Posts for July, 2013

An afternoon visitor (Khar-Us Nuur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 1st Jul, 2013 (day 89, miles 6484)

We had a somewhat shorter day today as we travelled only about 70 km to a lake called variously Khar-Us Nuur or Olgly Nuur. Arriving just after noon we occupied ourselves for a while doing some modifications to the latch on one of the cabinet drawers. After the chores we moved the vehicle to the lake shore and started to settle in, paddled in the lake, got out the camp chairs and started our afternoon cocktails. About this time a middle aged local man appeared on his horse and promptly sat in one of our camp chairs and started drinking the beer I had opened for myself. During the course of the next hour or so we had a very limited conversation, served him a few more beers and other assorted refreshments, and took a few photos of him. to read the full post

Looking for vegetables (Khovd, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd Jul, 2013 (day 90, miles 6582)

Our route south today (for the first 100 km) was on a road that continued to be nothing more than vehicle ruts in the steppes. The scenery was spectacular with colorful mountains all around, and those to the west were set off wonderfully by the morning light. About lunch time we saw a large body of water to the south and slightly east, our map named it Khar-Us Nuur (hang on wasn't that the same name as last nights lake ?? - we have noticed that many place names get used over and over again in Mongolia - very confusing for tourists). to read the full post

Vegetables and wash day (again) (Churgin Guur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd Jul, 2013 (day 91, miles 6624)

This morning we went back into Khovd spent some time on the internet and once again tried the market for vegetables. This time we went armed with Mongolian words for a range of vegetables. Eventually we were shown the way to the right section of the market and it immediately became obvious why we had so much trouble yesterday. Not only was it way out in the back blocks of the market area but also there were only a few stalls selling any type of vegetables, and they had only the most lmited supply. very small totatoes, one or two onions, and some long thin green things that looked a bit like cucumbers. This was proof to us that Mongolians do not eat a lot of vegetables. to read the full post

Mountains and bikers (Tolbo Nuur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Thursday 4th Jul, 2013 (day 92, miles 6692)

From last nights camping spot the road climbed through a series of river valleys over increasingly rough road or tracks to the highest point so far on this trip, 8660'. Along the way we passed through a couple of small villages and saw the inevitable herds of cows, sheep, goats, and camels. Late in the morning we were waved down by a pair of young boys who were out patrolling their herds on horse back. We were a little surprised that one of them spoke reasonably good English. Among other things he told us that he was "Kazak not Mongolian". We gave them some treats we carry for just such an occassion - immediately he asked (via sign language) if we had something to drink. We gave him a carton of fruit juice to which his response was - "one for my friend". He will be a successful animal trader some day. to read the full post

A few days break (Olgii, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Friday 5th Jul, 2013 (day 93, miles 6732)

The 60km into Olgii today was slow as the road was rough (again) with many different tracks to choose from and lots of road work (a new road is being built but so far it is not ready for use). About 10 km out from the town we came upon a large group of vehicles and people walking and riding horses, some of the horses where covered in bright rugs and some of the children were dressed as jockies, we could only guess that it was some kind of informal race. to read the full post

To the border (Olgii, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 8th Jul, 2013 (day 96, miles 6790)

We (actually me) spent the morning procrastinating about our departure. Showers, email updates, talking to all the other travelers at the guesthouse. But eventually I accepted Nina's argument that we needed to start towards the Russian-Mongolian border so that we were in a position to cross into Russia tomorrow as the Mongolian side of the border might be closed Wednesday for the national Naadam festival. So eventually we manouvered our way out through the guesthouse gate, changed most of our Mongolian money into Russia roubles at one of the towns bank and then hit the road towards the town of Tsagaanuur. to read the full post

We have posted a Photo Gallery For Mongolia

Posted Monday 8th Jul, 2013

Today we posted a set of photos for our time in Mongolia. To see them click the Photo on the main menu or click this link. to read the full post

Into Russia (Altai region, Russia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 9th Jul, 2013 (day 97, miles 6890)

Bright sunshine had us up before 8:00 am looking around the main and only street in the village to see what was happening and when we should start lining up for the border. I took the opportunity to exchange most of our remaining Mongolia money for Russian roubles and Nina got the chance to take some photos of a lady milking a yak. to read the full post

Views, rivers, camping spots everywhere (Kurata, Russia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th Jul, 2013 (day 98, miles 7012)

Today we had great weather, good road and just fabulous scenery. The route pretty much traversed the Altai Mountains by following a series of river valley's with one substantial climb over a pass to add variety. The rivers we followed were generally big and fast flowing, sometimes with steep gorges, and sometimes with grass banks. We frequently passed through nice little villages, that although clearly of modest means were well maintained and tidy. We have not seen any of the wide spread trash/garbage that we saw in Siberia. We saw many places catering to tourists (though we assume Russian tourists), rafing outfits on the fast rivers, hotels, and places that looked like camp grounds. We also saw a lot of cars and small SUVs with their roofs loaded with luggae - we assumed they were the tourists enjoying this fabulous mountain playground. There were miles of delightful (possible) camping spots along the banks of the rivers and we were a little sad that we needed to keep moving rather than enjoy these spots. to read the full post

Russians on vacation (Katun River near Manzherok, Russia)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th Jul, 2013 (day 99, miles 7105)

We started our travels today in, and after, some heavy rain falls but quickly the clouds cleared away and another nice summers day appeared. The road (we are traveling is the M52 which for the past two days was also called the Chuisky Trakt) continued to follow river valleys and wind between rounded mountains. As the day progressed we saw more signs of Russian tourism and Russians with vacation toys or camping gear on the tops of their cars. to read the full post

Farm land, first world, more vacationers (A Field M52, Russia)

Journal entry for Friday 12th Jul, 2013 (day 100, miles 7202)

Today we left behnd the last of the Altai mountains. From our riverside camp our route continued for much of the day beside the ever widening expanse of the Katun River, passng througn many small townships catering to holiday makers (we even found some good super markets). The road was excellent making it easy and the traffic increasingly dense and frantic. If we ever needed proof that Russia is a first world country with a large fun-loving middle class today was that proof. to read the full post

Weddings, and a Rock Concert (Barbaul, Russia)

Journal entry for Saturday 13th Jul, 2013 (day 101, miles 7291)

Today we were intent on finding some internet as we needed to catch up on emails related to visas for those Central Asian Countries. So our goal was the city of Barnaul where we hoped we might find an internet cafe or get good reception for our cellular modems. So throughout the morning we motored along with moderate traffic on good roads through lush farmland to read the full post

Last days in Russia (A349, Russia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 16th Jul, 2013 (day 104, miles 7493)

We have spent the past 3 days (14th,15th, 16th) on the A340 from Barnaul to Rubtsovsk and the border into Kazakhstan. We have been forced to travel slowly because our Kazak Visa does not start until July 17th. Had we given a little more thought to our situation last week, and had a little more knowledge about the country side south of Barnaul we could easily have spent some extra time in the Altai Mountains, that would have been more interesting and more comfortable than the hot, flat farm land we have been in the past 3 days. to read the full post

A visit to Semey (Karpovka, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 17th Jul, 2013 (day 105, miles 7622)

We were awake and moving early today, keen to get to the border and also a little anxious. We had read that the border crossing on the A349 was very busy and had even read on one website a recommendation that travelers should consider using another crossing about 100km east which was supposed to be quieter and hence easier. So we were relieved to find only about 8 vehicles ahead of us when we got to the Russian border post and pulled in at the end of the line waiting to be allowed through the control gate. to read the full post

Camping Kazakhstan

Posted Wednesday 17th Jul, 2013

We did not travel extensively in Kazakhstan. Directly south from the Russia border near Rubtsovsk, through Semipalantinsk and then to Alamaty. A short side trip to Charyn Canyon and back to Almaty and then to the Kyrgyz border and Bishkek. Thus we did not get a wide experience of finding camping places in towns/cities other than Almaty. to read the full post

Camping Kazakstan

Posted Wednesday 17th Jul, 2013

We did not travel extensively in Kazakstan. Directly south from the Russia border near Rubtsovsk, through Semipalantinsk and then to Alamaty. A short side trip to Charyn Canyon and back to Almaty and then to the Kyrgyz border and Bishkek. Thus we did not get a wide experience of finding camping places in towns/cities other than Almaty. to read the full post

Cemetries, bees and American cyclists (Kurata, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Thursday 18th Jul, 2013 (day 106, miles 7786)

Today we (or at least I) felt the full weight of trying to cover the 1100km from Semey to Almaty in 4 days. Now our Australian and US readers may be surprised by this comment as 1100km would be an easy 2 day drive in either country, but in Kazakhstan, in our truck with the rough paved and unpaved roads today made it clear that our goal would be tiring and tedious. So for much of the day we bounced along, mostly on rough paved roads, at less than 50 km/h covering a little over 300km in almost 7 driving hours. to read the full post

Another motorhome (A350, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Friday 19th Jul, 2013 (day 107, miles 7999)

Before we were out of bed this morning we heard a vehicle sounding its horn and then heard the sound of a diesel engine coming towards our camping spot. To our surprise we looked out of our window to see another motorhome coming towards us. Sue and Chris, from the UK, were on their way to Mongolia. Just to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that people do all kinds of things and travel for all kinds of reasons we learned that they (Chris and Sue) were going to Mongolia to fly the hot air balloon they were carryiing in the big storage box mounted on the back of their vehicle. We spent some tiime together (after we got hurridly dressed) talking about the state of the roads, where to stay in various cities and the strength and weaknesses of our respective vehicles. to read the full post

A Title (A350, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Saturday 20th Jul, 2013 (day 108, miles 8205)

Today we saw a bit more activity beside the road. There were more villages, and in those villages there was more produce for sale in roadside stalls, and the main street through many of the villages had very extensive and long established groves of trees beside the street. We saw men out cutting grass with scythes and even saw one man painting the trunks of trees with white paint. to read the full post

Almaty - where to stay?? (Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Sunday 21st Jul, 2013 (day 109, miles 8288)

Last night our big question/decision was "where do we head to once in Almaty?". We talked about it for a long time and came up with all kinds of plans. This morning we chickened out and decided to head to the Holiday Inn according to the LonelyPlanet guide it had parking; the downside - it was expensive. to read the full post

Business (Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Monday 22nd Jul, 2013 (day 110, miles 8291)

Today was a business day. We tried many times this morning to call the local FEDEX franchise to find out what we had to do to liberate a package from the customs process here in Almaty but everytime the receptionist tried to connect us the phone hung-up. So after failing to get anywhere over the phone we decided to add a visit to FEDEX to our days agenda. to read the full post

Bad camping choice (Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Tuesday 23rd Jul, 2013 (day 111, miles 8304)

We left the Holiday Inn early this morning and made our way to the Mercedes dealer. We were there early so had to find a place to park and hang-out for about an hour before their opening time of 9:00am. to read the full post

City traffic and tree lined streets (Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 24th Jul, 2013 (day 112, miles 8453)

Despite what we thought was an early start this morning, traffic was already fast and furious by the time we got underway heading to the southern part of the city of Almaty to visit Stantours. This is a well known Central Asian tourist company that helps travelers get visas and arranges tours and accomodation. We have been in contact with them for some months regarding our arrangements for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Also this is where our package (the one we visited FEDEX about on Monday) was/had been delivered. to read the full post

A day at the Canyon (Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Thursday 25th Jul, 2013 (day 113, miles 8453)

We used the cooler morning to walk to the end of the access road to get a better look at the canyon. From the various lookouts along the way we could see green vegetation and blue National Park signs at the informal camping area at the bottom of the cayon. Also along the way we noticed a primitive road running down a nearby valley all the way to the river. It dawned on me that it was this road that the rangers we met last night were telling me not to drive on .. we would later understand why we got that advice. to read the full post

A walk into the Canyon (Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Journal entry for Friday 26th Jul, 2013 (day 114, miles 8578)

This morning before heading back towards Almaty Nina got up early to walk down the Jeep road to the bottom of Charyn Canyon to the informal camping ground at the river. Like a slug I stayed in bed for a while but eventually I felt guilty enough that I got up and followed. The round trip took Nina 1 and 1/2 hours and I only caught up to her 100m from the truck. Either Nina is getting faster, or I am getting slower. It was a pleasant walk as the valley through which the track passes was in shade for most of the time. We also discovered why the rangers warned us not to drive this track; at one point the track passes under a couple of big bolders and has no more the 7-8 feet of clearance. to read the full post

The Border, Police and other hassles (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Journal entry for Sunday 28th Jul, 2013 (day 116, miles 8751)

The past two days we have traveled from Almaty to Bishkek crossing the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border in the process. I think it would be reasonable to describe these two days as very representative of the hassles and discomfort of traveling in Central Asia. to read the full post

Camping Kyrgyzstan

Posted Sunday 28th Jul, 2013

In Bishkek we stayed at the SilkRoad Lodge. This is a reasonably nice hotel (US$170 per double) and is affiliated with Celestial Mountain Tours. they would have allowed us to simply park the truck on their premises for $20 per night. to read the full post

Visas - Parts I and II (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 31st Jul, 2013 (day 117, miles 8751)

It has/had been our plan for some time that we would get our Visas for Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan while in Bishkek. So on Monday morning (29th) we set off to the Iranian Embassy armed with our passports and the email from the Iran visa agency that contained the visa approval number from the Iran Ministry of Foriegn Affairs. to read the full post