Russian time isn’t like normal people time. Breakfast was at 10am (although everyone struggled to be up and awake for that). But while we snacked on porridge, eggs and bread, Dimitri remained absent. Eventually appeared around 10.30, and told us the bad news. Still not enough snow for the dog sledding that came with this tour (NOOO!!!!), but the place that offered it was going to provide a substitute in horse riding and some blacksmithing. Not quite the same, but at least we could still see the huskies.
Sadly at breakfast, I had a camera malfunction – the lens refused to go back inside and is stuck. I tried recharging it and giving it a bit of a bash against the table, and it starts to work again. Unfortunately, the problem repeated itself about 2 hours later – think the temperature changes have fried it for good. So now I have no actual camera and have to lug my video camera around instead.
We broke into groups, and mine was doing the horse riding first. Most of us had never ridden a horse before, so the lesson was pretty basic. Since this was the moment my camera went kaput, I ended up mounting last – a pretty black beauty called Saramat.
Horses took us along a valley road – I can see why people enjoy horse riding, even though it was a simple walk along (and just a teeny tiny bit terrifying when the ponies had to walk over ice that may or may not crack under them). It wasn’t a great substitute for huskies, but it was fun to do.
The blacksmithing however, was great fun. It was to make a necklace with a Scandinavian rune of your choice. I ended up choosing the World Tree rune (kind of looks like a birds foot) which I think means protection from the World Tree as I used to have a necklace with that very rune. That was great fun – burn metal at stupid temperatures, smash some lines with a hammer and then polish it with a sharp brush. Did accidentally hit the guys hand once though.
Once everyone had their trinkets of awesome, we had some time to see our primary goal. Huskies!
They weren’t the kind I was expecting – much smaller and skinnier. But really cute, and quite a few were really friendly. It was difficult to tell which ones were okay to approach – we generally went on ‘who has a tail that’s wagging’ and ‘isn’t barking at us’. Unfortunately did get too close to an overly affectionate one that pretty much jumped all over me and covered my jacket in dirt and general dog smell that got pretty strong over time.
Dimitri recommended going to the Bazaar for barbeque and souvineer shopping, so we headed there next. The bazaar had some really nice things, I fell in love with some beautiful stone cut figures made from a purple stone harvested from Lake Baikal. Unfortunately, the cheapest one was 2000 rubles minimum (about 40 pounds), and even haggling I knew I’d never get it down to a price I could realisitically afford. Kept doing some window shopping, and accepted I couldn’t get any version of this stone at this stage in the holiday just due to the price.
Instead, I ended up looking at some cheaper stone cuttings, and got a little kitty made from Moonstone. Cost me (with haggling) about 9 pounds, which was still quite a bit, but within my budget enough that I didn’t feel awful about spending it. Joined the rest of the group in the small cafe to order up the barbeque (they cook it outside and bring it in) – where I not only got to enjoy pork barbeque, but also a decent dipping sauce for the first time in forever. Unfortunately also had some raw onions that I overindulged in, and had to fight over some stomach issues for the next half hour.
When we finally got back, nobody was in the mood to go out again, and we ended up abusing the hell out of the chalet’s WiFi to listen to songs, before somebody brought up card games for the nth time this trip. But for the first time, we actually decided to go through with it.
The only cards on hand were a deck festooned with a Korean girl band, but they were shuffled, and I pilfered 7 spoons from the kitchen so we could begin a game of Spoons. About half had played before while the other half were brand new, so there were a few rule clarifications to start with, but the game took up speed pretty quickly. Someone became a master of the ‘falsie’ grab, while another was a champion at getting the spoon – four times in a row. Took about an hour before the game finally came to a head and had one losing ‘Spoon’ (got away as a SPO).
Tomorrow’s our last day at the Lake, and Dimitri’s promised to take us for a walk before we head into Irkutsk for a ‘business lunch’.