At the border to Russia everything goes smooth and I am quickly through. But when I ask for a room in the first town, there seems to be a problem. It is saturday and migration is closed already, so they cannot register me if I only want to stay one night. Why this is possible at the next hotel I will probably never find out.
I should get registered within 3 days. But I start for the ride to Barnaul anyway even if that will take longer. But I don't want to wait here. This whole registration process will stay a mystery, I never quite find out how it works.
The 300km from the border to Barnaul are one huge agricultural zone. One field lies right to the next one. Every few hundred meter there are some trees and bushes, the perfect habitat for camping cyclists.
After Barnaul I finally see some forest again. It is mostly needle and birch trees. Wonderful that smell, I missed that. Along the road there are often folks selling freshly collected mushrooms and strawberries. They are just delicious!
As far as my knowledge goes, you need to have a special permit to be allowed to cycle through the republic Gorny Altay and then cross the border to Mongolia. Try being a nice guy, I go to the police at the first town. Well my Russian is not really good enough to have such a conversation but I try to explain the guys what I am up to do. Do I need some special 'dokumjenty'? They are much more interested in my bicycle but, no that's OK. You don't have to say that twice to me. Off we go!
I have been looking forward very much to cycle this part through the Altay mountains. I could hardly wait to get here. But even my highest expectations are surpassed by far!
Big wide streams, crystal clear mountain rivers, little villages with block houses, endless needle and birch forest, meter high meadows full of flowers, sheer rock cliffs, big herds of horses, glacier covered mountains in the background. It is simply wild untouched nature - absolutely fantastic! For days I cycle over little passes, often along a river, through the deep forest and in the evening I set up the tent at the most beautiful camp sites next to the river. It is like in a boys dream, only missing the fishing gear with me.
Then the valley gets wider and opens up to a high plateaux. It is now much drier. The last plain before the border looks like the Altiplano in Bolivia: dry and few grass, some lagunas and high mountains on the horizon.
I have been a bit nervous about this border crossing to Mongolia, yes. Will it work out? What about the permit? On july 4th, exactly the last day of my russian visa, I arrive at the border. It is surprisingly quiet, maybe I am just too early. A woman comes to me at the other side of the closed gate. "Njet"! What Njet? I think my heart stops beating. After some time I find out that today there is some special holiday and because of that, the border will be closed for two days! And what about my visa? Come back in 2 days, It will be OK, she tells me. Well if only the folks who will be here by then see that the same way...
2 days later I am back at the border. There are about 8 cars in front of me, so it should not last too long. Well not, if the rate is 1 car per half an hour! After 4 cars there is a lunch break of 2 hours.
I am not allowed to cycle the 20km of no man land between the two border checks. Two germans who are here with their LandCruiser allow me to put the bike on their roof. At 5 in the evening (!) we are finally allowed to drive to the border control. The visa is no more valid and too late registered? Well, I was here two days ago and I camped so I was late for registration. The migration officer can not believe it and laughs: camped? As he gives me back the passport I smile too: Da ßwidánja!