Day 160 (part 2).
So having considered the situation in ‘Gornaya Shoria’ and how I would fill the remaining days, Nikita made a suggestion. He said “why don’t I go and visit the ‘Altai’ region” which is the very southern tip of Siberia. Now this place had been mentioned to me on a number of occasions whilst I’ve been in Russia, with every single person saying “you must go and see this place”’. It is a mountainous area and is famed throughout Russia for its beauty. The thing is it’s a fair few hundreds of kilometres away from the point that I was actually at in Sheregesh.
And so began an episode which for me sums up what excellent people these dam pesky Russians are!
1). As we are walking down of the hill, Nikita is on his phone talking to people and in full on organising mode (point to note…yes were are in the middle of nowhere…..up a mountain….in Siberia…..and the 4G signal and mobile strength is better than anything I get whilst stood in my back garden in England….I hope your happy with yourself Teresa May???). By the time we get next to any built up area, he has arranged for a car belonging to someone neither of us know’s, to pick me up from Sheregesh and drive me north to the city of Novocusnetz, to then enable me to head south again to Altai! (Stick with it).
2). Not only this, but Nikita has arranged for his friend and fellow snow board instructor, to come to meet me where I get dropped off in Novocusnetz (at KFC obviously), and then talk me through my options for getting to, and what to do, in Altai.
3) so this morning at 0700hrs I met the lady driver outside a store in Sheregesh, but also Nikita dragged his arse there as well, just to make sure everything went smoothly (ie I wasn’t still lay in bed snoring my fat arse off). The car was full but it was a pleasant drive through the endless pine forests of that area. In just over 2 hours I was pushing a KFC wrap into my daft head in Novocusnetz.
4). At 11:00 the lovely Ksenia arrived in KFC and started the next phase of the multi-layered and multi stranger Journey. She said Altai was indeed a beautiful place but if I went there on my own I would be limited to what I would be able to see and do…especially as virtually no one speaks English. She did suggest I could take an organised ‘adventure’ holiday and said she knew one at a decent price…doing white water rafting, trekking, horse riding etc. It sounded good so I went for that option. (Ksenia was sooo correct in what she said….if I had just gone on my own and camped, I would have seen some lovely bits of Altai, but would have missed 99% of the beauty the region has to offer).
5) Cue more phone calls and the next thing I’m informed I’m going to be picked up by another random stranger, in about ¾ of an hour, who will then Drive me to Biysk, where I will then get on a bus and head to a location called ‘Mazherok’, where I will find the activity complex from which I will do the weeks ‘adventure schtuff’…..the only issue I foresaw, was that the random driver was not due to arrive in Biysk until 17:00 and my bus left at 17:30 and I needed to get my ticket printed etc!!!
6) Undaunted, Ksenia took me to the meeting point with the random driver, who’s name was ‘Mikail’. Mikail arrived at the appointed time and (together with 2 other people who had organised a lift with him), we set of for Biysk. Now Mikail was, as it turns out, a bit of a character. He was wearing some ‘Top Gun’ glasses, and drove his grey ‘souped up’ Lada as if its was the ‘Millennium Falcon’.
He had been thoroughly briefed up by Ksenia on the time I needed to be on the bus in Biysk and made it his mission that I was going to be there on time, even if it meant him breaking every speed limit.. I think the best way to describe Mikail would be that he is ‘A crazy mad fucking Russian’ and I liked him instantly.
Now the roads are….ok ish…but occasionally you will come to a hole like the Grand Canyon or just a bit where the tarmac was taken up a while back and never filled in again. We came to a particular part where it was purely gravel and, as we turned onto it, Mikail turned to look at me in the back seat (with cigarette in mouth, sun glasses on, whilst still doing warp speed), pointed at the road and said “hey Dave…Russian Autobhan’, laughed his nuts off, then turned back to face the direction we were travelling, dropped a gear, lit the afterburners and broke the sound barrier. A little further along this piece of road, we came to a part where they were laying some new gravel; in the middle of the road there were massive piles of the stuff waiting to be spread (see pics). There was no traffic control, signs or sod all, and it was every man for himself. To Mikail and the ‘Millennium Lada’, this was not even a minor inconvenience and, without even a hint of slowing down, he weaved through the hazards like Han Solo through an asteroid field….leaving just as many crashed pursuers in his wake.
It got to about 4 o’clock and mikail and Ksenia were talking to each other on the phone (as he drove…(and don’t forget they don’t know each other), about my bus departure. This prompted Mikail to go even faster and we screeched into the car park, for the bus station at 16:24. Mikail was out the car and saying LETS GO!! And dragging me towards the busses. I tried to tell him it was not due for another hour, whilst trying to keep hold of my book, glasses, glasses cace, bottle of water, passport and also trying to put my bergan on my back as we ran!. He had my ticket printed, passed us through security and at the buss bang on half past…..but it was an hour early!! He then stayed with me for that hour chatting and having a laugh, until he saw me safely on the bus to mazherok at 17:30. Nice One Mikail
As a slight post script to the above. Mikail has been in-touch and is organising getting me back to Novosibirsk for my train on Monday. Him and Ksenia are sorting it all and he wants me to stay with his family Sunday night in Biysk on Sunday before another family member moves me to Novosibirsk!!
THESE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING. MIKAIL, KSENIA, NIKITA…..you are all brilliant x