Фотоальбом ОРЕНБУРГСКИЕ ПРОСТОРЫ. Оренбургская область

Авторы: Николай Рундквист, Петр Захаров

Orenburg wide stretches expedition

First stage. Springtime rafting

The stage started on the side of the Maly Ik river not far from the small village of Suren in the Kugarchinsky District of Bashkortostan. During the summer the river becomes very shallow, forded even by cockerels and hens here and there. But during the spring it turns into powerful force often overflowing its banks, tearing up the trees and carrying flotsam downstream at a breackneck pace. At each turn there are piles of trees debris, which become formidable logjams near bridges. We barely pulled off shore when we found ourselves in the mesh of the flow, and it was a deliberate act. First obstacles were “combs”: rafters use this slang word to describe branches of trees hanging down low over the water, and some of them are almost parallel to water face. Twice or thrice we managed to detour tricky trunks with brunches hanging down, but the stream is so fast, that the next tree “combs” our team up and down. “Man over board!”, a shout arose.

Our dog Linda rushes to rescue without a moment’s hesitation, thereby only dramatizes the situation: we have to rescue both of them now. We camp down to change the clothes. Then we came back to rowing and bump up against another big log-jam. We carry forward our twin-hull boat over logs, floating on water. The main thing is not to fall in between the logs… Keep on going… The boat beats against the bank… It goes astern. The “comb” is behind us.

Cute in appearance beavers play their own role in formation of log-jams. Driven by their wondrous instincts they gnaw trees ashore and build lodgers on the banks made from severed branches. Slick copper faced beavers were watching us fighting with logs. There is no river cult in the Orenburg region: there are few fishermen and almost no boats there. Only within the city of Orengurg we bumped into the first motor boat. The reason is that 80% of the Orenburg rivers annual runoff is accounted by for spring flood. During the summer the flows become shallow, and locals see no sense in having boat to use it within only 2 spring months. Because of the torrential flood all the human settlements are located some far from the banks. Usually they can’t be seen from boat because of the shagged and jungled banks. We started our motor boat trip in the Saraktash area, which is region-wide famous due to its temple complex and Museum of Wooden Masterpieces (Krasnaya Gorka). The twinhull boat turned into a barge, and the boat became a tug boat.

It’s better to use space images instead of geographical maps, because images are newmade and arrive at a comprehensive picture of river bends, river arms and islands. But still using of these images can result in undesirable casus. The riverside sandbank which was chosen to be the place for the Grand Finish Celebration turned out to be totally engulfed, and the event had to be held in the waterway as narrow as Venezia canals with muddy bank at the end. Our friends together with reporters met us their unitedly.

Orenburg wide stretches expedition

Second stage. Flowering prairies

When I entered the Orenburg region for the first time, I was kind of sceptical about it: there is not much to look at here, I thought. Reality has exceeded all my expectations. First of all, the steppe was rugged; secondly there were picturesque rocky formations, broken masses of deciduous forests and even small lakes here and there; not to speak of secular black poplars (cottonwoods), shaggy giants, beautiful adornment of the banks. Plus the steppe is in full bloom in the latter half of the month, so you can understand that nothing can be so amazing as the Orenburg region.

In the Berdyanka river bend between Mikhailovka and Belyaevka villages the Gora Zmeinaya (Snake Mountain) rises. It is natural Jurassic outcrop with agglomerate of marine fauna reliquias. The great sea used to be here, but after poor 150 million years endless waves of feather grass raise from horizon to horizon.

Sol Iletzk is a typical small and quiet country town, which happened to locate near the border by a twist of history. Though it’s small, the town is famous for many things. The main thing is that excellent rocksalt is being worked here since the XVIII century. If you go to the shop to buy salt and direct your attention to the place of production, printed on the cartonnage, then with great probability you will see their the name of this steppe country town there.

On the ourskirts of town within deposit Iletskoye where old goafs used to be the Razval Lake is located. Its water is an oversaturated salt solution of ivory-white colour and of bitter-salty taste. The level of lake water density is higher than human body density, and it allows those ones who can’t swim just to float and even to feel weightlessness of space. Chemically local water is very close to the water of the Dead Sea! So is there any use to go to Israel? Welcome to Sol Iletzk! I think I wouldn’t call “Black Dolphin” a “place worth visiting”, because it is famous Sol Iletzk prison which is referred to as one of Russia’s toughest one. Throughout the history of the prison nobody managed to break from it. The light in cells is never turned off as well as speed cameras. The Ural river is the major aquiferous flow of the Orenburg region. In appearance it is quite similar to our beloved Sakmara river recently visited by us: similar riparian thickets, similar logjams near the bridges and in the turns.

But what is this river famous for? The poll of randomly selected passers-by has given an interesting result. The majority of the pollees associate the river with the fact that Chapaev drowned in its waters. I note just in case that the Orenburg region has nothing in common with the divisional commander death; he died not far from the town of Lbishchensk on territory of modern Kazakhstan. The second most common answer is that the river was renamed according to Empress Catherine decree after the suppression of peasant insurrection headed by Yemelyan Pugachev with active support of bashkirians and Yaik Cossacks. Before that historic events the river was known as Yaik.

Finally, the third answer: the Ural river flows into the Caspian Sea. Bravo! There were even versions that the Ural river is a leftside tributary of the Volga river. The Shonkhal granite massif is a ridge of five pyramid-shaped rocks with lightgray granite slabs of spheroidal structure. Famous Kamennye Palatki stacks near the eponymous tram stop consists of almost the same granite slabs. Picturesque rocks raise 20–40 meters from the flinty steppe. The total length of the pile of rock is about 3 km.

Nearby the Shonkhal massif and the place of death of the Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov (1927–1967) there is the Memorial Forest Park settled in his honour. The brave pilot died on April 24, 1967 at the final stage of the flight program. He successfully re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on his 19th orbit, but the module’s drogue and main braking parachute failed to deploy correctly because of the module rotation and the module crashed into the ground and burst into flame.

The Orenburg region is a country of abandoned elevators. By the way elevators run of bad luck lately. The similar granary was recently liquidated in Yekaterinburg. Of course the number of elevators in steppe exceeds the necessary number to a large extend. These megastructures were built during the Virgin Lands Campaign, but later it found to be too many lands for the government purposes. Opened ground of steppe was abandoned and elevators were adapted to be cell towers. One more application for these giants: they are excellent reference points (though a bit gloomy), which can be seen from the distance of 50–60 km.

The Verblud mountain (“Camel mountain”) is a symbol of the Orenburg region Transurals and is located on the right bank of the Aschisu river 9 kilometers away from the village of Vostochny not far from the Kazakh border. It is a circumdenudation mountain consisting of two quartzitic rocks 15 meters high. If you look at it from definite viewpoint you will see its amazing likeness to a lying camel. The likeness is so remarkable that there is a version that it was created by the previous Earth civilization. Rose, cotoneaster, honeysuckle and ground cherry can be found at the foot of the mountain. From the Verblud mountain we were going straight forward through the steppe over the hardly noticeable rut. Clouds of dust behind our “Niva” car was caught by the eyes of vigilant border guards. Probably they took us for dangerous spies, cause there was a real chase after us. Somewhere not far from Adamovka village they overtook and surrounded us in order to check our documents. The documents turned out to be ok, and we were released to go where we choose.

Orenburg wide stretches expedition