Whispers of the shaman - Get Lost
A first person travel piece for Get Lost about Shamanism on Olkhon Island, which floats on Lake Baikal in Siberia. The island has a curious, forgotten atmosphere which is the result of both its isolation and the strange myths which surround it. Get a sense of it from the excerpts below. Photographs by Billy Bolton.
'It's on the sort of night which used to be called a pea-souper, when the fog is as thick as the head on a Guinness and the air inside feels as damp as it does out, that we meet our first shaman.'
'On our first night, Khuzir feels like a ghost town. Clouds of dust blow through the streets, occasionally parting to reveal dark haired, four legged creatures creeping stealthily from shadow to shadow. We have to remind ourselves that Olkhon is one of the few places in Siberia without any wolves.'
'The people are mostly Buryat, a sub section of the northern Mongols, who have suffered persecution from Russia, China and Mongolia. Victims who'd been robbed of their homes fled to Olkhon, and it's their high cheek boned descendants we see today, fishing the Great Lake and tending the place that gave them protection.'
'Baikal's 27 islands are home to so many endemic creatures they have been nicknamed the Galapagos of Russia. Olkhon voles scuttle over the Pribaikal steppe, Golomyanka fish whose bodies are around 35% oil, gleam below the ice and golden zharky flowers blow in the breeze.'
'Half way through the day he stops on a little beach to cook us omul fish stew over an open fire. Omul is Baikal's biggest export, and its flaky white flesh matches perfectly with dill and fluffy boiled potatoes. As we sip tea strong enough for an Olkhon vole to scurry across, he points out a herd of wild horses led by a grey stallion on their way to the shore to drink.