Altai Republic

It took a while until we realised that we had reached bayan-ölgii, the far west of Mongolia, and by the way, a Kazakh town inside mongolia. a few mosques around and people with these stylish Kazakh hats wich I already knew from my previous trip. we found ourselves an amazing guesthouse and got finally in touch with other travellers from all over the world. Kim and Robin with their LandRover, our Croatian mate branimir, the adventurous outdoor girl Tamar from holland, jess and matt from uk www.tartantravellers.com ,the Canadian “coffee” couple kaitlyn aaaand….sorry bro, I forgot your name but not who you are ;-)….and all the other cool cats around there. we spent a few really well deserved and super laid-back days in ölgii and enjoyed the good company.
Dinner with friends, salad, beer….that’s what we needed….what a good time..!
We had 4 days of scourging sun, but that Thursday night I found some pretty wet forecasts for the weekend so poul and me decided to leave Friday already. we had to leave this good place and all the good people behind and pedaled straight to the last Mongolian village tsagaannuur, found a cozy yurt and spent the night there. We had still 2 days left for 30 Kilometer and as the weather was bad all day we spent a second night there. the day after was still a bit wet but we had to get to the Mongolian/Russian Bordertown myangani. the road did not really deserve its name as it was a muddy piece of shit/dirt/gravel/inyaface road. Damn. Sorry, I just don’t like riding on gravel. We’ve had such an amazing time in Mongolia, so I decided not to be grumpy but to push my bike. I mean, it was only 20 km and without the bike it would almost feel like hiking wich was great. I “hiked” with my bike on a super corrugated bumpy hiking trail wich is according to my map an international road link between Mongolia and Russia. But hey, just a matter of the perspective. Was good hiking.
We spent the last night in Mongolia, OF COURSE in a yurt with friendly locals, while the cars outside queued in front of the border gate. The border was closed 5 days because of the nadaam festival.
On Monday morning we got our exit stamps in tsagaannuur and made our way across the 20 km of no mans land between Mongolia and russia. Right after the first Russian gate did the pavement start again and we rolled down the long valley. The entry process at the TASCHANTA border gate was easy and straightforward, and around lunchtime we sat in taschanta and enjoyed our late breakfast due to our intermediate fasting diet. I had really mixed feelings. I mean, we did just enter the altay republic, one of siberias paradise spots, on the other hand we have technically 10 days for roughly 1000 Kilometer now, wich is ok but also bit tough. No rest days in case of rain, sickness etc. but that’s probably the price for being here. I mean, in my world there are no borders, no visa regulations, no time limits, but I was forced to play according to “their” rules and accepted my 10 days transit in russia even though we are sisters and brothers by blood and shouldn’t have these visa rules. however, the new generation is about to overtake that rusty system soon. I can feel that.
We rolled through the vast chuysky Steppe to the first town kosh-agach and got some Russian money. Well equipped with Russian food we dived deeper into the first valleys of the Russian Altai and honestly speaking, it is extremely picturesque. It’s by far the most scenic part of the whole trip and can easily be described as one of the worlds most scenic roads.
After 1,5 month in Mongolia we enjoyed the image of the first trees so much, it was unbelievable. We camped down by the river at the edge of a small Siberian village and drank our first Russian beer. Nastarovje!
The coming days until the gorno-Altaysk area became a dream of a journey, wooden valleys, snowcapped peaks around, freshwater rivers, little villages with cozy forest huts, handcrafted things….FOOD!! yam….honey, smoked fish, cheese, bread….gosh, Russia is a yam country.
We had actually a blast of a ride, and it is totally worth it.
Around gorno Altaysk the traffic started to annoy me more and more and we were happy to turn left to shortcut to Kazakhstan. We spent the last night on the chuysky Trakt on a lovely campground near the river. There was that moment when I had a good Russian beer, bathed my feet in the ice cold Siberian stream and was amazed how good it was to be here. We had still roughly 500 kilometre to Kazakhstan ahead of us, so there was unfortunately no chance of a rest day. Everything had to be squeezed into one day: showering, laundry, shopping, relaxing…a bit of a shame, but still beautiful.
The sixth day we left the chuysky Trakt and started to ride the first kilometres of the shortcut. It was a bumpy road, paved but I guess it had been fixed hundred times already. Our first pass was right ahead and when we reached the top, the friendly beekeeper there surprised us and gave us a jar of honey for free. Lovely people.
Our first city along the way was altayskoye and we decided to have our breaky there. Unfortunately two drunken ladies in front of the supermarket kept annoying us so we had to find a new breakfast spot. Alcohol seems to have very negative impact on the people in the area, everywhere. Sad.
The next few days we managed somehow to do our daily 100 kilometres on partly really horrible roads. It rained a lot and without a good surface gravel turns easily into mud, so it became a mud-fest. The magic of the chuysky Trakt was gone and our scenery was dominated by the vanishing Altai mountains in the south and loads of agricultural fields. Russia showed us a face of Tristesse and in addition to that I got two days of food poisoning wich was even harder to ride with. We had to stop that one night at the house of local people because I got so bad belly cramps that we had to stop.
Poul was not fit either. He had quiet sore archilles wich made it hard for him to climb the many hills to the Kazakh border. Somehow we made it in time to the border “Mikhailovka” and showed up with our bikes and passports.
While we waited in the queue to get our passports stamped, one of the border staff must have seen me in the observation camera. He came towards me, took my passport, leaved through all the pages as if he was looking for something, returned it to me and disappeared.
Strange. It was pouls turn at the counter and after two minutes he was done with Russia. Finally it was my turn. I passed my passport to the lady, took my hat and glasses off and tried to look friendly. Everything seemed to take more time with my document and I started to be worried. Then she took my passport and wanted to go. “Sit down please!” she said.
“Passport ?” I replied, but she just said “Wait!” and disappeared. 5 minutes of not knowing what’s happening. I was the only one sitting there and people from the other side looked at me SCEPTICALLY.
Then a door opened and I saw two officers behind a big desk. They wanted me to come inside. I took a seat. “Close door!” You forgot the article mate, you have to say ‘close the door’ , but I decided not to SAY that just to think it, and i think it was wise.
They looked at me from Head to feet and laughed. Then they pointed at my beard :”Muslim!!?”. I said “njet! No Muslim”. Busily they leafed through my passpart and finally one officer disappeared. The questioning started. It was weird. He asked for my profession. My political mindset. My opinion on Russia. My opinion on USA. My opinion on the Crimea. My opinion on the Russian and American influence in Syria. My opinion about German international politics.
It started to get interesting. Luckily he asked all the things I was really interested in. I explained him that as far as i know the people on Crimea voted to be part of Russia so technically it’s NOT an Annexion but a Sezession. I told him that in Germany the media spreads western propaganda so the international politic is unfortunately linked to the US-interests. I told him that I would prefer to have a neutral Germany so would vote to exit the NATO. I told him that In my opinion after world war 2, Germans and Russians should never fight each other again.
He stopped questioning. “Welcome back to Russia” he said and told me I could go.
Outside I had to open my bike panniers but they didn’t find anything interesting and sent us to the Kazakh side.
The process on the Kazakh side was easy and soon we rolled down to our first Kazakh town Shemonaikha. Now we try to recover from the 10 day transit and enjoy the first Kazakh honey melons. Yam!

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2 thoughts on “Altai Republic

  1. Durch deine fesselnden exorbitanten Texte schmilzt schon sehr die Distanz zu dir und tatsächlich kommst du ja näher und wir scheinen es alle zu spüren. Vom Schlammfest träumen wir beinahe, so groß ist die DÜRRE bei 3 Hochsommern seit April und die Natur nimmt schon fast wieder herbstl. Züge an, Tümpel und Bäche sind leer, Tiere träge und Bäume und Sträucher dörren vor sich hin, das Gras gleicht Heu. Uns hält die Freude auf Schweden bei Laune – am 30.8.geht die Fähre. Ganz liebe Grüße aus Klein-Paradisien

  2. Hey Oskar. Oh Boy schön von dir zu hören bzw. zu lesen! Man ich weiß gar nicht wann wir das letzte mal Kommuniziert haben. Es gibt auch hier einiges zu berichten mein lieber unter anderem gibt es ein neues Familienmitglied namens Emil der sich auch schon darauf freut dich kennen zu lernen!

    Liebste Grüße Jasmin, Emil, Edda und meine Wenigkeit.

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