There are two ways to get to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal: quickly or safely. We got there quickly. After one night in Irkutsk we boarded a microbus outside our hostel and, after cramming 15 tourists plus the driver inside with luggage on the roof, began a mad race along city and country roads to the massive lake. Why we were in such a hurry, I have no idea. We already knew it would be a very long drive-approximately eight hours–but our driver was determined to do it quicker, even if that meant shaking his aging bus to pieces in the process.

Paved highway turned into long stretches of washboard, dirt road that threatened to rattle the mirrors off the vehicle as our driver kept the needle between 100-120 kph. Farmland turned to forest, which then turned to dry, rolling hills. We stopped once for a quick lunch and again so the driver could kick a cow out of the road. Then, about the time I realized the seat belt I’d been wearing easily wobbled out of its buckle, Lake Baikal finally appeared.Hushir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Travel, Backpacking, Russia, Trans Mongolian Railway, Irkutsk, Epiphany Cathedral, Church, Beach, Shaman Rock,Our driver had done it! Risked our lives and nearly destroyed his vehicle to shave a couple of hours off the drive on completely bald tires. All that so we could join the massive line of idle vehicles and Russian tourists baking under a shining layer of coconut oil, waiting for the ferries that would carry us to Olkhon Island. A wait that lasted a good two hours.Hushir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Travel, Backpacking, Russia, Trans Mongolian Railway, Irkutsk, Epiphany Cathedral, Church, Beach, Shaman Rock,On the other side we were suddenly back in the mad race, passing and being passed by other vehicles while weaving back and forth and kicking up plumes of dust on the wide dirt road. How relieved all on board were when the small tourist town of Khuzhir came into view. A lovely, remote spot bordered by sandy beaches and the waters of Lake Baikal on one side, with forested hills on the other. Hushir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Travel, Backpacking, Russia, Trans Mongolian Railway, Irkutsk, Epiphany Cathedral, Church, Beach, Shaman Rock, I was thrilled that, for at least a few days, we would have a break from the big cities we had frequented on the first stretch of this trip and reveled in the beauty that surrounded us. With a quaint, quiet log cabin room to ourselves, three delicious Russian meals a day served to us by the resident cook Olga and Oregon-like beaches just a few minutes walk from our front door, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Hushir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Travel, Backpacking, Russia, Trans Mongolian Railway, Irkutsk, Epiphany Cathedral, Church, Beach, Shaman Rock, Hours were passed laying on the beach, reading, writing and staring out across the water. Water that, despite being frigid, we managed to take one quick swim in. Happy upon our safe arrival I told Britnee, “This is like a holiday within our holiday.” Hushir, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Travel, Backpacking, Russia, Trans Mongolian Railway, Irkutsk, Epiphany Cathedral, Church, Beach, Shaman Rock,

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Mark is currently traveling for a year with his wife Britnee. Besides that stuff, (traveling and his wife), Mark's other likes include: mountain bikes he can’t afford, eerie movies starring Paul Dano, morning coffee--preferably brewed by someone else, and at least one song by Iggy Azalea.

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