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  • Polaris Overland

Lakes, Forests and Mountains !

Our plans for enjoying a few days relaxing in the Russian Altai region started off well.

Leaving the border we headed into Russia. Once again the views were stunning and we were in awe of the mountains, forests and rivers. We arrived at a wild camp spot to find a small stream. A family of Russians were already camped up and the came over to say hello. Once again conversation was difficult and our lack of language skills was very frustrating.

From our chosen camping spot we could admire a stunning sunset with snow topped mountains and the gurgling of the small stream. For both of us this was heaven enjoyed with a few beers and chilling out.

Next morning we were in no rush to get going so we had a long lie then slowly got ready. Our destination was the Guest House we had stayed at on the way to Mongolia. We arrived later in the afternoon and with lovely weather we got set up sleeping in our tent and later in the evening updated our maps with routes and camp spots and cooked BBQ for dinner whilst enjoying the stormy sunset.

That morning the weather was perfect once again so we decided to stay another day. We enjoyed some breakfast in the Guest House and then got on with sorting out a few things in the Landy.

Later Dave headed off to go fishing and Angela got on with knitting a baby shawl.

Later that evening the Guest House was busy and people came over to chat and a UK Mongol Rally team arrived.

In the morning we got up and got sorted to head off towards Barnaul. The roads were pretty good and we were in no hurry taking our time stopping off at local markets and enjoying the scenery. Later we found a spot by a river to camp and Dave got on with doing some fishing, not that he caught anything.

A mother and daughter turned up on horse back with their cows bringing them to water. Once the cows had had enough the mum and daughter took the opportunity to swim and wash in the river.

After finishing fishing Dave did a quick visual on Wilson and found we had a leaking break pipe at the rear axle. Dave tried to repair it using Self Amalgamating tape and although he reduced the leak it could not be stopped. This was not good news as we still had over 100 miles to travel to Barnaul where we knew there was a Land Rover Dealer.

Nothing we could do for now so we had dinner and tried to chill but the mosquitos had decided to make an appearance that made life very uncomfortable. After dinner we escaped to the tent.

Through the night Dave had to get up to go to the toilet. Climbing down the ladder in just his boxers he was swarmed by the mozzies. Brushing them off as best he could he made it back into the tent but by morning he was covered in red blotches and bites.

Next morning we packed up quickly and headed off to get to the LR Dealer. We took things easy as Dave was trying to drive as much as possible without using the brakes, using gear braking when possible and trying to leave lots of space to the next car in front. Not always easy when you are dealing with Russian drivers. We had extra brake fluid to be able to top up if needed.

We arrived at the LR Dealers just before lunchtime and the guys were expecting us as Dave had emailed ahead. We new we had a UJ and a wheel bearing that needed replaced but further inspection showed we needed another wheel bearing and another UJ replaced. We had the spare parts required for all except the brake hose. A new brake hose was available in Moscow but would take 3 or 4 days to arrive.

We left the Landy at the LR Dealers so they could get on with replacing the wheel bearings and UJ’s and we booked into a local hotel. It was clean and tidy with breakfast included for £34 a night.

We spent the next few days in the Barnaul walking around town, visited a few shopping malls much to Angela’s pleasure and ate mostly KFC and Burger King much to Dave’s pleasure having been limited on our food choices since we had arrived in Mongolia and made the best of the wait as much we could.

Finally Dave was told he could come and collect the Landy. The paperwork was completed and Dave drove back to the hotel to start preparing for leaving the next day. At this point Dave crawled under the Landy and found the LR Dealer had replaced the wrong Rear Drive Shaft UJ. They replaced one that was less than a month old and the one Dave actually wanted removed, as the grease nipple had sheared off it was still fitted. This was a problem as they had used Dave’s only spare UJ fort the rear drive shaft.

Dave took the Landy back to the dealer to show them their mistake. Initially they tried to say the UJ had needed replaced but Dave knew this was not the case. After much discussion, the original mechanic who had replaced the UJ was not available they agreed to get it sorted. Dave left the Landy and headed back to the hotel.

Next day by 11.30am the garage called to say the Landy was ready. They tried to charge for the UJ and labour but Dave refused stating the issue was their mistake and not his so he would not be paying anything. Finally they agreed.

Dave took Wilson back to the hotel and we packed up and headed south towards the border with Kazakhstan passing field after field of sun flowers and Angela couldnt resit stopping to get a photo.

We were not going to make it all the way to the border so we picked a wild camp off iOverlander near a lake called Kolvanskoye Lake near Savushka. It was busy but very nice with a sandy beach and lovely clear water. Dave went in for a swim and a wash then later that evening we had a bbq supplied by one of the Russian families that was really nice of them and saved us cooking. Throughout the trip people have welcomed us with open arms offering us dinner drinks hospitality and genuine kindness. Which has been overwhelming. Later we got a little fire going.

It would have been nice to stay here longer but we were low on food and more importantly low on booze so next day we packed up and headed for the border and Kazakhstan. The border crossing only took an hour and we then headed to buy food and beer supplies, fuel and some money.

We found a wild camp by a lake Samaskoye. A few locals were around and came to say hello or just look. Dave did some fishing but again no fish and by late evening the locals had left and we had the camp to our selves.

Our route was heading towards Almaty but we didn’t want to drive the same route we had travelled over a month earlier when heading up to Mongolia so we headed east towards the mountains. It would be a slower route and would have us skimming the border region where a permit is usually required but we hoped we would maker it through without the need. As it was we were never stopped or questioned and after a camp in a ravine where a dog that Dave said looked like Tommy Cooper turned up for a feed we made it back onto the main road to Almaty.

The road was as bad as we remembered and we bounced along to head to a wild camp we had used on the way up to Mongolia. When we arrived there were 2 families eating lunch that we initially mistook for Overlanders. They waved us down and invited us for lunch and we spent a few hours chatting with them. They were Kazak from Almaty heading up to go camping at Alakol Lake for their summer holidays and to enjoy some fishing. They were nice company and it was sad to see them leave. That night it was windy and rained so not the best nights sleep but by morning it was dry and we packed up.

We were still heading south. Our intention was to camp at Kapshagay Lake. The lake was busy with locals who had been camping for the weekend but as it was Sunday many were starting to pack up. We scrabbled up some wood for a fire later and Dave went fishing.

Soon a group of older women and younger guys turned up blasting loud music from their cars and generally making a right racket. A song with a chorus of “walk like a dog” was played over and over with the older women going nuts when it was on. Definitely a strange group!

Later they left and we enjoyed a roaring fire a few beers and watched a little TV on the laptop.

Next stop is Almaty and in this case ARB in Almaty. They had a replacement steering damper for Wilson to cure our “Mongolian Death Wobble” and spare parts Dave had had sent out from the UK.

The intention was also to put on firmer heavier duty springs on the rear however after the new springs were fitted it was realised ARB had made a mistake and the old ones had to be refitted.

Whilst at ARB Anna told us another British couple with a Defender would be coming to see them but couldn’t remember their names. We didn’t know of anyone else around but later Guy from Trucked Off messaged Dave later when we were back at the hotel. Dave had chatted with Guy in the past but we had never met. Later Guy and Sharon came round to our hotel for a few beers and for dinner and of course the obligatory chat about our Land Rovers.

Next day Dave was at ARB to get all the work completed and Angela enjoyed a swim and sauna at the hotel. After ARB Dave headed to the Britpart shop to buy some filters / service items but couldn’t get to the shop because the roads were closed and lots of police and military.

Later that night we joined Guy and Sharon at their hotel for dinner and drinks. Their hotel was pretty good, secure parking and cheaper than ours by about 50%. We had more to do in Almaty so we spent another night and booked into their hotel. We had put our applications in for eVisas for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan so had to wait for them to arrive so next day we said goodbye to Guy and Sharon and headed up into the mountains above Almaty to see the Big Almaty Lake and wild camp to try and save some money.

We found a nice spot by the river and waited for the emails to say our visas were ready.

Next day we got the emails so we had to head back into Almaty to get them printed off etc. We decided to head to the Business Hotel where we had stayed with Guy and Sharon. The plan was to sit enjoy coffee and steal the wifi to download everything we needed. The wifi was poor with the Internet dropping out and we could not download our visas, we just kept getting an error. Thinking it was a wifi / Internet problem we headed to MacDonald’ s to try and use their wifi to download the visas. Again no joy and Dave was getting more and more frustrated. We decided to check in to the Business hotel to continue trying to download our visas or so we could visit the embassy next day to get it resolved. Within an hour of checking in we managed to download the visas. The reception printed the visas off for us so we were ready.

Later we met up with Guy and Sharon for dinner.

Next day it was time for us to leave. We again said our good byes to Guy and Sharon then headed first to visit Shymbulak the ski resort above Almaty. It’s only a short drive then we caught 3 cable cars to reach the top at 3200m. The weather was poor with clouds coming and going and rain. We stayed to catch the views then headed lower to brighter weather and to get lunch. Later at the car park we met some German Overlanders and had a quick chat before we headed for a secluded wild camp by a river. We set up the BBQ and got a fire going under the awning as the rain started.

Later through the night we were woken to gunfire. The third shot Dave was looking out of the tent and saw the flash from the barrel. Probably some idiot shooting out of his car up by the road but after that we heard no more and enjoyed a peaceful sleep.

Today we were heading towards the Kyrgyzstan border as we intend to avoid Bishkek and head out towards Sharyn Canyon then cross the border close by into Kyrgyzstan and head to Karakol Lake.

First we headed to the supermarket and got stocked up. En-route we got stopped by the police after Dave crossed a solid line when the realised he was in the wrong lane at the traffic lights. Initially they said the fine was $100 but Dave argued and finally got them down to $30. But we didn’t have any USD less than $50 so that’s what it cost us. Whilst Dave did cross a solid line he did indicate and traffic was light but he could not argue that he had committed an offence. But clearly the police knew they were going to get as much as they could and it’s that attitude that annoys us more than anything.

We headed off in a bad mood feeling the police had just spoiled Kazakhstan for us. We headed for a camp by the river from the Sharyn Canyon and got ourselves set up and put the police issue behind us.

Later in the afternoon it started just as a car with 3 Australians doing the Mongol Rally arrived. They asked if they could camp by us and we offered cover from the rain under our awning.

Once they got themselves set up and eaten their dinner they came back and joined us by our fire and enjoyed a few drinks.

In the morning the weather had cleared so we got our washing dry and packed up slowly along side the Australians. Once they left we headed off towards the border.

Tonight we would be in Kyrgyzstan again.

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