Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ust-Koksa and Tyungur, Altai

Now when it's about -30 outside, it's the right time to remember the summer and one of the most attractive and amazing destinations in Altai mountains - Ust-Koksa district, a mecca for thousands and thousands of hikers not only from Russia, but from all over the world. I've met a couple from Germany there, for example, and I often see questions and opinions about the district at various international forums and discussion boards.
The reason of such broad interest is Mt.Belukha, the highest peak in Altai and one of the highest in Russia, which is a hiking and mountaineering goal for loads of travelers, picturesque Akkem lake at the foot of this mountain, plenty of other beautiful mountain lakes, Multa lakes inclusive (I've written about it earlier) and a lot of other attractions, which make this long trip worth doing. Tyungur is about 900 km away from Novosibirsk, but we didn't mind, because we didn't drive too much within one day, so the travel was rather relaxed.
And what I liked most is that the region is really wild, with as little civilization as one can possibly imagine. Of course there are cell phones, internet connection and television there too, but  it is not pronounced and one doesn't even feel one needs all these things there.

We had such a good time there, that now, when I look at the pictures and think about it, I feel that spirit. Esoterics and yogis say that the region is a so-called 'place of energy', and old-believers who settled there must have felt it too.
Unfortunately we didn't do a trekking to Mt.Belukha or Akkem lake, though it is one of the most popular routes, because of our kids, but we spoke to several people who did it and who guide such tours, and we are determined to do it in one or two years from now. They say the route is not very difficult, the only thing one should remember is that the region is very wet and it can even snow in summer, but they also say, and numerous pictures prove it, that the view of Belukha, the proximity of it, makes one forget about all difficulties and challenges of the route. And actually I love trekking so much that all these challenges are a real pleasure for me. It seems that my kids love hiking as well, which they demonstrated during our short tour around Multa lake and to Shinok waterfall.

The main settlement in the region is Ust-Koksa. The settlement is rather big and there's more civilization there, we even saw beauty parlors. It is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, and two rivers, the Katun and the Koksa, merge there.
In Ust-Koksa we spent a night at the rest house Uimonsky Kovcheg, located in a quiet place and surrounded by birches. Very good service, very friendly staff, very interesting excursion program and very good food!

 As you see, they offer rafting, and the off-road car at the background is used to bring people to remote destinations. Not very convenient, but it IS a real off-road car, and the drive is an adventure in itself.

Views of Ust-Koksa
A short trekking uphill

View of Ust-Koksa

It was slightly difficult at times, but it was fun!
In the center of Ust-Koksa there are plenty of shops, so if you head for Tyungur, it might be a good idea to do necessary shopping here. In Tyungur there are only two or three shops, and they offer a very limited range of products.

After Ust-Koksa in the direction of Tyungur there is no asphalt cover, only ground, so be ready to get covered in road dust even if driving with closed windows. But the picturesque scenery compensates for this small disadvantage.

Tyungur together with a small village Kucherla, is the last destination in this direction. They say there used to be a road connecting Tyungur with Inya village, which is along the Chuya Road, but now the road is suitable only for bicycles or motorbikes, for trekking and only about 17 km can be managed by car.
So Tyungur is the real 'dead end', and I could feel it. The feeling was that I'm at the edge of the Earth. There are many visitors there, most of them are hikers and mountaineers, with backpacks, so the place has romantic spirit. I felt wonderful there. We had luck with weather during our stay there, it was extremely hot in the daytime and the nights were warm. Tyungur lies on the Katun river, which is rather quiet there.
View of Tyungur and Katun

Nice, aren't they? People eat a lot of meat there.
On the way to Kucherla village. A really wild settlement

Look how wild! Well, people don't live in here, but you can see such houses everywhere there.

River Kucherla. Amazing, magical, fabulous color... And very cold, even icy. The river flows out of a glacier. 

Bridge over Kucherla. Looks rickety, but accessible even for some cars. Care should be taken, though, even if you walk 

Merger of Kucherla and Katun. Magnificent view! I couldn't take my eyes off it.

An ancient warrior's grave. They say this is the 'place of energy', and they say the energy is evil here. I couldn't feel it, but I suppose one just needs more time or maybe one should come there alone. People even say that sometimes photocameras and other devices fail to operate here. Mine was OK, as you may notice.  

Another grave. There are 8 of them there on the whole, and such stones above ancient graves can be found everywhere in Altai and Mongolia. This exact place is about 10 km away from Tyungur in a remote place. Very few people reach this place, but it is one of the most magical places in Altai I've been to.

Turgunda river. The purest water I've ever seen and tasted.
Here there is an ancient burial mount, though it's difficult to see it in the picture. There are hundreds of them in Altai, and all of them are developed by archaeologists. It feels strange to be in a place where people used to live thousands years ago.

Merge of Katun and Kucherla again. A gorgeous place...

Mt.Belukha somewhere in the distance... One of my life goals.

 And on the way back from Tyungur we saw the sign 'Honey for sale'. We followed the sign the found ourselves in a fairy tale. The place is called 'Farm Dobroslav'. Dobroslav must be the owner's or one of his sons' name. It is a farm, a camping, a rest house and a museum in one place. Travelers can stay there, have food cooked by the owner's wife, buy honey, milk and other ecologically clean and wholesome food. Travelers can sleep in their tents, in houses, including the one in the picture above and even in the loft barn! It was a pity we didn't see the place on our way to Tyungur, and I certainly recommend it to all of you!

It is a very long post, but I hope you'll find it interesting, and that it'll make you want to visit it as a part of your Russia-trip.
Welcome to Altai!

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