10th - 17th July 2003
We wanted to leave Novosibirsk very early to avoid the heat and the traffic, but when we woke at 5am it was pouring with rain so Ju stayed in bed and I worked on the website. You all been taking far too much interest in our trip and I've had to move the website to a different server with a monthly bandwidth of 1Gb! This involved a lot of re-configuring and setting up of things that was best done in a room with a power socket. I also had a cheap GPRS connection while we were in Novosibirsk thanks to a Russian SIM card, see the Cycling in Russia page for more info.
We finally left at about lunchtime, the rain had stopped but the traffic was heavy on the main road south. It remained heavy all the way to Barnaul, a distance of 220km, and was the worst traffic we had encountered for a long distance since Romania, maybe even on the whole trip. After Barnaul it got a little better but unusually for Russia it was almost all cars. That day was a Sunday and we discovered on Monday that it must have been people going to and returning from Altai, because once the weekend was over the traffic reduced to an acceptable level. I have decided on a definition of an acceptabe level of traffic as being sufficiently infrequent that it is possible to stop for a pee without a vehicle passing while you are occupied!
The day after leaving Novosibirsk I developed a fever and we had to make camp about lunchtime so I could lie down. While I was sleeping some cow herds on horseback came to chat to Ju. They let her have a ride on one of their horses and asked all the usual questions about where we from, where we were going, how much money we had, plus some suspicious ones like did we have roubles and would we be camped here all night? Eventually they had to go and herd some cows but they said they'd be back so I dragged myself out of bed and we decamped 10km down the road. Later we discovered that our spare bike pump and an almost empty bottle of oil had disappeared so we were glad we'd decided to move.
We bought watermelons from the roadside
Scenery on the road to Barnaul
Further south the traffic thinned a bit and we passed roadside sellers of fruit, honey and vegetables. They were selling the honey in 1.5 litre waterbottles which fitted nicely into my bike bottle cage. Just the thing for a high energy drink! Every night we had stewed fruit: raspberries, wild strawberries or bilberries (blue berries if you are American).
Ju writes: There are proper cowboys here. Every time we cycle past a herd, I am in danger of falling off the bike whilst admiring the skill of the horses. In the picture is the equivalent of driving a herd of cows across the A1.
On the eighth day out of Novosibirsk we rolled into Gorno Altaisk. Here we got our visas registered and a special permit to visit the Mongolian visa zone. See the Cycling in Russia page for full details on how. From here on south we will be on the Chusky Tract, heading south west into the Altai Mountains.
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