After Yarky and the Baikal breezes there, Severbaykal’sk, on a massive terrace up from the Lake’s cooling shores, was in a mini heat and humidity wave. Well at least it felt that to me as I searched for dodgy eateries in its towering apartment block labyrinth. Back at Baikal Trail Hostel, Tora and Kjersti, my new friends from Norway,and probably the first tourists/backpackers I’d seen since I left Moscow. They had just done the Baikalskoe shore line hike (approximately 20kms), which I hoped to do in the next couple of days (I’d decided to head down to the village and stay there with a family that Baikal Trail Hostel manager Yervgeny and his daughters had organised for me), and their sunburnt arms and faces was evidence. The girls were up for a beer down at Severobaykal’sk’s lake side beach and so we headed down there. We came across some gypsy-like Russian’s making themselves at home on the shoreline in their makeshift wooden summer houses, complete with a banya shack. One guy caught my eye with his Cossack hat and full dark beard – I haven’t seen too may beards a all in Russia. One of the tall dark women ran a little kiosk in a mock-gypsy wagon and the she opened it to serve our beer order. She even put the second round of originally warm cans of Baltic beer in a bucket of cool lake water for us and returned to galloping her horse bare-back up the sand behind us as we sat on a bleached driftwood log looking out at the indistinguishable sky-water horizon, as the blue-grey of the haze blended in so well with the distant water horizon. Amazing light and presence this enormous lake gave off,
We set off for town again, with the remains of our second beers in hands, still looking for shashlyk if at all possible. Walking past the markets and kiosks (Soviet kiosks are prefabricated hexagon-like structures that can house a small shop in them) we happened upon a party in full swing. It was past midnight and with the nod of approval from Tora and Kjersti we walked in. And before we knew it the guys who spoke the best English in the house, confident Azamat and his old school mate Artyom, were at our sides instructing the young dark eyed waitress behind the counter what we’d like.
The party was in 20 year old Azamat’s honour. He’d just completed his mandatory one year in the Russian army learning to drive tanks and fire artillery over 20km horizontal distance. So keen was he to talk English with us, that his mother became a little jealous I think, as she kept on coming over to drag him away back to his family and friends.Before too long we were all up dancing. In my case, happy to munch on the food that continued to come our way from the revelers, I was coaxed / led out onto the tiny packed-dance floor by a short pale, albino-like, woman. Turned out she was a pediatrician.
Azamat and Artyon served as a door-to-door escorts for us as they walked us home. There was some confusion outside our Hostel, when, upon asking the people seated outside the huge apartment block to take a photo of us, it turned out that they themselves were drunk and found it hard to handle the camera.
All of Azamat’s famly were from Kyrgystan. He’d lived in Severobaykal’sk since he was one and said that he was embarrassed to say he didn’t speak Kyrgyz.
PS: I was to catch up again with him after Baikalskoe.