After last week’s overview of the Altai Mountains, I was curious to thumb through the “holiday snaps” of travellers who have been through the region. OK, it’s tourism by proxy; some attempt to get an impression of being there, without the snow shoes … All from the disorder of my multi-function kitchen/office/workshop as dawn hints at a new early-August morning here in the UK.
It could well be a fool’s errand. The whole point is to be there of course … no image is going to replace the sheer volume and range of the experience in-the-flesh: the freshness of the air, the sound of life in emptiness or the visual evolution across miles and days.
Well, OK, but we’ll persevere anyway …
After the odd slide-show or you-tube exploration I’m impressed I must say. The sheer haunting vastness of the region is awe-inspiring. How to feel truly alone, and still; people whose mindset I may never hope to fathom do make homes, even lives there. I’m drawn in but I want something more … And I know just what …
One of those applications/sites that can readily be used to demonstrate “why the web is great” (in a Google Earth kind of way) is surely www.360cities.net. I’ve mentioned it once or twice, and will probably do so again. No, the Altai mountains isn’t a city, but it’s worth a spin.
For those unaware: 360 Cities features rotational panoramas of some pretty remarkable locations throughout the world. The user opens a scene and then “looks around” with the mouse. Up and down, too, … “into” the image and often “through”, hopping to the next location. You may have done something similar with Google Street-View. It’s a 3D mapping trick: taking a specially constructed 2D image and “wall-papering” it inside a hemisphere in which you virtually stand. Anyway: it works great.
Back in virtual Altai, the views aren’t as numerous as I’d have hoped but the quality certainly is. It’s incredible. I found a scene that us Brits would no doubt say “looks like the Rockies” for starters.
Perhaps there has been some image enhancement …? Nonetheless it depicts a lower mountainside clearing in all it’s lush, vibrancy. The colour and richness of the environment is remarkable. Probably taken in autumn, the trees stand resplendent in hues of crimson-red, golden yellow and greens ranging from sea to lime. An earthen carpet peppered yellow-red with forest flowers unfolds down the slope on which two travellers sit, appropriately speechless.
Next there’s a riverside view, captured perhaps on the pebble-bank of some winding tributary. The vivid trees are still in abundance, bordering on the psychedelic, colours bouncing clean off the water and through the lens. Sheer, overpowering scarp-faces and huddled boulders cluster at the waters edge as if budget holiday-makers jostling for a dip. Behind them; sun-ray flares spear the sky and the hills roll on, oblivious.
The single most striking aspect of the Altai region, to these eyes at least is the sheer diversity of environment on view. It’s not surprising though, when you consider that the mountains stretch 2000 km diagonally North-West/South-East between Siberia and Mongolia, each extremity with their own “flavour” plus everything in between.
A case in point: Now I’m looking at the reddened, sparse rock-scape of some other world. Between grey-crested vertebral ridges striped with ages of geologic trauma; bulging white-dusted caterpillar fingers ooze from corpulent slope-sides, into the sagging valley’s open wound. Their digital extremities delineated and described by the scoring and re-scoring of ancient river-snakes finally opening into a vacant, glacial expanse. Amazing. An album that falls open “at a page” every time.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 47) Barnaul and Altai Krai
[Photo by sashapo]