One of the most amazing things about the mountains is not just their awe inspiring large-and-rocky-ness, but the tiny details that you notice when you are walking on them. These details are things that you never see if you are bumping over them in a 4WD truck. It is only when you are plodding along, looking at your feet because the going is tricky, that you see a lot of the floral treasures that abound here, such as the purple flower above.
I am not a botanist, and I have not yet found my wild flower book in Russian which I purchased at the last hiking pot luck lunch, so I cannot identify any of them yet. If truth be told, I will most likely not look them up until asked to do so!
If I was a plant up there, I would probably adopt the 'space cow pat' look myself - stay low, get out of the wind, hunker down and just survive, but try to look a bit funky. It is blimming parky up there even now in late June. We left town and it was a comfortable 27 degrees outside. By the time we parked, the temperature had dropped, according to our in-car thermometer, to just 12 degrees. And with wind chill and more cloud, it can only have been about 8 or 9 degrees, much lower at night.
In one walk, we saw purple, red, yellow, white, black, pale blue (the only ones I knew the name of I think, possibly forget-me-nots but couldn't tell you their real name), orange, pink, violet and creamy-coloured flowers in absolute abundance. We heard an eagle or a kite calling in the wind, and we marvelled at the misty mountain sides and huge piles of dirty snow that had still not melted. We walked as far as the 3100 m marker, had a picnic and then turned back to the car. It was a brilliant day. The toddler walked all the way up with a little encouragement, the baby behaved herself and the other kids (we had a friend of the oldest in tow) all mooched along very happily, chatting and making up great chants to keep themselves going:
Left! Left! I have no clean pants left!
Right! Right! My pants are rather tight!
Here are some more non-botanist flower photos.
And here are some more photos from that walk:
First one, driving down the road again. Behind the row of pine trees is Chimbulak ski resort
Up near the dam (to prevent mud slides and avalanches picking up speed and hitting the city, apparently) some satisfyingly soviet graffiti - but very new...
The classic advert for a mountain car rescue service is the next one. If your 4WD has a puncture and you don't know how to fix it, do not fear, for a convertible full of scantily-clad prostitutes will come and change the tyre for you. Not, as you may expect, a stubbly-faced, cigarette-smoking, grumpy bastard who will take hours to arrive and charge you hundreds of dollars for the privilege!