Through the Russian Altai mountains

Km 6613 – Tsetserleg, Mongolia

WEATHER & GENERAL STUFF

We cycle through the Russian part of the Altai region which is located in South Siberia, but also comprehends parts of Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. The weather changes according to the season and the altitude: now we already wear long-sleeved clothes and during our last days in Russia at 2500 meters altitude we wear our winter clothes.

GORNO-ALTAISK – KOSH-AGATSH

  • The mountain road named „chuisky trakt“ will lead us all the way to the Russian-Mongolian border. We do small time through the villages and enjoy this „sugar piece“ for cyclists. Autumn is arriving slowly. Birch leaves wave over the asphalt. The cool, clear air fills our lungs and the autumn sun warms our skin. Steadily we are following a river and are always surrounded by mountains. Additionally, there is little traffic and smooth asphalt – what does a cycle tourer want more?
  • A highlight: We are too lazy to put up the tent and are especially thinking about packing it again the next morning. The sky opens up and we sleep under the endless firmament. Each time when I shortly wake up, I blink towards the sky – impressed and fulfilled I turn around again.
  • In the morning our sleeping bags are wet and we don’t start earlier either, since we have to dry them in the sun. Still, it was worth is, because the nature or our proximity towards her (not even the tent sheet between us and the world) fulfills and strengthens us.
  • That was also new for us: Jura takes us until Kosh-Agatsh and although we get off after sunset, he drives us along a dirt path to a beautiful camping spot – chosen by him. Ride including camping spot idea 😉
  • The next morning we gaze at the bright yellow of the autumnally trees and then cycle the last 30 km to Kosh-Agatsh. Five km before arriving in town a huge, green truck is driving towards us. German number plate, we wave and the monster vehicle stops. Alf and Moni get off – a true couple from Münster (our home town) – in the middle of nowhere. They also have the dream to travel with bicycles – we encourage them!

KOSH-AGATSH

  • While Alex prepares our bikes for the next leg in the hotel backyard, he hears a „Where a you from?“ and the answer: „India!“ Bingo! Because the Münster couple had already told us about the French Indian couple that is coming from the other side. But how to meet them while „hanging out“ in the hotel? Pearly and Cedric started cycling in Bangkok, Thailand approximately four years ago. Winter was starting to set in and so they found a home for the winter in Ulaanbaatar, accepted jobs and – although only one winter was planned – stayed for almost four years. Now they managed to set off again and cycled across Mongolia.
  • Their first and one of our last evening in Russia will be a great international and Russian experience. A group of older man (40-50 years) stranded in the hotel as well. They are doing some kind of „Katamaran-White-Water-Rafting“, but their car broke down (they joke = with this brand you have to count driving time = repair time) and so they stay for two nights. A Kyrgyz Shaman also lives in the hotel and that’s how the kitchen turns into a international meeting and exchanging point during the evening. Not only languages and stories are shared, but also vodka, beer and food (e.g. Russian Borsh soup and Indian Dahl). Besides that, a guitar appears and each person is allowed to (rather: has to) play. The Kyrgyz sings a song in three languages: Russian, Kyrgyz and Altai. It is all loud and funny and the sauna is heated, too.
  • Next morning: saying good bye to the six Russians and Pearly & Cedric. We stay a little longer, are lazy, it is cold outside and autumn approaches noticeably.

TASHANTA

  • In Tashanta, the city where the border control lies as well, a freezing wind blows over the mountains which are covered with fresh-fallen snow. That’s why we are especially happy and released about the spontaneous invitation into the warm home of Vera and her son Ramik.
  • The Russian part of the border control is fast. We get our exit stamp and the customs officer just asks: „Drugs, weapons?“ Alex (choked): „Njeto!“ Customs officer: „Ok, control finish!“ He kindly informs us that only the following 20 km of no man’s land are still paved and we show by stutter movements with our whole body that we know what will follow soon: Mongolia – known as the country without paved roads.

ADDITION

Here is a link to a video that Tas put together about our shared distance in the Esik Plateau in Kazakhstan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Vbzffhn3s&feature=youtu.be

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