Altai Mountains Adventure Holiday. Days 1 & 2
After arrival at the adventure complex I was eventually booked in and shown to my accomodation; I had a 6 man room all to myself, so merrily spread my admin around all of the bunk beds, thus creating an admin danger zone in which I felt completely at home.. Hardly anyone speaks English in this part of the world, so it took a while to find out exactly what the plan was for the next day. ‘Roman’, my guide for the first days activities, informed me, in semi broken English, that we had breakfast at 05:30 and that we were then hiking to a lake….or something like that?
I was awake at 05:00 and outside the dinning room at 05:30 sharp…….its just a real shame no one else was. An hour later others started rolling in, all looking like they had had an hours more sleep than me. Roman roiled in at about 06:45 and I tried my hardest to give him the ‘you bastard’ look, without trying to seem to bothered.
At 07:00 we set off in a minibus and headed towards the hills. After an hour or so we pulled up and transferred to another vehicle which was like an old army truck or Unimog type vehicle (see pics). We then trundled for just short of two hours, slowly heading further into the hills on a dusty dirt track. It was a bit bumpy and I, along with everyone else, was very glad when we stopped and dismounted. However “Roman the Bastard” had one more trick in mind, because we then boarded an open topped truck and were told it was another 2 hours to the lakes. The next track was just basically rocks….and for 2 hours we bumped and banged over the rocky terrain, getting thrown all over the place (see video).
I was starting to hope that once we had reached the lake, done some walking etc and had some food, that we would then be driven back down via a nicely paved road or hand glide down, or even catch a flight….this irrational side of me was having these crazy hopes, whilst my rational side was sat calmly laughing, knowing full well we were going to repeat the 5 hour rock and roll show and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
On arrival at the lakes we had a quick lunch and started walking. It was a lovely sunny day and the area reminded me very much of the Lake District in the UK. I figured we were still in the foothills of the Altai mountains and that more ‘breathtaking’ scenery would follow later in the week (as was the case). We had a nice walk around the 5 small lakes that sit one above the other, but I new that phase 2 of the ‘drive of the bruised arse’, was awaiting my return.
And so it happened…..after another 5 hours bone shaking we arrived back at camp. You could sense everyone was hacked off by the end of the journey and I admit I was ready to beat up a small defenceless animal in order to vent my discomfort….. I slept well that night, but had to lie on my front!
One quick incident……before I went to bed, I went to the bar where they said they had WIFI, but they didn’t really, as it would only last 5 seconds before vanishing. There was a family in there with I think 3 generations…grandma, mother and son (about 13). Grandma wanted to dance so they put some music on loud…really loud..grandma started dancing & so did mum…they then said to son, ‘come and dance’….now in England the son would have said ‘no way old people’ and hoped the ground swallowed him right there whilst hiring an assassin to have his family shot, but not this lad….oh no….. he got up rapid and really gave it some clog. Now because the internet stopped every 5 seconds, due to the signal continuously dropping, each song would last about 5 – 10 seconds then stop before starting up again with a different song….the family didn’t give a shit and just went for it. Grandma even kept rocking when the song stuck and became a repetitive buzz, she just kept popping shapes and twirling around completely oblivious that she was in fact dancing to white noise!
Roman informed me we had a slight lie in until about 9 the next day and that we would then leave the camp for 3 days, on the adventure part of our ‘holiday’. I lay in until the last second not wishing to loose out on sleep that others may be enjoying. Having fed my fat face, I mounted a small mini van that was going to drive us the 400km down into the Southern Altai region. The van was an ex Russian military cross between a Volkswagen campervan and the ‘dormobile’ you see in ‘The Italian Job’ (the original not that shite the yanks coughed out). (See pics).
One thing I have to say is that the off road capabilities of the Russian vehicles is, I believe, far superior to that of its western counterparts of a similar age. These things may look basic and ‘old school’ but by god they will go anywhere. I drove a lot of British military vehicles until I left the army in 2000, and can say that the ability of the Russian kit was way better.
Our group for the trip consisted of myself, the 2 Yulia’s, Lisa and the couple ‘Natalia & Dimitri’. Everyone was from various parts of Russia, and apart from the couple, no one knew each other prior to coming to Altai. Natali & Dimi were both Dentists and because they had limited hearing, both used sign language a lot between them; they were a lovely and loving couple. However like all couples they occasionally had a little bicker at each other, which would be conducted in sign language and was amusing to watch. The instructor for the group was Constantine and our driver was Sasha.
We headed south and soon left the pine Forrest’s of the camp area and came into the sort of terrain you would associate with Mongolia. It was beautiful rolling tundra, with Yurts occasionally randomly placed, wild horses running around and groups of cows just dossed out on the road. In a word it was ‘stunning’. As we drove, we would occasionally stop at view point to get pictures or to relax and chill for half an hour. I loved it, it was the sort of landscape I had dreamed about seeing during my journey (it has also made me really look forward to Mongolia in a few weeks time). We did stop at one site at which there were a lot of Petroglyphs which are dated back between 8-10,000 years. Really impressive to see (for me anyway with my interests), and lots of them chipped into the rocks. Some of The artistry was amazing with depictions of animals really well ‘carved’. (See Pics).
To me it is amazing to see these pictures from our ancient ancestors still visible in such beautiful yet hostile terrain. Some of the were described as drawings of ‘angles’ and it made me consider what must the artist have seen which made him carve such a figure into the rock??? Hmmm
After a long drive we settled into a nice wooden building on the edge of a town and Constantine and Sasha prepared food whilst all introduced ourselves to each other. It was a nice nite just sat chatting and eating which was helped by myself and Dimitri smashing a 1 litre bottle of Vodka between us!
A good day.