Bilderverkauf aller 50 km / Pictures on Sale every 50 km

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beautiful Altai in the Border Zone (:)

These days are hardly to explain, there is not so much story but beautiful landscape which you get to see later in the pictures.


25th of August: In Катон-Карагаи we go to the office of the National Park. Андрей from Altai expedition explained us the way to them and told us it would be good to have at least the пропуск (permission) for the National park. The guys there are once again very friendly. It seems that it is first time that they have a Japanese visitor. We get a lot of explanations about the national park; the area is 6000 km2, with amazing flora and fauna, saying one day is not enough, it is better to go by horse ..... Indeed I would like to stay here more long, but therefore you need an additional vacation which just concentrates on this area. We just get the permit for national park, nobody ask for border zone permit, make the obligatory picture with the boss and some staff of the park, and go on to our Altai "Tour".


Around 40 km after Катон-Карагай, the Austrian road is climbing up around 1000 m from the bottom of a wide valley. This off-road trail was build by Austrian prisoners of world war one. This first 1000 m give you the views over the valley its sunflower fields that are encircled by colourful mountain meadows. From here you also see the snow-capped peaks of the highest mountain of the Altai. Along the serpentines a lot of berries are growing, which Kotomi is picking for the first time in her life. Sometimes Kotomi is walking since her stomach does not feel so good due to the bumpy way and the motion of the car. After the pass we drive onto a plateau with meadows, horses, cows, and clean rivers. A family has its summer camp here. It means they build up their Jurt and bring their animals here for the summer time. We go further and make our camp in a wide valley/plateau. The scenery is peaceful; horses jumping around and in the background the glaciers of some 4000 m high mountains getting red in the sunset. It gets cold this night; the moisture of our breath is frozen at the inside of the tent. (N 49.06015°, E 86.01725 °)


26th of August: Leaving the national park means we go into forbidden area. From now on we need the border zone permit. We driving through narrow valleys, over broken bridges, and have to cross rivers. But all the way is worth to go seeing these colourful mountain meadows which are surrounded by old larches. We manage only 40 km and arrive at Lake Markakol. Our contact person Михаел shows us with his 24 year old Toyota 4WD Combi a nice meadow at the lake where we make our camp. We have a chat and he is very much complaining about the Russians even so he is Russian. He never visited Russia after the independence of Kazakhstan, "всё мафиа", "all are mafia and bandits especially the police". Anyway he is surprised about the border zone permit stuff and says we do not need. We are not sure and are still a little bit afraid to meet any guys from the border police. (N 48.78453°, E 86.01745 °)


27th of August: Going south from the Lake means that we almost touch the Chinese border. I really hope that we do not meet the border police. I am always thinking about my excuse just in case that we meet them. Just do not know any Russian?? Or pretending not to know anything? Or .......???? The landscape is changing from rivers and lake, to mountain steppe, and after passing the Mamor pass we are looking down to the white sand dunes of the desert which are already in China. We are driving along the border fence and behind it you can see the desert. We pass a deserted border check point; nobody stops us it seems we are saved. Going on the South west where the left side of the road is steppe/desert and the right is amazing green from the water of the Altai. It gets very hot and we decide to make lunch at a river. We take a bath and some boys from the village join us. One of them is studying music and asks if we have a guitar. He plays while we are cooking. We share the Kumis which I bought in Катон-Карагаи, have some cookies together and then we are alone again. After another 100 km nothing just flat steppe, seeing behind and far away high mountains. Kotomi is sleeping as always on these “interesting” straight steppe roads. In the afternoon we arrive in the town Zajsan. Buying food, getting a 10 kg water melon for free (maybe because Kotomi is the first Japanese in this town, as she was the first Japanese at Lake Markakol (:)) and 50 km more until the quite big Lake Zaijsan. Making our camp in the steppe; behind us mountains and in front the lake. (N 47.67711°, E 84.41575 °) 



Border Zone Permit and Buying "Diesel"/Getting invited by Kumbat and Kamschat

24th of August and it is monday: The office of Altai expedition is open and the very friendly owner Андреи welcomes us. Just at the same time an author of the Lonely Planet for Central Asia visit him and they actually discussed what to write in the new edition. They also discussed the matter of the border zone permission. Both say you need a border zone permit to go the Markakol Lake in the Altai Mountains. Unfortunately the permit takes at least 30 days and even the fast processing of 12 days seems not to be possible anymore. Well first that is bad news for us, since we do not want to wait 30 days for this permission. I explain him that I want to go to the lake from the North by using the Austrian road. This road is quite a Off-road challenge but promises beautiful views into the valleys and peaks of Altai mountains. I explain him my plan and he tells me that I could at least go to the Austrian road in the area of the National Park of Katon-Karagai (Катон-Карагаи). That is at least something but I do not want to go back to Oeskemen to go to the South to Almaty. So I ask him if I could go south from there too. He just says maybe you are lucky and there are no border police. This sounds like a "nice" plan and we hope that there are no posts on our way to the south using the way over the Austrian road, Lake Markakol, and Tereki. We buy food for some days and go further in the east in the direction of Katon-Karaigai. Андреи gave us a good explanation were the Austrian road starts.


From the steppe to hilly area, along yellow sunflower fields with blue sky, Rolling Meadows, potato harvesting families; that is what we saw on this way. Somewhere in between, we just want to buy a Diesel, we get invited to eat. Kumbat and his wife Kamschat just came back from their potato field and saw us at the petrol station. They were quite busy since he and his son still had to harvest potatoes. Nevertheless he invites us to come to his house were his wife and a friend will prepare a dinner for us. We follow his Lada Samara, which is loaded with 4 persons and 200 kg potatoes, until his house. He is living in a Russian style apartment block. But the apartment is decorated in the same style as the houses in the steppe. Maybe the only difference is that here you do not have the old nice Samovar anymore, the modern Japanese water cooker is used instead (:). We experience again the hospitality of the Kazakh people, with the self made noodle, a lot of meat, self made marmalade, and of course tea with milk and sugar as much as you want. After we are full he shows us his new магазин (shop) and guides us to the street that goes to Катон-Карагаи. We just drive a little further since it is already dark and make a camp at a meadow with hills of fresh cut grass. (N 49.21422°, E 84.39357 °)






Another 700 km along the Jertis

20th of August: We are following this river stream-upward already since we started in Omsk. The Jertis or Irtysch (Иртыш) has its spring in the Altai in Mongolia going through China, Kazakhstan, and finally Russia. The Altai is still almost 1000 km away and meanwhile we will follow the Jertis. In Omsk still Siberia, we are driving now on the Jertis plateau which is flat steppe. The river cuts itself into the sand of the steppe. In its "canyon" you can find a oasis in the middle of the steppe and villages along. In the afternoon we are stopping at a place where the "canyon" is quite wide. Searching half an hour; we find a way to go into the canyon; down the 15 m high sand cliffs. Now the Jertis has low water and we can make or camp in the canyon. In the sunsets it reminds me at the desert, the sand of the cliffs starts to get red. In the foreground there is a wide sandy beach with a few grass in between and bleached roots of big trees. We decide to stay one more day at this nice place; to write Blog for you (:), to read, to repair ..........  In the afternoon kids coming and after them a big herd of sheep is almost rolling down the cliffs, running over the wide sand beach, and finally to jump into the water. (N 51.44919°, E 77.78976 °)


22th of August: we have a short stop in Semey to buy some food and then go on in the direction of Oeskemen still along the Jertis. Semey is famous for the nuclear bomb test in times of Soviet Union. 460 were tested until 1989.For the Russians this area was sparsely populated and they did not care about the Nomads living here in the steppe. We go on in the direction of Oeskemen (Ust Kamenogorsk). Here we want to get a special permission to enter Altai region in the border zone close to China. At the end of the day we are ca. 100 km away from Oeskemen and stop at some beautiful rock formation. (N 50.14946°, E 81.71493 °). When we stopped there to make pictures we met our first tourist in Kazakhstan. He is Russian but lives in west Kazakhstan. He came here in 4 days with a 125 cm3 Suzuki motorcycle. He started in Aktau, which is 4000 km away at the Caspian Sea. He is sleeping 3 hours the day and driving the remaining time. He looked quite tired but still happy about his journey. He just want to visit his friends all over Kazakhstan. We made some pictures together and exchanged the phone numbers since we will cross the Caspian Sea later, starting in Aktau. He still needs to drive but we made our camp below the rock formation in the steppe. The smell of this steppe you will never forget. It smells like an herb shop. The smell of the flowers and grass are very intense. That is the food of the sheep and will give its meat the nice flavour.


23th of August: we go to Oeskemen in the hope that the travel agencies which may organise us the permission for the border zone are open. Unfortunately the one guy just left and the other agency is closed. Eating some Samsa, getting some food and find a sleeping place outside the town. (N 50.04802°, E 82.34258 °)






Friday, August 21, 2009

Experiencing nomadic Live, culture, and hospitality during an Off-road trip through the steppe

Let’s start with the night before we started to this amazing trip. After the Баня we went together with Арман, his wife, a friend and her daughter to his house. The house is one of this concrete living blocks but just one year old. From the balcony you can see the river which comes together with the Йертис (Jertis). The rooms are big and decorated with wall carpets where in the living room a huge flat screen is mounted at the wall. The rooms are nice decorated but not as full as in Germany or Japan, all necessary things are there. Since we were guests we were not allowed to help preparing the food, which is the job of the woman Арман got a big round table which was place in the middle of the room. The table is 20 cm high and maybe 2 m in diameter. You are sitting at thee floor on some kind of warm mat which is decorated with ornaments and symbols of Kazakhstan. Later on we experienced this style also in the villages of the steppe. For me it is amazing that this culture did not get lost in the cities. After some time a big round plate (50 cm) with self-made noodles of quadratic shape (5x5 cm) and a lot of meat are placed in the middle of the table. Cut horse sausage, horse meat, sheep meat, and meat of the cow. Арман told us that a family normally eats one horse over the winter. The guy from the Кафе and another friend Канат also joined this “party”.


Even so my Russian got better it was nice that the girl could translate when I was running out of words or they could not explain it with hands and feet (:). She just went for a language course of the Goethe Institute to Oppurg, which is very close to my place in Germany. She won this trip in a contest being one of the best. She started to learn German because she likes the German band Tokyo Hotel so much, which I do not know so much.


Now we could drink first time kumis (fermented mare’s milk). It taste a little bit like yogurt is just a little bit more sour, thinner, and has gas in it. After the main dish always sweets and white bread butter, marmalade, and tea is served. When your tea is empty you normally give it to the youngest woman which is filling it with milk and tea again. If you do not ask for it will be their responsibility to ask you if you want to have more when they see it is finished. After everybody is finished, the oldest or a respected person makes a pray where everybody hold up his two hands together like a bowl. The prayer thanks for the food and when finished everybody slides with the two hands over the face. Everybody stands up to wash its hands. Although the Kazakh are not that strong Muslims there is a strong respect for the older and the mother earth. You hardly find rubbish along the streets; the cities are really clean, also the cars look as they were washed just some minutes ago. The villages seem to be in much better condition than in Russia. All in all we feel more “light” in Kazakhstan compared to Russia.


Since Арман and Канат know the steppe around Павлодар very well, they suggested to go together to Баянаул, which is like an Oasis of mountains and beautiful rock formations in the middle of the steppe. Канат’s home village and his family lives in that area and they could show us the traditional live of the Kazakh “cowboys”. That sounded interesting but there was still one problem that our car had just two seats and they did not want to go with there “city cars” since they are not appropriate for the steppe. Anyway it sounds like a good idea and we postponed the decision to the next day.


17th of August: In the morning we exchanged our last rubbles and tried to get a registration that is actually just a further stamp in our registration card. The guys at the border said we have to doo it otherwise we will get problems if we want to go out of the country. They also said just go to town to the police get the stamp and that is it. Well in the immigration office they said it is not necessary and did not want to give us. Or again some citizen of Kazakhstan had to sign some papers and bring some documents. The guide book says the same, nobody knows about the exact rules, sometimes it is ok without, sometimes you get a problem and sometimes the immigration offices in the cities even refuse to give the registration. However we decided to try it together with Арман in Баянаул the next day. The problem of the missing seats was solved by just taking out our additional diesel tanks at Канат’s home, placing a tool box as one seat and putting a mat as another seat. Арман got one of his riffle and we got ready to go to the 210 km fare away Баянаул. Almost all the way we were driving through steppe on a quite good asphalt road. Along the way you could see salt lakes, a lot of cow, horses, and sheep. Fare away we could see something which looked like a huge castle in the middle of the flat steppe. These are the mountains around Баянаул. We approached there around sunset, where the setting sun was going down between the mountains and the steppe over a salt lake. To enter the mountains you have to pass a post that stops you. Арман and Канат just talked with them and we could pass. A second post close to the lake in the middle of the mountains did not want to let us through. But fortunately Канат knows the people there and convinced him to let us through which is normally only possible with a special permission of some tour operator. It was getting dark and Арман and Канат were thinking what to do. We took a dirt road into the mountain which leads us to a small village Торайгиров where Канат was living when he was a small kid. But his friend was not there, so searched for a place to stay in several houses. Finally we found the house of the family of Канат’s teacher. The first step is always to go in the house and ask, all other people waiting outside. After some while Канат comes out we wait some more minutes and then everybody goes in. Again the big round table where already food is served. Nice wall carpets and mats to sit. The grandmother (Канат’s teacher), her daughter and husband, and 3 kids are living there. We get a Боршт, self-made bread, marmalade, and tea. This whole procedure we experience in the following days several times also at places where even Канат does not know the people. This kind of hospitality is strongly related to the nomadic culture, where the people help each other to survive. On the way through the steppe even hundreds of kilometer you do not need to take everything with you since you will be always treated as a guest. Of course in the other way around if they travel they will receive the same hospitality from the others. This culture is in strong contrast to our so called “civilized” world where you can not find this open hospitality so often. (N 50.86432°, E 75.62885 °)


18th of August: We start very early in the morning since Арман want to show us a lot of interesting place. The village is just in front of a mountain close to a lake and the morning light serves us a nice view. We drive through a beautiful rock formations that look like in a picture of Dali, visiting the stone of the witch (Hexenstein) and climbing up to a cave. Have a bath in the lake and going on to Баянаул to solve the registration problem. Канат knows the police and after one hour a lot of discussions and phone calls we get that stupid stamp. Nobody wants to make that stamp but the border wants to have it. I wonder how to do without the help of Канат and Араман. However we have it now. We were visiting one Cousin of Канат got again food and Kumis from him in his Кафе. In there one guy looks at us and asks if we are the couple from Irkutsk with the stolen car. That is really amazing but TV is everywhere even in the small village. The people just saw our report in the Russian federal TV which they also receive there.


During the meal the Cousin decided to come with us since he knows the ways through the steppe better than the “city cowboys”. We improvised one more seat and the adventure through the steppe and the mountains was starting. Арман was always looking for something to shoot and finally we saw some wild goat (not sure if it is really a goat, looks like big dear with spiral horns). Unfortunately (for Арман) that he just took his small riffle. With the big one he could shot it even on a distance of 500 m. We often used no way as way, and sometimes you could only guess something like a track from a car in the grass. This was called an old bad “road”. We stopped at every 20 to 50 km at a families farming house. Always the same procedure; one goes in after some while the others, Kumis, bread & butter, and tea is served. In the end the prayer of the oldest, often the grandfather, and then we are on our way to Канат’s family again. We also make a stop in a valley with an Islamic cemetery with a relaxing silence, soft wind blowing over our skin and fare away mountain scenery. Канат makes a prayer and we stay their for some while in respect for his ancestors. In the evening we arrive in the village of his family Жуаитобе. Since we made already 150 Off-road km we decide to stay there over night. The family has 60 goats, 40 horses and 10 cows. Арман  explains me that the horses are not for riding. Most of them are sold in the winter for around 1000 USD for eating. After the dinner I am quite tired and I just fall asleep. (N 50.55114°, E 76.27285 °)


19th of August: Арман got the permission from his wife for one more day, so we decide to go through the steppe back to Павлодар not taking the road and having one more chance for hunting. I am shooting my first time and can hardly hit the bottle (:). We are driving along salt lakes, farming houses, again with the same procedure. There we always make sure that we are on the right way. Often we just drive trough the pure steppe without a way. We also visit a deserted Kolchose from the old Sowjet Union times. Most of them were closed and the people left the places. Smaller farming houses or villages are preferred in a more traditional way of living. Normally each family is like its own company. In the evening we arrive in Павлодар we stay this time at Канат’s house. We have a Баня and food, Kotomi plays guitar and drum, and we also have some beer. Арман wants to get some more for us and drives with the car, gets stopped in the middle of the night, but thanks to Канат’s connection to the boss of the police he get his driving license back. (N 52.24652°, E 76.9775  °)








Thursday, August 20, 2009

Escape from Russia

We stayed in Omsk almost one week while waiting for our Kazakhstan Visa. We made our camp at the river Jertis close to the village НовоОмск. The village is just five years old and most of the people are still building at their houses. That was good for me since I still need to repair a lot and they have a lot of tools. In Omsk I bought a big wooden plate which I wanted to use to make our roof tent more reliable. Actually I was afraid that soon the cracks in the base plate will be too big that we will fall through the tent while sleeping. So I just went in the village and asked around if somebody has an electric saw and a drilling machine. I told my story and very fast I found Иван who had all tools I needed. He is pensioner and was living in the time of the Sowjet Union in Kazakhstan. After the Перестройка he was moving back to Russia since it got more difficult for him to live there. But it seemed that he really missed this country and its people. His son was just visiting to help his father building a floor heating and the heating system for the next cold winter. I got to now also his story and I got my wooden plate cut and drilled as I want to have it. Now the bottom of the tent will survive for sure and I found again some more kind people in Russia. Although we meet so many nice people in Russia we were looking forward to go on to Kazakhstan.


Well last time I wrote that we stuck at the border because we overstayed our visa. Since it was Saturday they could not contact Irkutsk immigration. I was trying to speak with the boss of the immigration at the border. First he was sleeping. The other guy just said: "... drink some tea and wait until 3". We waited until 4 and still nothing happened. We got some more tea from the guy who is responsible for the disinfection of the cars which are coming from Kazakhstan and finally he showed me who is the boss. I tried to speak with him in my broken Russian and his answers were long, fast, and not understandable for me. I tried to explain him several times that the Irkutsk immigration said that this papers and the stamp at our immigration card are enough, and that we will not have any problems at the border. Finally he gave up; maybe he was afraid he will have the problem that we will stay at the border two days since we also could not go back to Russia. I was ready to open our roof tent in the border zone and just wait until Monday. After 6 hours we got our stamps and got explained that we can not come back in the next 180 days. (This means actually we have to cross Caspian Sea and we have not a plan/way B anymore we could go if we do not get the entire Visa on this way.) A simple, easy, and friendly hour at Kazakhstan immigration, custom, and insurance let us enter the first country of Central Asia. The first night we just slept at the river Jertis again where we celebrated our successful escape from Russia with a beer (N 53.61687°, E 75.19155 °).


Next morning we were driving to the next bigger city Павлодар since the immigration at the border told us we need to register in the next five days otherwise we will get a problem if we leave the country. Well, we were searching for the immigration office just to know it for the next day since it was Sunday. I asked in a Кафе for this office. This Кафе is the place where the story of the following next 3 amazing days starts. In the Кафе they could not give me the answer, but after I left the Кафе a guy was running after me asking where I am coming from ...... and telling me he has a friend which would come by in some minutes. He could show us where the immigration office is, also a русская Баня (since I was asking for it), and he also could show us the mosque where my guide book says it is the biggest one in Kazakhstan. We ate some Плов, had some tea, and after 30 minutes Арман arrived. Арман also like to travel and told us there are many beautiful places in Kazakhstan, showing us pictures in his notebook from his trips. After some while he remembered a place with a русская Баня and he showed us the way. Since we had to wait one hour he showed us in the meanwhile also the mosque and he said now it is number two in Kazakhstan. They build a bigger one in Astana. Back to the русская Баня and cleaning us from the dirt of the last week. It seemed that in that time Арман prepared everything for us as guests in his house. After we left the Баня he was there and we were quite surprised about this invitation since we just know him some hours. A friend’s daughter came with him who could speak a quite good German and the next 3 days with the experience of an amazing hospitality of the Kazakh people were starting. For now just the topic of the next Post (maybe tommorow (:)): Experiencing Nomadic Live, Culture, and Hospitality during an Off-road trip through the step of Kazakhstan around Баянаул.   




Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hopefully Last Day in Russia

So today we started from our last sleeping place in Russia (N 53.97246°, E 75.03613 °) to Kazakhstan. I hope I will have some more time there to update the Blog. Wish us good luck for the border! Bye Bye until Kazakhstan.

This I was writting in the morning. But now we stuck at the border because they tell us we overstayed our Russian Visa. Although we have the papers from Irkutsk immigration that our registration is extended. Anyway this is just a Copie which is stamped an signed and now the want to have the Original. When I was in Irkutsk I wanted to have the Original but of course they did not want to give and said verything will be fine. So lets see. Now is saturday and they try to FAX to Irkutsk but for me it sounds impossible. We also can not go back since we do not have the russian temporary documents for the car anymore. Maybe we  have to sleep at the border two days or not. Lets see.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Horsetrip with Buriat Hunters and My Parents

Until now I did not find the time to write about it. For now I just uploaded the pictures since we are in Omsk now where we have good connection. I will write about the trip later. For now just enjoy the pictures.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bolschoi Spasibo, A lot of Thanks that we can be on the road again

First of all we have to say thank you to Nadja & Slawa, Anja, Yulia, Aljona & Sascha, Natalia, Sergei San, Bela, Elisabeth, Lena, Dima, the Guys on the market which borrowed tools to me, my parents and to all the people who were supporting us and feeling with us. Without all of them we would not be on the road again.


After we got the car back I had to remake almost everything which I had constructed in March and April in Tokyo. The car hijackers took out everything, really everything and damaged the roof and all the roof carriers. Around 50 % of our stuff they just throw back in the car including some open beer. Well that means the last week before we started from Irkutsk I had to rebuild a lot and therefore there was no time for writing Blog. Because of some Visa problems it is impossible for us to go to Mongolia. That means we had to change our plan. Now we are on the way to Omsk, which is around 3000 km in the west of Irkutsk. In Omsk we will apply for the Kazakhstan Visa and then go to the South directly to Kazakhstan.


The total cost of the unfortunate happening in Irkutsk is around 6500 EUR. That is a quite big amount which is now missing in our travel pocket. Therefore I had the funny idea to sell pictures that we will make at every 50 km on our way from Irkutsk to Germany. We try not to cheat and we really make a picture exactly at every 50 km of our route. This picture or a collage of pictures at this point including the GPS coordinates we will send to you by e-mail. Each picture is unique and will be sold only once. It is like Lotto, maybe you will get an interesting one or there is nothing. But do not worry we try our best. Furthermore you will get an article with the full story about the stolen car, how we got it back and about our restart. I do not want to write about the stolen car and how we got it back on the Blog. I do not want to bring the people who helped us into any risk. By sending it with the 50 km pictures I have some control about who is reading the story and I can minimize the risk.


For more information and how to order the 50 km pictures just click here: 50 km Pictures