The story begins something like this:
Late in the afternoon on an early summer Tuesday, 28 people and two vodka sedated cats in a black bag departed Ulan Ude on a navy blue mini-bus bound for Lake Baikal. I was one of them.
The journey was filled with conjecture, including the one above about the means of sedation for the very quiet felines sitting two rows ahead of us. By the time my Canadian companions and I hoisted ourselves out of our seats onto the sandy roads of a town named Anhanluke, Vanessa and I had filled in the very large blanks about our traveling companions, including names.
Upon arrival, we settled into our two rooms and played a game of Boggle before being called to our first of six meals in the establishment’s dining room. Our table was one of five in the space, three of which were occupied by our fellow guests who eventually became vacation friends: a family of four (young teen daughter and pre-school son), a grandmother and young teen grandson, and a mother with her teenaged daughter.
The sun was still lightening the sky when we crawled into our beds for the night. While it had been a somewhat rainy day of travel, the skies cleared to brilliant blue for our full day in Anhaluke.
Wednesday morning’s breakfast at 10 AM (we were on vacation, as were all the other guests, and I’m thrilled that a place “gets” that vacation breakfast should be at a reasonable hour) was followed by our first venture to the lake. We had directions of sorts, but took a wrong turn into a camp facility and ended up making our own path to the lake over a rather high enough fence. We spent the next few hours picking up stones and soaking up sunshine. It was glorious.
Lunch at 2 pm brought us back to the “resort.” The meal was delicious (my opinion) and generously portioned. That, combined with the sun and fresh air moved us all to afternoon naps. And walks about town and back to the lake for some of us. I wasn’t keeping track, really. I can’t remember if it was before or after supper when we took Filbert and Spa Lady Duck to the lake — before I think.
Supper at 7 was lighter and good.
We were back in our room getting ready for a game of Boggle when we were invited to “come see the fish.” It was around 8:30. By the time we got back to the room to go to bed around 11:00, we’d had quite a delightful time watching a man prepare and cook fish over the open fire and then sharing those delicious omul with our fellow guests. This was the evening when polite nods at meal times transformed into conversation and story.
Grey skies returned for Thursday’s unscheduled rest. Mark ran as he is apt to do with regularity. Between breakfast and lunch, Vanessa and I took a trip back to the lake for a few last photos. I also had to return some rocks I’d collected. Some, not all. The lake was still like glass and that inspired a bit of stone skipping.
Another mini-bus picked us up at the convenience store across from the resort as scheduled around 4 pm and we traveled back to Ulan Ude. Our journey was frequently slowed, even to a stop on occasion, by cows in the road as we moved through villages and countryside. We got off the bus at the Square in the center of town just as the rush-hour commute was beginning. Since it would be a challenge to catch a van with 4 seats at this hour, we headed over to the Silk Road for a snack before heading back to the apartment.
It had been a delightful, relaxing mini-vacation within a vacation.
I’ve posted a “video” of the time at Lake Baikal on Facebook. WordPress does not support that video format so I can only provide a link. If you have a Facebook account and are either friends with me or friends with someone with whom I’m friends, you’ll be able to view it.