Saturday, 12 July 2008

Up, Up and Away

Since our last blog things have stayed hilly. We got a nice early start (finished breakfast by midday) and climbed up to the peak above our camp, which turned out to be a mite steeper than we realised, but we were still back down for lunch.

A slightly disappointing lunch though - we’ve been having quite a few pot noodle-type things which have been really tasty, but in Barnaul we went for the budget option and ended up with essentially a cup of hot water with ‘noodles’ and msg. Yum. Still, we were able to take the taste (or lack thereof) away with some fantastic Russian bread. This isn’t fantastic in the ‘fresh-out-of-a-French-boulangerie-at-6-in-the-morning’ kind of way, oh no, it’s quite the opposite. This bread is never knowingly fresh, it’s ever-stale, but the upside is it never goes any staler! And while I’m on a food riff: one thing we’ve all learned on this trip is that east of France the most common form of meat by quite some distance is what we call danger sausage, that is some form of fatty meaty goodness wrapped in a reddish skin with no indication of contents.

Anyway, back to the hills. We had a little dip and skimmed stones in a freezing meltwater river in the afternoon before Pete and I headed back to the village up the valley to pick up some supplies for the evening. Our 30-minute trip lasted two hours as we had to find the owner to open the shop for us and every town drunk (something Russian towns aren’t short of) tried to persuade us to buy them beer. Then finally some chap came and asked (as we eventually worked out) for a lift back up the valley to look for a horse he’d lost.

The Russians are very like the British in many ways, and here was a prime example: if you don’t understand them they go for the louder and slower option, which comes across a bit aggressive! We gave him a lift and he set off down a cliff face in search of his horse.

The next day was a beautiful drive through a stunning valley where we picked up a Latvian hitch-hiker, Tom, who was working his fifth season in the Altai teaching kayaking - apparently some of the best in the world. He helped us out with our last stock-up in Russia then we set out for the Mongolian border.

Before long we’d left the trees and grass behind and were in a huge flat valley with snow-capped peaks lining the right and rolling barren mountains to the left. So we turned left. And drove upwards. To 2600m. Roxanne is amazing! The view was breathtaking, and we even got to watch a lightning storm roll in beneath us.

We camped up and hit the border the next day. The crossing was our quickest for a while at 1 hour 57 minutes (annoyingly exactly the time Pete had guessed!) Now we’re in Mongolia and very excited! The landscape is vast and barren, with hills and peaks reaching the sky in every direction, and the same sense of freedom we had in Kazakhstan is back - roads are off the agenda. It would be nice if someone could tell us what time zone we’re in though!

- David

On the iPod: ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie

P.S. Does anyone know any good recipes for cabbage-based meals in a single pan? We have run out.

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