The day after or quad-biking shenanigans, our itinerary promised a 5-hour hike near Lake Baikal. Fuelled with Russian porridge and dressed to withstand both the weather and the attacks of ticks (it was the height of their active season) we awaited the arrival of our guide.
Dimitri, part-time personal trainer, part-time tourist guide, spoke only basic English so most attempts at conversation on either side ended in a shrug and a smile.
The weather was fine and we started the trek by heading high into the hills that flank the lake. Lack of vocabulary had not dulled Dimitri’s comic timing. We passed a hat on the ground in the forest and, without missing a beat, Dimitri half turned, said “Eaten by bear” in a matter-of-fact tone and kept walking.
After an hour and a half of brisk walk past crocuses, bluebells and innumerable silver birches, we arrived at a small, secluded bay and Dimitri set up a small primus stove to prepare lunch.
We feasted on mash potato, salami, egg and tomato before beginning our homeward trip.
Showered and rested after our hike, we caught up with our neighbour, Dan, who confessed to hankering after a good beef stroganoff. He had been advised by his guide that it was such a common dish that almost every restaurant would offer it. Two miles of hangry (anger due to being hungry) exploration and six restaurants sans Stroganoff later and we were beginning to suspect we were the butts of an elaborate joke!
We eventually triumphed on our quest and found our dish, amusingly, in a Chinese-run restaurant.