Ergaki Mountains

Nastya is doing a fantastic job in reaching out to couchsurfers all over Russia and on the Russian Facebook equivalent vkontakte.ru in order to connect to people that share our interest in exploring the beautiful places Russia has to offer. When writing Vera in Novokuznetsk that we’re about to arrive she invited us to join her with some people on a hike in Ergaki, part of the Sayan mountain range. Numerous messages and exchange of coordinates later we were hitchhiking South looking forward to camp and meet bears. For real.

There had been a few incidents lately as bears love sweets just like Russians. Every driver warned us to keep food not too close or have sweets in general when in these mountains. After meeting our team we realized we will carry mostly honey, caramel, chocolates and jam. “Things are not as serious as people made us think”. Latest now I was looking forward to meet bears and repeatedly familiarized myself with the signal rocket’s instructions. I had received one as I was one of two males in an all female (sugar monster) group.

Day 1: Serious mountains, hardly visible as fog and rain showers are taking turns. First thoughts of “What are we doing here?”. The group marches higher, the sky gets darker and the rain heavier. In the middle of a flooded patch of grass Roman, the organizer, announces to pitch the tents. These are the moments when I wish my Russian would allow me to step in. All the girls stand in a circle shivering and getting colder by the minute. It seems no-one had ever pitched a tent before and everyone is waiting on Roma. I ventured off thinking that clearly camping in a river will not improve things. I find a patch and manage to convince the group of experts in a tiring bottom-up process. In my head this is becoming a nice story for a job interview one day.

Hours later we assess that what didn’t get wet during the day certainly did get soaked during the chaotic tent pitching session and half of next day is spent to dry and save passports and electronics. Lesson Learned: 15 months on the road, you’re the expert, be in charge.

The following week is great, lot’s of sun, we meet nice people and I get to rest my extremely sore legs from climbing mountains with a backpack full of potatoes.

Unfortunately the bears must have been full and none reached out to us at night when I was sleeping on my rocket defense system.

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