Last weekend I went to Arshan, a Buryat village located at the foot of the Sayan Mountains, with some of the other American students. It is about 4 hours from Irkutsk by marshrutka (mini-bus).
Arshan is best known for its hot springs, but it also features several other sites which attract tourists, including waterfalls, the crater of an extinct volcano, a Buddhist temple, and many hiking trails.
We spent our first day at Arshan hiking in the area. We visited one of the waterfalls, and then we attempted to scale one of the nearby mountains. This was a difficult process, because it was pouring rain that day, and we were not on an actual hiking trail. Because of the rain, we were climbing up muddy slopes and wet rocks the whole way. We managed to make it within 10 feet of the summit, but then we were confronted with a nearly vertical rock face we couldn’t climb in the current conditions.
We ended up sliding most of the way down the mountain because it was so muddy. At some points we had to try to slow ourselves down by grabbing onto trees, but in some places the only things we could hold onto were short plants covered in barbs. I still have some of the needles in my hands.
When we reached the bottom we were completely covered in mud. As we walked back to the guesthouse we were staying in, everyone we passed started laughing at us. One man remarked that we looked like “dirty children.”
That night, we were completely exhausted. It was good to be able to take advantage of the banya (bath house) at the guesthouse.
I will talk about our Sunday in Arshan in my next post.