|the archetypal village house|
|the onset of Japanese Encephalitis can be swift and alarming|
It's about 65km across the lake. We ride in a small, fast boat that has cost us about 20 quid each. The lake is wonderful - narrow with steep forrested slopes and big waves when we turn the corner to cruise the length of it. The bumpy crossing brings us to a much quieter part of the Altai region - the Chulyshman valley has a dirt road connecting small villages of Altai people with the main road over two mountain ranges. For the first time in Siberia Russian Slavs are in the minority - the Altai people look more Mongolian/Kyrgyz. We have plenty of days to ride to the Mongolian border from here so our pace is easy-going. And why not? The road is rough in places but most of all the landscape is worth casting a second or third look. In fact, why not sit down here and drink it all in for a while.
What follows are several short days of cycling and some great wild camping places. They have to be worked for - a big push up away from the road or over a dry river bed and through sand. Whatever. It's so much nicer camping away from the road - especially at the weekend when Russians turn up in their 4WDs and camouflage gear to go fishing or just camp in the last days of summer. Our way back to the main road takes us out of the valley and over a pass to Balyktuyul. The road climbs into the sky at a precipitous angle. There are switchbacks. We love switchbacks. After all, switchbacks make climbing mountains easier. But not these. These have been cut out of the valley side in haste. We push almost the whole way. It's so steep we take it in turns to push one bike together. Gabor is a slow starter so we miss the look on his face ( the "oh shit" moment) when he turns the corner and sees the track disappearing vertically. It's a tough climb and he arrives at the top of the switchbacks two hours after we do.
|from the bottom ...|
|...to the top|
|rolling down from another great camp spot|
We meet only two Aussies, Carl and Mel, on motorbikes. No other foreign tourists. It seems incredibly off the beaten track considering the beauty of the landscape. We continue southwards towards the main road, passing lakes and swathes of autumnal forest. It's hot in the sun during the day but the mornings and evenings are very chilly. End of summer for sure.
|oh look, another lake|