From now on, I wanna devote myself to the trip to the Altay-Mountains. Due to the fact, that the excursion was implemented by my geography studies, the timetable thus was pretty tense. Because I experienced so many things on my journey, I decided to split up the trip into single days, that I want to share with you step-by-step. Be prepared to hear a bit more from me in the next time, because one thing I can promise: On this journey, I visited some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I really look forward to bringing them closer to you.
So let’s start at the very beginning. On August the 22nd I met Sophia at the Airport in Munich. We booked the flights together, but also some other fellow students entered the same plane to Moscow. On time at 12:00 am our machine took off. It’s a bit uncomfortable to travel to a country, which’s language is as complicated as their font. Simply not understandable on the first sight. But we will find our way. Arriving in Moscow we joined Lukas, Timo and Gabriel, that also had to bridge the six hours to their connecting flight. The time we spent outside the airport building, which is, in my opinion, one of those, you don’t like to change flights. Overcrowded and consequently sticky were the waiting areas. On our connecting flight to Barnaul we jumped on board at the last moment. Then we flew into the night. On flights, I standardly can’t sleep very well, but I forced myself to a couple of hours of napping to be fit on the next day. With the sun rising after approximately two hours of flying I was completely awake again. I was stuck to my window like mesmerized, cause what I saw below us I never saw before. We were on track to our final destination Barnaul and now flew over the huge Kulunda-Step. I was shown a picture that had the Impression of the surface of another planet. Magical and unreal the land spanned to the horizon, early morning wafts of mist were slowly passing by. The continuous surface got interrupted by many lakes and river systems which surfaces shined golden by the low standing sun. The closer we came to our final destination airport the more anthropogenic the landscape developed. First only sporadically, then more dense the agricultural use got visible, reaching to a management of the entire surface as far as you could see. Flying more deeper finally Barnaul appeared below the clouds, with its tall factory chimneys, which blew black clouds of soot into the sky and the several soviet apartment blocks. The view in the gray of the morning really confirmed my idea of a typical Russian industrial city. The temperature in Barnaul was about 10 °C at this morning. Pretty cool for a summer holiday I thought, took my things and left the plane. In the small arrival terminal we took our luggage and then met the rest of our group prior to the small airport building. Together we walked to the cars, which would be our main transportation for the next ten days. Three Mitsubishi buses and a Mitsubishi pickup, all equipped for difficult terrain conditions, with two extra trailers, where we stowed our backpacks. The drivers were also waiting there, so the expedition team was complete. The convoy set off into the direction of Barnaul and from there to our destination, the Altay-Mountains. The drive through Barnaul unfolded some fascination and some horror at the same time. Gray and, in my opinion, ugly apartment buildings rose in a cityscape that was dominated by tar, showed absolutely no signs of an attractive habitat. Sometimes some modern buildings couldn’t give the cityscape much more gloss. Accordingly, I was glad when we drove over the Ob river a little bit later and left Barnaul behind us. we drove through the endless steppe the whole day, but then in the afternoon finally the precursors of the Altay-Mountains raised around us. Until then we mostly slept, because of the fatigue that was caused by the time difference, the arduous journey, and the monotonous landscape, mostly gained the upper hand. Now we were there, the frontier between the Altay Region and the Altay Republic was just passed and we followed the Katun River up into the mountains.
Nature there took me in its spell from the very beginning. The bright, blue glacier water of the Katun, which winded its way through the dry mountains, vast steppe landscapes in the valleys, rugged cliffs and larch forest on the north exposed slopes dominated the landscape, in between only the small road winding its way up the mountains towards Mongolia. Here and there we drove through small villages with simple houses and gardens to provide self-sufficiency. Horses, cows, and sheep grazed on the large pastures in the valleys.
The anticipation of the events I would experience the next days grew in me, putting myself into an euphoric state of mind, imagining to bore my way so far into the Eurasian continent. In the evening we arrived at our first camp at the mouth of the Jeloman River into the Katun. The cold of the mountains laid down slowly over the valleys, after the sun disappeared behind the surrounding peaks. We had set up our tents in a small birch grove on the banks of the Jeloman, took on our warm clothes and were now sitting together around the bonfire, everyone supplied with a bowl of pasta and a cup of tea.
That evening everyone won some first impressions about the group, the drivers, the guides and the harsh climate in the mountains. Driven by the cold and fatigue, we gradually disappeared in our tents. Among the millions of stars in the firmament, the first day ended in the Russian Altay-Mountains.