When I was in Russia in July this year I visited one of those special places, the Alkhanay National Park. It’s situated in South Eastern Siberia, not far from the Russian – Mongolian border, just to the south of the region where I was born and grew up. Okay, bearing in mind that I am writing for the whole world and that most people would only know three Russian sights being Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the Trans-Siberian Railway, I thought it would be easier if I just show the place on the map (look for a red teardrop).
The central part of the Park is mountainous with average altitudes of 1000-1200 metres and the Alkhanay Mountain being the highest point at 1662 meters above sea level.
It took us just over 4 hours to get to the top and back. The incredible thing is that people manage to climb the path to the top of the Alkhanay without any special training or preparation.
Our group included a bunch of school children aged 7-8, grandparents in their sixties with their 4 year old granddaughter and every other age group and fitness level in between!
I can definitely confirm that despite the fact that our mountain climb started at 4 pm in the afternoon, straight after a long drive from the nearest big city, and also the truth that we were totally unprepared and ignorant in our expectations, we successfully reached the summit and what is more, got back to the base unscathed!
There are numerous natural cultic objects in the Park: the Gates Temple, the Alkhanay Mountain Top, Buddhist Stupas (mound-like structures containing Buddhist relics) and Oboos (sacred piles of rocks considered to be the dwellings of the spirits).
Accommodation is very basic, ranging from traditional yurts to wooden huts. We wanted to be authentic to the end and so chose to stay in the yurt!
Conveniences include outhouses with pit latrines and communal rainwater showers; or if one has preference for hot ablution there is a banya (a Russian type of sauna, a kind of steam bath).
Another bathing option is not for a faint-hearted, but I had to try it! The temperature in the creeks is near zero on the hottest summer day!
Where to next?