Nexus Expedition Journal - 2007
Return to Russia! Trekked and skied 685 kilometers (425 miles) from Uelen to Egvekinot through desolate Chukotkan tundra with Karl Bushby. Reflecting on the Bering Strait, the history of civilization and species migration and recognition from Seattle Metropolitan Magazine...

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Seattle Metropolitan Oct 2007 "Wash In"
Wednesday October 10, 2007 - 47.6097° N, 122.3331° W
Seattle Metropolitan publishes "Wash-In <--> Wash-Out"
2007 Route Completed - Uelen-Egvekinot 425 miles
Monday May 21, 2007 - 66.3183° N, 179.1233° W
From Dimitri,

I am stopping my expedition in Egvekinot this year for the following 2 reasons:

- After having talked to a lot of locals (hunters, wezdehod drivers,etc...) I have decided that it makes more sense for me to wait til next Winter and return in January 2008 to continue my journey on zimnik winter roads towns, potentially going on the following route: Egvekinot- MysSchmidta - Pevek-Bilibino-Chersky - then down on the Kolima river to Seymchan where I will then connect with the Westward road to Yakutsk.

- My current propusk permit could not allow me to take advantage of the last 3 weeks of snow (May) and continue now from Anguema north bound towards Myschmidta.

Editor's note: Karl has chosen to continue on at this time through a separate route through the Spring.
_____________________

Arrived today at 9am (May 16th) in Egvekinot after having completed about 425 miles by foot and on back country skis from Uelen. First advice before anything else: If anyone of you is going to talk to Karl before he leaves Anguema, I strongly advice him to leave his sled at some point on the road (before kilometer marker 66) with one of the few trucks going by, and continue with the bare minimum towards Egvekinot.

The road is quite dry for the last 66 kilometers, with only a few patches of snow. As a result, he could permanently damage the bottom of his sled.

At KM 33, he might be able to sleep as well at the "rest area/gastinista" if he does not arrive in middle of the night... I did not stopped there for that reason!

Summary of latest events:

1. Karl and I met with Sasha the local policeman in Anguema on Monday night(5/14). We all agreed that since Karl and I now had different plans (Karl is now continuing on the Southern Chukotka route and I am planning to resume my expedition in January 2008 on the Northern Chukota route), it did not make sense for us to continue together.
I got the green light from policeman Sasha to leave Anguema alone as long as I would stay on the road all the way down to Egvekinot which I did. I left the Chukotsnab Satellite phone with Karl since he was going to be behind me and could potentially "rescue" me in case of an emergency and in case I could not get assistance from one of the truckers.

After leaving Karl amicably, I departed Anguema at 9am on Tuesday May15th and completed the last 90 kms of this section in 24 hrs, taking advantage of the Belli Noche ("white night") and the fact that there is only 1 flight per week Egvekinot-Anadyr on Thursday and therefore I needed to press on to make it).On the road, I talked to the few truckers that came by and they all advise me to drop my sled asap since the last 33kms did not have much snow.

At 2:30pm, at mile post km 66. I dropped my sled with Egvekinot firemen driving by who agreed to take it in their truck and keep it in Egvekinot until my arrival. I quickly gathered a small duffel bag containing the bare minimum to be able to make it through the night while walking (water, food, clothes, IPOD...). I walked through the night on this beautiful road with an interesting past. At 9am today May 16th, I arrived in Egvekinot by foot straight at the airport where I quickly asked if I could buy a ticket for Anadyr the next day, which was allowed (weather permitting of course).

OK, what are my plans for the future?

1. Flying tomorrow to Anadyr (weather permitting) and trying to coordinate with Bering Air my departure on the next flight to Nome. If no flights are scheduled for the next few weeks and if the pogranitshik allow me, I will fly through Magadan, Moscow or else to get back to Seattle.

2. Once I arrive in Anadyr tomorrow, I would very much to like to meet with
the following people, (amongst others) to help me secure my return to Chukotka.

-Natalia Slugina (to explain my plan for next year and see how I can secure my propusk for 2008)
-Anatori Panov (to explain my plan for next year)
-Svetlana Kazmin (to solve some fine related matters)
-Pogrenitshik (and get my satellite phone and beacon back)-Local administration (to register if I stay more than 3 days )
-The owner of the company ACR4 (26864) to see what I can do to buy a Russian satellite phone and emergency beacon. I am not sure yet where I am going to stay in Anadyr.

That's all for now!

Btw, Egevkinot and the mountains around is quite pretty! It even has a ski lift! Thank you for your support once again!
Dimitri
Dimitri and Karl reunited in Anguema, Dimitri continuing alone.
Monday May 14, 2007 - 57.03° N, W 178' 48
Dimitri arrived in Anguema Friday may 11th (Russian time), after being separated from Karl. They were separated on May 7th at about 11am at N 57' 22, W 176' 50 on their way to the village of Anguema (N 57' 03, W 178' 48).
A day after their separation, Dimitri found the gold mining town of Vastoshishno.
Prior leaving Nashken, he was told by a local chukchi about this gold mining town, pointing on his map with an approximate radius of about 20 miles. The town did not appear on his map.
He was welcomed by the community of 50 miners who gave him some meals, a banya and even a bed to rest for the night !
The next morning, Dimitri took the winter road leading out of the gold mine and which took him down to Anguema in 2.5 days.
He was able to cover 50km/day, now only using his Susitna Montrail shoes, and making a fast pace to Anguema.

Dimitri believed that Karl was in good condition and probably continued straight through the tundra, not taking the risk to lose time while trying to spot the gold mining town and its connecting winter road.
However progressing exclusively through the tundra would probably reduce his movement to 20km/day.

On Sunday (Russian time) Dimitri received news from a local on a snowmobile that Karl was spotted about 9km outside of the village of Anguema.
Karl arrived in the village today Monday 5/14 (Russian time).

Dimitri and Karl are going to take a day or two of rest in the village of Anguema before they carry on towards Egvekinot, one of the larger towns on their route.

To complicate matters, they received news that their local permits will be expiring on May 30th.
They will have to resolve this issue upon arrival in Egvekinot.

Next news should be from Egvekinot.
Dimitri Arrived in Anguema alone after having being separated from Karl in a "whiteout" snow storm. Karl has not yet arrived in Anguema but Dimitri believes Karl is in good health and expects him to arrive soon. Dimitri has contacted the emergency rescue department immediately and alerted them of his approximate location. Dimitri said he came to a road shortly after being separated from Karl, could not locate him, and proceeded to the nearest town. He made really good time in the last two days trek to the nearest town (~100 kilometers) so he may in fact be days ahead of Karl if Karl didn't find the same road to follow.

The information from Dimitri was short and slim since he was borrowing a satellite phone from a person in the town. He will try to update us again, but he said he most likely will not call again until he reaches Egvekinot where he can have access to a public phone.
Dimitri and Karl reached the village of Nashken Tuesday 4/24 at night (Russian time) and will be leaving at the earliest tomorrow (Friday morning) Russian time. I was able to reach him at the school principles office.

They are staying an extra day at doctor's orders due to Dimitri injuries on his feet. He had terrible blisters which have left him with raw open skin and he doesn't want to chance infection.

They are changing their route to save a little time and heading inland from here directly towards Anguema. He said this next section should take about 3 weeks so we won't hear from him for a while.

Aside from his feet everything seems to be going pretty well for them. They are turning inland because the winter 'road' they have been traveling on has not been saving them any real time so they may as well take the most direct route.
Nexus Expedition arrives in Enormino
Friday April 20, 2007 -
Dimitri called late last night 4/13(Friday night - Russian time. They have arrived in Enormino. They will be staying there through today (Saturday - Russia) and departing Sunday morning.

They seem to be doing well, though they did get caught in a pretty severe storm on the way to Enormino and had to remain in their tents for about 36 hours. They both need to do some repairs on their tents and do a presentation at the local school.

The next village they will reach is going to be Nashken and they anticipated to arrive there Thursday or Friday.
Nexus Expedition in Inchon, Russia
Thursday April 12, 2007 - 66.1778° N, 170.1668° W
Dimitri called this morning 4/12/2007 and gave the following update.

Dimitri and Karl Bushby are presently in the town called Inchon,
at the GPS coordinates: N66 17.7816 / W170 16.686.

They arrived in Uelen after a 10 hr. Vezdehod ride (their 3 vezdehod caravan was delayed 3 hours for the repair of one of the vehicles) at about 8:30 pm Wednesday, April 12th (Russian Time). They spent the night in the police station, ironically the same place they slept upon arriving in Uelen April of last year after completion of the Bering strait crossing. Upon arising they met with the border guards, got their paper work approved and FINALLY began trekking.

They started on the trail at about 10am and arrived in Inchon at about 8pm, covering approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) of terrain. Dimitri said the weather was good, about 6 degrees Celsius, and the ice was nice and solid. They passed a number of mushers along the way, commuting to Uelen or back for supplies. They also came across a few stray dogs which had apparently been let go from the sleds for being too slow. One of the passerby's happened to be the Mayor of Inchon in a vezdehod who graciously welcomed them and offered them a place to stay in town for the night.

Apparently their arrival had been pre-announced for a few miles outside of town they were greeted by a large group of very excited young boys.

They are planning to give a talk to the children early in the morning before they begin the day's trekking. Tonight (Friday-Russia) will be their first night actually sleeping on the trail. On the following night, they might sleep in a cabin that they have been informed upon.

The next village is about 3-4 days trekking and they may be slowed down a bit by a big storm that's supposed to be blowing in to their region in the next few days.

Dimitri sounded in high very high spirits and said it's been a good beginning, even though they were both definitely feeling the pains of adjustment as they drug their 240 lb sleds over two steep hills along the way. He likened himself to the 18 wheelers you see struggling to make it over the mountain pass - though he assured me that in no time at all they'd be trading up to race car shape.

He's a bit nervous of the weather conditions they will face upon arriving in Anadyr, but for now everything seems good.
Anadyr preparations March 17th - April 5th
Tuesday April 10, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Karl and I spent the month commuting back and forth between the town of Anadyr and our rented flat in Ugolnye Kopi.

Here are some of the issues we had to address:
- Met with the Chukchi guide and musher Nikolai Ettyne who was designated as our official escort for our trek across Chukotka. Nikolai is not required to escort us on the ground but needs to be kept informed of our status as we enter and depart from each village/town along our way. We will also need to be able to call him in the event of an emergency.
Originally from the Northern village of Nashken and well informed of the section Uelen-Anadyr, Nikolai helped us set up a final route plan and schedule.

- Met with the Chukotkan search and rescue and explained to them our planned schedule and route through Chukotka. They requested from us a signed letter for the Chukotkavia airline where we would guarantee that we would be responsible to pay for all expenses in the event of an airlifted evacuation anywhere along our Uelen-Omsukchan trail since we are going to cross very remote regions.

- Met with Gema Gi-Ukai, a Chukchi hunter and fisherman from Chuvanskaya who helped us establish a summer route plan for the section Anadyr-Markova-Omolon. (He was not too excited I must say, to see us attempt this route in Summer months, when it is very swampy, crowded with brown bears, and infested with huge amount of mosquitoes) …

- Met with the local journalists to conduct interviews for the local Anadyr Television News and for the national Russia Today TV show.

- Organized the shipping of our fully load sleds to Lavrentiya and some of our supplies to Uelen.

- Identified an ideal storage facility for the rest of our supplies, thanks to our contact at the Canadian construction company Ferguson Simey Clark who was gracious enough to offer us some space in a tight container, away from any potential rats.

- Attempted on multiple occasions to retrieve our confiscated technical equipment from the customs office, using multiple documents provided to us by Nikolai Ettyne.

- Placed an advertisement on the local television and contacted with the help of our friends Svetlana Gobuleva and governmental official John Mann, countless city, state administrative offices (e-g: Search &Rescue department, Agricultural dept, reindeer stations, port authorities) as well as gas, gold mining and construction companies to identify a potential satellite phone for us to borrow, rent or buy, and therefore allowing us to depart. In the end, we were able to successfully identify a Globalstar Russian Satellite phone that we are taking with us and which can only be used in the event of an emergency.

- Prepared a joint presentation for Goliath and Nexus expeditions which we presented at the school in Ugolnye Kopi. We have already been asked to present as well along the way to the students in the villages that we will be crossing.

- Spent time at the local game arcade where we could find the fastest internet connection allowing us to send pictures and emails back home.

- Worked through the complex Russian postal system to be able to send overseas disks of pictures taken around town. In comparison to last year, where our cameras were not returned to us until the day of our departure, this time, we were fully able to shoot wherever we pleased.

I very much enjoyed photographing the colorful city of Anadyr who has been recently renovated with the help of Governor Roman Abramovich administration and financial backup.
I often tend to compare it to either a giant Legoland with all of its freshly painted bright buildings or a mini Hong Kong, where one can only see buildings crammed together on a piece of rock. I also enjoyed taking shots of all the classic Soviet and newer murals that are quite visible across town. However, they were limits to this new photographic freedom we were experiencing and one day I came to realize it very clearly. While I was taking what I consider an artistic photography of a classic Russian coal smokestack with a Russian flag next to it, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and identify a border guard who asked me immediately to follow him to the nearest local administrative customs office for interrogation. Unbeknownst to me, when I was photographing the flag, I did not see that on the side of it and not present on my photograph, was the local administrative customs office. After an hour of questioning with multiple “interviewers”, I was asked to delete the pictures in question and free to go!

In between of all of the tasks mentioned above, Karl and I also took on the opportunity to visit a few old and newer friends, such as:

- attending a festive birthday party for our Aprasian journalist friend Vladimir Sinothkin in the communication building, as well as visiting Nail Buranbayev and Vita Anaka, a Baishkir-Eskimo couple who have become good friends of mine ever since last year.

- go ice fishing, graciously invited by our landlord/driver Pavel Yashkin. We left Ugolnye Kopi on a -30 celsius crisp and sunny Sunday morning at 7am to go and join hundreds of Anadyr residents screwing holes in the ice with massive folded 6 feet long screwdrivers and fishing for small yet tasty sardine looking fishes. It was a fascinating experience to see all of these men and a few women on the ice, somewhat together, yet somewhat isolated, each of them near his or her fishing hole in the middle of the hazy fog.
It was interesting as well to see all types of vehicles on top of this frozen bay such as brand new Japanese SUVs, police “Volkswagen looking” minivans, antic soviet snowmobiles and military vezedhods (“Go Everywhere” all terrain tracked vehicles), all used by Sunday fishermen transport themselves on to their fishing spots.It was also a great way for me to get re-acclimated with arctic temperatures and learn new ice fishing skills!Although, when I mentioned to Karl the benefits of this new experience that might come handy on our trek, he quickly responded: “Sure, I will let you carry the 20 lbs screwdriver on your sled!” Karl and I also took countless meals in one of the two cafes where we spent most of our days preparing documents, presentations and emails.

The reason why we could not spend much time in our flat between meetings is that Anadyr city is located on one side of the bay and the airport where we had our flat on the other.

Crossing the bay each way was costing us 300 roubles per head and this is why we were not prepared to do more than one commute per day. There is no bridge cross the large bay. In winter time, one can drive across the bay on a road literally built on the ice and take a barge in Summer time. In late Spring and early fall, the only mode of transportation to the airport becomes then either an helicopter ride or a ride on a van that has been modified with huge floating tires. Despite this inconvenience, the airport was built across the bay because it was historically an important military airport and the authorities wanted to separate that potential target from the civilian habitations.

Anadyr airport located in Ugolnye Kopi was in deed an important base for the US armed forces during World War II while fighting the Japanese forces in the Pacific and later on became an important location to keep Soviet MIGS during the Cold War in light of a potential strike on US grounds.

That’s it for now. I will send more later…
Lavrentiya: Storm Update
Monday April 9, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Just received a report from Dimitri. He still awaits transport to the point at which he and Karl Bushby will resume the circumnavigation.

From Dimitri:
Very frustrating out here. The storm "Purga" is stronger. The whole town shut down. Today school is closed and no one is working. "Actierovanyi den" : Inactive day

I have seen tiles flying out of a roof, and try to capture a bit of the storm on camera. Needless to say, we are not leaving for Uelen yet on the Vezdehod. According to what the priest Leonid told me: "The vezdehod drivers don't want to take the risk to get stuck in the mountains on the way to Uelen for multiple days with the 5-6 female Uelen teachers returning to their village."

Not sure when the storm is going to come down but it might last a while. Quite frustrating. Karl and I are like two dogs at the start of the Iditarod, ready to go go go....
Good bye everyone,
Dimitri
Lavrentiya: waiting to depart for Uelen...
Sunday April 8, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Quick update from Dimitri:
"We have been told that we will depart tomorrow morning, for Uelen, at 9am for the 6-8hrs ride in the vezdehod (“go everywhere”) all terrain track vehicles…consuming 1 liter of gas per kilometer! The ride has been offered to us and our loaded sleds generously by the regional administration, which received a letter from the deputy governor Andrei Gorodilov to look after us.
This letter has been sent to all local administrations. However, I just found out that we are going to be in a convoy of 3 vezdehods and the third one will be occupied by FSB (Overview in Wikipedia) (FSB official site, in Russian) members who are going to escort us to Uelen.

The storm is supposed to last a few more days. You can follow it at the following sites: Lavrentiya: Russian Weather site
Uelen: Russian Weather site

Check the speed of wind in meters per second and the temperatures in Celsius. Last night we recorded a wind speed of 30 knots with a south bound wind. This is going to make the first few days of trekking interesting, since we will be going Northwest…"

Uelen is the point where Dimitri Kieffer and Karl Bushby will resume their expedition on foot. Last year the expedition was interrupted by confusion over their proper entry into the country via crossing the Bering strait. See article describing the Bering Strait crossing: Seattle Times, Boston News, New York Times.

See below the map of the route from Lavrentiya to Uelen that they will complete in Vezdehod with their sleds strapped on top of these all terrain vehicles, in order to go to their official start in Uelen.
Nexus Expedition's start halted by storm
Friday April 6, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Dimitri and Karl couldn't push through the storm to Uelen yesterday. Uelen is the town where they were stopped on April 1st 2006 after having completed the crossing of the Bering Strait from Wales to Uelen.

The storm is currently so strong that the driver of the Vezdehod does not want to take the risk to transport them across the tundra from Lavrentiya to Uelen.

They probably will have to wait until Monday to head to Uelen.

Dimitri has limited connectivity so he will be giving us what he can and snail mailing his diaries on disk.
Nexus Expedition Resumes in Russia
Thursday April 5, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Dimitri Kieffer and Karl Bushby are presently in Lavrentiya and planning on taking a vezdehod (all terrain vehicle) to Uelen tomorrow morning. If it all goes according to plan, tomorrow should be their first night on the trail. They have a blizzard blowing in, but it sounds like that's a bi-weekly occurrence so they're not going to let it stand in their way.

Dimitri won't be able to communicate except when he is in villages, so it may be a few weeks before we hear from him again. We just hope that they are able to cover as much ground as they planned on.

On foot they will be pulling a 240 lb sled for 15 miles, every day, just to get up and do it again, and again, and again for 135days.

With the border guards and the polar bears in consideration. it seems that the weather should be the least of their worries.

See the map of the section of the expedition they will be covering over the next months, on there way from Uelen to Magadan.

Seattle Times Article about the Expedition
Erik Nachtrieb and Ilima Smallwood
Anadyr – Autonomous Region of Chukotka – Russian Federation

First interesting surprise when I landed in Russia, my T mobile regular cell phone works. I am not even off the plane when I get a text message welcoming me in the land of megaphone! Nice surprise, although the surprise won’t be as good later when I will find out how much I am being charged! It’s fun though to be able to send a quick text message to let my contacts know I have safely landed in Chukotka.

We proceed off the plane and are immediately greeted by Olga Grokhotova, the local representative for Bering Air. She is waiting outside our plane with about five custom officers / borderguards, ready to escort us…They carefully watch us under the mildly blowing snowy weather as Karl and I are progressively loading off the 1700 lbs of gear, sleds and supplies off the plane on to an airport bus.

Five minutes later, we are dropped in front of the main building. It’s Gym Time, part 1! We are being told that, while being watched, we have to carry the 1700 lbs off the bus, drag them around the front of the building, bring them through a narrow antic stairway onto a 2d floor, and progress through multiple small rooms, pushing, carrying one box at a time. I swear the building and stairways were not made to drag around 2.4 meters long sleds or fuel tanks, but well, we live through it….Did anyone say HAZING ?

Next, we are greeted by Igor, a customs officer I recognize from the previous year and I believe the one that finally stamped our entry and exit stamps in our passport the day we left in May 2005, after having been "kept" 54 days. I can see immediately the grin on his face while watching us dragging around all of our boxes through his small passport control booth.

It’s Friday afternoon, the airport is getting ready to close down for the weekend. Looking back, I think that the fact that he and his subordinates were most likely eager to go home for the weekend may have played in our advantage. They did not insist on searching each box but instead simply ask us what they contained, weighting and processing them through the X-ray machine.

About two hours in the process, we are informed through our local friend and support, the journalist Svetlana Gobuleva who came to greet us that we are going to be taxed $880 each for having brought in the country 160 kg of consumer goods, which obviously were going to be consumed within the Russian territory. 3 Euros tax per kilogram.

You have been warned if any one amongst you are planning a little camping trip any time soon in Russia…Next, it’s Confiscation time!

At first, our two US Coast Guard graded safety flare guns are taken away from us, with all our flares which we were told were illegal to bring into Russia. This was and still is rather concerning since we were planning to use these flares to deter polar bears on the Northern coast during the first few weeks and brown bears coming out of hibernation during the following few months in the inland sections. Knowing that it is quasi-impossible for us, as non-Russians to get firearms permits, we will learn from the search and rescue authorities in the following weeks that we are allowed to purchase domestic Russian flare guns. The problem is that Anadyr only has one hunting store where we ended up buying the only tiny flares that are available… Taking into account how often and irregular flights are coming through, we can forget about ordering those over the net…As a backup we also buy multiple bangers and fireworks at the local supermarket and keep the bear mace that I brought up from Seattle and that was not confiscated. When Karl and I last year crossed the Bering Strait, we encountered twice a polar bear on our trail who seemed at first curious from a distant and then moved away disinterested. Hopefully, we will have the same experience this year. Although, we are both still concerned with the idea of a potential nocturnal visit.

Next on the confiscation list and rather critical were our GPS, emergency beacons and satellite phones, even though we were told weeks ahead of our arrival in Chukotka that we had received clearance for all of these items. We will spend the next 20 days struggling with this matter, as well as a few others. In the end, able to only receive our GPS, we will be able to identify a Russian made GlobalStar satellite phone, generously on loan by a governmental agency for our first two sections Uelen-Egvekinot-Anadyr while our governmental contacts try to help us sort out this matter with the customs regional bureau in Khabarovsk.

The problem though is that the sat phone we receive only has one battery, does not take our own SIM cards and mostly work in intermitence in the morning, because of the Northern latitude we are at. Therefore, this phone is only going to be used in the event of an emergency for out calls only. It cannot be used for any regular forms of communication.

We are looking at potential sections of 28 days without any contact to the outside world!

In the end, we will be told that the officials in Khabaravosk are waiting for an official permission from the Ministry of Industry / Electronic section in Moscow to release our items since they do not figure at this stage on the official list of foreign electronic products allowed to enter the country. This seems quite puzzling though when one considers that they are Russian suppliers in Moscow and St Petersburg whom apparently distribute the exact same products.

The way I see all of these matters is simply the continuation of what we faced last year when we entered Chukotka by foot. One of the most well guarded part of the world, where everything entering and leaving is closely watched. If the treacherous Bering Strait represented a physical bottleneck on the planetary expedition routes, Chukotka definitely represents an administrative bottleneck. The Canadian Colin Angus who completed last year with his partner Julie Wafaei the first human powered expedition around the world, recently emailed me that “Chukotka is, without a doubt, the most bureaucratically inclined place on the planet. (…) When we changed our route in Anadyr, months passed before they would give us permission to travel on. In addition, we also had a similar problem with our sat phone. When we arrived in Providenya it took several weeks to get the permissions from Moscow. We actually started the process for that months before arriving, but the permissions hadn't arrived yet.”

Over the next few days, released from customs, we will encounter an additional issue when we failed to register with the local authorities in the first 72 hours of our stay in the town of Ugolnye Kopi, on the outskirts of Anadyr. Both Karl and I were naively uninformed that we were required to register with the local police / border guard upon our arrival, even though we have cleared customs and received a letter from the governor’s office, asking all counties we were about to cross to support us in any way they could.

The result was a 2000 rubles (approximately $80 dollars) fine for each one of us and a 14000 rubles fined for the person in charge of inviting us in Russia for having failed to inform us of these regulations. Once again, if you are planning a trip in Russia, be aware that this type of registration is required for any stay longer than 72 hours in Russian cities and larger towns.
While waiting to pay my fine in the local administrative office, I noticed on a wall a cartoon that clearly illustrated the consequential deportation that foreigners can face for failing to register.

On that first night, once we paid our first hefty taxes on perishable goods, filled out countless forms and let the custom officers walk away with our flares, flare guns, satellite phone, beacons and GPS, we turned around went back to our “gym”, carrying back our sleds and everyone of our boxes through our narrow stairway, out of the building. But not before, Igor, the custom officer, looked at me and said in broken English: “why are you back in Russia? Are you sure you want to be back here?” to which I look at him defiantly with a beautiful grin and responded “Koneshno !” (Of course!)

Out of the building, one by one, our boxes were freed to go! We stashed them as high as we could on the flat bed of a Russian truck and watch the driver vanishing into the dusk, telling us to come and find them on Monday inside the Chukotavia airline hanger.

Our friend Svetlana, waiting patiently through hours of customs saga, put us in the hands of Pavel Yashkin, our new landlord/taxi driver/”agent” to approach local authorities. Pavel welcomed us in his Japanese minivan and took us on to our new apartment, located near the airport, as we wanted to be since we were not planning to be in town for more than 5 nights …

We arrived in the apartment on the 4th floor of a traditional massive soviet building, built on stilts to handle permafrost. Our apartment was very much in form of a kommunalka, a communal apartment where one gets to share the bathroom, kitchen and toilet. Karl and I share a large room for a rate of 500 rubles (20$) per night, per head and had the pleasure to share the first few nights with our first two smokers: Victor and Volodya, two cool gentlemen in their 40’s, stranded in Ugolnye Kopi while waiting for the weather to clear to allow their plane to take off and take them back to Lavrentiya. Karl and I rushed out of the building to go and buy a few staples from the local grocery store which we munched upon our return. We finally fell asleep after a good day, well spent on the plane and at the “gym”.
From Anchorage to Nome
Wednesday March 14, 2007 - 64.5039° N, 165.3994° W
March 14, 2007 Flying between Anchorage and Nome.

Alaska Airlines Flight #1: Seattle- Anchorage

Alaska Airlines Flight #153: Anchorage-Kotzebue-Nome.

While staring out the window, I enjoy watching Alaskan mountains, frozen rivers, dense forests and desolate tundra, and I can clearly reminisce the Iditarod course I completed on foot in April 2005. Back to the “roots” in a way, since I feel that this is where I started this whole human powered round the world Nexus Expedition madness.

I spent my first flight from Seattle to Nome seating next to a group of Japanese tourists on their way to Fairbanks to go and gaze at the northern lights, a beautiful phenomenon quite visible in this part of Alaska.

I landed in Anchorage, spent quite a bit of time while in transit on the phone with my girlfriend Ilima whom I am probably not going to able to see for the next five months, because of the remoteness of this next section in Russian Chukotkan territory. Feeling already a tight knot in my stomach, I cherish every minute we can spend together on the phone.


My second flight is packed with quite a mixed crowd: usual Alaskan oil/mining migrant workers and engineers, military personnel, Iditarod enthusiasts, a group of over ecstatic females from Anchorage on their way to teach cross country skiing to local villages around Kotzebue and finally a good contingent of native Alaskans on their way back to their remote villages after having gone down in Anchorage for surgery and having taking the opportunity to do some shopping as I can tell from observing a few Nordstrom bags. The young Inupiaq woman next to me obviously came down to the big city for a specific reason: delivering a brand new little Brandon whom she is now taking home on her laps.


For the 2nd time today, I have had the opportunity to sit next to a right side window where I can observe the cargo being loaded and unloaded off the plane. An amazing site as I see boxes and boxes of booze, clearly labeled “ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE” in large font. A clear reminder that I am indeed on my way to the “wet” town of Nome which is: in full swing currently, celebrating the arrival of each musher after having accomplished their 1200 miles journey across Alaska conducting business as usual, in true fashion to its origin, a booming lawless gold mining town where the booze flew profusely. A “resupplying” town for all the surrounding Inupiaq villages where one cannot buy any alcohol (as it is the case in “dry” villages) or can only mail order it (as it is the case in “damp” villages). This is regulated on a per village basis, according to each tribal council. Native Alaskan tribes trying to do the best they can to curb a rampant alcoholism level, which is also a major problem amongst native communities (Chukchis and Eskimos) in the autonomous region of Chukotka located on the Russian side of the Bering Strait.

“There is no place like Nome !”
This can definitely been said about this town when it is engulfed with the Iditarod rage, which I tend to call the canine Tour de France, taking into account its difficulty and the hype it generates in the mushing world and across Alaska.
Once upon landing in Nome, I noticed that I was surrounded by a fairly large crowd of Iditarod crew and volunteers, journalists, tourists and dog lovers eager to get to the finish line on time and get a glimpse at one of the top 10 Iditarod finishers.


I immediately have the pleasure to be greeted by Meredith Amasuk and her daughter. Meredith is a friend of mine whom I met two years ago when I landed on her footsteps at 10am after having spent 37 days, making my way on the Iditarod trail. Meredith Amasuk is the daughter of a Norwegian American journalist and an Inupiyak walrus, seal and caribou hunter, who completed the Iditarod race in the early 80s.Two years ago, inspired to be a role model for her daughter, she started the Iditarod race by foot but was not able to complete it. Ever since then, she has been quite interested in supporting the race and her house became the semi-official welcome home for the straggling few finishers of the race by foot, bike or ski. I very much appreciated at the time her hospitality and we have maintained contacts ever since.



So, excited as everyone else about the amount of activities in town, she is eager to take me on a tour! First, we drive a few miles out of town to spot and cheer along the frozen sea coast the exhausted, mushers, approaching Nome. We then drove back to the finishing line where we were able to greet some of the same mushers while they were crossing it, taking a bow and then lighting on their first cigarettes…., fully surrounded by harassing tourists and dog enthusiasts begging for little dog bootie as keepsakes! I got the pleasure as well to meet Libby Riddles, an Iditarod committee member and one of the greater female Iditarod mushers of all time. she was standing at the finish line all wrapped up in her beautiful seal fur parka. Having spent time in the Alaskan villages of Teller and Brevig Mission on my way from Nome to Wales last year, I now have with Libby some common friends in these villages where she resided for years. We exchanged a few kind words. It always surprises me when an experienced musher such as her, calls me “crazy”, taking into consideration the incredible obstacles they have to overcome to raise, look after and lead their pack of dogs on the taxing Iditarod course, which I consider an incredible feat.
Atlantis Rising magazine, Feb 2007
Thursday February 15, 2007 -
"Equally plausible is the possibility that animals,mainly elk, bison and caribou, took the route after their herds had consumed what little vegetation was present on the Asiatic side. Men could have followed them as their meat supply moved east.

Nor do we know the time it took to cross from continent to continent.

In March 2006, two adventurers crossed the Bering Strait from east to west on foot by walking across a frozen section where the distance is 56 miles and the perilous journey took them 15 days.
They were an Englishman, Karl Bushby and a Frenchman, Dimitri Kieffer—and upon arrival,
they were arrested for not entering Russia through a border control station!

Eleven thousand years ago, the denizens of Northern Siberia were undoubtedly tougher than humans today and being accustomed to living in Arctic conditions, they could have made the crossing faster. Animals might have taken longer, lacking a human compulsion and having no curiosity as to their destination. But then, as far as we know, the humans knew nothing of the existence of continents although they could have had an awareness that a strait that used to be
water was now land.

Point Hope, the location of the Ipiutak village, is about 400 miles north of the narrowest section of the Bering Strait so the crossings of the migrants could have been longer in distance than that taken by the two modern adventurers. Another consideration is that by staying close to the shore of the land bridge, the migrants could have had access to fish and game to sustain their journey. This would have enabled them to have taken longer for the crossing.

Some of the excavations of Russian archaeologists in the Amur River district in Northern Siberia have revealed the remains of a number of prehistoric settlements very similar to Ipiutak.
The climate in that region is just as hostile as in Northern Alaska, yet evidence has been found of large Paleolithic, Neolithic and even Bronze Age populations.
A further connection with the Asian continent has been identified in that the decorative carvings of the Ipiutak resemble those from North China 3,000 years ago, while other carvings resembled those of the Ainu peoples of Japan. The conclusion was that the people of Ipiutak had a material culture far more elaborate and imaginative than that found elsewhere in the Arctic.
When knowledge of a region’s earlier history is lacking, it can often be helpful to review the mythology of its past. Little attention has been paid, though, to the mythology of the Arctic, as the remoteness of its location and its harsh and forbidding climate have not made it worthwhile to give it more than a minimal attention.
Still, three streams of hyperphysical existence are associated with the Northern Polar regions..."
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