Offroad: Altai – Khakassia Track – Tuva

It was mid-October 2014 and the first snow had fallen on the famous Tuva Track mountain road from Kosh-Agach in the Altai Mountains to Ak-Dovurak in the Republic of Tuva. Instead we opted to take the Khakassia Track 500km further north, but on lower grounds, an extension of the Togulskiy Trakt, from Biysk to Askiz (driving time 12 hours), which has so far not been covered with fotos on the internet.

Caution: Khakassia Track is less scenic than Tuva Track !
(If you have slightly more time, take a route variation from Gorno-Altaysk via Toruchak and Tashtagol to Novokuznetsk)

This was our route:

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(between Mezhdurechensk and Askiz route is not shown correctly; track is further south, but can’t be missed)

We rented a Landruiser from www.camp-altai.ru:

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start from Novosibirsk Tolmachevo airport

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initially a 1.000km drive south …

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through Altai Republic

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down to the Mongolian border at Kosh-Agach,
then back up to Biysk, turning right into the Togulskiy Trakt (all asphalt)

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towards Novokuznetsk (formerly Stalinsk, the center of the Kuzbass – compare with Donbass)

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and Mezhdurechensk (a skiing and hiking resort town)

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then crossing the Tom river at Chulzhan (?) – 10km after Mezhdurechensk – on a pontoon bridge

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to meet an unmanned post
(where in theory police ask for a permission paper / propusk, as the track leads through an open-air prison)

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car owner Sergey (with GPS and Russian maps on PC) and buddy Harald (with Iridium satellite phone)

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initial track quality is not too bad

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it started to snow in the higher grounds

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at an uncharted village (Artom?)

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we asked for directions

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then the track became worse

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with just one oncoming vehicle (but never saw any prisoners)

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and then even worse with deep mud

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so we had to decide

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to drive in the river bed (lots of water holes and water crossings anyway!)

then after 6 hours of hard track conditions the first signs of Khakassia

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and the unasphalted but newly carved main road appeared again (just before Balik-Su)

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so we reached the highway A-161 near Askiz late at night (Harald as fit as always)

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and slept shortly in a run-down hotel in Abaza.
Leaving before sunrise we hit the 2.206m high Sayansk Pass to Tuva Republic at 8 a.m. where it was still pitch black, even in the snow

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then we continued through the Sayan mountains into the beautiful Tuva high steppe

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toward the lonely asbestos-infested Ak-Dovurak

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before taking the beautiful onward road

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towards Chadan, where current Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu was born
(Tuvan men are famously aggressive fighters, when not drunk, or especially then)

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Red October

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in the Tuvan capital Kyzyl (much better than expected with big funding from Moscow)

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with its proud culture museum (Khoomei throat singing, Shamanism, Yellow Cap Buddhism)

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and the Center of Asia monument

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with playing kids

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then along the Yenisei River further north

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missing out on the famous Scythian burial grounds near Turan,
passing the southern part of Krasnoyarsk Krai,
until our final destination Abakan and its decent hotel by the same name

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Recommended reading:

“Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman’s last journey” by Ralph Leighton

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