Nikita Bencharov, according to my guidebook and some of the young people who work here, is almost singlehandedly responsible for making Olkhon Island accessible to visitors. He still lives within the compound but wasn’t here during my visit.
The compound is a series of individual buildings: cabins, a dining room, reception, staff quarters and the bistro.
My cabin and notice the water supply over the sink. The space here is spartan. All the workers speak multiple languages…Russian, of course, but also English, French and Chinese. Most of the staff seem to be from Irkutsk.
They also have gardens and greenhouses to grow their own vegetables.
The compound and all the private homes around it have fencing. Not so much for the privacy but to keep the cattle out.
I watched one morning as a staffer chased two cows out of the compound.
They also had unique locks for all the cabins. You weren’t going to walk off with this in your pocket.
Roman, the barista at the coffee shop, spoke great English. He was also an exceptional photographer. He also told me that tourists come here both summer and winter. They come for the hiking in the summer and they ice skate on the lake in the winter. The lake is as smooth as glass and he showed me a video of him ice skating shot from a car driving beside him. The entire lake freezes to a depth of about 10 feet and people drive to Olkhon Island across the lake. They even have lanes marked off, he says. The lake is about 400 miles long and 30 – 50 miles wide.
It was here in the bistro that I met the only other American I’ve met on this trip. His name is Tabor and he’s from Canon City, Colorado. This is the second summer he’s worked here.
I’m off to my last stop in Russia….Ulan Ude. We’ll dip south from Irkutsk to go around the southern tip of Lake Baikal and cruise into Ulan Ude.
More to come!