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Cleaning Baikal, then enjoying the gleaming nature of its surrounding mountains

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 June 2016

Adventurers from Irkutsk's A1team spruce up the giant lake's shoreline, before showcasing its stunning scenery - and ancient rock paintings.

This year the A1team of extreme winter snowmobilers took time out to clean the coastline. Pictures here and below: Ilya Zyulkov

Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, and its vast shimmering expanse  - containing 20% of all the unfrozen freshwater on the planet - still boasts, despite regular and worrying  pollution scares, some of the cleanest water anywhere. 

Yet it is a constant fight to protect from human ravages this natural treasure and its magical girdle of steep, forested peaks and ridges which rise from its shores.

Each year The Siberian Times has highlighted the important work of Russian volunteers in protecting this national jewel by removing untold tonnes of rubbish ahead of the summer tourism season.

Ilya Zyulkov

'My view is that real tourism is not only visiting beautiful places, but also being responsible for their purity and sustainability,' said Ilya Zyulkov.

This year the A1team of extreme winter snowmobilers took time out to clean the coastline before taking a trip high above the lake on their mud-ready, mountain-conquering Can-Am Maverick XMRs to indulge in Baikal's nature now that the snow has (almost) gone. 

'My view is that real tourism is not only visiting beautiful places, but also being responsible for their purity and sustainability,' said Irkutsk businessman and adventurer Ilya Zyulkov, creator and coordinator of the group. 

On a recent Saturday 'we decided to support the idea of internet society #live_on_Baikal and a former mayor of Irkutsk, Viktor Kondrashov, to clean the shore of Lake Baikal between Murino and Novosnezhnaya settlements.

'Along with #live_on_Baikal society, our A1team of mountain snowmobile riders collected two big trucks of garbage. 

Gathering garbage


Gathering garbage


Garbage truck


Cleaned shore

'We decided to support the idea of internet society #live_on_Baikal and a former mayor of Irkutsk, Viktor Kondrashov, to clean the shore of Lake Baikal between Murino and Novosnezhnaya settlements.' 

'Being there, we realised that this area needed cleaning; moreover, we understood that it is in our hands to keep the lake clean and preserve its nature for future generations.

'From now on, this shore of Lake Baikal will be more pleasant for both the local dwellers and visitors. 

'While the snowmobile riders from our A1team, who enjoy riding on the snowy slopes of the Khamar-Daban mountain chain near this shore in winter, will in future come here with greater joy and pride after contributing to the preservation of this unique place.'

During daylight hours they gathered some 20 tons of debris. 'It was non-organic garbage, left by tourists - plastic bottles, plastic bags, cans,' said Ilya. 

'Totally there were around 150 people, of different ages, even children. Altogether gathered the garbage along a stretch of  coast line some 7 kilometres long. We collected enough to fill 5 dump trucks, which is around 20 tons.' 

After the rubbish collection, time to play. 'Having worked very hard on Saturday collecting piles of garbage, we decided to have a good rest on Sunday by taking a small trip to the mountains. 

Snow in mountains


Downhill


Snow in mountains

'The snow had not melted yet and like children, we rode on it on everything we could find.'

'The trip turned out just the way we like it, with some adventures and extreme moments alone the way. This Sunday again we have visited the mecca for snowmobile riders - Mount Mamai. Unlike our usual winter trips, when we ride up the valley with the speed of the wind, this summer adventure became a challenge for us. 

'With a speed of a turtle, we rode over bogs, river fords, large rocks and fallen trees - over all those things that are safely hidden under the snow in winter. Making our way towards still snowy tops of Mount Mamai, we sank a motorbike in a mountain river.'

Ilya, 39, who runs his own chain of 50 stores called Lyubimye Deti (Beloved Kids), said: 'This trip was my first to Mount Mamai in summer.  I'd never expected this place to be beautiful and diverse at different times of the year. 

'When we went it was still only early spring here: the young fern shoots unrolling under the freshly melted snow, wild garlic sprouting, flowers in blossom and the air smelling of melting water and fir trees.

Rock art


Sagan- Zaba


Sagan- Zaba

Sagan - Zaba petroglyphs - just above the water line of Baikal - remind that man has lived here and enjoyed this wonderland for thousands of years.

'The snow had not melted yet and like children, we rode on it on everything we could find. Brave Vera made herself a snowboard out of a piece of plastic and was freeriding on it.

'Despite all the challenging moments - and maybe because them - we have greatly enjoyed the trip and will go back to Mount Mamai not only in winter, but in summer too.'

Earlier, on another summer trip, the group - at  Sagan - Zaba in the Baikal Olkhon gate area - came across ancient rock engravings. These petroglyphs - just above the water line of Baikal - remind that man has lived here and enjoyed this wonderland for thousands of years, and like the artists of these pre-historic rock art, we are only its temporary custodians .

'The engravings were made in different periods and relate to the Bronze and late Iron Age (2,000 to 1,000 years BC),' said Ilya. 'So the most ancient figure is about 4,000 years old. 

Forest river


Hard way


Hard way


Flowers

'Despite all the challenging moments - and maybe because them - we have greatly enjoyed the trip and will go back to Mount Mamai not only in winter, but in summer too.'

'The petroglyphs at Sagan-Zaba became known in 1881 thanks to research by tsarist archeologist and ethnographer Nikolai Agapitov. Subsequently, they have been studied by numerous archaeological expeditions, including international ones. The rock art of Sagan-Zaba are a composition of figures of people, animals and birds.'

When Irkutsk-based Agapitov, a member of East-Siberian Branch of Russian Geographical Society, found the images, there were 60 in number: 30 figures of people, 17 images of animals and 13 birds. They covered an area of rock some 7 metres by 5 metres. 

With time, some have vanished, washed away by the waves in the past century, despite having survived for thousands of years beforehand. Others were destroyed by people, for example Orthodox monks who were fighting against shamanism. Still more were lost to modern-day vandals. 

Comments (3)

... and who will watch the "permanent webcam " ??
reader, Russia
06/08/2017 06:23
0
0
I agree with Enrique, the petroglyphs are a rare glimpse into our own history we need to carefully preserve. Thank you as well to everyone who understands that we (humans) are the ones who are "temporary" and we have to take our responsibility to be "custodians" very seriously. Thank you to everyone taking ownership of taking care of Lake Baikal and the surrounding entire area. I get very upset when people litter anywhere in the world but I will spare everyone my further comments on that topic.........for now anyway........:-).
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
23/06/2016 20:38
11
0
Those petroglyphs have to be protected and preserved because there are many tourists (above all children and young) who find it funny to destroy them. Perhaps a permanent webcam in the area would be enough.
Enrique, Spain
23/06/2016 17:57
13
0
1

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