The troop played the limba, bishkur, chanza, and khomus, dressed in matching purple silk robes, trimmed with gold – the women wearing what looked a little like purple velvet wizard hats, from which pearls swayed around their ears.

This was our first encounter with the people who inhabit the sparsely populated areas around Lake Baikal, found at the ethnographic museum in a Buryat village an hour outside Irkutsk.

The real highlight, however, was that one of the men among them was an accomplished throat singer, a Mongolian vocal art traditionally practiced by herders.

The small room perhaps hindered the full spirituality of the singer’s performance, but the effect of his voice harmonizing with itself was impressive indeed. Next came the “bone breaking” competition, in which Buryat men try to break a bone by striking it with a single blow of their hand. I failed miserably in my attempt, but one of our party broke the bone in half on his first try, earning him the nickname, “Bone Crusher.”

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