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2016 Jul by Mikhail Rybochkin
A road trip to Altai has been on my mind for quite a long time. In 2007 Charles Veley and I drove as far as Gorno-Altaisk where we made a U-turn and proceeded East in the direction of Vladivostok. Due to lack of time the vast area south of Gorno-Altaisk remained unexplored. |
Now my intention was to drive along the Chuisky Trakt (M52 road) all the way from Gorno-Altaisk to Kosh-Agach in order to evaluate whether the road was scenic enough to please a car traveler’s eye and to check availability and accessibility of such features as stone she-idols, ritual and burial mounds, sacred springs, etc.
My Lada’s off-road capability is rather limited but anyway I attempted driving short distances off the main road just to see for myself if the roads were good for future trips by a 4WD vehicle
On the 5th day of the trip we drove by Novosibirsk and hit the Chuisky Trakt and soon entered Altai. The area called “Altai” is administratively divided into Altai Krai which is almost flat and the Republic of Gorny (literally “mountainous”) Altai. The latter is much more scenic and touristically attractive.
Gorno-Altaisk is a small city. Two hours are enough to see its central square with ever-present Lenin, national theatre, governmental buildings and war memorial.
For the night we moved to the village of Chemal. The road runs along the rock-dotted Katun River. The views are nice but often marred by touristic facilities. The area is heavily touristed in summer months.
In Chemal we were the only guests in the only hotel-like looking building still being finished inside.
On the outskirts of Chemal a wobbly cable bridge over the Katun River leads to a small island with a tiny wooden church rebuilt recently to the original 1849 design. Views are very pretty.
Father south along the Chuisky Trakt the views are getting more and more scenic, traces of touristic activity are getting less and less visible and soon disappear completely. Traffic is low. There are more cows and sheep on the road than vehicles. No traffic cops.
First mountain pass named «Seminsky». Altitude 1700 m ASL. On top the pass accommodates a monument commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Altai people joining Russia on their own free will obviously seeking protection from Mongols regularly sacking the area, a tea-house and a small market selling honey, nuts, and carved wooden idols.
Every village has a well cared for war memorial reminding of the civil war and mourning victims of the WWII.
Absolutely marvelous life-size Lenin stands in the village of Inya clearly visible against the blue sky.
The well-known attraction of Altai is kamennaya baba (stone she-idols). Some are found just a mile from this Lenin statue. All faceless.
A faced one can be seen near Kosh-Agach together with a ritual stone mound, prayer flags and a sacrificial facility to sacrifice lambs and babies.
Kosh-Agach welcomes a tired car traveler with a primitive style painting glorifying unbreakable unity of the Altai, Russian and Kazakh people. The terrain is absolutely barren. No trees, no bush. Altitude 1650 m. The only eye-catching feature is a radar station.
In Kosh-Agach we overnighted at a very simple inn with a horror-hole toilet in the yard and turned back to Aktash.
In Aktash we took a dirt road leading to a small gorge called “Red Gate”. Having a sturdy 4WD vehicle one can go by this road as far as Lake Teletskoe seeing other lakes, waterfalls, burial mounds and erosional rock pillars known as “Mushroom Rocks”.
In short, the drive along the Chuisky Trakt is an enjoyable and relaxing exercise.
From mountainous Altai we moved back to flat Altaisky Krai where we stayed one day in luxury conditions of Belokurikha resort.
2012 Jul by Veikko Huhtala*
We arrived to Gorno-Altaysk in afternoon from Barnaul and drove to small hotel outside of town. It was very cheap hotel, about 40 euros a room for two people. We stayed one night only. Early in next morning we rented taxi car and drove up to Altai Mountains 200 km away. After one hour over there we drove by same taxi to Biisk and from there by train to Novosibirsk. |
2001 Jul by Jorge Sanchez
The Golden Mountains of Altai have been declared in the year 1998 UNESCO Patrimony of Humankind. They are located bordering Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. In these mountains is allegedly hidden the Russian version of Shangri-la: Belovodie.|
I have been several times in the Katun River, practising rafting, in the Russian Autonomous Republic of Altai.
To get there will take you several days. First you have to go to Novosibirsk (by train is the most exciting way). Then, you still have to get into another train until the town of Barnaul, of almost 1 million, founded in the XVIII century as a silver melting point (there are many minerals in Altai area, including gold). Today they exploit the wood and chemicals.
From Barnaul you catch what Russians call \"elektrichki\", or a short distance train to Byisk and then a bus to Gorno Altaisk, the capital of Altai, one of the 21 autonomous Russian republics (Russia is an incredible rich country in races and culture).
From Gorno Altaisk, where people are related with the Mongolians (although everybody speaks Russian), you have to fly by helicopter to the Sayan/Altai mountains, and if the pilot is nice, (bring a bottle of vodka with you as a present to give it to him) he will call for a few minutes in the beautiful Teletskoye Osera (lake), and you will see the Belukha mountain, the tallest peak in those mountains (4506 meters), where some people think that there exists a forbidden and fabled city called Belovodie (the Russian version of Shangri-la, or Shambhala).
Now it will take you a whole week to get back to Gorno Altaisk rafting (category IV), sleeping in tents and preparing in the night the Russian \"bania\" with hot stones, an unique experience, and eating \"shashliki\". You will have to bring food beforehand, althought there are some small villages along your way where you can buy mainly \"kasha Herkules\" and vodka.
That area is very exotic and mysterious. Take into account that you are in the border with Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and the unknown Russian republics of Tuva and Khakassia (I told you, Russia is a giant country and we know very very little, too little I would say, about it).
The Katun joins the great river Obi in Byisk, and together with the river Irtish form the longest rivers system of Asia.
That trip in the Altai Republic will thrill you, specially the nature and the edelweiss flowers all over around you. If you are lucky you will meet the snow leopard...! ................................. CROSSING OVERLAND (HITCHHIKING, ON FOOT AND BY BUSES) MONGOLIA UNTIL THE REPUBLIC OF ALTAY: I entered the Republic of Altay from Mongolia, hitchhiking, on foot and eventually by shared taxis since there are no bus services. Anyway, Russians do not allow to cross the border with Mongolia on foot, only into a car. It was my third time in the city of Gorno Altaysk, but in those 3 times I did not make any picture of the town since I only recently use photo camera, so in this time, my fourth trip, to that city I made several pictures during my several hours that I spent there (half a day). During the journey I saw powerful rivers (like the Katun), high mountains with snow (it was august) and magical fountains where shaman people pray and perform rites. The church of St Makary of Altai was the most beautiful building that I saw in Gorno Altaysk.I would not sleep in Gorno Altaysk because it was midday when I arrived there and I wanted to reach Biysk or even Barnaul to sleep (inside the railway staion, where it was allowed). In these two cities there is a train service to Novosibirsk, the first goal of my travel. From Novosibirsk I would continue by trains to Moscow stopping in interesting cities along the journey. The trip overland from Ulaanbaatar to Novosibirsk took me seven days with six nights.