Depths of Baikal


The zig-zagging light flashing in the periphery of my right eye announces the arrival of an atypical migraine. I don’t know what has caused it, but relaxation always seems to help, or at least it cannot hurt, I reason, so I think of a place where my mind can rest at ease. With the power to transport my thoughts from the present unease to a place and time that will bring me stillness, I start to see the approach of Olkhon Island, as the ferry from Irkutsk charters the deep waters of Lake Baikal. It is summer, so the great lake is glimmering emerald and turquoise hues- an iridescent wonder with an abundance of omul teeming beneath its surface. The green pastures jutting out to meet the lake seem to be arms outstretched, embracing all who arrive. What struck me then, and now, as I am returning there, is the sense of vastness on the sparsely populated island. On the bumpy ride in a Soviet-era mini bus from the ferry stop to Nikita’s Homestead, we cut through stretches of empty land, covered in the kind of grass that normally grows on the “other side”. Lazy cows linger, occasionally looking up at the new comers to their island, but not for long before bowing in reverence to their good fortune. Brightly painted houses- pinks, blues, greens are spaced close enough to be a community, but far enough for a sense of solitude and peace I imagine the occupants feel when they retire within their coloured walls. Locals walk without a sense of urgency and share a ready smile. Before checking in at Nikita’s Homestead, I drop my heavy rucksack and take seat at the base of a tree, fashioned from a group of rocks leaning up against its trunk, a frequented vantage point of many a local and a traveller, I figure, from the well-worn path that ends there. The tree’s branches, one wrapped in swatches of shiny coloured cloth, extend beyond the cliff face that is a few metres from my feet. The fabric offerings wave in the wind, carrying the prayers and hopes of countless visitors, perhaps in salute to Shaman Rock, the mystical site rising up from the lake just beyond the cliff face where I sit. I lose track of time but notice the dimming of the bright light in my right eye, it’s zig-zagging oscillating less and less until smoothing to a stop. My vision and sense of peace has been restored, re-calibrated to Olkhon Island time.


Prompt from Writing 101, Day 2 A Room with a View. Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now? Today’s Twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

5 thoughts on “Depths of Baikal

  1. A wonderfully clear ‘painting’ with words! I could actually visualize the colourful homes you described. A stunning photograph as well. It seems like a place I would enjoy visiting

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