Sunday, June 27, 2010

Re: Cycling blog post


Dear Sirs,

You refer to our recent correspondence with your southern neighbor, Mongolia. We would indeed be delighted to answer your questions regarding cycle touring in the Altai Republic, Western Siberia.

  1. Yes. Russian roads are indeed far superior to Mongolian roads. We are, however, in no way qualified to comment on the correlation between this and the ability to conquer the world. The approximately 300km of smooth asphalt, winding downhill through lush green river valleys and towering snow-capped mountain peaks that greeted us, is akin to cycle touring heaven.

  2. His exact words were “Do you have any drugs?” and yes the Anti-Drug Force at the Russia-Mongolia border were brilliant. This strategy would surely catch even the most dastardly of smugglers. Our answer was in the negative, which is by no means meant to belittle the potency and broad-spectrum nature of the Augmentin Duo Forte in our medical kit.
  3. Not 20L every day that’s for sure. The glacial river water flows readily like your country’s transparent democracy.
  4. Not very difficult to find at all. We usually just follow a stream that crosses under the road until we vanish into the lush forest. May we add that we are very grateful to the adventurous Russian tourists who, clearly having an eye for prime camping real estate, had flattened down the grass on many a secluded picturesque locale.
  5. We believe they are actually a mythological creature said to be found in Australia to frighten our tourists. So while we applaud your attempts at playful jesting, no, we did not come across any Drop Bears.
  6. Quite true, no interest at all in our bike bells. They have a completely different concept of ‘own space’ in comparison to the Mongolian boys. May we suggest that a small degree of acknowledgement of one’s presence may help future cycle tourists feel special.
  7. Terribly useful in fact. If only you had introduced more asphalt with the Cyrillic alphabet to Mongolia. With our every increasing understanding of Russian, a vastly more complex language than simple English, we shall soon be able to enjoy your varied liberal and independent media.
  8. No we do not have his phone number and we believe he may have alternative touring plans for this European summer. Although he and Ali did attend the same school for a brief period, thereby proving the relative size disparity of Australia and the mighty Russian Federation, Cadel Evans is not currently in our address book.
  9. Yes indeed, the babushkas and quaint wooden cottages meshed most beautifully with our preconceived notions of Russian village life. Please see Ali’s extensive diatribe on this topic here.
  10. Surly
  11. Well on a purely physiology basis there should be a slightly hypotonic rehydration fluid, water and some carbs on hand. However, from a wet, tired cycle tourist perspective the beer, coffee and chocolate available at the summit of that 30km climb cannot be faulted.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute our meager opinions to the ‘Cycling the Russian Altai’ dossier. If you are ever in Melbourne and need a couch to crash on feel free to give us a bell.

Kindest regards,

Dr Ali Jarman and Dr Andrew Neal


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