Day 6: The valley of the Chulyshman

Day 6: The valley of the Chulyshman

By the time I really started to like the simple lifestyle in nature. No shower? Alas, who needs that, if you have an ice cold mountain creek around the corner. No toilet? Alas, four walls and a hole in the floor can even be found in the Russian wilderness. There was really nothing missing, even if you lack so many achievements of modern times. This travel proved to me again, how satisfied you can be, if you’re just out in nature. On this morning I had exactly this feeling, when I crawled out of my tent, having an amazing view on the surrounding summits of the northern Chuya-Chain, while the sun was rising.

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Atmosphere of departure at the camp below the northern Chuya-Chain.

The bad weather drifted past and all signs were pointing towards sunshine. Unfortunate, because today there was not much more than driving with the cars on our program. But no worries, I have enough to report on.

So we hit the road again. Next stop was Aktash, therefore we went back on the Chuya-Highway. I turned around in my seat as the Chuya-Chain disappeared behind a turn, because who knows, when I will have this spectacular view again. Aktash was offering the last chance at this excursion to buy supplies in a real supermarket, as we would leave the main road from now on. After some searching and some translation support, I found flour and yeast, with which we wanted to do stick bread over the campfire in the evening. I also bought a knickknack to eat, as we would have our lunch at the roadside again. Shortly before noon the convoy started rolling again and schlepped itself up the mountain pass road to the Ulagan-Pass. With increasing height, the vegetation got sparser until a plateau opened the view in front of us, which was covered by lakes and marshes, small red scrubs growing between the water, which conjured another great scenery into the landscape. Trees didn’t like the moist marshes, so there were only some random groups on the surrounding slopes. Higher and higher the vehicles spiraled their way up the winding road, again over the 2000 meter mark. Then we stood on the Ulagan-Pass, the water divide between the Katun-River, which mostly transports melted ice from the glaciers, and the Chulyshman, which drains large parts of the partly planer northern Altai.

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Some summits we could see from the Ulagan-Pass.

The valley of the Chulyshman was today’s target, but until there we still had to cover several kilometers. From the Ulagan-Pass we drove off to the identically named village Ulagan, where we had to stop. At this remote place, there was a hotel. A hotel? We wouldn’t have needed a hotel, if the Russian law didn’t oblique tourists to register each seven working days. So we checked in for about 7 Euros per person just to drive off afterwards, because the hotels do the registration for their guests. For our size of the group this took some time, so we split up on the busses and let André with his pickup behind us, as he could catch up to the busses with our passports afterwards. As we were driving through the hills, which were now covered by dense vegetation again I nearly got a bit sad, that we already left the high mountains of the Altay, but at this time I didn’t know what beautiful places I still would see on this journey. Been driving a while our next stop announced itself as we were stopping at the side of the road one more time. What we saw were some crater-like stone circles with some trees growing inside of them. Those weren’t natural formations and no, there haven’t been aliens either. In this case, those were burial mounds, so called Kurgans from the time of the Pazyryk-Culture, which belonged to the Scythians. The Kurgans were built in the landscape, on the one hand, to bury important people and also to be markers in the landscape. In the last centuries the graves got opened for archeological research, but also people were looting the valuable things from the graves.

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One of the Kurgans in a vast valley, where it can be seen from far away.

In fact, the opening of the graves is the reason for the current appearance of the burial mounds. That there are trees growing in them is the logical consequence of a funnel-like crater. At the deepest point, plants receive the most water from precipitation. Now you learned something new again!

Let’s go on with endless car-drives. I snoozed away several times, cause there was really nothing special to see in this landscape. Until, out of nothing, between the trees, a large valley got revealed. It was so large that we could see it about ten minutes before we were really standing on the edge. There we then made a break, as we nearly reached our today’s target. We were standing 600 meters above the Chulyshman, this big river, which drains the northern Altay. That this was a large river wasn’t even clear from up there, as it seemed to be more like a small creek in this gigantic scenery. The pass we were standing on is one of the most well-known attractions in the Altay, which was a reason for us to do a picture of the entire group there. For me, this is a reason to present our group here.

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Group photo on top of the pass of the Chulyshman. Rear row from the left: Timo (Student), Tassilo (Student), Niklas (Student), Kevin (Student), Fridtjof (Student), Frederic (Student), Me, Waldemar (Driver), Mrs. Dr. Mayer (Professor), little Dima (Guide), old Dima (Driver), André (Driver, Professor); Front row from the left: Lukas (Student), Korbinian (Student), Gabriel (Student), Sergej (Driver), Tosha (Mascot), Stephanie (Student), Marianne (Student), Mrs. Prof. Dr. Eckmeier (Professor), Marco (Student), Simon (Student), Sophia (Student), Christina (Russian German-Student)

After 15 minutes the drive into the valley was pending, on a road that didn’t really seemed to be reliable. Tightly crimped to the cliff we made our way down the small road. Arriving at the bottom we had to drive about one more hour until we finally reached the camp. On a height of only 490 meters, the temperature stayed balmy even after the sun went down. Like every evening we sat together at the bonfire and had dinner, chicken stew again, but the food was tasting better and better from time to time for me, even if the meals were only simple. Later on, we enjoyed the stick bread and then went to bed. Because of the balmy temperatures in this valley, I decided to sleep out of the tent, as some others did that as well. An unbelievable experience, sleeping below the stars at such a remote place. In the night the wind started to breeze through the valley, as the Lake Teletskoye formed an undertow, because of the rising air above the lake at night. Good that I could crawl into my bedroll, covering my whole body except a small hole to breath and equipped with earplugs and a sleeping mask the howl of the wind just passed by me. Having the starlit sky etched on my memory I fell asleep shortly afterwards.

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