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Winter Journeys

“Snowmobile Sensation on Baikal Ice Ring”


Grand Snowmobile Baikal Expedition
Duration 7 nights/ 8 days
Availability: mid February to begining of March

Driving onto the ice is amazing, it's such a strange sensation. Jack stopped the van once we'd gone about 50 metres in and we all clambered out, with lots of oohing and aahing. It was so unreal to be walking on ice, yet still being able to see the bottom of the lake quite clearly. The ice, like the water of the lake is very clear, pure and slightly blue in colour. It was truly weird to literally be walking on water (now I know how Jesus did it!). Niamh and Cathal

The Itinerary Description
 

Day 1
Welcome to winter time Irkutsk – “Paris of Siberia”, capital of its great Eastern part – Siberia’s Microcosm and the gateway to Siberia’s “Pearl” – Lake Baikal! Upon arrival in Irkutsk we meet you at the airport gates, and after assisting with the luggage we shall enjoy Absolute Siberia welcome tea-drink.
Transfer to the “Baikal Terema” hotel located 62 km away from Irkutsk in Listvyanka settlement. The hotel nestles in picturesque setting on hill slope with nice views of the village and lake Baikal.
After checking in and some time at leisure we depart for a guided tour of the “Taltsy” Open-Air museum of Wooden Architecture and Ethnography located at the 47th km on the way from Irkutsk to Baikal. The Taltsy Museum is a unique display of original wooden structures scattered all over the huge area and complete with great number of household items dating back to XVII-XIX cent. This one-of-a-kind exhibition, that includes both native Siberians and Russian sections, unfolds in a truly exciting story about Siberia’s past: farmsteads of well-to-do peasant families, huts, log cabins and houses built of pine and larch-tree, broad yards, storehouses, utensils, and even dog houses – all of them are genuine. In this museum you can take pictures of an authentic distaff, Russian fire stove with “palati” (sleeping boards), icons placed in the so-called “red” corner, etc.

It's fun to wander around this little wooden village, especially when there's so much snow about. Great fun was had. It also gives an idea as to what life may have been like back in those days.- J. Hood, Salisbury, Great Britain

Here you have a good chance to attend and even participate in Maslenitsa (Shrovetide) celebration – the festival of seeing off winter and welcoming spring, which is celebrated annually. You will taste the “bliny”, Russian pancakes, popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods with a number of fillings. Also here we will have an opportunity to undertake a highlight ride down the slide claimed to be Siberia’s longest one. On return back to the hotel - experience Russian steam bath or Banya well-known all over the world.

Day 2
This morning at the active outdoors center next door to the hotel we will be instructed on how to drive a snowmobile, get a short orientation lecture on the upcoming snowmobile safari trip. Our destination today is the town of Baikalsk with its famous ski resort “Sobolinaya Mountain” ( Sable Mountain). We cover the distance of about 100 km on the Baikal ice crossing lake Baikal in its southern part. En route we stop to explore tunnels, supporting walls, aqueducts and stockades of the Circum Baikal Loop, the unique monument of the Russian engineering thought, once a section of the Trans Siberian Railway.
The Circum Baikal Railroad is called “the Golden Buckle on the Steel Belt of Russia”. This well-chosen epithet means the Circum Baikal Loop (84 km) connected two railway lines from Moscow and Vladivostok “torn apart” by the Lake but its construction cost much more than the construction of the Trans Siberian Railway.

The total first cost of the road was 58,625,745 roubles, or an average of about 329,000 roubles per mile. However, repairs and alterations since have increased this to about 60,000,000 roubles, and various improvements, such as retaining walls and masonry galleries, were still being added when we last passed over it in October, 1905. – Captain Sydney A. Cloman, in the Journal of the U. S. Infantry Association.

Check in at private cottages in Baikalsk. After tasty dinner those who wish may visit the sauna and the swimming pool (for additional fee) of the “Sobolinaya” hotel. Overnight.

Day 3
Enjoy your time before lunch at leisure or go in for mountain skiing and snowboarding. Here you can rent all the necessary equipment and use the services of experienced instructors.
The total length of tracks on the ski resort is 15 km with gradient of more than 500 m. The longest track is 2.5 km long. Both ski and snowboard contests including downhill skiing are held at this resort in Baikalsk. Lunch in one of the cafes on the slope (on your own).
In the afternoon we continue our snowmobile safari on the ice to "Meridian 105", the deepest place of Baikal (1637 m). At this very spot 20 km away from the shore the ice township is built. Here we will have dinner and spend a night (sanitary facilities outside).

Day 4
After breakfast at the “Meridian 105” base camp we get our things packed and loaded and then drive our snowmobiles for a distance of nearly 150 km on the territory of the Baikal Biosphere Nature Preserve (southeastern part of Baikal). We shall take our lunch en route. Tired after eventful day we check in at the “Enkhaluk” base camp in the Buriat village. Dinner, banya, overnight in twin rooms.

Day 5
After early breakfast we depart to Olkhon Island (110 km) and cross the lake in its middle part.
It is the last day of our snowmobile safari and hopefully we’ll see the nerpa rookery today.

The Baikal nerpa (Phoca sibirica Gmelin 1788) — is a representative of the order of pinnepeds and the family of real (earless) seals. Nerpa spends most of its life in water, surfacing periodically to breathe. Thanks to the capacity of its blood to hold oxygen nerpa can remain under water for up to 45-60 minutes, although it usually stays there for 20-25 minutes, this is sufficient for it to catch food or escape danger. In water it can reach speeds of up to 25 kilometres an hour, but in normal circumstances it will swim at half the speed. In winter, when Baikal is frozen over, nerpa makes escape holes in the ice. This is an inborn instinct: in an experimental aquarium one and two month old nerpa pups made holes in foam plastic, scratching them out from beneath with their claws. They then poked their noses through to breathe, despite the fact that open water was not far away.

We cross the Olkhon Gates Strait on the ice road and then continue further on the island of Olkhon to Khuzhir settlement. Upon arrival in Khuzhir we check in at a private guest house. Here we shall have dinner of home made Siberian cuisine prepared by the hostess and followed by the Certificate Award to each participant.
Overnight.

Day 6
After breakfast we drive by the 4-WD vehicles to the Khoboy Cape (meaning Fang), the northernmost point of the Olkhon Island, which rocky shape reminds of a female’s head with breast. So, it bears the name of the Virgin rock.
Here we will be offered to sprinkle some vodka and tie colorful ribbons in respect to Bourhan, the native god.
Olkhon is the biggest island on Lake Baikal. It stretches for 72 km from the North to the South and separates the strait which is called Maloye More or The Small Sea. The Island’s comparatively small territory is a combination of taiga, steppe and even a small desert. Its flora and fauna are unusual too. It is believed Olkhon is the home of many tribes and peoples of Central Asia such as huns, turks, and kurykans. One of the legends says “the conqueror of the Universe” Chinggis Khan is buried here.
Dinner and overnight at the guest house.

Olkhon Island. Mid-way on the northern shore of Baikal is an area considered to be the most sacred. It is here, about eight miles from the north shore that we find Olkhon, named by the Buryats for the forests which cover the island. Olkhon is the biggest island on Baikal extending more than 70 km. (60 miles) in length and up to 20 km. (15 miles) in width. Its terrain is varied with sweeping prairies, steep rocks, dry valleys overgrown with berry bushes and small, shallow bays with sandy beaches and warm water. The island's steep sides cut into the aquamarine sea-lake and its capes are like characters out of ancient Siberian folk-tales guarding the island's peace. The most beautiful of these capes, Burchan, bears the name of the Buryats' primary god. The bank closest to Burchan has a cave which cuts through the rock. The entrance is on the eastern side and the exit on the western side. Native people considered the cave a sacred place, a dwelling of shamans. The cave is, however, now inscribed with Buddhist prayers, remnants of seventeenth century arrival of Tibetan Lamaist Buddhism. The new religion partly absorbed the native shamanistic traditions and partially replaced them. The first words of one prayer read, "Ou, Burchan, Tingiri!", invoking the Buryat-Lamaist's god and heaven.

Day 7
Today it is the last day of our expedition. We get ourselves on the coach and leave for Irkutsk (320 km, 6 hours). En route we stop for lunch of the Buriat cuisine in a roadside cafeteria.
In Irkutsk we check in at a hotel (***). Dinner in one of the city restaurants (on your own).

Day 8
After breakfast we get ourselves on the coach for transfer to the local airport for departure to Moscow.
Have a good flight back home!

Notes

1. Each tour participant is required to have the following set of personal belongings: clothes to protect from wind and cold, comfortable pair of warm shoes, several pairs of socks, gloves, warm hat, sun glasses and tan cream.
2. In case of unfavorable weather (strong wind, storms) the tour operator resorts the right to alter the program, having notified the group members in advance, but offering a quality - and price-adequate service to that being omitted.
3. Should there be preferences in food or vegetarians in the group, we request to notify in advance in order to arrange an individual menu.


 

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