Sometimes it pays not to listen to those who have never been there...

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August 31st 2012
Published: December 28th 2012
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"Don't go to Tuva. I heard its full of drunks sometimes they attack tourists." We hear these words for the first time when we arrive in Vladivostok from a fellow backpacker who has just ridden his motorbike across Russia.

"Don't go to Tuva. They don't know how to handle their alcohol and they often attack Russians. You won't be safe there. " says Luba, our masseuse in Abakan.

"Don't go to Tuva. They drink too much and kill each other" lecture a number of locals in Abakan, the capital of Khakassia the bordering Russian region to Tuva.

Firstly where is this Tuva they speak of?

A region in Russia, in southern Siberia, Tuva is located near the geographic centre of Asia. The historic region of Tannu Uriankhaai of which Tuva was apart was under Mongol control from 1207 to 1757, when it was brought under Manchu rule (the last dynasty of China China, the Qing Dynasty) until 1911.

During 1911 revolution in China, Tsarist Russia formed a separatist movement among the Tuvians. Basically the Tuvians escaped the Chinese revolution by joining Russia. Unfortunately, this victory was short lived however as Tuva fell under Russia's very own revolution in 1917.

After various name changes and falling under various political regimes the region was finally labelled "Tuva" the name of the region to this day. Sadly, like many other minority ethnic groups in Russia, Tuvian Buddhists and Shamans were subject to ruthless arrests and brutal killings.

The height of this occurred in 1929 in a large scale act of cultural vandalism against the Tuvian minority. This, as well as general repression of culture has aided in growth in hostility towards Russians by Tuvian people.

During the 1990 perestroika about 88 Russians were killed resulting in a size able migration of Russians out of Tuva.

As a result me and mum chose to be more Australian then Russian in this region, with me doing much more of the talking. Despite this bloodshed and seemingly violent region, I've heard from one source that there is some amazing unspoiled nature here.

Having not found much online about the place, I decide to take a gamble and visit Tuva based solely on one persons recommendation.

Mum is hesitant but I use my excellent powers of persuasion to convince her to go.

"Mum I'm going to Tuva, I don't know how long I'll be. You can continue getting massages in Abakan if you like and I'll meet you in Altai somewhere."

"Ok I'll join" you grumbles a miserable mum. She is of course well rewarded.

Tuva is definitely not the easiest place to get around in.

It's one place that would be great to have a car in, either an off roader or just a cheapie you don't mind bashing around a bit.

We get into Tuva using a mix of hitch hiking and bus as there is no railroad in the republic. Tuvians are famous for Tuvian throat singing (Khoomei) much like Mongolia.

We don't get to visit any Khoomei unfortunately however we do make a visit to the local museum, highly worthwhile for information on the history of Tuvain culture and the local Buddhist temple.

We decide to get out into nature quick smart and visit Azas Lakes, a UNESCO site with beautiful islands on a series of lakes.

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