Friday, 31 August 2007

Altai Adventure (Southern Siberia)

Vodka, Vodka, Vodka.... and more Vodka!
That's the best way to describe the last couple of weeks. We left Moscow on the 13th of August and since then we've entertained shots of Russia's largest export in the following somewhat bizarre situations... to name but a few:
  • For Breakfast: Vodka Shreddies, Kellogs missing a market there, i tell you!
  • For lunch and dinner aswell: In fact any time food was around really.
  • With crazy Russian's on trains: We were approached by drunken locals regularly, one even claiming to be a Red Army Machine Gunner, but his pot-belly begged to differ.
  • While out in Barnaul - The usual night out with a bottles of Vodka close in tow.
  • With Immigration Officials - A portly fellow was trying to fine us 40 pounds each for Visa irregularities but while we sat with our translator in his stuffy little office, he couldn't resist cracking out a couple of shots in the middle of our 2 and a half hour "interview"!
  • While White Water Rafting - In between tackling the challenges mother nature was throwing our way, the local tourists on board would line up a few swift ones each to wet our, already decidedly damp, whistles.

One of the most remarkable things about this whole experience was the fact we were rafting with a local Police Captain, two Doctors, and the areas most respected Surgeon (which came in handy when Brownie dislocated his shoulder mid-rafting!) and none of them batted an eye-lid at the numerous intoxicating liquids being knocked back as we fought our way down the wild River Katun. We came to the conclusion that the health and safety blame culture which has griped Britain has yet to claw it's grubby mitts to Southern Siberia, and it sure was a breath of fresh air I tell you.

We'd met our motley crew of local big wigs and weathered pros in the Siberian city of Barnaul. From there we'd immediately headed off to the Altai mountain range and the the Katun River where we commenced the 5 days of rafting. It was on day 5 that we were all enjoying an easy stretch of water, Vodka shot number 4, and some lovely weather that disaster struck. All three mad Englishman had catapulted ourselves into the icy cold waters but one of our number managed to come out a little worse off for his heroics.

Brownie has a history with dislocating his shoulder, especially while on summer holidays it seems, and enjoys the prestige of having his own specialist back in the UK. Out in the forested wilderness of Siberia, however, isn't the ideal place to go popping ones bones out of their sockets, regardless of previous experience. It was while swimming that Brownie had his accident but luckily, the Surgeon with us was able to rectify the problem after nearly 2 hours of agonising (for Brownie, and for Jimmy who bore the brunt of Brownie's pain through his tightly grasped hand!) pulling and pushing on a random beach. On the plus side we all agreed that we couldn't quite imagine a more picturesque place to have gone through the ordeal.

After a few more hours finishing off the last bits of rafting, one man down, Brownie departed with the locals to head to the nearest hospital for a check-up and Jimmy and I continued as planned with the second part of our Altai adventure, horse-riding.

I still to this day can't understand how Cowboys can ride horses all their lives and still walk normally or even just sit down properly. Equally hard to comprehend is how the Cowboy family lines continue to reproduce with certain vital parts taking such a bashing on a regular basis! Other than this most uncomfortable side effect (I'm taking a box next time!) the horse riding experience was excellent, and the locations were unparalleled in their beauty and serenity.

Back in Barnaul (with an obvious limp) and re-united with our one-armed companion we enjoyed a night out with a handful of locals we befriended, and a couple of days adjusting back to life in a world with toilets, showers, and the occasion bar of soap.

It wasn't long though before we jumped ship once again and boarded yet another train headed towards Irkutsk and the worlds largest fresh water lake, Lake Baikal. Being as it's so big however, it'll have to wait till next time for a write up!

Only 2 weeks till we fly home now, so i look forward to seeing everyone, and would like to say a big good bye to my parents, as they should be just about boarding a one way plane to New Zealand as i write this... see you in sunny NZ at Christmas Mops an Pops!

Ta ta


Anonymous said...

Wot an adventure e!! You were nearly right as we are leaving in 10 mins to set off down to Heathrow. We are all packed and Ads has a list a mile long of dos and don'ts for managing the house which he will have great pleasure in passing to you when he leaves!! Speak soon from sunny Gisborne in the springtime lots love mops and pops

Sam Hardy said...

Hey up, thought I'd leave a comment so you know that i'm also enjoying your spirit at least, well as long as its vodka! You've not been missing much back here in Blighty, we had a few days of sun (just for the Reading Festival which i didn't have the pleasure of going to, just the annoyance of fighting through crowds of young adolescents)however now the clouds have returned and while its not raining the sun very rarely appears. since i have no interesting news to report ill leave you to your travels and wish you Хороший путешествовать! (good journeying according to Babel fish)