It has been a month since our great Russian-Mongolian adventure came to an end. I have been overly optimistic in telling myself to keep up with the travelling bug and give life to my memories. Weeks have gone by, work happened with its usual business and endless list of tasks and to dos and projects, and my writing muse seems to have given up on me for a while.
With every noble intention in mind, I am sitting outside in the beautiful morning sun at a neighbourhood sidewalk café keen on breaking the spell and getting a new post out today. Wish me luck! So far I have managed to be a diligent student and catch up on my Italian studies. Totally not a sign of procrastination.
We are back in Bugul’deyka. We nevery actually left, still there for the last day. Remember our kind host Volodya. His mission of the day is to make our last day in the shores of Lake Baikal as memorable as possible. That includes creating ample opportunities for me to enjoy beautiful wild flower fields and for Andreas to take one last long ride in his oh-so-beloved UAZ dream car. A drive to the nearby taiga forest seems to be a perfect qualifier for both wishes.
The UAZ rolls quietly on the dusty path making every small bump and unevenness of the surface count. It is all part of the countryside charm. So buckle up. My wish of pretty wildflower encounters doesn’t make itself wait for long. Just an hour on the bumpy ride, the path turns into an enchanted forest covered in a carpet of purple and yellow blooms. I have always had a thing for pretty flowers. Perhaps doing something about that gardening dream of mine one day wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Having grown up with a field of red tulips and blooming trees of apricots, peaches and cherries in the backyard probably has something to do with my enchantment of flowers.
Enough about that. Taiga is calling. We are headed towards the middle of nowhere, where Volodya claims we will find a village with traditional wooden houses. As the fields of flowers slowly get swapped with even bumpier roads, the minutes slowly passing by seem endless. Volodya never disappoints, so we gotta trust that the village will appear out of nowhere anytime now.
An hour or so passes by. I manage to get comfortable in the dream car and doze off into the world of dreams amidst the bumpy, dusty drive. Someone (no need to call names) always gets amazed at my ability to fall asleep in the car on the most peculiar of roads and yet manage to get wide awake at home from the slightest noise.
What greets us is a mishmash of beautiful wooden houses, some looking abandoned and in desperate need of repair standing side by side with more beautiful neighbours showing clear signs of modernity done in the not so recent past. In whatever state of repair the houses find themselves, there is one thing that still makes them look charming. The windows – with their unique look and feel on each of the houses. It feels like you have entered an enchanted village and forest fairies will burst open the windows any minute now and come flying out.
There is not much sign left in the village that once housed close to a hundred inhabitants. Many have left for the city in the search of a better life. In the end of the village you come across what once used to be the Soviet cultural centre and is today totally devoid of humans and populated by a flock of goats. Across the street from the goat gathering center you will find a prominent looking house, one of the few that has been repaired recently and shows signs of inhabitance. It belongs to the mayor of the village. He and his buddies are lounged out in the front of the house chatting away with no care in the world. Encountering a group of foreigners, the mayor is quick to jump into conversation, reminiscing about the good, old Soviet times and how glorious the life was back then.
As the village tour comes to an end, we head back home to Bugul’deyka. Volodya needs to make provisions for the last supper – BBQ on the shore of Lake Baikal. He tried to convince me to make an Armenian style BBQ but due to lack of necessary ingredients quickly dropped the idea and turned to the Buryat traditional style.
The waters of Baikal are very tranquil today. The sun is painting the lake in burning red. As we wait for the chicken to grill, it is easy to get mesmerised by the view and draw into your own world of thoughts and dreams. The world seems so peaceful right at this moment.
Baikal has been an absolute charm, largely due to our kindest host. As the evening draws closer, Andreas heads off for one last river swim. Tomorrow is a new day and we will bid goodbye to Volodya in the hope of returning one day.
Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan