Kalmykia
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Expedition dates:
April 16-21, April 22-28, 2018.

Lake Manych-Gudilo, roads and people of the prairie, abandoned Kalmyk wind power plant, Khurul “The Golden Abode of the Buddha Shakyamuni”, salt lake, Bolshoy Brat (Big Brother) barchan dun.

Difficulty of the route:

Duration: 4 expedition days and 2 organizational days

Length of the route: 900 km

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05.11.2018

06.04.2018

7:30 Departure from Moscow (SVO)**
10:45 Arrival in Astrakhan**
11:30-11:40 Reception at the airport/transfer
12:00-12:30 Check-in at a three-star hotel
17:00-19:00 Briefing
19:30-22:00 Dinner
23:00-07:00 Night at the hotel

17.04.2018

07:00-09:30 Breakfast at the hotel
9:30 Check-out
10:00 Getting to know the car

10:45 Departure from Moscow (SVO)**
12:45 Arrival in Rostov-na-Donu**
13:00-13:40 Reception at the airport/transfer
14:20-14:40 Check-in at a hotel
17:00-19:00 Briefing
19:30-22:00 Dinner
23:00-07:00 Night at the hotel

24.04.2018

07:00-09:30 Breakfast at the hotel
9:30 Check-out
10:00 Getting to know the car

** Need to check the timetable for flights from other cities

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Lake Manych-Gudilo
This unique salt-water lake is located in the centre of the Kuma–Manych Depression and is considered to be a remainder of an ancient ocean called Tethys that used to connect Azov, Caspian and Black seas. In the middle of the lake, there is Vodny Island where you can watch a herd of wild mustang horses that have lived here for more than half a century. Islets on the lake are covered with different herbs and there is a lot of reeds, canes and sedges by the shore. Here, in the hollow at the Manych-Gudilo shore, travelers spend the night. It is a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the nature and a paradise for photo enthusiasts, with tulip and iris growing in the meadows and swans and herons visiting the shore.

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Roads and people of the prairie
The journey continues along the dusty prairie dirt roads, 70 kilometers of curious and picturesque landscapes, alkali soils and tulip fields. Tall trees give way to smaller elms, gravel under the wheels turn into sand and clay. Ravines, plains, lakes, rivers and hills with flocks of sheep and saigas fly by the window and you can truly understand the allure of prairie roads and embrace the incredible beauty of Kalmykia. You can stop and talk with locals, try their food and certainly taste Kalmyk salt tea.

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Abandoned Kalmyk wind power plant
The Kalmyk wind power plant is located on the way from Elista to Stavropol. Its construction stopped in 1997 and since then tourists have been visiting the site to see impressive urbanistic landscapes with abandoned facilities and towering chimneys. We then proceed to an old cottonwood near the town Khar-Buluk. It is one of the most revered places in the republic. People of faith come here to meditate and perform rites. The cottonwood is surrounded by mortars and praying flags hang on its branches. The tree is thought to be more than 100 years old. It is over 15 meters high and its girth at its base is 4,5 meters. Travelers rest and spend the night by the cottonwood.

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Khurul “The Golden Abode of the Buddha Shakyamuni”
The largest Buddhist temple in Kalmykia houses the biggest in Russia and Europe 9-meter statue of Buddha. It is covered in gold and diamonds and holds inside sacred for Buddhists items. Khurul is surrounded by a fence, every 5 meters of which is marked be a snow-white mortar, 108 mortars in total. The building itself stands 63 meters tall and consists of 7 levels. You can enter from every side as the temple has gates at every cardinal direction. After the excursion you can taste national food, rest and head to alkali soils to spend the night.

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Salt lake
Here, supervised by an experienced instructor, you can test yourself at extreme driving on a salt surface. Having dried up, the salt here turns into “takyr”, a peculiar terrain with distinctive cracks on its surface. Only a true master can handle a car here: white crust of salt conceals black viscous mud, unforgiving to careless drivers. Only the bravest can conquer this particular track but everyone would surely like to set their own record there!

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Bolshoy Brat (Big Brother) barchan dune
Big Brother is the biggest natural barchans in Astrakhan Oblast, it can be from 11 to 20 meters high, depending on the wind and the season. It’s a delight to take photos here – intense yellow sand, blue sky, endless open space, toad agamas (small lizards resembling dragons) often get in the shot. Stages of rallies “Silk Way” and “Khagan’s Gold” take place here. Right on this barchan you can have lunch before heading forward.

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20.04.2018

16:00 Return of the car
16:30 Check-in at a hotel, Rostov-na-Donu
19:30-22:00 Dinner
23:00-07:00 Night at the hotel

21.04.2018

7:30-10:00 Breakfast at the hotel
11:00 Check-out
11:15-12:00 Transfer to the airport
13:45 Departure from Rostov-na-Donu
15:35 Arrival in Moscow (SVO)**

16:00 Return of the car
16:30 Check-in at a three-star hotel, Astrakhan
19:30-22:00 Dinner
23:00-07:00 Night at the hotel

28.04.2018

7:30-9:00 Breakfast at the hotel
9:00 Check-out
9:30-10:00 Transfer to the airport
11:45 Departure from Astrakhan
13:00 Arrival in Moscow (SVO)**

** Need to check the timetable for flights to other cities