Okhlon Island is the largest island in Lake Baikal and after more than a month of driving our first few days of just doing nothing/relaxing.
This area has been inhabited for thousands of years by people who held shamanist beliefs and understood the area as spiritually significant. One theory that seeks to explain this is that the island traps an expanse of water that becomes warmer than the rest of the lake – an important point as the lake – being fed by glacial rivers, frozen for most of the time and the deepest, most heat consuming body of freshwater on the Earth – is bloody cold all year round.
The guidebooks say that western tourists rarely last more than a minute in the waters of the lake but can swim more comfortably here on the west coast of the island. I think that’s an exaggeration: we had watched Conny and Radka go in with their wetsuits but, apart from that, in a day spent on a well-populated beach by Shaman’s Rock, I didn’t see a foreigner last more than 20 seconds.