Monday, June 23, 2008

And then... there was rain!

It's my last day in Siberia - tomorrow I'm flying off to Moscow. Well, I suppose, I shouldn's assume that just because I've got a ticket I'll be flying anywhere, this is unpredictable Russia after all, but the chances seem fairly good.

As Krasnoyarsk doesn't actually have a whole lot to see other than this really pretty church I found tucked away on a back street, I've been venturing outside the city.

And this has been met with mixed results. Yesterday, I went to see the Krasnoyarsk Stolbi (pillars). This actually worked reasonably well, aside from the fact that there were no sings or indications of any sort of how to get to the park. But once I found it (the Lonely Planet map was actually fairly accurate for a change), it was a slow and relaxing chairlift ride up the mountain (it's a ski resort in the winter) and at the top you got some spectacular views of the green mountains sprawling in all directions, the Yenisey river slowly winding past Krasnoyarsk, and the pillars strewn between them (and looking nothing like what I had expected - I was picturing something more like the 12 Aposles near Melbourne, instead they are just really big piles of rocks).

From the top of the chairlift, a path leads into the forest. There's lots of signs, but they all just tell you what you cannot do in the National Park. Nobody bothers to tell you where this path might be leading or how long the way would take... So, naturally, I went. About an hour, I came up to what was later explained to me to be the 4th Pillar. I hung around there for about 20 minutes climbing all over, taking some pictures, and debating whether I should keep going or head back. After 20 minutes, another group of hikers/explorers showed up - I'd actually seen them earlier at the top, but they'd apparently taken longer to get here. Yura, Lena, and Vera are all locals, we talked for a bit, made friends, and since Vera seemed to be playing tour guide for them, I figured I'd go along with the three of them. It turned out that the path was somewhat of a loop, and went by a several more of the pillars, some of which we were able to climb. It also turned out that the locals don't come here just to get a glimpse at the rocks - some come here for an all day hike, some come for rather serious rock climbing. In the end, we estimated that we hiked for about 18 kilometers. The decision to leave my hiking boots at the hotel and take my cheap Indian-made, Singapore-purchased sandals, which were already falling part anyway, was probably not the best choice I'd made that day!

All in all, I'd say the Pillars exploration was a success, so encouraged by that, I decided to venture along the Yenisey today to see the town of Divnogotsk... I'd heard and read it was a popular place to visit, even though I couldn't quite figure out what there was to see there, other than a big dam. But you could take a cruise on a hydrofoil along the river to get there, so that seemed like fun. Unfortunately, this is Russia, so best laid plans tend to disintegrate, and I quickly learned that the hydrofoils apparently only run on Saturdays and Sundays currently. There's no particular reason why, it's just the way it is, so I took the bus. The bus drops you off in a square in the middle of Divnogorsk, where the people scurry along to wherever they're going. The tourists, like me, kind of wonder around and try to figure out why I came here. Failing to come up with a better reason, I embarked on a hike down towards the river. The skies were looking somewhat ominous, with thunder and lightning and an occasional light drizzle, but I made it down to the river and took a few pictures:

without getting particularly soaked. And then I stepped into a store to pick up something to eat and the rains came in earnest. Not your Seattle drizzle, this was a serious downpour... Taking stock of my situation, I decided that trying to find the dam in the rain wasn't quite worth it, so I got back on a bus and headed back to Krasnoyarsk, terming Divnogorsk more or less a lost cause. But the weather had improved by the time we got back to Krasnoyarsk, experiencing only one brief (10 minute) delay when the driver couldn't get the bus started...

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