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Camping on the Katun

by Going Slowly

This morning, our car caught the fallen evidence of changing seasons – it is getting more autumny here in Russia by the day! Amidst orange leaves drifting softly to the ground, we left our farm field free-camp, and pointed our trusty LRC in the direction of the Altay mountains.

Fall Leaves on Our LRC

Though the tireless march of the seasons is certainly visible, I didn't set my hopes too high for transforming scenery. Somehow, we completely missed the Ural Mountains and I wasn't expecting the Altay to be much better. I was in for a big surprise.

We spent our morning motoring through flat fields, the early afternoon over gently rolling hills, and mid-day into the Altay region proper. As lunch hour approached, I spotted a crag off in the distance. A real, jagged mountain! Excited, I shouted to Tyler (who was right next to me, so I didn't need to shout): "There they are! The mountains are over there!"

Soon the terrain became recognizably mountainous, and we snaked along the rushing Katun river for quite some time. Along the way, we spotted droves of people sunbathing, picnicking, and pitching tents along it's mighty banks. This area is supposed to be very popular with Russian tourists; as the day progressed it became more and more apparent why.

Katun River in the Altay

Apart from the holiday-goers, there was another, seemingly unavoidable consequence of tourism to witness once more: large roadside souvenir stands. Between those, there were lots of smaller roadside vendors selling honey and mead (honey alcohol). We also saw signs for horseback riding, water rafting, hiking and mountain biking. I can't say as though Eastern Russia ever struck me as a holiday destination until today!

My favorite sight of the day was this quiet, tourist-free rural village. It is my dream to have gorgeous dishcloths drying in the sunlight, waving in the breeze. I loved the simple beauty of it, how this snapshot into rural Russian life was somehow able to capture my love of simple pleasures and all things homey and domestic.

Dishcloths Drying on the Line

In that same dream of a place to call home, I'll make delicious jams and jellies of all kinds, as well as pickles and preserves. Once we've consumed them all, I'll wash the sparkling glass jars and hang them on the fence to dry:

Glass Jars Drying on Fence

While I was wandering around taking photos, Tyler popped the hood of our LRC. Our car hasn't been idling very smoothly, so he adjusted a screw and twisted a thing just like the brake cables on our bikes and all was well again.

Tyler Working on LRC

Following our relaxing afternoon of "Sunday Driving", we realized simultaneously that we regretted not stopping sooner. As the sun made its descent towards the horizon and we began to hunt for a place the sleep, we noticed our surroundings had changed. The wide, inviting river flanked by majestic pine trees had become a series of small streams and sun-burnt hills devoid of shade.

So, with a little deliberation, we turned around and drove back the way we came. Finding a good spot to call home for the night was surprisingly difficult; the area was teeming with like-minded campers. People just pitch their tents wherever they please here, so the roadsides and riverbanks look like actual campsites!

Eventually, we found an isolated spot, with just one other family. They had only stopped for picnic, so we soon had the place all to ourselves.

Nearby Family Picnic

Tyler got some work done…

Tyler Working at Camp

…and then went bug hunting. When he was done, he came running back, raving about how he'd seen a spider sucking the juicy guts out of a bee:

Spider Eating Bee

Tyler usually loathes backtracking (something to do with his obsession with efficiency no doubt!), but today was a fine exception to this rule. What a great place to spent the night:

Altay Free Camp River Altay Free Camp