Just returned from two week adventure (plus travel time) to Mongolia and Siberia. Still jet-lagged. Here are a few photos of the extraordinary beauty, wildness, and magnificence of this vast heartland that we Americans tend to associate with “gulag”!
As in, “You’re going to Siberia?!? But why?”
One Siberian afternoon we (ten gringos, three to five Mongolian guides, depending on the day) took a day trip from Ulan Ude to an old rutted dirt road, traveled some bumpy miles on it to the source of a sacred spring, then visited the site where Bronze Age grave sites have been discovered, and finally, climbed to the ridge where Genghis Khan is said to have laid in wait to ambush the man who had stolen his wife years before. Afterwards, heading up a tiny canyon on that same road, and following an enormous lunch cooked by our Mongolian guides, we started climbing to the site of an ancient portal. For some reason, I was impulsed to go further, and started up the trail. One of the guides followed me, then cut in front of me, and led me higher and higher and higher to the saddle of that ridge and beyond, up into the gigantic rocks. That is how, thanks to my guide, who is also a mountain climber, I turned out to be the only one of our group to reach the highest and most sacred portal. Much more on that story later. Meanwhile, here are two views of the southern Siberian steppe; the first from the ridge where Genghis Khan laid in wait, and second, from the journey higher into in the rocky hills of that powerful place.
Earlier, we had camped for two nights on the shore of Lake Baikal, the source of one/fifth of the world’s fresh water (we drank from it without filters). Sacred to the shamanic culture of that region, Baikal is the world’s deepest lake (over one mile to the bottom); 390 miles in length and fed by 330 rivers, it exits via just one river to the Arctic Circle.
One of the magnificent rivers that feeds Lake Baikal:
Next, from the same location, another view of that river, this one with ribbons, attached by indigenous peoples in gratitude to sacred sites.
A few photos of Lake Baikal, so clear and pure you can see to the bottom close to shore.
We had planned to reach the camp site by hiking in. But the path was blocked. So we took a boat instead. Another long story. Here’s me, all decked out to board the boat. Over my shoulder, mesh bag with camping plate, cup and spoon, which, BTW, I never used, because it turned out that gear was supplied! So I stuffed the bag and its contents back in my overstuffed pack afterwards and carried it all the way through the trip, until the final night, when in a fit of pique, I unloaded it in the room of our hostel next to the Ulan Bator airport.
Held by my right arm, what looks like a pillow in a pillow case is actually my sleeping bag. I had searched frantically for its stuff sack on the day before the trip, and even tried, to no avail, to buy a new stuff sack —along with searching frantically to buy an appropriate (metal) camping dinner set (and yes, found only plastic). Until I told each one otherwise, everybody on the trip assumed I was carrying my pillow! My “pillow” ended up as “the mascot” for the entire trip.
So that’s one of the silly little human stories that accompanied this grand trip to remember our communion with Mother Nature as guided by beautiful, gentle, kind indigenous tribal peoples who live with Her inside them always.