It’s been eight weeks away from home. Some nights camping, other nights in generic small rural hotels. There are days when the heart aches for the familiar. I’ve yet to land anywhere that offers sanctuary and respite from the feelings of displacement, anywhere that makes an emotional impact reminiscent of home.
Until I arrived at Yana Hasan’s ranch. It’s a rustic log hideaway in the Altai-Kolivan mountains near Lake Beloye, and such was the sense of belonging, my planned single night stopover morphed into three nights. From the moment I arrived, Yana and her people were relentless in keeping me comfortable, entertained, and exceptionally well fed; I have christened her place “Five Kilo Ranch”. Yana herself is an energetic ball of constant motion and endless smiles. A tireless worker and a formidable leader, enter her sphere and you’ll be powerless to resist her insistent hospitality. Arrive a stranger, depart as treasured family.
It’s critical to address one of her workers: Vitaliya, who’s about 5’4″, in his early 50’s with hard features, a fierce countenance and a physique chiseled from iron. I was petrified on sight. One day he invited me (it might have been insisted) to the tiny local cafe for some tea, and it turned into a three mile hike into the remote local hills where I wondered if he planned to murder me and cram my body under a small rock. Turns out he was showing me one his favorite spots: an exquisite 360 view of the surrounding valley and the lake below. There were minutes of silence as we gazed upon the beauty, me for the first time, him for the thousandth. We hiked down to the lake for a swim then stopped at his home for another mug of tea. Delightful fellow; he’d be my first mate in a bar fight. Engage him and you’ll receive nothing but kindness and generosity. (Footnote: he speaks no English and I speak about five words of Russian)
Riders, tourists, local vacationers, if it’s a refuge you seek, Yana’s ranch is at N51°18.0015′ E82°37.7660′. Tell ’em Biker Jeff-Joseph sent yah.