Severo-Baykalsky District, International
I’m walking the five kilometres from Nizhneangarsk (moat northern town on Lake’s shores) along a stretch of flat land toward a spit that marks the northern edge of Lake Baikal. With only a couple of narrow inlets the spit, aka Yarki Island, is thin strip of sand and low dunes only tens of metres wide and covered in patches by small bushes, which protects the Verkhnyaya Angara river delta and system of lagoons and marshes from the storm surges that sweep north occasionally from the south along Baikal’s length.
Beside me in the marshes a stilt is calling chip chip chip repeatedly trying to lure me I suspect away from its nest in the marshes. It doesn’t stop and I’m impressed by its efforts. The broad flat comes to an end and I look across the narrow inlet to Yarki Island where fishermen ply the fresh waters in dinghies. If I want to walk to Yarki Island I now realise that I’ll have to swim or ask for a row across from one of the fishermen on the waters. I decide to hang out where I am. The view to the mountain ranges across the delta’s lagoon is expansive and awesome. The rain that left Severobaikalsk streets awash like rivers this morning has retreated into the mountains where grey rain clouds hover and shroud whole valleys and spur lines. The BAM line runs at their base. The mountains are covered in a mosaic of dark green pine-dominated taiga and a lighter green deciduous-dominated taiga. Occasionally the steep sides that plunge into Baikal are cut by visible ‘alley ways’, where creeks rush down.
Walking back to town to catch the marshrutka back to Severobaikalsk I wade across the marshes toward some small lagoons and find that I’m treading through a mat of grasses and mosses that soon give way under my weight and the brown organic water starts to rise over my boots. I stop at this point. There are some brilliant purple flowers nearby rising from reed-like structures. I take their photograph framed by the dark misty mountains behind. As I’m climbing out of the soggy mats and walk up the rise to the drier land all manner of strange insects erupt from the grass and herbs at my feet. Emerald green ones and flies with speckled red and yellow head and eye parts.
New fishermen arrive towing the boats along the corrugated gravel road to the spit. It’s starting to clear and the sun comes out and burns off the misty remnants of this morning’s storm from the mountain cradles. New bigger cumulus clouds plume up from the north and move south to ply the north eastern mountain range of Lake Baikal.
I approach a fisherman and without a common language we just look at each mainly. He seems bewildered that I am her alone. A common reaction I get.
My binoculared eyes scan through the haze and cloud following the eastern range to a point where I can no longer discern the difference between cloud, lake, land and sky. They become one. On the western side looking south of Nizhneangarsk tucked under the steep foothills above the BAM line and the lake shore I run my binoculars toward where Severobaikalsk would be. Suddenly I catch sight through a break in the clouds a cone shaped peak further south. I assume this to be Mount Chersky (2588masl), south of Baikalskoe, the tallest peak in the Western Baikalsk Range. Soon it’s gone from view, enshrouded in haze and cloud. My eye then runs out into the middle. To where just a hazey blue grey line runs above the watery horizon. From where I am, the northern most point on the lake, it’s over 600km to the southern edge, over waters making it the deepest freshwater lake on the planet. Fishing boats float in the shimmering horizon, neither on water nor in the sky.
I watch the cumulus change and grow on the north and northeast horizons. An anvil head has developed. It’s 5pm.
The sun is bright and strong now but the cool southerly off Baikal chills my head despite the sun on it and I’m not surprised. It’s coming across such an expanse of cold water. But people swim. They say Baikal has warmer water in the north.
This is a favoured beach side spot for locals. Not that there is much of a beach. Black hooded gulls dive for fish. And locals set up tents and picnic merrily. A beach goer hails me over. But I must away as he confirms that the last marshrutka leaves soon and I’ve some grokked to cover.
Pacing it back my eye spots a small black wasp doing furtive patrol around a spider it’s just paralysed with its sting. The little stalker spider is motionless. It’s fate will be to stay alive while the wasp drags it somewhere safe and bores a hole on it to lay its eggs, which will hatch and the baby wasps will eat the still fresh spider.
The afternoon sun breaks free of all cloud and back in Severobaikalsk, away from the lake’a wind it’s really hot and humid.