One of our first excursions this summer was to Tunnaicha Lake, the biggest lake on Sakhalin island. We thought it would be quite difficult, but it ended up being a lot easier than it seemed.
This summer has been quite rainy and having a rare sunny day, we decided on a whim that we should go somewhere. We stopped by our local shop, “Anna,” to buy some supplies and also pyanse (пянсе), local buns which look a lot like Chinese baos. While other regions in Far East Russia have something similar, Sakhalin pyanse are based off of a Korean food called phyonsu or wangmandu. The pyanses here can be filled with anything from cabbage to kimchi, truly reflecting the local flavors of Sakhalin.
We got on the bus to Ohotskoye (#174, leaves 3 times/day, 65 rub/person) and thought that we would be the only people going to the lake. After asking the bus driver for directions, it turned out most of the people on the bus were headed the same way we were, so there wasn’t much to be afraid of. On the bus, we passed by lots of meadows and thick forest, which struck me as strange: how could such thick forest allow for such wide overgrown meadows? If it was old farmland or just wild, we’ll never know.
About three-quarters of the way into the ride, the forest began to clear and we started to see part of the lake on the right side of the bus. Seeing how beautiful and also how large the lake was made me more excited for the journey ahead. But soon, an even more stunning view appeared; on the left side of the bus, the forest cleared once again to open up to the Ohotsk Sea. Having both sea and lake on both sides was magnificent.
We got off the bus at the last stop, right across from the sea. An elderly couple who were also headed for the lake told us to follow them, so we did and we went down the highway a few hundred meters and took a road to the right. We were concerned at first because the road didn’t show up on Google Maps, but after walking a few more kilometers we reached a pristine stretch of beach. Just like any beach day, we spent a few hours sunbathing and relaxing, soaking in our first real rays since arriving in Sakhalin.
Sakhalin is also known as the land of warm lakes because all the rain in the spring and summer causes hundreds of lakes to form all over the island. With most of these lakes being shallow, they are perfect swimming holes and Tunnaicha is no exception. For the first time, I could swim without turning into an icicle and I took full advantage, although Anna still thought the water was way too cold.
We also decided to check out the town of Ohotskoye, which was literally a one-stoplight town. Other than a few small houses, a small shop, and a strange ship right after the one bridge, there’s not much to see. However, there were a lot of roadside stalls selling crab, shrimp, fish, and caviar, so we decided that we should buy a few crabs since we were already here.
After walking around town, it was almost time to for the last bus., so we spent time at the beach across the street from the bus station. I tried dipping my feet into the Ohotsk Sea, but it was so cold, I had to jump out immediately.
I already had my fill of swimming for the day, so we sat on the beach, enjoyed the sunset, and to our surprise, even saw a few seals swimming in the distance. It was a beautiful end to an amazing day.
For those planning a similar trip, the bus to Ohotskoye leaves from the train station in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk three times a day at 8:30am, 1:30pm and 6:30pm. The bus also leaves three times a day from Ohotskoye across from the beach at 10:00am, 3:00pm, and 8:00pm. The trip costs 65 rubles per person and takes approximately one hour. The lake beach is off of a road not marked on Google Maps.