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Author's diary
Travel Journal: From the Ulagan Plateau to Chemal Village

On Indiana Jones’s nomadic life, wild love amidst meadow flowers, and inappropriate tourist luxury. 

Day 4. The Ulagan Plateau and the Kurkure Waterfall

The road to Ulagan lies through the mountains. To the right runs the narrow and exuberant Chividka River; to the left sits the bottomless, according to local beliefs, Dead Lake; and all this primordial beauty is framed by a scattering of vivid meadow flowers. Altai is not a place of semitones and tenderness – it is a place of a tempestuous, passionate love affair, which has either a very happy, or a very tragic ending. 

We’re walking to the Kurkure Waterfall. Serpentine green fields framed by mountains seem to envelop and lure with their smooth outlines. Seismic shocks with the magnitude from 3.0 to 6.0 are not uncommon in Altai, therefore, there are huge boulders scattered across the fields, like seeds sowed carelessly by a giantess from a legend. I have travelled to more than 70 countries, and I can safely say that neither Switzerland nor Norway can compare with Altai in terms of the uniqueness and beauty of the landscape. It looks as if everything here is the same as there, but, simultaneously, it feels as if there were more to Altai. 

We can already hear the roar of the waterfall, some 300 meters away; and here it is – the Kurkure: booming, bold, rushing down on giant stones under a rainbow that sparkles like an enchanted gate. Another reward.

Day 6. The Uchar Waterfall 

I have always been attracted by the routes evocative of Indiana Jones’s path, full of obstacles and challenges. Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Today I have got everything I could wish for. The hardest day in terms of physical effort. But the Uchar has been worth it and lived up to the expectations. Sprawling and formidable, it surged off the cliff as I was sitting at the bottom in silence for an hour. I don't remember how I fell asleep in the evening, and I don't remember ever sleeping so deeply and soundly. 

Day 7. Across Lake Teletskoye 

We wake up at dawn and start packing. I am starting to get used to nomadic life. Crossing the lake on a ferry is yet another little life. In a confined space amidst open water, you get to know the people who are sharing your journey. I’m feeling joyful because I find myself in the company of wonderful, deep, thoughtful people with different but so organically complementary interests. The pieces of the puzzle seem to add up and form a clear picture, and it seems that right now everything is happening precisely the way it was intended. What an incredible feeling. 

The chance to immerse yourself in your thoughts and sensations against the backdrop of a peaceful landscape can only be disrupted by a storm. But we are lucky: only a short rain overtakes us, leaving behind but an opaque veil of fog as if someone has accidentally thrown a bucket of milk onto the surface of the water. 

Day 8. Chemal and Surroundings 

Wake up at 9 am and have leisurely breakfast in a restaurant with a view. A forgotten luxury. There is even more luxury ahead – we are making our way to the village of Chemal. And even though the entire tourist infrastructure, decent hotels and other achievements of civilisation are located here, in the lower part of Altai, for me this place is but a pale likeness of another Altai, powerful and self-sufficient, strong and mysterious. Here I acutely feel what Altai should not be. 

From early childhood, my parents taught me not to expect anything from people, events, or places so as not to be disappointed and haunted by the unfulfilled expectations. When embarking on my journey to Altai, I did not have any specific expectations. And now I’m leaving it enthralled, a prisoner to its charm, pure and unalloyed like heady Altai flowers.