Best of Siberia: Altay Mountains Tour - Ride Report

One of our guides, Mike, just came back from the Best of Siberia: Altay Mountains Tour, and wrote his feedback how it was. Here is short summary, enjoy reading.

Altay is a fantastic region, the pearl in the crown of Siberia and one of the most amazing and beautiful places in Russia. We have long wanted to come here, preparing Rusmototravel tour and finally it happened. But lets start from the very beginning. We got a nice small team: Gregory from Slovenia - for whom it was the first such motorcycle trip, Marco from Holland - who has already traveled almost the whole world, Andrew and Julia - our great friends from Russia, my colleague - Roman "Grom", a wonderful person and a great guide and me.

My intend is to tell you short story about our journey, to share emotions and of course, to encourage everyone to new discoveries.

 

 

 

Day 1

The previous evening on arrival, we all got acquainted at dinner, and in the morning jumped on the motorcycles, left Novosibirsk in the direction of Biysk. The Federal highway is not the most exciting place, but it is a great opportunity to roll in, get used to the bike and to ride a group. First day was into, so we stopped at the Museum of the Chuya Highway, enjoyed some old Soviet vehicles (from motorcycles and cars to the airplane and locomotive) and had a great evening at the camp site near Belokurikha.

Day 2

On this day began a really interesting road winding through the picturesque foothills of the Altay with its serpentines and beautiful views. In Gorno-Altaisk we visited the Anokhin national Museum, where we saw the "Princess of Ukok" - a mummy found in the 90s in one of the mounds on the Ukok plateau. The Museum is large and very interesting. Then we had 150 kilometers of roads in a downpour with hail, which all courageously passed and it even added certain emotions and feelings. In one of the villages, where we stopped to rest, we met with a very colorful locals who took pictures of each of our motorcycle. In the evening in Artybash, we had a delicious dinner with local food.

Day 3

Early in the morning we rushed to the pier, boarded the ferry and went for a 7-hour sailing on lake Teletskoye, from the North to the South shore. This lake called the younger brother of Baikal for its elongated shape, great depth and purity. It looks like the Norwegian fjords, the lake is narrow, surrounded by overgrown with taiga, mountains with cascading waterfalls from them. We sailed through the clouds, hovering over the water and it was just fabulous moments left no one indifferent.  On the southern shore we stopped at a camp site, went to the bath - it was especially interesting to our guests from Europe. And although on motorcycles we drove quite a bit, but the day was full of impressions!

Day 4

This day the real off-road adventures began! The Chulyshman river flows into the Teletskoye lake, flowing through a mountain valley, sometimes wide, and sometimes looks like a canyon, and along this valley there is a dirt road, with small fords, sand, steep climbs and descents. And here all finally broke free, rushed raising dust and spray, scaring grazing cows and horses! In my personal rating, this road is in the Top 3 most favorite motor roads.  But our goal was uchar waterfall - one of the largest in Altai and one of the most beautiful.

In order to get to it, you need to cross to the other side of the river and walk about 9 kilometers along a mountain trail, with crossings of logs through mountain streams and small crevices. The trail is very picturesque, but requires a certain endurance, and on a hot day, which turned out to us - it was not easy. First, halfway turned back Marco, Julia did not reach just a kilometer, but Gregory, Andrew and I got to the goal and it was worth it!

Cascade waterfall with a roar falling between huge boulders is fascinating and it is deservedly popular with tourists. Admired, rested, went back and on the same road again rushed to the camp site. And here we can not say that the same road to go boring - in the morning and in the evening it appears in different lighting and return on it was no less interesting. And especially I want to mark Gregory. A man who had almost never moved off the asphalt before - very cheerfully and boldly drove the entire route, overcoming the sand and fords and deep pits, Bravo!

Day 5

From lake Teletskoye to the Katu-Yaryk pass - 70 kilometers along the Chulyshman river. In recent years, this road is expanded, rolled grader, which on the one hand makes it more accessible, but on the other hand, deprives the wild charm that were in it 10-15 years ago. This process is not very fast, but I advise you to hurry up before they start laying asphalt!

But while the road is still full of the spirit of adventure and ride on it a pleasure! At the end is a mountain pass Katu -Yaryk , a length of 3.5 kilometers, rising from the valley of Chulyshman river on the mountain plateau where the road leads to Chuyskiy tract through the woods, fields and mountain passes which offer splendid views of snow-capped mountain ranges. Past the mountain lakes, past the horses grazing on the green meadows, through the taiga you will reach the Red Gate - a passage cut in the rocks, which preserved the historical inscription of the Soviet soldier returning from the war to his Homeland. 

Many cars cannot independently climb the pass, as the lower part of it is quite steep and they are pulled by a tractor, but for motorcycles there is no special difficulty to climb it, but the pleasure of this part of the way will take a lot, especially since the top offers a stunning view! At the intersection of the Chui and Ulagan tracts is the village of Aktash, where we stopped for the night.

Day 6

Gregory said Chuysky trakt - the road created by the motorcycle gods. In recent years, it has been completely renovated and now it is a great quality track that crosses the entire Altay mountains. Turning from Aktash to the East, after 90 kilometers we reached the village of Kosh-Agach, near the border with Mongolia.

On the way we turned off the highway and drove into a picturesque place called Mars, named after the red-orange hills. Here, too, dirt roads, great views and a small route for walking.

Near to Kosh-Agach, on the road leading to the Ukok plateau is a religious building of the bronze age - Tarhatinsky megalithic complex. These are stones of different sizes, folded in the right circle and oriented to the sides of the sun, on which there are petroglyphs - ancient rock paintings. This place is sacred for the locals, shamans and Altaians make offerings to the spirits of Altai here. This place is called Altai Stonehenge and it is filled with some of its own, special atmosphere. Along the road graze herds of camels, and motorcycles rushing through the steppe and leaving behind a long tail of raised dust, reminiscent of footage from the film MadMax.

We came back a little bit and drove to the Yurt Parking lot, where we listen to the traditional Altay throat singing, accompanied by playing national musical instruments. The singer-storyteller told us a little about this cultural feature of the Altai people and answered various questions. Interesting place and we all loved it!

We went further and turned into the Kurai steppe - a vast valley lying at the foot of the Northern Chui ridge and featuring stunning views. Flooded with sunlight, it makes an indescribable impression in different months, changing its shades, from green-blue in spring and early summer, to gold-blue in the second half of summer and early autumn. An amazing place that made a big impression on all of us.

And at the end of the day our group was divided - Gregory, Andrew, Julia and I went to the hot Spring lake, and an affair with Marco rushed to scout the way for Astashinsky repeater. Although the hot Spring lake to the geysers is not irrelevant, but the place is very nice and beautiful. This is a small pond in a swampy forest, where the keys are beating, creating concentric sand circles on the bottom. Beautiful place and very cozy.

Day 7

Near the village of Aktash there is a mountain with a peak at an altitude of just over 3000 meters above sea level and on which there is a repeater. In Soviet times it was a point of government communication with Mongolia, and now it is a cell tower, providing coverage of most of the surrounding area. This very place and the road to it - probably one of the most vivid impressions of the entire route and no one who went up there, does not leave indifferent. Only 12 kilometers to the top, but this short distance will require very good experience and training, "aggressive" tires and to some extent - courage.

At the side of the road leading up the spring river and its highly eroding and overcoming stones and pits requires a lot of skill, and even an affair with Marco - people who have very rich experience of off-road driving, was impressed! And this is where Marco - a man who has been in at least 20 tours around the planet, said Wow!  Driving past abandoned mercury mines and rock dumps, climbing the steep gravel slopes, you will be rewarded - you will see a stunning view of the mountains and the Kurai steppe, and in good weather you will see in the distance Belukha - the highest peak of Altai and Siberia.

Because of the condition of the road, Gregory and Andrew with Julia in the morning left the bikes at the hotel and went up here in a minivan, which is much safer and the same remained under great impression.

After returning from the repeater, our team went down the Chuya Highway in the direction of Gorno-Altaysk. We stopped at the arrow Chya and Katun, photographed at Semenovsky pass and spent a wonderful evening at dinner in the hotel, standing on the island in the middle of the river. Chuya Highway is not without reason included in the Top 10 best roads for motor trips, according to National Geographic and in the personal rating of Gregory - he took first place out of all the impressions of our journey. And I want to note the incredible purity - it is particularly struck Andrew and Julia, they have not seen anywhere else in Russia and it's really amazing! In addition to the fact that in the Altai Mountains there is no major industrial production and minimal road traffic, just on the sidelines there is no garbage!

Day 8

As we did not want to say goodbye to Altay, but time is limited and our road lay in Novosibirsk. But we couldn't miss another great attraction – “bike post» of the Igor "Black African". This famous and wonderful man, welcomes all motorcycle travelers (and not only), providing them with shelter and a kitchen, garage and repair area with all the necessary tools. Igor has «golden hands» and many people he makes frameworks, cases or other things, especially necessary before departure to Mongolia. The man is very sincere and his «bikepost» has become a real Museum with a book of reviews and a lot of unusual artifacts. Will be in the Altay- be sure to look at him.

We all felt the atmosphere and friendliness of this place and it was the final chord in our trip to Altay. Back in Novosibirsk we had  a farewell dinner. 

Conclusion

It's been a great journey! We were lucky with the weather and with good people, we saw, though not all, but many of the beauty of Altay. We got invaluable experience and impressions and I hope Marco and Gregory really imbued with Russia, Siberia, its beauty and sincerity.

That was awesome!

Marco - thank you for these days and we are waiting for you to visit again!

Gregory - you became my friend and it was very interesting to communicate with you, Russian and Slovenes - brothers!

Andrew and Julia - you are incredible and every trip with you, for me - a real holiday!

We did our best and hope that all of you fell in love with Altay and that this journey will remain in your heart and memory forever. I hope we will see each other again, because Russia is so huge and it has so many beauties and fascinating roads! Thanks to our back office RUSMOTRAVEL in the person of Olesya and Sony for the help and support, many thanks to Vadim Shpilevsky with whom we for three days reached by car with motorcycles in the trailer from Moscow to Novosibirsk, thanks to all my colleagues - guides and of course Alex Nikonov for the organization of tours in Russia and the management. Special thanks to Roman as a leading guide for a great tour, route and company.

Have a great season everyone!

Mike