Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day 171 - Inya to Nacnyn on Lake Teletskoe road - Tues 13 Aug

Day 171 - Inya to Nacnyn on Lake Teletskoe road - Tues 13 Aug
Farewelled our fast flowing (and rising!) Chuya River. Noted extensive dieback, a fungal infestation in soil (is that why they are so keen on spraying vehicle tyres?) or is it syrex wasp (but surely they’d more likely be individual trees than the big patches we are seeing??). Driving through clouds over road and stopping on top in shivering cold drizzle – recent email conversations with Maxwells suddenly relevant to fog lights for Europe next year, and the need to take on board wet weather shell tops and bottoms – had to laugh at ourselves having the conversation when Russians outside are dressed for ‘high summer’ in singlets or nothing on top at all! 

Markets sell Altai face necklets which protect from spirits, and Babushka dolls – hadn’t realised previously they are modelled on real live Babushka shaped and coloured grannies everywhere! And what are these dome or teepee roofed structures we are seeing in the yards of log houses? (extra accommodation? smokehouses? saunas? winter storage eg potatoes/ hay?)  

The larch and silver beech trees are so striking, leaves changing colour, and starting to fall. We stopped several times in vain at small towns to try to locate the outdoor Altai culture museum Edo and Joanne told us about last night. Did see a piles of dead cream-coloured moths lining roofs and streets of towns under street lights – guess they flock like Bogong moths in Australia. Pigs snuffling in mud, undersides dark with wet earth. Discussed ‘where to from here?’ Miles is doing 40 days in Russia through to mid Sept-ish, maybe we and Pardeys do Russian catch up once back from Kazakhstan by 3rd week in Sept, and into Ukraine together (including days in Rostov to get Ukraine visa).
Stopped at highest point on Chuysky Trakt to browse souvenir markets/stalls. Had thin meat in pastry packet, like kushers but less oily, more tasty. Found that prices are not so cheap in Russia. Found answer to question re dome outbuilding, its an outdoor kitchen eg for preserving - can open top segmented pieces individually to manage heat control. Surprised to see cats in the towns again, after a total absence in Mongolia. Plenty of wildflowers in fields, tall spikes of yellow, pink and purple.

Have seen a lot more fishing since entering Russia, esp in cold fast flowing streams. Tall trees starting to turn autumn colours. Rain more serious in early afternoon. Graffiti on rocks and structures also surprising, I would not have thought the population felt themselves free to use this form of expression in such a recent socialist regime. And wow, a road grader! Houses with open upstairs balconies for drying clothes out of rain. Many asbestos roofs - are they being replaced by the bright coloured tin sheets?? 

Rubber-rafting very popular on these powerful rivers. Suddenly hit the tourist strip - hotels, resorts, buses, attractions - very developed compared to where we've just come from. Some rare apple trees full of small bright red fruit. Mushrooms freshly harvested. Bright coloured bee boxes, next to roadside stalls selling honey, and a variety of fermented honey and mead drinks. Hairy Mammoth stalls popular because of actual ones found frozen in Siberia. Drove into Gorno-Altaisk, found it not as featureless as described by Lonely Planet, some very pretty wooden churches. 

Got our fuel, water and food, then turned off to Lake Teletskoe , but won’t make it tonight. Every inch of garden used in summer, healthy vegetables and bright flowers. Small logging enterprises. Braved a muddy and swollen stream to get off road to a campsite outskirts of Nacnyn - mosquitoes a pest but didn't stop a campfire (wet wood burnt OK after doused with petrol!) BoyRob broke open the whiskey he bought duty free in Singapore to celebrate his retirement. The merry evening was moved under the awning when the rain recommenced. 

Days 169-170 – Kuray to Inya - Sun 11 and Mon 12 Aug

Days 169-170 – Kuray to Inya  - Sun 11 and Mon 12 Aug
Left at 10am so had time to wash hair! Oh, life can be soooo good... Farewelled our camping neighbours exchanging addresses. Aktash Village has a small military base, and we walked into a local graduation ceremony. Bought good chicken and beef pasties at market (wife bent over laughing at her husband’s antics to let us know which animal/meat was in each pastry!) Took pasties for lunch 7km into mountains to Red Gate rock formation, beautiful streams with icy cold water, wildflowers. 

The Altai region is so beautiful, towering mountains, pine forests (supposedly bears at top), fast running rivers, edelweiss flowers, cows on road known as "freelance cops” (everybody stops for them!) Stopped at truck monument telling tragic love story two truckies servicing road, he in the displayed truck, she in a Ford, used to stop along road when met. One day she didn't see him as he waved frantically and he drove off side of mountain to his death in river below... (and because we were following the Chuysky Trakt, the old drug runners trail, we thought such a splendid monument had to do with trafficking activities!!) 

White water rafters in opaque icy river we are following - apparently this region is very attractive to fit adventurers. Passed more English rally drivers waiting for Customs clearance to take and leave their vehicles in Mongolia. Quaint idea on mileposts - shows how far you have travelled from last major town, not how far to next one (in effect, measuring backwards!)

Turned off to find campsite down ravine. Hairy looking suspension bridge - thankfully much sturdier than it looked from on top of the ravine, but didn't release breath until safely over other side!! Met cyclist who said road on this side did not go through to other side, so we will have to go back same way tomorrow on way out..... 

Drove toward riverbank, turn on edge of hill going down was too tight so each truck had to back down. Saunas at bottom and barricades over all tracks – “no go through” unless paid $15 for two nights! We paid. Drinks at Marina and Miles vehicle - Georgian wine with blackcurrant aftertaste. Told us about battle they saw between vulture, marmot and crows. BoyRob’s been teasing Marina about her very Russian habit of wearing socks with thongs - today we see she has bought Mongolian felt slippers instead! Rain rain rain. So nice to just have to heat up our hearty stew. Next day rained on and off, a very welcome rest and maintenance day after our bolt from Moron. Met with Guy and decided we’d both do a ‘taste’ of Kazakhstan after all. Yay!!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Day 168 – Tsagaannuur, Mongolia to Kuray, Russia - Sat 10 Aug

Day 168 – Tsagaannuur, Mongolia to Kuray, Russia - Sat 10 Aug
Sharp clear cool morning. Anxious to make border crossing today and to leave Mozzie World behind, so left wash and breakfast until later, and headed off to find Tsagaannuur.  

Took some criss-crossing to find road though pass in mountains. Beautiful purple flowers following stream; stopped along canyon road to wash as much mud off Ozzie as possible so it causes no holdups at border (although GirlRob’s swollen-shut eye from a mosquito bite might cause a delay in facial recognition…)

Stopped at picturesque lake with glorious reflections and marveled at the sight of a single white swan in Mongolia. A young lad came from the nearby gers then called his compatriots to try to fleece us for money and food.

What a sad little place we found Tsagaannuur to be, still surrounded by dilapidated fences and sentry boxes from old days of fierce protection of territory. Now it looks like it only serves to keep this small township in, and camels out…

Had some great notes from Guy, made the Mongolia to Russia border crossing much easier (will post in separate section). Took less than 2 hours, no queues, Russian staff very interested in vehicle. Ran across more of English rally vehicles trying to cross into Mongolia - they want to leave the vehicles in Mongolia for charities to sell at the conclusion of the rally, but the issue of vehicle import duty is holding them up. One group has been camped in No-Mans-Land now for well over a week.  We had our receipts from Lance/EarthCruiser, so no queries about "proof of ownership" this time. Amazing long distance in No-Mans-Land at this border, then between passport control, and customs. We would have missed the last stop (stamp and collect arrivals card) except it was pointed out by officer on gate. So we made it to the Altai Republic of Western Siberia! And three days before visa expired too!!

West of Koch Agach turned off the oh-so-beautiful bitumen to camp on top of hills facing snow-capped mountains with glaciers!! Fantastic views as sun went down. 


Did hand washing, and had to defrost fridge as beer and coke cans had exploded - constant movement of foods on top shelf on rough corrugations obviously pushes dial up to “high”. So we were more than thrilled by the fact that our travel buddies welcomed us back with a mutton leg, foiled potatoes and canned peas on a magnificent campfire! Drinks and catchup stories. Invited nearby campers to fire - freelance travel journalist Edo and Joanne his wife, a lawyer and their children Boris and Ester. The family had been given bear meat by a hunter, so they grilled it on our fire, and everyone shared it plus a local recipe spicy rice dish courtesy Joanne – lots more interesting travel stories around fire – we were all impressed with Boris' chronological memory.