Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia – indeed it’s 20% of the world’s surface freshwater. At a depth that reaches a mile in parts, the world’s oldest lake has a length the same as SH1 between Auckland and Wellington.
As we descended 500m to lakeside from the hills the air temperature dropped 7 degrees C. That’s right it got colder not warmer as you’d expect. That gives you an idea of how this vast body of water affects its surroundings. And being the world’s largest lake by volume, it is home to an incredible number of endemic species including its own seal – the Nerpa – the only species that lives exclusively in freshwater.
We’ve arrived at the height of summer so the lake is host to thousands of Siberians here to get their summer swims in. BBQs, beers, and boats signal a frenzy of short summer outdoors activity. After a day’s R&R lakeside we push on towards the Mongolian border, and it’s a day of solid rain which we’ve read is the prelude to a big heatwave that will hit as we cross the border, making Mongolia a hotter destination than normal for us.
But hey – we have the Silk Way Rally (think the Paris-Dakar) that we encountered in Irkutsk that we’ll be following for a few days, and the Mongolia’s big annual festival – the Narran – all happening while we’re in the land of Genghis. So what’s a little heat?