Sunday, August 14, 2011

Southern Exposure

Kulunda - unremarkable save for its place on the border. Having lost our way in the dark and seen more of the town than we wanted we finally consulted a map. Our campsite was on the way to Rodino (sans Hart and Scott) and Barnaul. Reckoning that the road signs were as screwed up as they usually are in Russian towns, we turned left and headed blissfully in the right direction for the next five kilometers - until we ran out of asphalt and understood why the signs for Barnaul were pointed the opposite way. Bugger! We turned around and found the sign we’d missed in the darkness of the night before and were on our way at last.

Romanov presents itself as the county seat for Romanov prefecture. How did we know this? That it has the same name and birches line the main street with its community college, official buildings and statue of Lenin were all clues. A sharp right turn presents a department store and strip club which seemed, perhaps, a little incongruous, but we rolled with it. Carefully cranky some 22 hours since our last real meal we needed to eat! The local supermarket yielded a full roast chicken which we devoured with our hands in the town’s memorial park. After lunch, as Mike took pictures of Lenin’s statue, Tom met an elderly gentleman who said something in Russian, that to Tom’s ears sounded nostalgic. Tom asked him if he spoke English whereupon the man turned pale and said, “Nein!”, then swiftly walked off. 

Barnaul - city of crap signage. Biysk is not southwest, but southeast off the M52 which lies far beyond the city limits across the river. Another doubling back, instinct, intuition, and a check in with the local fuzz had us pointed at the end of a baton in the right direction. Our prime directive, that the driver makes the final decision on which direction to go in, has paid off more than once. 

Mayma is in the foothills of the Russian Altai. The landscape had changed from open expansive fields to rolling forest with a river at our side.  We stopped for a late dinner at a disco cafe. The matron of the restaurant called a woman with perfect English to take our order. We declined the offer of accommodation and instead made camp in a high field overlooking the river in the cool moonlight. 

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