Alfred Hitchcock…we just feeded them, that they follow us
Our skipper is talking to one of the ours during the fishermen’s day
Back in Ust-Bargusin. There’s a lot of wood infront of the hut, for heating in winter…
…and that’s how it looks, if it’s not yet sorted.

Barguzin Valley

Friday a week ago the two French men, another family from Germany and me, made an excursion to the Barguzin Valley. Firstly Thomas and me wanted to hike a nearby mountain, but as the weather changed and the forecast was rain the whole day, we decided not to go up to the mountain. This was a really good decision, as the rain even increased during the day.

After about half an hour we stopped at a small village of wooden houses and walked a little bit through it. In Barguzin village we just stopped at the old Jewish cemetery before we headed on to a Datsan. Before we could enter the Datsan we needed to go around it and pray at each prayer wheel. Inside each wheel there are written prays and once you rotate it you pray these. At the place of the Datsan a special stone, which looks like a pyramid, was found, and hence the Datsan was built. It is now known to give fertility to the pilgrims who visit it.

After finishing our round in the rain we were finally allowed to go to the Datsan and have a look inside. Eventually we finished our excursion at a nearby Kafe and got again some Buuzi. Due to my experience which I had from Seseg, I was able to explain the others the eating procedure of them. As we were all more or less wet and as it was also cold, the warm Banya in the evening was a real pleasure.

Main street of the small village with wooden houses next to it…and the picturesque blue windows
At the entrance of each house the profession of the first owner is shown (as far as I’ve understood the explanation)
They’ve even a pedestrian crossing…but I couldn’t find them printed on the street 😉
Galina, the wife of our host Alexander, joined us during the day and explained us a little bit about history and current situation of the Barguzin Valley
The valley is relatively wide, but due to low hanging clouds, it is not much visible today
The Barguzin river just meanders through this valley
The first prayer wheels next to the street. It is also common for the believers to let some coins at this holy places
The Datsan for fertility
Our walk in the rain along the prayer wheels
The forest is full with prayer flags from the pilgrims…hopefully it was helpful for them to get their children
Finally the inside of the Datsan

Excursion: Ulan-Ude – Ust-Barguzin

Thursday morning a week ago Aleks took me for a short city tour through Ulan-Ude. In buryatiyan language Ulan means red and Ude is the name of the river which flows into the Selenga river nearby. And as the name of the city just changed in the 1930’s you could easily guess what it means.

We first visited the local Datsan, a Buddhism temple, at the top of a hill with a nice view and then went to the city centre. Here the world’s largest Lenin head might be the most touristic attraction, which is located near the renovated opera. After having lunch together Aleks joined me for the bus station and to get a ticket. The bus should go at 15 o’clock but we were there already at 13:20 o’clock. Getting the ticket was not a big deal and finding the bus also not really…but it was almost full and I just got the least seat. And hence the bus just already started at 13:35…and I was a bit surprised, as there were only two buses each day which are driving to Ust-Bargusin. But they explained me, that this is quit normal. Once the bus is full, it just starts to drive. So luckily, just by chance, I was almost two hours to early at the bus station, which is absolutely not common for me. But therefore I was also early at my small hostel. Here I met two travellers, which were actually from France, but had independent journeys. Gill was the older experienced one, which already travelled since more than one year and Thomas is just heading to Beijing and then maybe further on to South-East Asia, as he need to return in Autumn. After having tasty lunch, with local Omul fish from lake Baikal, I went to the Banya for some relaxing.

Main Datsan in Ulan-Ude
In the surrounding there are lots of prayer flags
View from the hill to UU
The renovated opera building…
…and the large Lenin head
Finally arrived in Ust-Bargusin at lake Baikal after a short 5 hours trip and only 20km of unpaved road in between which is still under construction