Leaving Irkutsk and driving towards Lake Baikal, the landscape has changed dramatically, becoming much less forested and more open grassland or steppes – a vision of Mongolia and reminding me of central Turkey.
We pull off the road via a Shamanist shrine cum picnic spot and park up on the edge of a vast meadow. Radka’s in the mood for mushroom hunting – the tasty white ones are everywhere around – and before long we’re quite a distance from the trucks and closer to a herd of wild horses who seem to be edging towards us.
We have a quick discussion – are wild horses dangerous? Do they attack? Maybe they have just spotted Vaga and, identifying a possible predator, have moved the herd closer to ward her off. We all look at Vaga but she’s sniffing at a clump of grass pretending nothing’s happening. Anyway, we’ve filled our pockets with mushrooms so we edge slowly back home…
But the discussion about these wild horses continues – are they truly wild or are they rounded up in winter? How else would they survive the freezing conditions and the long, dark nights? They just seem like normal horses and unlike, say, a yak, which we understand to be a woolly cow.