Nexus Expedition Journal - 2011
Trekking and skiing 595 kms (370 miles) from Paren to Omsukchan through Far Eastern Russian tundra.
Rowing across the Aldan River.
Cycling 2110 kms ( 1310 miles) from Omsukchan to Kachitkatsy, through the mountainous Omsukchan road and the M 56 Kolyma Highway, aka "Road of Bones", with Gulnara. Gold and Coal mines, Gulag relics, Road workers camps, Sakha farmers and Sakha horses. Rode the last 150 kilometers alone from Nizhny Betyakh to Katchikatsy and had to stop there for the winter because of mechanical failure (broken free hub).

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Summary on Aug-Oct 2011 section completed
Tuesday October 25, 2011 -
On August 13th, Gulnara Miftakhova and I left Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast on our bicycles. We started riding in Omsukchan because it is where I had last stopped human-powered circumnavigation of the globe in May 2011, after having crossed Alaska, the Bering Strait, Chukotka and Kamchatka by foot, snowshoes and skis.

Gulnara and I rode 1962 kilometers on unpaved Far Eastern Russian "highways".

We started with the mountainous Omsukchan road for the first 250 kilometers until we joined the M 56 Kolyma Highway aka "Road of Bones".
Click here to see a google map of the "Road of Bones".
This first section was a a busy, dusty, dangerous narrow road where we were passed by countless trucks coming in/out of Omsukchan and Ducat silver and gold ore mines.

We then rode 1712 kilometers on the M56 Kolyma Highway through Magadanskaya Oblast and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
We decided to go with the "new" road and forgo the "old" road between Kadykchan and Kyubyume (even if it meant an additional 110 kms of cycling for our route), because we received reports from travelers who tried and failed to take the old route in landcruisers/kamaz and motorcycles from both sides (Kadykchan and Kyubyume) and told us that at this time of the year (early September) the rivers were way too high and too furious to cross/ford safely on bikes and/or by foot.
We arrived in Nizhny Bestyakh, Friday night Sept 30th, on our 49th day, after having completed 1962 "official" kilometers since Omsukchan.
Our 49 days journey included:
42 cycling days from Omsukchan to Yakutsk (Nishny Bestyakh) and our row across the Aldan river!

7 visiting/socializing/resting days which we took along the way to:

* visit gold and coal mines, interesting museums, gulag ruins, meteorologist stations, road construction settlements, a dairy farm and a fire station.

* take the time to connect with interesting characters, making countless new friends along our way: road builders, gold and coal miners, truck drivers, arctic permafrost researchers, firemen, museum keepers, journalists, mini bus drivers, photographers, meteorologists, hunters, fishermen, musicians, a portuguese motorcyclist and a travelling British adventurous couple in their 4*4.

Click here to see more pictures relating to this section of our journey.

We arrived in Nishniy Bestyah after having completed 1962 "official" kilometers on our bicycles since Omsukchan. However, our unofficial count is closer to 2100 kilometers completed between Omsukchan and Yakutsk according to Gulnara's cycle computer and taking into account all the additional kilometers we rode in/out/around villages, and including the section between Nishniy Bestyah and Yakutsk.

Gulnara and I then spent 10 days visiting Yakutsk in company of friends.

Gulnara decided to stop in Yakutsk (as she had originally planned) and flown back to Moscow.

I chose to continue further south on the Lena Highway (M56) because:
-my Russian visa was allowing me to stay until November 1st and I wanted to make the most use out of it.

-I was hoping to be able to ride the Lena highway as a zimnik/winter "ice" road (October forecast: from -20C at night to +5c daytime) which could have been easier than in Spring when torrential rains will probably turn the entire road into a beautiful "mud cake"...

- The world not being so small and I still hope to complete my circumnavigation of the planet some day, I needed to make progress while I could...

I departed on Sunday October 10th and had to stop 3 days later after having completed 150 kilometers because of a mechanical failure.

Taking into consideration how long it was going to take to repair my bike with a new and more robust freewheel hub, able to sustain my cargo weight and the Lena Highway (M56)'s abuse, and the fact that my Russian visa was bound to expire on November 1st, I decided that it was indeed time for me to stop the Nexus Expedition for 2011.

I am now planning to return in Spring 2012 to continue this journey, probably sometimes in the late March-April 2012 time frame, when hopefully the weather will be the most appropriate to get this challenging Yakutsk-Neryungri section done.

My girlfriend Gulnara Miftakhova still has the next few months to ponder on when and where she will join me in Spring/Summer 2012 on my route to continue future sections of Nexus Expeditions.

Poka!
Dimitri Kieffer & Gulnara Miftakhova
Written Press Interviews October 2011
Monday October 24, 2011 -
Here are recent written interviews that were conducted on Nexus Expedition in Yakutsk in early October 2011 and in Kazan in late October.

Update - Oct 30th: After having flown out of Yakutsk to Moscow, I took the night train to come and visit my girlfriend Gulnara's family in Kazan where I spent the next 10 days before my Russian visa ran out.

During my visit in Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia), Gulnara and I spent some time at the new and interesting Museum of Socialist Life, where we were interviewed by a few local newspapers and websites.
Nexus Expedition halted until 2012!
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 60.56186° N, 128.44982° E
Stopped Location on Tuesday October 12th:
(N60° 56.186; E 128° 44.982)
Near Kilometer marker 150km, between Katchikatsi and Ulu
Republic of Sakha, Yakutia, Russia

Yes, Nexus Expedition has indeed been grounded until 2012 because of a mechanical failure (broken freewheel body hub) and a Russian visa expiring on Nov 1st 2011!

I left Kyril Popov's Stark bike shop and very welcoming home on the western outskirt of Yakutsk on Sunday October 9th, quite hopeful to be able to push as far as I would be able to, down south towards Neryungri, on the Lena Highway (M56), 820 kms away, despite what I was cautioned by everyone who had been on the road in the previous week.
Indeed, everyone warned me that the road was then in very bad shape, with some sections either drenched in deep mud or in deep fresh snow...

Nevertheless, I prepared myself and mounted with Kyril's help on my bike a new "homemade" bike stand. Indeed, my first bike stand broke under the cargo weight on my first riding day out of Omsukchan in August and Gulnara's bike stand broke the following day.
Since then, I have been struggling to find an adequate solution to be able to load single-handedly my bike, and with Kyril's help, we build this temporary solution.

Next year, I am still planning to order and mount an Xtracycle Kickback to resolve this matter.

I departed then under the falling snow in company of Yakutsk bicyclist Misha who wanted to accompany me for the first 20 kilometers through Yakutsk until I reached the parom/ferry landing.

Then, after having gobbled quickly a freshly grilled pork shishkebab from a stand nearby, I pedaled my way through sand banks and jumped on the ferry, ready to cross back the Lena river, one of the largest rivers in the world, to get back to my starting point in Nizhny Bestyakh , N 61° 58.417 E 129° 54.212.

I parked my "Big Dummy", aka "Long crocodile" now also known as "Damaz" between two Kamaz trucks and took refuge for the 1.5 hours ferry crossing on board a Kamaz where the driver had invited me, therefore escaping the cold river breeze.

Of course, along the way on the ferry ride, I was inundated with the usual questions by curious Yakut and Russian bystanders:
* Where am I from?
* Going from where to where?
* What do I eat?
* How do I sleep?
* How cold does it get at night?
* WHY NOW as the winter season is rapidly approaching?
and above all
* WHY ON EARTH DO I WANT TO DO THIS?
A question that indeed I was trying hard at the time to avoid to ask myself, especially when I was contemplating how I was going to tackle this next piece:
The uninviting Lena Highway (M56), considered as one of the "world most dangerous roads" aka "The Highway from Hell"...

I landed on the eastern side of the Lena river at night time, navigated myself through sand banks, mud pits, snow and rode up the steep bank of this majestic river to arrive in the busy commercial town of Nizhny Bestyakh, where I was quickly able to ask curious teenager drivers driving by in a dark tinted windows Volga GAZ 3110 where could I find a гостиница/hotel.

They responded: "They are none in Nizhny Bestyakh but follow us and we will take you somewhere where you can rent a room for 600 rubles a night."
It can always be a little disturbing to be asked to follow a black car with tinted windows driven by unknown teenagers that you don't fully comprehend at night a few kilometers out of town, BUT what other choice did I have, except riding a few kilometers further and pitch my tent in a hidden patch of snow...
And after all, let's remember that this expedition is called "Nexus" which in Latin means "Connect". So, here I was, "connecting" with whomever this meant!
The teenagers ended up taking me to the hidden eastern part of town where I met Valia, a great older Ukrainian lady who welcomed me into her apartment and provided me her daughter's bedroom in her unofficial hotel.

On Monday morning Oct 10th , I started to ride towards Neryungri, and ecstatic at the time, even thought momentarily that before my visa was going to run out on Nov 1st, I could potentially even ride further south, 1100 kms to the appropriately named (at least for the time being as I found out!) town of Never.../Skovorodino where the Lena highway was going to end and where the dreamy asphalted/paved road was set to begin!

Well, not so fast, Dimitri, your destiny/"судьба" has had indeed decided otherwise for 2011!
In fact, my bicycle broke on my 3rd day, between the towns of and Kachikattsy and Ulu, after I had ridden down 15o kms south on M56.
I mostly rode these 150 kilometers of federal road/"highway" covered with mud, gravel, sand and icy snow under a pouring rain and/or falling snow with the exception on my first day where I enjoyed momentarily a few rays of sun....

On several occasions, it actually felt as if I was riding a boat on a rough seas, when I will get splashed sideways by passing trucks/cars/tabletkas, projecting small rocks and "waves" of mud right into my face.

As I have experienced so many times before while moving forward on this expedition, over the next three days of bicycling, I was also blessed to be able to meet a few very interesting characters.

Indeed, on my first day, I was "pulled over" to the side of the road, by Dima, a Yakut northern traditional medicine doctor who was on his way with his son Igor to collect firewood at his cabin, 50 kms away. After a quick introducing chat, Yakut Dima quickly draw me a map on how to get to his cabin and invited me to stop there on my way south to spend the night.

A few hours later, on his way back from his cabin, in opposite direction, Dima stopped once again and asked me this time if I wanted some tea.

As I have learned on countless occasions with warm and welcoming Far Eastern russians to never turn down a cup of tea offered, I of course gladly accepted.
Yakut Dima proceeded then to pull out of his car a cooked reindeer stew, as well as bread, onions which we feasted upon on top of his car.

Once again, a great impromptu Russian meal which I very much enjoyed before start riding away, as the night was quickly approaching! As I was departing, Dima kindly insisted on giving me a loaf of bread, a few onions, chunks of reindeer, as well as 1/2 kg of margarine and sugar, concerned that I did not have enough calories aboard my "damaz" for the road ahead...

An hour later, relying on Dima's drawn map, I followed an old trail covered with fresh snow 2 kilometers of the federal road and I ended up in the middle of a brightly lighted generator-run workers camp surrounded by giant construction tubes! Not exactly the charming yakut cabin I was expecting to find!

There, I was welcomed by Abid, a 45 years old chef, Kyrgyztan native and in charge of feeding his 20 men camp.
Abid explained to me then that Yakut Dima's cabin, located one more kilometer further way, was actually closed and that instead he was offering me to spend the night in his own camp.
I thankfully accepted, spent some time washing the copious amount of mud off my bags, and I proceeded inside. I was offered a bunk bed in a cabin that I was going to share with Genia, a white Russian from Verniy Bistekh, approximately located 60 kms away.
Abid offered me a warm bowl of shchi soup and I found myself quickly surrounded by the mid twenties Yakut, Kyrgyz and Chechen workers, eager to learn about France and the USA.

Salahudin, a young energetic Chechen started asking me to translate in French a few sentences that he wanted to SMS/text to his Yakut girlfriend, waiting for him in Yakutsk.
So, here I was writing away "Je t'aime à la folie, tu es la plus belle du monde, tu me manques beaucoup..." when I started missing my own Gulnara whom I did not think at the time I will be able to see for a few weeks...
Soon thereafter having played the role of a sribe, I was invited by my roomate Genia to return to to our cabin where we shared a French evening, watching on his DVD player a Russian dubbed version of the action packed 1998 French movie Taxi with its classic car chases in Marseilles, a city I quite enjoy.... An intriguing change, well away from this surrounding Yakutia!
The next morning, I woked up, started packing and was offered by chef Abid a full plate of Plof.
While enjoying this dish, I spent time with Mazamet, a 46 years old Chechen who seemed to be in charge of the camp and had employed over the years a few of his family members/nephews to come and work from Chechnya for quite a few months at the time in this cold Yakutia!
Mazamet and I discussed for about 2 hours in my poor knowledge of the Russian language and we compared notes on what was life like in Yakutia, Chechnya, Western Russia, France and Seattle!
Mazamet invited me warmly to come and visit on my bicycle his family in Chechnya, telling me how quickly his republic has changed, being very quickly reconstructed after years of tumultuous war. Mazamet also showed me pictures of the house he is having built in his homeland Chechnya by Vietnamese foreign workers while he is himself working and saving away as a foreign worker in Yakutia!
I also learned that most of the camp workers were paid for their hard labor in this isolated location, a salary of 1000 to 1500 roubles (30-45$) per day + free room/board and strangely enough free cigarettes of which they sadly took great advantage!

These isolated camp workers are actually building bridges and roads for the completion of the Amur Yakutsk Mainline railway, between Tommot and Pravaya Lena (right bank of the Lena river, facing Yakutsk) which will connect Yakutsk by railway to Southern and Western Russia.

Amur Yakutsk Mainline Railway (N61°31.664; E129° 35.124)
Mazamet explained to me as well that the construction of a bridge across the Lena river was most likely impossible because in Spring time, when the river thaws, this very large body of water transports large ice surges (up to 2 meters high) which with the strong current would probably destroy any potential bridge!
From this perspective, a long tunnel across the river might end up being a safer solution.
At that moment, I was suddenly surprised to see and hear a TRAIN riding near the camp, carrying rocks northbound. This was indeed the first time on my expedition, since I started more than 7000 kms away in Anchorage, Alaska that I had seen a working train!
I learned then that trains were already operating, carrying cargo towards Pravaya Lena. However, passengers will have to wait a few more years for the ground to settle under the tracks before being authorized to ride further further north than Tommot.
So, here I was able to see the future and started pondering if in my lifetime, I will be able to ride a train between Yakutsk, Russia and Anchorage, USA?
We will see what the future entails!
I finally left the camp to get back on the federal road and on my way, met Dima's son, Igor who was chasing me with his car in order to give me an interesting Russian book on the Yakut history of the region!

Here I was receiving on the trail yet another interesting gift which I will cherish in my Seattle home!

On Monday October 11th, making progress further south, I started riding on an exciting 20kms long PAVED section which abruptly stopped as it had started. Why was this there and whether or not this has been a tease, I did not really mind. I was simply glad to have found this temporary relief from the rocky road!
I then saw a man in front of me falling face down hard in a ravine on the side of the road. As I approached closer, I realized that he and his three friends sitting in a car on the side of the road were in a well advanced stage of inebriation, to say the least.... Observing that he was not so badly hurt, I decided to quickly leave the scene, never fulling knowing what to expect in this type of situation, alone...
Gulnara and I had faced a somewhat similar situation a few weeks earlier near Ytyk Kyuvol when we found on a side of the road an inebriated passed out Yakut woman that no truck drivers driving by wanted to stress about until we were able to successfully call the local police for help.
2 kms further, I stopped to chat briefly with two truck drivers who simultaneously were repairing their flat tires.

I was quite thankful that after more than 2200kms on this gnarly road, I had not experienced any single flat tire while some of the coal truck drivers told me that they experienced up to one flat tire per 100 kms driven.
I immediately puff three times over my shoulder since it is the Russian equivalent of "knocking on some wood" to guarantee further luck!

I stopped a bit further at the local столовая/Café near Kachikattsy, to enjoy a bit of warmth, away from the cold rain and a few tasty fried eggs!
Looking for a гостиница/hotel, I decided then to proceed downhill 4 kms away the federal road, towards the center of Kachikattsy.

On my way I came across a gravel pit where I could see beautiful free roaming horses escalating the steep quarry edges/cliffs which clearly reminded me that I was still in Yakutia, crossing a few horse farming communities on my way south.

In the town of Kachikattsy, with approximately 300 inhabitants, Ivan, the main store owner told me that the гостиница/hotel had been closed. Ivan, a mid 50's white russian who had migrated in Yakutia 30 years ago from his native USSR Kazakhstan, recognized me from a yakutsk TV interview that had been broadcasted the day before and offered me to spend the night in a warm cabin located behind his shop. I gladly accepted to do so after having spent an hour chatting with him and his watchman Vladimir.

I took off on Tuesday Oct 12th under a falling cold rain/snow and move further south. After about 30 kilometers, I stopped at yet another столовая/Café to enjoy a warm meal and try to somewhat dry my soaked clothes.

In the Café, I quickly met a few маршрутка/minibus riders and truck drivers bound for Aldan, Neryungri and further south who once again inundated me with questions.

One of them, a boisterous white policeman from Yakutsk offered me a vodka shot which I promptly turned down, explaining how focus I needed to be while riding my bike on this dangerous road...

Instead, I accepted to toast with a beer and was very clearly called a "Durak/Idiot" for trying to proceed down south on a bicycle...

A few kilometers further, on this same Tuesday Oct 12th, my third evening spent on the road since Nizhny Bistekh/Yakutsk, the air temperature started to drop very rapidly, turning my bicycle covered with mud into a brown muddy Popsicle, transforming the mud layer instantly into ice!

I tried quickly to clean my bicycle as well as I could but the ice layer has already been formed, forcing me to try to use a plastic brush as an ice pick to clean around my cassette/gear/hub.

Not having apparently used the proper "-20C safe" type chain lubricant, my hub/gears rapidly started to clog up and as a result the cogs in my FH-M775 Shimano freewheel body hub broke, leaving me with no ride-able gear at all!

I decided to camp at that spot (N60° 56.186; E 128° 44.982) in the middle of a small birch trees clearing on the side of the road, hoping that I will be able to fix this problem the next morning.

Well... not so, I tried everything I could for a few hours during the next morning but Noooo, my Damaz was badly hurting and it was no longer willing to proceed any further down the road.
I finally started to bring my gear and bike on the side of the road, facing the opposite northbound direction towards Yakutsk this time and started to sadly raise my thumb in hopes of being able to hitchhike my way back towards the city!
Why? Because with an unridable bike, and the next bike shop probably located in Chita, 2000 kms away, the smartest thing was for me sadly but truly to backtrack towards Yakutsk and get back to Kyril Popov's Stark bike shop, the "bicycle shop buoy" in the 4 thousand kilometers of road/ "ocean" that separated Chita from Magadan .
The first Kamaz truck driving by stopped and told me that he was full with cargo and therefore unable to take me with my own "Damaz" bike on board.
The second vehicle was a fast and furious Tabletka, one of my favorites... which promptly stopped.
On board were three mid-twenties cell Phone towers builders from Samara, on a 10 months "business" trip (yep, folks, you read that one right, 10 months business trip = not uncommon in Russian Far East), building these 90-130 meters tall beautiful towers and spending most of their nights on the road, the three of them in their Tabletka.
In about 2 minutes, we had managed to squeeze my "damaz" and cargo into their tabletka and ready to take off towards their final destination in Nizhny Bestyakh. On our way, we stopped in a столовая/Café where I had toasted the day before with "my" policeman to devour copious amount of tasty goulash.
After a few hours of fast ride listening to a mixture of fast paced Russian, French and American rap, metal and electronic music we arrived in Nizhny Bestyakh where the three amigos dropped me with my broken bike and gear on the sand banks of the Lena river were I was able to get on the ferry back towards Yakutsk....

There I was once again pounded with questions, and one Yakut postman grabbed and asked me to sit in his postal UAZ 469 for the 1.5 hours crossing.

A ferry employee looked at my bike, smiling, and said: "I have seen some of you guys in cars, motorcycles but now, YOU, on a bicycle, there is nothing I can say!"

Well, having this time a broken bicycle, there is not much I could say as well...

Once I reached the Western side of the Lena river, I was met by Kyril Popov who came with his car to transport me and my bike back to his house 20 kms away. Beforehand, he quickly jumped on my Surly Big Dummy bicycle to test ride it and quickly confirmed indeed that the cogs in my FH-M775 Shimano freewheel body hub were broken and most likely needed to have the whole piece replaced.
Apparently not something I could have fixed on the road, unless of course if I would have chosen more spare parts, potentially equating to the weight of an entire second spare bicycle!

Man.... As I had predicted, bicycles can be a great mode of transportation and allow me to progress in this circumnavigation much faster than while trekking/skiing/pulling a sled but on that night, unable to move forward, I seriously started to miss my reliable and faithful sled!

Now, taking into consideration how long it would take to repair my bike with a new and more robust freewheel hub, able to sustain my cargo weight and the Lena Highway (M56)'s abuse, and the fact that my Russian visa was bound to expire on November 1st, Kyril and I decided that it was indeed time for me to stop the Nexus Expedition for 2011 and return, well prepared, in Spring 2012 to continue this journey, probably sometimes in the late March-April-May 2012 time frame, when hopefully the weather will be the most appropriate to get this challenging Yakutsk-Neryungri section done.

My girlfriend Gulnara Miftakhova still has the next few months to ponder on when and where she will join me in Spring/Summer 2012 on my route to continue together future sections of Nexus Expeditions.

Kyril Popov and his inviting parents Vladimir & Sveltana once again welcomed me then to stay in his intriguing home in company of all his thankfully eccentric siblings until I could fly out of Yakutsk back to Moscow a few days later on Monday Oct 17th 2011.
I spent the next few days cleaning up all of my gear, scraping out the layers of dust/mud (in similar fashion to what I and so many of my friends have done years after years, after returning from the Burning Man festival, deep in the Black Rock Nevada desert...

I tried as well to see what I could potentially eliminate off my cargo in 2012 to reduce the overall weight/ stress on my bicycle.

Finally, as I have done in previous years when I had to stop pulling my sled in Spring time, I benefited from my hosts kind hospitality to store all of my gear in their attic until my 2012 return...

On Sunday October 16th, my last day spent in Yakutsk in 2011, Kyril invited me to go and join his Yakutsk cycling posse on some icy downhill freeride and even loaned me his own bike for this occasion!

It was a great sunny -10c day and I could not turn down this opportunity!

Gladfully, I spent the next few hours zigzaging / joyriding on very icy roads on a LIGHT cargo-less Mongoose freeride bike through Yakutsk suburban streets, pine forests and surrounding hills.
However, I was smart enough, I believe, to turn down the invite to take part in the downhill slalom competition on a very icy course, not having any protective gear (besides a partial helmet) and not willing to break a bone before catching a flight on the next day.

So, instead, I wisely chose to be the time keeper!

On Monday October 17th, I caught my Transaero 7 hours flight Yakutsk to Moscow where I caught on Tuesday October 18th an overnight train to Kazan to be reunited with Gulnara and her family, benefiting of a few days in Western Russia before my visa expires on Nov 1st 2011.

While waiting to be able to return and continue this expedition in Spring 2012, I am now planning to post pictures, videos and related stories on this August-September Omsukchan-Nizhny Bistekh (Yakutsk) in the weeks to come.

Stay tuned and Poka!

Dimitri
Departing Yakutsk southbound on Lena Highway (M56)
Saturday October 8, 2011 - 61.58417° N,129.54212° E
Current Location:
Nizhny Bestyakh , Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 61° 58.417
E 129° 54.212

Yakutsk , Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 62° 01.740
E 129° 41.923

Sunday Oct 9th 2011

Gulnara and I rode into Nizhny Bestyakh, Friday night Sept 30th, on our 49th day.

Our 49 days journey included
-our 42 cycling days from Omsukchan to Yakutsk (Nishny Bestyakh) and our row across the Aldan river!
-our 7 visiting/socializing/resting days which we took along the way to:
* visit gold and coal mines, interesting museums, gulag ruins, meteorologist stations, road construction settlements, a dairy farm and a fire station.
* take the time to connect with interesting characters, making countless new friends along our way.

We arrived in Nishniy Bestyah after having completed 1962 "official" kilometers on our bicycles since Omsukchan.

However, our unofficial count is closer to 2100 kilometers completed between Omsukchan and Yakutsk according to Gulnara's cycle computer and taking into account all the additional kilometers we rode in/out/around villages, and including the section between Nishniy Bestyah and Yakutsk.

The last 20 kilometers prior to reaching Nishny Bestyakh on the federal road were particularly challenging, covered with a mixture of large round rocks, sand and a much greater amount of trucks, cars and kamikaze tabletkas (UAZ 452) zooming by at high speed!

I thought many times of the classic Paris-Roubaix bicycle race while riding the last 200 kms since Churapcha...

Gulnara's classic words upon landing in Nizhny Bestyakh and looking at the paved road ahead were: "Is that asphalt or is that a mirage!"

Once we reached Nishny Bestyakh, we decided as we had originally planned to go a "sidetrip / excursion" to Yakutsk!

Stopping officially this section of the expedition in Nishny Bestyakh was going to allow us indeed to embark on the ferry between Nishny Bestyakh and Yakutsk across the very large Lena river without having to find a way to row across it both ways...

This means that today, as I am leaving Yakutsk, I need to get on the ferry back from Yakutsk to Nishny Bestyakh to be able to resume my expedition in Nishny Bestyakh (where I last stopped) and start cycling southbound on the Lena Highway (M56) towards Neryungri, approximately 820 kms away.

Looking back...
Friday Sept 30th, Gulnara and I were ecstatic to reach Nishny Bestyakh and to quickly get on the ferry across the Lena river towards Yakutsk. The crossing took more than a chilling hour and upon landing we stopped for a quick meal at the nearby food stands before taking off on an additional 20 kms to get to our location in the center of Yakutsk, riding through town on late Friday night.

Thereafter, Gulnara and I were able to spend together a great and busy week in the fast growing city of Yakutsk.

We mostly spent our time:
-meeting and making new friends, such as German & Irina, Kyril/Vladimir/Svetlana, Leonid, Yegor, Bolot, Maxim & Gulnara, Yuri, Slav, Evgenia, Mac and Alex, Ania and Masha, amongst others....

-making 2 TV, 5 newspapers interviews and one additional AskYakutia.com internet/TV interview by my journalist friend Bolot Bochkarev which you might enjoy...

-visiting sights, the museum of Yakut/Sakha fine arts, the ethnological Yakut/Sakha museum, a permafrost tunnel and a diamond cutting/polishing factory.

- spent time organizing and repairing some of our gear with the great help of Kyril at Stark: Tuning and repairing my Surly Big Dummy bike (replacing a broken front Tubus rack Lena Highway (M56) .

Gulnara has stopped in Yakutsk, (as she had originally planned) after having completed strongly the entire Omsukchan-Yakutsk section and has now flown back to Moscow.
Gulnara is currently planning to return and join me on future cycling sections next summer when the climate will be once again warmer and therefore definitely more enjoyable!

I have chosen to continue further South now on the Lena Highway (M56) because:
-my Russian visa is allowing me to stay until November 1st and I want to make the most use out of it.
- the unpaved Lena Highway is apparently not in a very good shape and might actually be easier to ride now as the temperature gets cooler (October forecast: from -20c at night to +5c daytime), and it starts snowing rather than wait until Spring 2011 months, when torrential rains will probably turn the entire road into a beautiful mud cake!

- the world is not so small and if I still hope to complete my circumnavigation of the planet some day, I need to make some progress while I can...
Before leaving Yakutsk, Gulnara and I wanted to thank once again all of our Yakutsk friends for their help and hospitality.

We also do want to thank our Russian sponsor Avia Partner / Авиа-Партнер for having once again facilitated the fast and efficient transport of our cargo from Moscow to Yakutsk and back. We especially want to thank Director Kosyakov Mikhail Yurevich, as well as Anna Davydova and finally Alexandr Oparin, Avia Partner's representative in Yakutsk.

We also want to thank Guerman and Irina Arbugaev at Chochur Muran (Arctic Travel) as well as Yegor and Kyril, Vladimir and Sveltana for having kindly welcomed us in their property and/or private homes!

And yes, I will hopefully take the time to share more stories and pictures on what Gulnara and I have experienced over the last month when I get better internet access in early November, after having completed this next section.

But for the time being, here I am, getting ready to depart Yakutsk, escorted by Yakut bicycle riders, under the falling snow...

Poka!
Dimitri
In Ytyk Kyuyvol, cycling forward in the snow....
Sunday September 25, 2011 - 62.20497° N, 133.34289° E
Current Location:
Ytyk-Kyuyol (Ытык-Кюёль) , Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 62° 20.497
E 133° 34.289

Monday Sept 26th 2011
Day 45th
1734 kms completed. Approximately 265 kms until Yakutsk.

I was able to successfully row on Thu Sept 22d, the Aldan river on a small boat with Gulnara on board and loaded with our gear and bikes.

Thereafter we camped one night on the left bank of the river and proceeded the following morning on our bikes towards Yakutsk on the federal road.

We covered the next 150 kms on a sandy/muddy road which in a way "thankfully" became covered with a good layer of fresh snow after our 2d night camping.

Indeed, the snow packed by the driving cars and trucks made it easier for us to travel on that surface than having to partially push our bikes on what would have been otherwise more kilometers of sandy federal road.

Along the way, we came across a few charming abandoned wooden villages which were previously inhabited by nomadic yakut cow and horse farmers.
We also came across a few inhabited farming communities where we saw a few "wild running" yakut horses and cow herds coming across our way.

We were also overwhelmed with Sakha/Yakut hospitality!

Indeed we spent one night in a very welcoming dairy farm ran by Roman and Alexandra, a great sakha/yakut couple who invited us to spend the night in their warm abode and fed us some of the delicious local Karas fishes pan fried, as well as local berry jam and yakut fried bread.
Early the next morning while watching Roman and Alexandra hand milked their cows, we were able to share more stories and learned a bit about what hard sakha/yakut rural life entails.

Along our way, we were also intrigued to learn and see how so many rural yakuts keep their water supply throughout the year in frozen blocks of ice, 3 meters below their houses @ permafrost level!

Finally, last night, upon landing in Ytyk Kyuyol, we were welcomed by fireman Ivan who invited us to his banya and to spend the night in his local fire station!

Mahtal Roman, Alexandra and Ivan!

D&G
In Khandyga, planning the crossing of the Aldan river.
Monday September 19, 2011 - 62.38854° N, 135.34805° E
Current Location:

Khandyga (Хандыга) , Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 62° 38.854
E 135° 34.805

Wednesday Sept 21st 2011
Day 40th

1560 kms completed. Approximately 430 kms until Yakutsk.

We arrived on Monday night in the town of Khandyga and are taking a well deserved rest after having gone non-stop since Ust-Nera, 600 kilometers away, through mountain passes, multiple intense road construction areas (including a 32 kms section through Black and Yellow Prizhim) as well as large rocky and/or sandy sections which fatigued our bodies (especially our knees and backs).

On our way, passing through two time zones, and therefore losing rapidly precious daylight in our evenings, we have had to rely heavily in the evenings/nights on our rechargeable lightweight but powerful Light & Motion Solite 150 multisport lights.

Indeed, already on our first night out of Ust-Nera, we chose to pass our 10th mountain pass (Olchansky pass) under falling snow. Indeed, we did not want to wait until the next morning, and therefore taking the risk to be stranded in the mountain pass under a potential thick layer of snow...

I was reminding myself at the time the classic scene of a Russian movie I saw where two men fell asleep under an apple tree, eating its fruits and woke up the next morning under a thick blanket of snow, quite surprised! Winter can fall quite suddenly in these northern regions!

Over the following 10 days, the temperature varied from -10 to +16c, and we were able to experience a mixture of snow, hard rain, and sunny fall days while riding our way up and down the successive mountain passes and hills, somewhat feeling as if we were riding a roller-coaster which paradoxically are called in French: "Les Montagnes russes", and strangely enough are called "Amerikanskye Gorki/ American Mountains" in Russian!

On our trail, we had the pleasure to meet a mixture of intriguing yet inviting yakut, ukrainian and white russian road workers, stranded truck drivers and isolated although quite energetic young meteorologists.

We were offered twice great banyas, as well as reindeer stew, moose roast, brusnika berries, bliny and few warm and hearty borsch.

We now want to especially thank Igor and Evdokiya Vasilyevna whom we met on the road while they were driving by. They very promptly offered us to stay in their spare apartment upon landing in Khandyga!

Now, here we are in Khandyga, profiting from their hospitality and taking the opportunity to tour this Yakut town.

We are planning to leave tomorrow morning and bike 30kms away to Keskil where I plan to cross the mighty Aldan river to Melino-Aldan on a rowing boat (in line with my self-imposed human powered obligations) while Gulnara will safely get on the regular river crossing ferry Keskil-Melino Aldan.

Once both reunited in Melino Aldan, we plan to continue our cycling expedition towards Yakutsk, 400 kilometers away.

Poka!
Dimitri & Gulnara
A few pictures cycling through Magadanskaya Oblast and Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
Wednesday September 7, 2011 - 64.33916° N, 143.14269° E
Some photos of cycling through Magadanskaya Oblast and Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
Cycling through Yakutia and Magadanskaya gold mining belt.
Wednesday September 7, 2011 - 64.33916° N, 143.14269° E
Current Location:
Ust-Nera , Sakah Republic (Yakutia) / Russian Federation
N 64° 33.916
E 143° 14.269

Thursday Sept 8th 2011
Day 27th
971 kms completed
Approximately 1020 kms until Yakutsk

Getting ready to leave Ust-Nera where we spent two nights in the local hotel/gostinitsa, tour the town, organize some of our gear and met a few new friends. We especially want to thank Natasha, Adam and Youssup.

Since Myaundzha in Magadanskaya Oblast, we passed our 8th mountain pass (Kolymo- Indigirsky) in the snow, spent a night in a coal mine (Tal-Yuryah) and even had tea inside a large coal mine working crane.

We also had the chance to share freshly smoked fish (Harius) and tea with the inviting meteorologists at the remote post of Delyankir.

We entered the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russian Federation, where we were very well welcomed by the local authorities in Artyk, inviting us for a night in their future hospice.

We followed the Yakut gold mining belt, cycling along the Nera river, camped one night with our British friends Joann and Steven traveling in their Landcruiser and spent a morning playing hide and seek with a curious fox in the ghost town of Ozernoye.

Finally, we were also able to see very clearly permafrost/ice layer, a few feet under our collapsing/cracking federal road mostly made of argyle/clay before reaching Ust-Nera.

For anyone who wonders, yes, we decided to go with the “new” road and forgo the “old” road between Kadykchan and Kyubyume, (even if it meant an additional 110 kms of cycling for our route), because we received reports from travelers who tried and failed to take the old route in landcruisers/kamaz and motorcycles from both sides (Kadykchan and Kyubyume) and told us that at this time (early September) the rivers were way too high and too furious to cross/ford safely on bikes and/or by foot.

Once again, I wish I could take the time now to write a good report on all what we have experienced since Myaundzha but we need instead to keep riding our bikes forward for the time being, now moving 600 kms further Southwest towards our next town: Khandyga.

Poka!
Departing Myaundzha, Magadankaya Oblast
Wednesday August 31, 2011 - 63.02773° N, 147.10928° E
Current Location:
Myaundzha, Magadanskaya Oblast
N 63° 02.773
E 147° 10.928

Thursday Sept 1st 2011
Day 20th
656 kms completed
Approximately 1350 kms until Yakutsk

Getting ready to leave Myaundzha where we were given a room for the night in the guest workers apartments/dormitories complex (общежитие) and even had free access to the power plant beautiful 50 meters swimming pool which we had all for ourselves!

Since Susuman, we also stopped one night at the gold mining settlement of Bolshevik where we were welcomed by Ruslan, the chief engineer who even offered us his room, chocolates and French cognac!

We are currently crossing the Northwestern region of Magadanskaya Oblast, a beautiful region, where we are enjoying the great colors of the fall foliage and a lot less traffic!

I wish I could take the time now to write a detailed report on all what we have experienced since Orotukan but we need to prioritize riding our bikes forward before the snow starts falling, moving 300kms further in a northwestly direction to Ust-Nera in the Sakah (Yakutia) Republic.

And I regret to say that I currently cannot post any pictures, considering the slow speed of the local internet access.

Poka!
Departing Susuman, Magadanskaya Oblast
Monday August 29, 2011 - 62.46677° N, 148.09167° E
Current Location:
Susuman, Magadanskaya Oblast
N 62° 46.677
E 148° 09.167

Tuesday Aug 30th 2011
Day 18th
570 kms completed
Approximatively 1395 kms until Yakutsk

Getting ready to leave our friends photograph Misha and musician Andrei who have welcomed us incredibly well in Susuman.

I hope to be able to post a report within the next 2-3 days on what has happened since Orotukan, including our stays and great hosts in Debin, Yagodnoye and Susuman.

It's raining hard and it's time to get back on our bikes, progressing on the Kolyma Highway, aka "Road of Bones".
Poka!
Orotukan, Magadanskaya Oblast: First 335kms completed on bicycles.
Sunday August 21, 2011 - 62.15763° N, 151.40015° E
Note: I apologize but I am currently not able to post ANY pictures because of the local speed of the internet access. I will do so as soon as I will be able to!

Location:
Urban settlement of Orotukan, Magadanskaya Oblast
N 62° 15.763
E 151° 40.015
335 kms done, 1635 kms til Yakutsk

Information on Orotukan in English
Information on Orotukan in Russian


9th day: Sunday August 21st 2011

We finally left our Koryak hosts Tatiana and Volodya as well as our friends and logistic support Gena and Valera in Omsukchan on Saturday August 13th 2011. We took off with a smile while riding in the rain on our fully loaded Surly Big Dummy (which my Magadan bicyclist aficionado and friend Igor enjoyed calling “the long crocodile”) and Gulnara’s Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycles.

I must admit though that on the last night prior to our take off, I went through a serious panic when I discovered a flat on my brand new tire, wondering very much if my tires will be able to transport all of my weight (myself + cargo + “big dummy” own weight).

It has been indeed a challenge for my sled-pulling mindset to switch from my sled days to my new bicycle era where I need to transport less and count on resupplying along the way.

Although, I am happy to report that so far, after having slimmed down a bit my cargo, neither one of us have had any flats on these first 335 kms of gravel, rocks and mud!

And we are still carrying all what we need though to face successfully mosquito clouds, heavy rain, heat wave (up to potentially +37 degrees Celsius) and potential snow.

So, we spent the first 6 days traveling on the Omsukchan highway also known as the “Chechen” highway because of its somewhat Post Soviet time desolation and the large amount of tombs along the way: truck and car drivers funeral tributes of all sorts (tombs covered with wheel drives, truck tires, pictures, vodka bottles, flowers, etc…)

We faced along the way 6 days of cold rain while we overcame four beautiful mountain passes varying from 900 meters Zharky Pass to 1300 meters Kapranovsky pass.

On our trail, we were greeted with a copious amount of large hungry mosquitoes which we were able to deter successfully when we had to stop, with cream repellent, a sealed proof tent, specific insect shield clothes by Ex Officio and an OR mosquito proof Bob/hat with a net.

However, the mosquitoes were not a nuisance if we were riding our bicycles fast enough.

One night, Gulnara mentioned to me: “Listen, it’s starting to rain again…” to which I responded that they were actually thousands of mosquitoes bouncing against our tent!

At one mountain pass, on a dark and grey rainy evening, we came across 3 road workers who offered us coffee. They have been stationed in this outpost since May, somewhat relying on vodkato apparently overcome the boredom. They invited us to spend the night away from the rain in their modest abode while telling us that they were waiting for an additional vodka delivery coming up the pass by truck.

Needless to say we decided to move further along. However, while talking, they warned us about the potentiality to come face to face with bears while going down the pass and to therefore prepare ourselves accordingly with our bear spray, flares, etc...

Once again, I am not allowed to carry a firearm since I am not a Russian citizen and furthermore it would not be such a practical thing to do while riding a bicycle for a very long distance.

We were also told that last year in 2010, 3 persons were killed in the region by upset bears, running away from the numerous fires in Yakutia and Magadanskaya Oblast.

2 kms further a 4*4 travelling in opposite direction, warned us that they had just come across a mid-size bear on the road.

We proceeded further on our bikes carefully when Gulnara spotted 2 kms further, about 500 meters away, on the river’s edge, 2 mid-size bears obviously foraging for berries, fishes, etc… We stopped, took a few pictures and videos until we saw one getting up on his 2 legs, sniffing.

Not wanting to take obvious unnecessary risks, we decided to ride away before they could spot us.

Along the way, we camped hidden off the side of the road every night, away from rivers where bears tend to gravitate, treated or boiled our water, lived mostly of our dehydrated meals and let our bodies adapt to this new life rhythm.

We passed the “almost” ghost town of Balagychan where we were chased by a furious dog, the settlement of Kupka’s road workers, two otherabandoned villages anda wide variety of cement/concrete/metal bridges, often pairing older wooden decrepited wooden bridges.

We also had the pleasure to meet along the way countless large Ural/Kamaz drivers,4*4 drivers from Magadan on fishing/hunting trips, marchroutkas (minivan/minibus) drivers transporting Omsukchan “commuters”, Dukat gold & silver miners, etc…

Everyone somewhat risking their life while driving at high speed on this tortuous muddy, rocky and partially gravel road.

However, generally, these drivers were kind enough to slow down when spotting us on the road, mostly surprised to see us out there…

On one gnarly mountain pass, we could see in the bottom of the valley the cistern of a gas truck which went off the curve in the last winter bringing its driver to his premature death.

We also met 2 excellent road maintenance crews who were very kind with us.

The first crew traveling in an antiquated bus inundated us with questions and intriguing facts on the region.This crew was mostly in charge of repairing and repainting road signs. Their leader Sergey mentioned to us that in his 40 years of service on this road, he had never seen anyone on a bicycle in this 256 kms section…

The 2d crew was a well-equipped crew in charge of bulldozing new section of the road. Very kind, they invited us for tea and fed us bread, salo/lard, biscuits and patés.

I progressively stopped waving “hello” to the truck drivers coming by since most of them promptly stopped, interpreting that as a sign of distress, calling for “help”.

Indeed, in Russia, you may nod your head as a “hello” sign but definitely not wave your hand…

On our 6th and last day on the Omsuckchan road, we met Sergey in his Russian jeep, who asked us a lot of questions. When he discovered that we had been living for a week on our dehydrated meals, (and thankfully delicious lärabars!) he decided to promptly give us a whole box full of homegrown delicious tomatoes, fresh bread, pickles and cans of “tushonka” as well as duck liver patés. It felt like Christmas and Santa Claus had arrived!

On the evening of the 6th night, after 256 kms completed on the Omsukchan highway, we joined the Kolyma highway (aka “road of bones”) and started moving Northwest on a better surfaced and hard packed road where we were quickly showered with clouds of dust and potentially flying small rocks resulting from the even faster driving trucks (transporting logs, mining equipment and even recycled scrap metal from the Soviet times being shipped overseas out of Magadan) as well as 4*4s zooming North for their weekend on their Friday night.

On our 7th day, we passed the beautiful Gerbinsky mountain range, enjoyed an intriguing cascade under a warm +27c sun and stopped for our first served meal at our first trucker restaurant in the small mining town of Laryukovaya.Enjoyed some borsch, golubtsy (stuffed cabbage), fresh bread, potatoes, fried chicken and chocolate!

While sitting in the diner, we asked where we could potentially find a place to stay, looking forward to a night inside to shower and reacclimated ourselves after having endured days of hard rain.

After a few phone calls made by our waitress, we were greeted by our ” tomato man” Sergey once again who with his partner Marina asked us to follow his car with our bikes 5 kms away to Orotukan.

We arrived in Orotukan around 21:30 under the sun setting and were given the key to an entire furnished apartment generally loaned to visiting mining contractors (on the first floor of a 5th floor building) and told we were welcomed to stay for free as long as we wanted…

We were even asked if we wanted to move here in Orotukan and asked if we needed money to eat!
We must have looked a bit in shambles… ;-)

Our host Marina also mentioned: “don’t bother locking the door, Orotukan lives in “communist” peaceful times, where no one steals anything from anyone…”

We woke up this morning, got on the very slooooow internet that we could catch thanks to a Megaphone dongle/flashcard which we bought in Magadan, bought some fresh food, andtour this urban settlement as well as the sports center which is well known for its Russian boxing national champions.

Orotukan currently has ~2000 inhabitants, less than in its heydays in Soviet times where was assembled and repaired gold mining equipment for the surrounding mines and also has had a gulag camp in its proximity in its earlieryears.
One striking fact about Orotukan’s population coming from Further East (Evensk, Kamchatka Koryak Okrug and Chukotka) was the large proportion of Caucasus minorities, mostly coming from the Republic of Ingushetia, in southwest Russia.Here they come to settle and work in the gold mines as well as in construction work. Most of these men come with their spouses and a large amount of young children busy running around town and shopping for candies in the few local shops….

So far our bodies are holding well.
Gulnara has been dealing with a few muscle sores and especially one somewhat alarming in her right knee, particularly after we passed steep mountain passes. Although, thankfully, all this seems to be dissipating progressively itself away…

Our bikes are holding well except for two broken stands which snapped under the weight of our cargo and a bent front derailleur on my big dummy that took a while to fix.

I spent a few hours indeed trying to fix it myself until we decided to look for Ivan Zanorin’s contact in Omsukchan: the local mechanic Alexander Sidorovich.

After having found Alexandr’s phone number through one of the local shop keepers, we went to Alexandr’s garage and successfully passed through an armada of threatening guarding dogs. There, I spent a few more hours with local mechanics Alexandr & Valera trying to figure out how to successfully fix this American bicycle front derailleur which to them, used to work on Japanese and Russian automobiles/ minivans seem a bit like learning the inner workings of a UFO.

I am happy to report though that we were successful.
I was able to regain the 27 speeds on my bike (instead of 9) and I profusely thanked Valera and Alexander for theirtime!
After having spent this day off our bikes, we are planning to leave tomorrow and proceed towards Yagodnoye (130 kms away) as quickly as we can.

But before we go, we want to thank our Orotukanese hosts Sergey and Marina for their hospitality!

Bolshoespasibo!
Dimitri & Gulnara
Thanking our summer 2011 sponsors from Omsukchan
Thursday August 11, 2011 - 62.30987° N, 155.4634262° E
Current location:
Omsukchan
Magadanskaya Oblast, Russia
N 62* 30.987; E 155* 46.342

We arrived last night in Omsukchan after a beautiful 10 hrs /570kms ride from Magadan onboard our friend Ivan Zanorin’s mighty Toyota Delica.

Since some of you have asked, thankfully we were not onboard the tragic plane that crashed near Omsukchan earlier this week.

And, we are now planning to start riding our bikes towards Yakutsk in 24 hrs, quickly before the snow starts falling...

But for the time being, we want to take the opportunity to thank our generous sponsors!

Gulnara and I spent the month of July in Seattle busy getting ourselves ready as well as preparing our gear for this first bicycling section.

In the process, we were enthused to gain new sponsors as well as reinforce partnerships with some of our existing supportive sponsors.

The new sponsors that we are now proud to represent are:

- Avia Partner / Авиа-Партнер which shipped gratuitously our bicycles and cargo from Moscow to Magadan.

- Ortlieb USA provided to us generously a wide assortment of Ortlieb waterproof bags, Tubus bicycle racks, UltraLite bike mirrors , and Busch & Mueller tail lights.

- Light & Motion provided to us great rechargeable lightweight but powerful Solite 150 multisport lights.

- Universal Distro provided to us great adjustable eyewear for sunny days and rainy/cloudy days.

- GoPro helped us acquire their latest High Definition Helmet Cameras.

- Free Range Cycles, a great bicycle shop in Fremont, Seattle assisted us to carefully select and prepare our new bikes and appropriate related gear.

- Jude Ultra helped us design the new Nexus Expeditions logo.

And amongst our existing sponsors, we are very grateful to have received once again the great support from some of our most loyal sponsors:

-Logistic, guidance and overall support from Egan & Associates

-Indispensable wool clothing by Ibex

-Protective and comfortable outerwear by Westcomb

-Footwear by Treksta

-Nutritious energetic bars by Lärabar

-Efficient electrolyte solution by Nuun

-Promotional signs/stickers by Davis Sign Co.

Once again, thank you all for your support and for now, let’s get on the road and start biking!

Dimitri Kieffer & Gulnara Miftakhova
Leaving Magadan for Omsukchan
Thursday August 11, 2011 - 59.5500° N, 150.8000° E
Yes, Gulnara and I are back in Magadan and leaving in a few hours for Omsukchan, loading ourselves, our cargo and bikes on board a minivan driven by our local friend and great support Ivan Zanorin.

We are indeed going to travel today 560kms on this chaotic road in a northeastern direction to our starting point in Omsukchan.

Once again, we are going to start our first bicycling section in Omsukchan and not Magadan since I last stopped there in early May after having finally being able to reach a permanent road by foot.

I will post very soon a recap and pictures on what has happened over the last few days since we landed in Magadan.

Stay tuned!
While we are currently coordinating the logistics to assure our return in Far Eastern Russia this next month (early Aug 2011), I wanted to update you on the following matters:

I have added to the post ”Plans for Summer 2011 Route”, links on videos and written reports that have been sent to me by bicyclists, hitchhikers and motorcyclists who have been or planning to be on a similar route.
Hopefully, we might be able to meet some of these fellow travelers on the route!

On a separate note, here is a quick compilation of some of the Nexus Expedition interviews that have been published over the last few months.

Seattle Times interview - June 2011
An overall summary on what did the "Missing Link" entail.


Polar Explorersweb interview – June 2011 (Part 1)
Polar Explorersweb interview – June 2011 (Part 2) (subscriber content)
Polar Explorersweb interview - July 2011 (Part 3) (subscriber content)
Polar Explorersweb interview - July 2011 (Part 4) (subscriber content)

In these articles, amongst other matters, I explain in depth what I believe I have learned over the last few years from the people I have come across on Russian land while pulling my sled:
Chukchis, Koryaks, Evens, Yakuts, white Russians and my expedition partners.

AskYakutia.com – May 2011
In this article, I explain what route I took for the benefit of any other future potential travellers/expeditionists in the region.

Magadan - Russia 1 TV interview – March 2011

Seattle Magazine – Feb 2011
“Closet Nerd” - On the more amusing side, one can never completely escape his past…

If you want to see a more comprehensive list of older press reports, written, radio and video interviews, scroll down on the main screen of Nexus Expeditions homepage and look on the left side for the section called “Video/Radio/Printed Press”.

For video footage and video interviews, feel free to check the page “Expedition Videos”.

Cheers!
These shots have been extracted from some of the videos I took this Spring.
I have decided to post these raw non-edited shots after an old friend of mine recently asked me why so far I have only been showing pictures of me on flat land...
So, here it is!
Note: If you double-click on some of the smaller shots, you can see them in larger format.

And yes, with my friends at 1iOpen productions, we are currently editing 2008-2011 material so that we can post a trailer, snippets and a larger product sometime in the short-to-mid-term future.
Yes, indeed, after having spent the last few winters pulling a sled, it's time for me to get reacquainted with the bicycling world!

In less than 11 weeks, in early August 2011, I am due to start bicycling westward out of Omsukchan (where I last stopped with my sled in late April 2011) towards Yakutsk and proceed furthermore southwest, towards Mongolia.

I am also excited to announce that my girlfriend Gulnara Miftakhova is planning to join me bicycling for this next section of the expedition!

Note: By the way, going forward, I will try to use the term "bicycling" exclusively and refrain myself from using the term "biking" which has apparently confused some of my international readers, wondering if we were planning to travel by bicycle or motorbike!

So, between Omsukchan, Magadanskaya Oblast and Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha, we are planning to bicycle the following route:
http://karakullake.blogspot.com/2010/01/kolyma-highway-road-of-bones-guide-map.html

More general information and photos about this route can be seen at the following Tamerlane site, where you can also see video snippets of the movie "Long Way Around".

Additional Notes:

July 1st 2011-: have also been forwarded the Russian following link that highlights the Road of Bones route taken by Russian cyclists: КОЛЫМА - 2008
well as a video taken by Milosz Augustyniak, a pole hitchhiker in June 2011.

July 12th 2011:
Between July 8th and August 10th, 8 bicyclists are riding from Yakutsk to Magadan. We hope to meet with them while traveling in opposite direction.

July 26th 2011 : Australian hitchhiker 2010 report on the Kolyma highway.

Part 1. The first 251 kms from Omsukchan to the intersection with the Kolyma Highway, aka "Road of Bones". This promises to be a busy dusty and potentially dangerous narrow road where we will be passed by countless supply trucks coming in/out of Omsukchan and Ducat silver and gold ore mines.

Part 2. We will then travel the next 404 kms on the wider Kolyma highway until we reach Kadykchan, this time side by side with a greater amount of large Kamaz and Ural trucks travelling at high speed between Magadan and Susuman.

Part 3. In Kadykchan, we will definitely be glad to leave the trucks and the "dirt highway" behind and get on the more bucolic/rustic "old road" for the next 405 kms, via Tomtor all the way to Kyubyume in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

I am actually really looking forward to this more peaceful section away from the large trucks commuting between Magadan and the gold mining communities in Northern Magadanskaya Oblast.

September 2011 Update: For anyone who wonders, yes, we did decide to go with the “new” road and forgo the “old” road between Kadykchan and Kyubyume, (even if it meant an additional 110 kms of cycling for our route), because we received reports from travelers who tried and failed to take the old route in landcruisers/kamaz and motorcycles from both sides (Kadykchan and Kyubyume) and told us that at this time (early September) the rivers were way too high and too furious to cross/ford safely on bikes and/or by foot.

Note on River crossings: In April 2011 while in Magadan, I was able to meet several bicyclists and truckers who are familiar with the Omsukchan-Yakutsk route and I now know the following:
a. In August, the rivers tend to be much smaller than in early summer and therefore can be crossed easily.
b. In the case of a downpour, we may need to wait 1-2 days for a river to recede before we can cross it.
c. For the larger rivers we will have to find an alternative solution such as using inflatable kayaks or something similar to cross the river and ensure the continuation of this "human-powered" expedition.

Part 4. In Kyubume, we will get back on the main Kolyma "dirt highway" and travel 320 kms further to Khandyga.

Part 5. In Khandyga, we will travel 380kms further to reach Yakutsk.

Total: Omsukchan-Yakutsk - 1760kms / 1094 miles

After Yakutsk, our goal is to travel on our bicycles southwest towards Mongolia and continue further through Kazakhstan, and through some of the Central Asian states (Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan), some of the Middle Eastern countries (Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel), and some of the Northern African countries (Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal) where it will be time to row!
Of course, the exact route will be determined as we progress, partly depending on geopolitical conditions.

In the last few years, I partook in a few biking races such as crossing South Africa from Durban to Capetown in the Freedom Challenge (2005) and competing in the challenging La Ruta de Los Conquistadores in Costa Rica but never really undertook a loooong bicycling expedition of this caliber: Going from Omsukchan (Far Eastern Russia) to Dakar (Senegal, West Africa.

So, yes, at this stage, we are definitely learning as quickly as we can, about "adventure cycle-touring" logistics.

We are currently researching what are going to be the best bikes for us to use, the best waterproof clothing, paniers, spare gear, etc...

To that effect, I have been gathering valuable information from my friends at Angus Adventures, Asiemut, Panamerika, World's End Trek and amongst other sources, from the "Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook".

But, PLEASE, feel free to email me directly at dimitri_kieffer@hotmail.com if you want to share any tips and recommendation you might have on bicycles and bicycle gear, "bullet-proof" waterproof clothing, etc... And yes, we are definitely looking for new reliable sponsors in the bicycling arena.

So, once again, please feel free to send me the recommendations you might have so that we can use and promote their reliable brand along the way!

Finally, over the next few weeks, I am still planning to post some of my favorite pictures/videos and stories on what I have experienced this spring while pulling my sled from Paren to Omsukchan.
Stay tuned!
Gulnara Kieffer
Wednesday May 25, 2011 -
Gulnara Kieffer, born Gulnara Miftakhova, is a Russian Tatar who was born in the city of Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation.

In 2001, she graduated from the Kazan Pedagogical University (Philology Department) with a Russian language and literature teaching degree.
Thereafter, she applied her pedagogical skills while working as a governess for 2 years.

In March 2006, Gulnara moved to Moscow, where she was hired by movie production companies. There, she organized and coordinated the creation of films and musical concerts.
In 2008, she started working as a manager for a Russian music recording company.

Gulnara met Dimitri Kieffer in 2009 while guiding Russian artists in Morocco.

Gulnara joined Nexus expeditions in August of 2011.
Together, they cycled 2100kms from Omsukchan, Magadanskaya Oblast until they reached Nishny Bistekh/ Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Russia.

On March 20th 2013, Gulnara Kieffer and Dimitri Kieffer were married in Kazan, Russia and she plans to join him again on future cycling sections.
Done with the Missing Link!
Friday May 6, 2011 -
As I mentioned in my last post, I am delighted to tell you all that I have completed what I call the "Missing Link"!

5228 kms (3249 miles) from Knik Lake near Anchorage, Alaska, USA to Omsukchan, Russia which I have accomplished over the course of 6 winters (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011) while trekking, snowshoeing, skiing, swimming and even sledding in a few downhills!
2951kms (1834 miles) on Russian territory since I have landed in Uelen.

The "roadless" section from Anchorage, Alaska, USA to Omsukchan, Magasdanskaya Oblast, Russia represents indeed a "Missing link" in the chain of asphalt, gravel and dirt roads which connects the American continents with the Asian, European and African continents,going from Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of the Americas to Capetown at the bottom of South Africa!

Now that I have finally come to a dirt/gravel road, I am definitely planning to return in August 2011 to Omsukchan and start bicycling westward!
Arrived in Omsukchan after 595 kms!
Monday April 25, 2011 - 62.30987° N, 155.46342° E
Current location:
Downtown Omsukchan!
Magadanskaya Oblast, Russia
N 62° 30.987
E 155° 46.342

Yes!! I am surely delighted to tell you all that I am done trekking, skiing and snowshoeing!

I entered Omsukchan, Magadanskaya Oblast last night, Monday April 25th 2011, right before midnight.

595 kms since having started 51 days ago in Paren (aka Urs Paren) in Kamchatka Koryak Okrug!

Now, I am organizing my quick return back to my home in Seattle,USA via Magadan and Moscow.

And yes, I am also already planning to return when my Russian visa will allow me, in early August 2011, to continue westward towards Yakutsk and this time, I will be BICYCLING on a ROAD!

I will post details and pictures as well as potential videos as soon as I can!
Stay tuned!

Paka Paka!
Dima
99 kilometers until Omsukchan!
Tuesday April 19, 2011 - 62.15751° N, 157.02484° E
Current location:
N 62° 15.751
E 157° 02.484
483kms, 99 to go!
45th day since Paren, including stops.
5th day and 81 kms since last stop at the Shirokaya bear hunting outpost.
I spent the last 5 days mostly going up the Shirokaya river until I got to the mountain pass (74kms) where the river starts and then proceeded 7 more kms on the other side towards Omsukchan!

The first two days after leaving Shirokaya bear hunting outpost, I had to progress through heavy slushy snow and under the rain.
On the third day, the weather got sunnier and the snow firmer to travel on as I was progressively gaining elevation. A real pleasure!

However, I had to be careful and could not travel much at night because they were deep crevasses in the river that I needed to see and avoid!

On my third day I start seeing bear tracks and even saw some in the morning around my campsite and on my 5th day, I had the pleasure to be woken up by a cute fox whisteling very near my tent!

On my 4th day, after having pushed through 7 kms, I met 4 snowmobilers [the only humans I have seen on this section so far...] coming down the pass from Omsukchan on their way to the Shirokaya hunting camp and further! Very exciting news because they were giving me some fresh snowmobile tracks to follow and if the weather continues to hold for a while, I should be able to follow their fresh tracks, making my travel much easier and potentially faster!

They told me at the time that it took them 10 hrs in powerful skidoos and artic cat snowmobiles to cover the 107 kms since Galimiy [a coal mine located between here and Omsukchan] and that I should expect further up the pass, some real steep sections going up the pass and 3 river/ water crossings on the other side where I will probably have to use my dry suit.
They also kindly gave me some sausage and CHEESE after we ate some bread, sala and drank some vodka mixed with medved jir...
They told me as well that they were planning to come back the same route in 3 days when I might see them again and give them then some of my extra weight (food, fuel)!

Going over the shirokaya pass was a challenge as I had predicted... Long and getting steeper and steeper!
For the last 5kms, I switched from skis to snowshoes so that I could get a better grip on the steeper icy incline, while pulling my sled!
I couldn't also jump two meters down, or sideways with Omsukchan express over a crevasse like intense Russian snowmobilers apparently can!
Omsukchan express and I had to crawl and grind through those sections!

In addition, as I was progressing through a steep icy ravine and frozen cascade, I saw there some relatively fresh bigger bear prints!
Surely not a place where I wanted to meet one!
Gun-less but armed with flares and pepper spray, I have not seen any live bear this year so far, and would be very contented to not seen any!

I got to the pass (884 meters) at 21h30 and since it was windy and snowy, while the moon was trying to pierce through the clouds, I went 6 kms further down a beautiful wide, white valley until I could get a good unexposed site to camp behind pine trees!

Yes, I am surrounded by christmas trees!
On the other side of the pass, the trees were different, more like poplar trees and shrubs. It's probably because I am at a higher elevation! (728 meters) and I like it!

It should be easier now for Omsukchan Express and I to travel the next and FINAL 99kms, except for the coming up 3 water/river crossings (where once again, I may have to use my dry suit), the potential bear encounters and the potential annoying rain!

Loving it!

Paka, paka!
Dima
So long, Pacific Ocean!
Tuesday April 12, 2011 - 61.49368° N, 157.24598° E
Current location:
N 61° 49.368'
E 157° 24.598'
Shirokaya river hunting oupost
Sergey Rudakov - Magadan Safari outpost
Maxime & Olga Burlak's home
Starting my 39th day!
Wednesday April 13th 2011
407 kms done, about 180 kms to go!

What's next on the menu?
A tough 150kms section to Galimyy followed by the last 30 potentially easy ones down to Omsukchan!

From shirokaya river bear hunting camp, I am going to progress northwest up Shirokaya river, following snowmobile tracks part of the way, disappearing soon with the latest purga/snowstorm which has already started...
Then over the Nayakhanskiy mountain range, where I will most likely progressing very slowly in the dep snow!
Then descend down the sugoy river, until I reach the old tractor Galimyy -Buksunda road, where I will go then straight west to the town of Galimyy (Supposedly inhabited by 10 coal miners) and then on 30kms to my final destination: Omsukchan!

I know, I know..
I have not post anything on the blog in a looong time, but I have been busy trying to progress!
I will post pictures once I have completed this journey in Omsukchan in a few weeks!
Hopefully, this post will appear on the blog in its entirety but there is no guarantee. A bug is currently inexplainicatively shortening my reports..
Update from Evensk with pictures
Monday March 28, 2011 - 61.54802° N, 159.13955° E
So, yes, I arrived in Evensk (N 61-54.802; E 159-13.955) saturday night on Sat March 26th (21st day) after 269kms covered by foot so far. I am due to depart town tonight (Tuesday night) or very early tomorrow morning...

Of course, I would love to write my overdue report and post many more pictures but considering that:

- I have very limited and slow internet access here in Evensk

- I have about 325kms to get to Omsukchan through Tavatum & Merenga and I need to rush because, the frozen rivers are going to melt quickly, my visa is expiring on May 3rd and the bears are going to waker up from hibernation very very soon!

So, I need to go shortly! I have chosen the route via Tavatum and Merenga which is only taken by snowmobile because it is 300 kms shorter than the usual Evensk-Gold mine of Kubaka- Omsukchan taken by Ural/Kamaz trucks...

Looking forward to 325kms of beautiful Tundra!

I will post intriguing pictures and write a long report upon landing in Omsukchan.

Paka Paka! Dima
On my way to Evensk ...
Friday March 25, 2011 - 61.56125° N, 159.39386° E
Starting 21st day - sat march 26th
Current location:
N 61° 56.125; E 159° 39.386
245kms done so far.

About 23 kms before Evensk. Hoping to make it tonight, saturday Night for the banya. I need to catch up with the boys and I need to wash...

I will stay in Evensk til Tuesday morning, depending on the weather.

Planning to post pictures and write a loooong report on monday.

Paka, gotta go and pull!
Dima
Quick update on day 10th
Monday March 14, 2011 - 62.18026° N, 161.28641° E
Current location:
N 62°18.026
E 161° 28.641
March 15th- starting day 10th
I have covered so far 131kms since my start in Paren and 70kms since my last village in Vernhiy Paren. Although, I spent two days in vernhiy paren.

I heard recently via email about the terrible news on the tsunami in japan and my heart goes out to everyone trying to cope with the situation the best they can...
A few of you have asked me via email, if I had felt any repercussion where I am.
I am still quite inland and the only possible related matter I noticed was over the last few days two major snow storms.

As a result, moving very slowly...
Dealt on the first few days with lots of hills, deep snow, ravines, small river crossing with open water, and even broke my 2 harnesses on steep hills that I somewhat temporarily repaired with carabineers as well as broke a bloody tent pole that I fixed with duct tape..

I am also trying to get rid of my cold, and my wounds on my feet which is not an easy thing to do out here...
But at least I am moving forward.. It seems that I am for now out of the hills on to flater lands where I might be able to gain some speed...

Slept at the "emergency/rest" tirala/cabin one day ago. The only dwelling in 160kms. Pushed hard to make it there duting my last snow storm.

Magic...Saw 2 foxes in the evening play a few nights ago....

Will write a much more complete report on the last few days and my departure from Vernhiy Paren soon and/or when time allows...

Paka paka!
dima
Reposting: In Vernhiy Paren, 51kms already covered!
Wednesday March 9, 2011 - 62.39142° N, 162.22768° E
I have heard tonight over the satellite phone, that apparently this last post was truncated and here I am attempting to repost it in its entirety. My apology... I can post text (sorry no pictures or video over the slow satellite phone connection) but actually cannot see my actual website. I will be able to do that again when I reach ghiziga in 190 kms.
Paka, Dima
------------

Day 3 - Tuesday March 8th 2011

Location: Vernhiy Paren, Magadanskaya Oblast
N62°39.142; E162°22.768

Total distance covered since March 6th 2011 start:51 kms

So long Kamchatka, so long!
It has been a pleasure ride!

And hello Magadanskaya Oblast ! The third russian state that I am able to enter by foot! And trust me, in Far Eastern Russia, none of them are small!

Omsukchan Express (aka my red sled) and I have covered our first 51kms in 30 hrs (18.5 moving hours) and were both obviously quite happy about that..
In Vernhiy Paren, 51kms already covered!
Tuesday March 8, 2011 - 62.39142° N, 162.22768° E
Day 3 - Tuesday March 8th 2011
Location: Vernhiy Paren, Magadanskaya Oblast
N62°39.142; E162°22.768

Total distance covered since March 6th 2011 start:51 kms

So long Kamchatka, so long!
It has been a pleasure ride!

And hello Magadanskaya Oblast! The third russian state that I am able to enter by foot! And trust me, in Far Eastern Russia, none of them are small!

Omsukchan Express (aka my red sled) and I have covered our first 51kms in 30 hrs (18.5 moving hours) and were both obviously quite happy about that..
Finally back in Paren, ready to start today!
Saturday March 5, 2011 - 62.2504° N, 163.0518° E
Paren: N62°25.04; E163°05.18
Yes, I finally arrived Saturday night in Paren, Kamchatka Koryak Okrug, where I last stop in May 2010!

This means that I am ready to start again Nexus Expeditions this afternoon!

As I had somewhat predicted, it took me 30 days to get here since I landed in Moscow, Feb 2d.

Since leaving Evensk last Sunday morning , I was able to cover the first 105 kms while travelling 12 hrs in the back of the cargo space of a kamaz truck, the next 160 kms in 50hrs in a crowded open sled being pulled by a soviet-era mighty tractor on tracks, and the last 50 kms in 4.5 hrs holding on to a sled/trailer being pulled by a soviet-era Buran snowmobile.

Since arriving in Paren friday night, I have spent part of my time catching up with my parenski friends, sharing stories, pictures and gifts!
It feels great indeed to be able to revisit
Yura, Olesia & Carina Chansev with whom I spent more than two weeks last spring in their very hospitable koryak small wooden home!

I have also spent some time as well repairing my beaten up sled and skis. Indeed, taking into consideration how complicated it would have been to ship over a new sled and new skis, I opted this winter to get spare pieces instead and ensure the best repairs I could upon landing in Paren. I have placed new runners on my sled, (which by the way, I have now wishfully renamed "The Omsukchan Express"...) and I have also fixed my dual binding system for my skis.

I also spent a good amount of time sorting & organizing my gear, food and fuel. Indeed, between what I left in storage in Paren last May and some of the new and improved gear I brought this week, I am realizing that I have more than I should be carrying, therefore, here I am trying to streamline. However, it is not easy to part with some of this reliable gear which has helped me through over the last few winters. I do not have in Paren the option to ship anything out, since the nearest post office is 210kms away and no motorized transportation is planned to go along my route.
But thankfully,I have the option to share some of this gear with my Parenski friends which I know will put it to good use! I have promised already to give my old Baffin expedition boots to Yura in Vernhiy Paren who has been eyeing them for a while, and as always, some of my ESS turbofan goggles are highly seeked by the local snowmobilers...

Sooo, yes, the motorized journey from Evensk to Paren was epic but thankfully, got me there in 5 days! I was told that it could have taken a few more weeks if we would have chosen to attempt to go by kamaz truck all the way instead of using a tractor.

Back in Evensk, after having to mop blood off the floor, as a result of a drunken russian brawl which happened very near my living quarters saturday night, needless to say that I was quite excited when a few hours later on sunday morning, I received the call that we will depart at 1pm!

My kind Evensk host Misha Maxime brought me and my gear in a small japanese van to the specified location in Evensk where we found a mighty Kamaz truck, loaded with cargo and a motley crew of 10 humans and 2 dogs, getting ready to depart for Vernhiy Paren.

The 10 humans were: A koryak woman who left us after the first 70kms having reached her home in Ghiziga, and nine vernhiy parenskis.
The white driver and also mayor of verniy paren named Sasha Nabigayev, his tractor koryak intriguing copilot Ivan, the vice mayor koryak metisse Ola, her white husband Andrei and their 8 years old son named Arthur, her brother named yura, two mostly silent koryak men named Aleg and Sergey, whom I had a hard time to tell apart, partly because of their similar bushy dark mustaches and finally a very drunk older koryak named Andrei, who took 48 hrs to sober out...

The first dog belonged to Sasha and was named Greta, a 2 years old fun german sheppard which was purchased in Magadan and to whom I sadly don't predict a very long life, judging how much she loves to "dance" and play close to the tracks of a tractor, in deep snow.

Indeed, I once saw a dog in Krasneno, Chukotka getting his paw crushed by the tracks of his master wezdehod/tank with whom he was dancing when he got caught under in deep powdery snow...

The second dog was rightfully named "Grace", a one year old and tall version of a cocker spaniel ( will find the proper breed name the day I get access again to an internet search engine!).
Grace is a Magadan city high maintenance bitch who was migrating with her master Ola to the small and cold village of vernyi paren, obviously not knowing how her life was about to change radically!
On a sidenote, it never stops to surprise me to see cats and quite a few fair-weather dogs condemned to have either shivering lives or sheltered "apartment" lives in Far Eastern frigid Russia, a land definitely made for mighty husky "winter" dogs and alike...

So, I climbed deep in the back of the dark cargo space of the kamaz, crawling in the limited space available between the cargo boxes of parenski groceries/supplies and the ceiling, finding a relatively comfortable spot to niche myself and proceeded to sleep, with shivering Grace by my side, despite the chain smoking loud talking koryaks, the growls of the kamaz trying to negotiate a path in the deep snow, and the once in while hard bumps sending me to the roof!

I got woken up after a few hours quite abruptly when I felt a seasick Grace throwing up on my leg! This quickly gave the opportunity for the truck to stop allowing for one of those few required communal pissbreaks for the whole crew!

Along the way in our crowded cargo space, my koryak friends and I managed to share their cans of sardines, bread, warm tea which I reciprocated with a few oranges...

After 12 hours of kamaz travelling which usually only take 6 hours when the trail is in good condition, we landed 105kms away in Chaibura after having stopped briefly in Ghiziga (300 inhabitants, mostly koryaks).

Chaibura, now mostly a classic-case Far Eastern Russia ghost town with a mere population of 80 inhabitants used to have 2000 inhabitants during its prime soviet time. It had (a now closed) strategic regional cold-war airport, a kolkhoz center for the (now greatly diminished) surrounding reindeer brigades, a fishing fleet and a geological center for mining research.

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours walking around town and witnessed an incredible amount of massive equipment and scrap metal that was left behind after pereistroika.

This strinkingly reminded me whas I saw last Spring in Korf, Kamchatka, yet another soviet-era coastal ghost town which was finally put to rest after it was hit a few years ago by a tsuname resulting from a major earthquake off the coast.

Some day, hopefully, I can visualize Chinese ships coming to grab/recycle all of this massive soviet scrap metal & machinery, when the price will be right!

In chaibura, taking into consideration the post-purga bad shape of the trail, mayor/driver/navigator Sasha decided to switch us and cargo from the kamaz to a soviet tractor on tracks pulling a sled.

Consequently,we had to repair/build the wooden frame of the large heavy sled (with a heavy metal base) which could carry:
-six large gas drums (200 liters each),
-piled up with the cargo which we transfered from the kamaz
-and 8 of us +2 dogs layed on top in open air.

All this in layers in similar fashion to a lasagna dish or napoleon french pastry...

Sasha and his co-pilot ivan were able to fit snuggly in their tractor cargo space, as they are accustomed to navigate.


At around 3pm on tuesday, the motley crew and I departed Chaibura and embarked on this 160 kms, 50 hrs cold open-air tractor sled pulling arduous and intriguing journey...

We stopped twice along the way long enough to tighten the tractor axis, build a campfire, make some tea, eat some ramen noodles, and kielbasa, sala/lard and cheese that I had brought along...

The first of the two stops was at a "container on sled" type cabin usually called "Tira", where we were able to shelter ourselves from the strong winds and falling snow. I definitely took the gps location of this sled since it is going to be the only shelter coming my way on the 160 kms section between vernhyi paren and chaibura!

To fight the cold wind, snow falling and lower temperatures, my koryak travelling partners were using heavy duty coats, hats, pants, boots, gloves and blankets made of a mismatch of dog wool, reindeer furs, and synthetic materials.

These necessary items of course crowded our small living space high on top of the cargo, forcing us to sleep sideways, not helping my back by any means...

We also had to contain at times our two jittering dogs, especially the german sheppard Greta who loved to chase her tail, making fast spinning circles while standing on top of our layed bodies...

I suggested that a bit of sedatives, if available... could come quite handy for Greta's next journey aboard a similar sled!


But being a "last minute" guest, I would have been the last one to complain, thankfully enough to get a ride and trying to minimize the amount of space I was taking!

Watching the tractor progressing slowly but surely, negotiating curves, alternatively using a hitch, a short and/or long cable depending of the complexity and inclination of the terrain ahead reminded me of my own progress while pulling my sled. A few times, the tractor would unhitch itself to check the terrain ahead and go ahead to somewhat prepare a trail in the deep soft snow, come back, rehitch its sled and move forward.... In similar fashion to what I had to do countless times in the padt while facing steep inclines.

At times, watching this "steampunk like" vessel travel trough the white open tundra reminded me some of the most intriguing art cars I have seen over the years parading around the playa at burning man.. Although it was definitely missing some of its Nevada heat!

We fought over the last few harduous kilometers, steeper hills and the sharp/steep edges of the Paren river where we passed the remnants of a summer fishing camp where koryaks spent time drying their traditional and tasty yukalas/salmon skins.

Above all, we finally had to find a spot where the ice was sick enough for us to cross the river, and sustain the weight of our massive tractor and sled in tow, avoiding any potential disatrous accident.

We finally arrived in vernhyi paren at 5pm on thursday night being greeted at first by the vernhyi Paren children on the edge of town when we were negotiating our last steep incline.

Upon arriving in "Centralniya" street, in downtown Vernhyi Paren, we were greeted by a good portion of its 80 inhabitants. I was indeed able to witness happy reunions watching some of the wives who had not seen their men for months, while away in Evensk, working and earning some badly needed cash!

After having helped to unload the sled of its cargo (cooking oil, sausages, chicken, rice, toilet paper, candles, etc...) and the six 200 liters gas drums, I was welcomed by mayor sasha's koryak wife named chura and their 3rd child, an 8 months old son named locha. Their teenager older daughters now live far away in Magadan with their grandmother where Sasha wants to ensure for them the best education they can get...

Chura kindly welcomed me indeed in their warm abode where I was fed a nice bowl of soup, and a great reindeer stew!

Vernhiy paren main electric generator burned down last december leaving its inhabitants without electricity during these harder winter months. A few "wealthier" inhabitants have gas driven generators that they use a few hours a night but they are truly the exception.
Thankfully all the homes use wooden firestoves for heating and cooking purposes.

I spent friday catching up on needed sleep, washing myself and my clothes in sasha's great banya, visiting the villagers, and watching visiting reindeer herders from the neighboring brigades cut the horns of their reindeers to avoid having them poke each other in the eyes!

I was also trying in vain to call yura chansev 60 kms away in paren who had mentioned he wanted to get me with his snowmobile. Paren sole and only phone, called "taxophone" had indeed not been responding for a few days.

Well, by saturday morning, concerned that I might never be able to reach him by phone, I started to look at my alternative options to get transported from vernhyi paren to paren:
-dog mushing
-snowmobiling
-or even reindeer sled.
Indeed, the local drunk offered me to take me with a reindeer sled in exchange for 2 bottles of vodka...

Taking into consideration that I have visa time restrictions coming up in less than 2 months, I accepted sasha's kind and most reliable offer to take me with his buran russian snowmobile!

We covered the 50 kms in 4.5 hours, facing wet falling snow, wind and white-outs.
Upon landing in paren, sasha and I went to meet slav pakulit and his wife tatiana who offered us yet another a reindeer stew!

Soon thereafter, afraid that the weather may worsen, sasha nabigayev got back on his snowmobile, ready to turn around and go back home, 50 kms away.
I am very thankfull for the kind help he demonstrated towards me providing me with transport, shelter and food, far beyond my most wishful expectations!

I was then finally able to meet the Chansev after 8 months of absence! Olesia was back from work and yura coming back from the coast on his snowmobile with his trailer loaded with large pieces of drift wood, good enough for 4 days of badly needed firewood...
We spent a great evening in their warm hospitable small wooden home in company of their 5 years old daughter carina, olesia's parents rima & viktor visiting from vernhiy paren for a month.

I was also glad to see once again their amusing dogs and cat! Indeed, I was also able to see a beautiful small puppy, surely the result of all that canine passion I had been able to witness back in may between Lala and Chiornish!
And finally I sadly learned that Amour had been shot and killed by a visiting reindeer herder from vernhiy paren for having biten one of his cherished reindeer!

Well, I shouls stop on this note and go and pull a sled...

Paka! Paka!
Dima
Departure Delayed because of a Purga!
Friday February 25, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
It would appear that the "powers at be" sadly do not control the weather!
A lovely purga/storm arrived in town last night and might stay around for a few more days, delaying any potential departure...

As my Russian room mates said: "Well, if we would have drink last night to celebrate your departure, this surely would not have happened!"

At least, it's Banya day!

Finally, here are a few shots from the local bakery, taken a few days ago, where one can always count on a good Russian loaf of bread!
Hopefully leaving Evensk tomorrow morning!
Thursday February 24, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
I have been told repeatedly today by "The Powers at be" to be ready for a 10am departure tomorrow morning, Saturday Feb 26th, out of Evensk, and bound for Verhniy Paren via Chaibura!
After having waited patiently for 17 days in Evensk, I am definitely looking forward to progressing towards my 2011 starting point: Paren (aka Urs Paren, Kamchatka Koryak Oblast) .
Not quite sure yet what mode of transportation it is going to , how long it is going to take and what weather we are going to face, but yes, I am excited to get on my way!

As a departing note, and since I will not be able to post anything else but text for the next month, I am leaving you all with a few more shots taken "dowtown Evensk" as well as a few I took while recently watching Koryak & Even children dance.
амто пойтыл' ан!
Friday February 18, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
амто пойтыл' ан !
"Hello Parenski!"

Yes, it is time for me to brush up on my Koryak as I am progressively getting back into this beautiful and isolated world...
In deed, I have been in touch with Koryaks ever since I entered the village of Slautnoye in Kamchatka Koryak Okrug where they are the majority, and been with them consequently through my journey in Kamenskoye, Manily, Paren and even spent time with some of the Koryak herders in a reindeer brigade.

Well, now that I am stil waiting in Evensk where the Evens make a large percentage of the population, I have progressively been drawn back into the Koryak "expatriated" clan!



Koryak friends Еугайе Tatiana & Nadezha Khai-Khutyk
Over the last two weeks spent in Evensk, I have indeed been passed on from one kind koryak parenski (ie: koryak native of either Urs Paren or Verhniy Paren villages) to the next, whether it was the school director Еугайе Tatiana feeding me a succulent reindeer stew or Nadezha Khai-Khutyk feeding me frozen fish sashimi, homemade seaweed salad and even given me Yukalas!
Yukalas are indeed delicious sundried strip of salmon skins and are a koryak specialty that I have truly learned to appreciate last spring on the trail.

Nadezha, aka Nadia, explained to me how critical it was for the koryaks to eat fresh items such as frozen fish sashimi and stated that in the distant past, countless settling kazaks died in the neighbouring town of Ghiziga for not having eaten enough proteins...

Nadia also emphasized how much the Koryaks love to share what they got, not expecting anything in return, simply expecting you to help the next person you come across in return...
If possible, a good rule indeed to live by!

In Evensk, I have also been able to recently spend some time at the small but rich Evensk museum where I could see a fair amount of beautiful Koryak & Even artifacts.

Amongst other activities, I have also enjoyed going to the sports complex where I could see Koryak/Even/Russian girls play basketball and boys hone their skills in Greco-Roman wrestling!

I spent some time as well watching the local troop perform Even and Koryak dances! The troop was composed of Evens, Koryak, Metisses, white russian and ukrainian children and teenagers who apparently take a vivid interest in learning traditional dance, chants and drums.

I should also mention that one of the most powerful experiences that I have lived over the last few days was when I was invited by Nadezha, one of my koryak friend to partake twice in a 3 hours mass performed in a crowded small home, where more than sixty koryaks and a few white russians shared thoughts, prayers, laughs, songs rythmned by accordeons, a guitar and even the sounds of a trumpet! A great and warm community where I truly felt welcomed!

The local priest also insisted on blessing me to assure a safe journey ahead deep in the tundra and gave me a Russian/English new testament which as he mentioned I could dwell into, while resting in my tent on purga/stormy days ahead...

Some of the Koryak members have also given me addresses of koryak relatives in Omukchan and Susuman, to contact as I venture further West...

So, once again, as I am bracing myself to embark on this 280kms journey back to Verhnyi Paren and Urs Paren hopefully (!!!) sometimes within the next 2-3 days via truck and, as I have recently heard unheated tractor (in -40c temperatures....), which might take X amount of time... it feels great to feel so welcomed amongst koryak friends who apparently are getting quite keen at seeing me, trekking through their universe...

To give you something to relate to, being able to get closer to this koryak minority in Evensk somewhat feels as if I was getting closer to a clan of corsicans in Paris or Puerto-Ricans in New York while waiting to embark and trek through their homeland...

And finally, on a very different note, I have also learned quite a lot over the last few days while also spending time with 2d generation Evenski white russians, better understanding their frustration when they can recall how their own parents had somewhat more comfortable lives in this remote part of the world under the heavily subsidized soviet regime while they themselves are left to struggle, living off meager salaries and having to pay exhorbitant prices for brought-in daily products. Indeed, when one can only sell his/her apartment for only 3,000$, he/she does not really have the option to be able to take off and start a new life somewhere back in matirik/ warmer and less remote Russian mainland.
So here, they stay, hoping that as the region digs and finds more and more gold, their daily life will hopefully improve!
More Evensk shots!
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
Note: I will attempt to post more Evensk pictures on this specific link, as I get further access to the internet, over the next few days....
Not an easy task over here... A bit like trying to take a bath in a kitchen sink...
According to the latest news, I am due to depart from Evensk by truck on either Saturday 19th or Sunday 20th February.
A few shots from Evensk!
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
Some photos from downtown and around Evensk!
A few shots taken in Magadan...
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 59.5500° N, 150.8000° E
Photos from Magadan...
On "standby" in Evensk…
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 61.9217° N, 159.2300° E
So, I am now in Evensk, Magadanskaya Oblast waiting for transport to be able to return to my starting point in Paren, Kamchatka Koryak Okrug where I last left off back in May 2010.

This should happen sometimes within the next 2-3 days, as soon as the current storm/purga passes, since Sasha Nabigaï, the mayor of Verniy Paren is currently in town (Evensk!), on his way back home from Magadan.

I was told that I would be able to travel with him in either a Wezdehod (which are not very common in the region) or most likely a mighty Kamaz or Ural truck.

The 280 kms journey from Evensk to Verniy Paren (via Chaibura & Ghiziga) can take anywhere between 2 and 30 days on the zimnik/winter practically non-existent trail, depending on the snow conditions and how hard it is for the trucks to move forward.

Last month, it actually took 30 days for a convoy of Ural trucks to get there!

The last few days, we have had a major storm coming through indeed, moving around a lot of snow, which leads me to believe that the journey might be quite complex this time as well… I could potentially get there faster by foot if I had my sled with me but this of course is not the case, since I last left my sled in Paren back in May...

A few days ago, an Ural truck travelling solo, tried to go to Ghiziga, just 80 kms away, turned around and went back in Paren, unable to overcome the snow barriers coming across its way…

From Verniy Paren, I will proceed down to Paren (also known as Urs Paren, in Magadanskaya Oblast) on Yuri Chansev's snowmobile. And once I get there, I will finally be able to turn around and start my 680kms journey by foot which should take me from Paren to Omsukchan via Verniy Paren, Chaibura, Ghiziga, Evensk, Tavatum and Merenga.

But for the time being, let's travel a little back in time…

After having to struggle somewhat with Muscovite airline cargo staff, badly wishing to get some extra cash on the side and thanks to the kind help of my girlfriend Gulnara, I was finally able to fly smoothly with my 140 kgs of cargo on Feb 4th on Transaero Airlines across 8 Russian time zones to get from Moscow to Magadan.

Upon landing Saturday Feb 5th at Sokol airport, 61 kms North of Magadan, I was greeted by my friend Anatoly and his sidekick Sasha Sokiriaka, a retired helicopter pilot.

From then on, and until I left Magadan 4 days later, I was in the hands of Anatoly's posse, most of them respective members of the North-Trophy club: men and women who enjoy 6*6 motor vehicles expeditions, cross/back country skiing, long distance bike rides, paragliding and delta planes amongst other activities…

At first, Anatoly helped me secure a seat on the fully booked weekly flight Magadan-Evensk and as well as secure enough space for all of my cargo! Needless to say that this process alone took several hours and quite a large amount of paperwork!

In a rigged up Japanese Delica 4*4 van, we then proceed to go to Magadan, stopping on the way at a cold spring which had been recently blessed by the local orthodox baitushka/priest. It was interesting to observe the Ural truck drivers stopping there to fill their large empty jugs with this holly and tasty spring water!

In Magadan, I was quickly able to check in the Hotel Magadan and register with the local police for my stay in Magadan, as it is required for any foreigner staying in Russian cities for more than 3 days at a time.

That same evening, members of the North-Trophy club invited me for diner at a local restaurant. We had a private room which resembled the inside of a new beautifully decorated Russian log cabin. I was able to enjoy the company, welcoming vodka as well as some great Magadan crab and some additional seafood which tasted a lot like a US Northwestern coast geoduck! And I am still trying to understand what I actually did enjoy…

After a great diner, I was taken to a banya in a sports center where I was able to meet a few additional sportsmen, all ready to ask me so many questions… A few of them spoke English, including one who actually fought and lost a lawsuit against a Seattle company in a Washington court!

A few hours of banya (Russian sauna) went by where we socialized, consumed ample amount of beer and numerous types of dried fish & squid, as the tradition commands….

While in the sauna, I had the "pleasure" of being beaten with venik (traditional Russian birch tree branches "whip/bouquet") and poured over buckets of ice cold water by Vova, a geologist who used to work in banyas in Sochi & St Petersburg and definitely still remembers well his old trade!
We finished the night at a local nightclub that members of North-Trophy wanted to show me.

After this full welcoming day, I was finally able to go to bed, struggling with my 8 hrs jet lag, being still somewhat locked on Moscow time…

The next morning, North-Trophy member Philip Kolesnikov, (the owner of a car detailing & painting business) and my friend Anatoly took me to the magnificent "Mask of Sorrow" (Maska Skorbi), an intriguing sculpture, perched high on the Krylaya hill, 200 meters above the sea level and which can be clearly seen from all around the city.

This monument commemorates the location gulag prisoners were deported from to go to multiple gulags in the Kolyma region, forced to work on roads and in mines under atrocious conditions and where so many perished. This 15 meters high monument was built by Ernst Neizveslnyi and therefore pay tributes to all the sorrow and suffering these Stalin-era prisoners had to endure in the gulags. Besides Moscow, Magadan is the Russian city that has put the most efforts into commemorating this difficult past.

Tucked between hills, facing the sea of Okhotsk, Magadan, a city of 100,000 inhabitants, has been and continues to be an important port with two natural well protected bays: Nagaev & Gertner.

Brought in be sea and shipped out of Magadan, large amount of mining equipment depart on the Kolyma highway, which connects a large amount of the gold, silver, mercury, tin mining towns, as well as lead all they way to Yakutsk, Irkutsk and furthermore western Russia. Is it important to notice though that they are however no railroads in this Fareastern remote part of Russia.

Magadan, the de-facto Russian outpost in the Russian Far North East, is the regional administrative center where a large amount of the mining community comes to repair its machines, rest, shop and potentially be hospitalized when the situation arises!

Historically, Magadan also has a large navy and air force base, geopolitically critical during the Cold War, but left to retreat further west and south during the early 1990's Perestroika years.
I was able to witness this militaristic past when I stumbled upon in the middle of town, a children playground filled with tanks, helicopters and even 2 perched MIG jet Russian air force planes!

In front of Magadan, the estuary of Taui is rich in smelt, navaga and capelins which explain the large amount of seagulls that one can see! The Sea of Okhotsk is also a very bountiful but dangerous sea where local fishermen as well as Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Polish trawlers, seiners and other fishing vessels harvest large crabs, salmons, halibuts, hakes and herrings according to respective seasons.

In Nagaev bay, one can see a large amount of lighthouses, ports, moorages and cranes.

Gertner bay is mostly used by recreational fishermen throughout the summer as well as in the winter where I saw hundreds of vehicles parked on the ice, nested together in the middle of the bay and partaking in ice-fishing/socializing… One must say though, as Vova mentioned to me, that apparently very few recreational fishermen were deterred by the same morning radio announcement warning anyone NOT to venture on the ice with any motor vehicle…

I have also heard that apparently every year a few people die drowning in their cars and countless vehicles perish through the melting ice…

Magadan, which appears to be one of the nicest Russian cities I have seen so far, also has some interesting pastel St-Petersburg-like architecture, an intriguing "Eiffel tower" like structure, a large new Orthodox white & gold Kram, a beautiful and well-lit Lenina street and has been designed in such a way that buildings protect each other from wicked Northern winds.

One can also observe, as typical in most of Far Eastern Russian cities and settlements a large amount of decrepitated buildings reflecting a soviet past when a much larger amount of Western Russian brought-in population "crowded" the region, besides of course its gulag population…

After seeing the "Mask of sorrow" and the entire scenic view of the city from one of the surrounding hill, I was invited to go with geologist Vova Vnukov and Kupol gold mining company employee Aksana Chernova to Nagaev bay where I was able to see her and a few other arduous fellows paraglide down the cliff in -25c conditions.

At that time, while walking I noticed a large amount of beautiful large modern wooden homes spreaded around the hill. As I was pondering if they were belonging to local gold or seafood oligarchs and/or politicians, I was told:

"NO, they belong to shopkeepers! If you want to make a fortune in Magadan, the way to go is to open a few shops/stores!"

After a refreshing hike on the hill watching paragliders, I was taken to a town, 13kms North of Magadan, appropriately named "13" because of its mileage post on the Kolyma highway…. There, I could see an older and smaller airport still acting as a smaller active heliport. We crossed the knee-high snowed in somewhat abandoned runway and went to a hanger where I discovered a fleet of handmade "deltalots" (made out of deltaplane wings, car and snowmobile engines).

Excited to discover this fleet, I asked the "captain" what was his maximum flying range to come and rescue a solo trekker in an emergency in the middle of the tundra.
Sooo, as you can clearly see, I am always looking for a potential backup option besides the expensive Russian МЧС helicopter rescue team.

The captain and I discussed a bit further, exchanged phone numbers and then this is when he asked me if I was interested to go right on the spot on a small ride to experience one of his flying dragonfly!

In the past, I had to pleasure to fly once above Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in a dual deltaplane but never on a motor driven deltaplane!
So, of course despite the -25c temperature, I jumped on the occasion and enjoyed a great 30 minutes ride above the surrounding area!

After this full day, I returned to Hotel Magadan and spent a restful night. The next morning I was greeted by Anatoly and Aleg, an English speaker and car salesman. Aleg imports used 4*4 Japanese cars that are sold for an average of 8,000$s to Magadan inhabitants. Indeed, one can see on the streets of Magadan, a large amount of used Japanese vehicles which are definitely more affordable than Russian cars shipped from western parts of Russia.

All these used Japanese cars have wheel drives mounted on the right side while the Russian Magadan roads are ridden on the right side and therefore making overtaking on the road a somewhat more complicated process, not able to completely see incoming traffic.
In Magadan, besides Japanese cars, one can also see, even more than in other Russian cities, a large amount of foreign products brought in by ship, such as American food products, Korean TVs & radios, Chinese computers and consumer goods.

Aleg, whom I had met at the banya on the Saturday night became my driver/guide/friend for the day!
He helped me finalizing the shopping I needed to do prior to departing for Evensk.

I bought plenty of козенак , Russian sesame & honey nutritious bars (instead of my usual reliable Larabars which were this year overwhelmingly difficult and expensive to ship to Magadan) as well as additional products which would have been somewhat difficult and/or expensive to purchase once upon landing in Evensk.

One of them was the purchase of a critical piece for a Buran, a Russian made snowmobile. I have promised to bring this piece to Yura, my koryak friend & host in Paren.

While in Magadan, I was also able to meet with my friends Sergey and Irene Rudakov at Kulu Safaris who have continued to show me some great logistic support for Nexus expeditions as they have done in years past!
Aleg also helped me coordinate two fun interviews with two local Russian TV crews at Russia1 and MKV!

I will try to post these latest TV interviews on the website when I can get a copy of them.

At the end of the day, I returned to my hotel and started to look for a place where I could access the internet, which is not always an easy task in Russia, even in such a modern and large city as Magadan. I asked a taxi driver if he could take me to an internet café I have heard about. He mentioned that he did not believe the café still existed but, recognizing me from having seen me at the airport and was offering me to come to his house and use his own internet connection! Of course, I accepted and was whisked away to an old soviet apartment building, where I was taken to a 4th floor komunalkaya. I entered there an eccentric apartment which was decorated with a fireplace (an uncommon site in Russian apartments), a large amount of gold covered tiles, red velvets and a large amount of naked nymphs paintings. There, I met the owner, a chain-smoker aging lawyer, playing solitaire with his computer, who had made his fortunes in the Magadan heydays, and was now living off his somewhat meager retirement funds… Felt like I was walking through an old splendid baroque castle which was falling into decrepitude.

Of course, I was not able to connect to the internet in his splendid abode but quickly was taken away by Vladimir Buronin, a curious inviting neighbor. Buronin's apartment was adequately intriguing, filled with countless souvenirs/medals/trophies from his glorious past as a bush pilot and avid sportsman!

Buronin was inviting me to use the internet in his apartment as well which also failed. However, I was able to enjoy a great evening with Vladimir, whose wife and daughter were away on a trekking trip vacation in Cambodia. As a result, Vladimir was definitely looking forward to some human company that evening!

Vladimir promptly cooked for me a beautiful meal, offering multiple vegetables, potatoes gratin, pork ribs and some of the best tasting halibut I have ever eaten! Vladimir also talked about common friends that we had in Chukotka such as the smoke jumping firemen crew of Nikolai Bogariev, back in Markova, Chukotka. The very same men who had given me in 2008 healthy brown bear fat and oil to bring back home in Seattle for my American friends to enjoy!

Vladimir was also kind enough to give me a very detailed map of the region I was about to trek. This Kamenskoye map had been classified as "secret" during soviet times but has been clearly stamped as "declassified" since then and therefore I was good to go! A true gift that I will cherish on the trail in addition to my GPS and archaic 20+ years old American pilot maps!

So, I had left the hotel in search of an internet connection which I never found but came back definitely well fed and with a detailed map.
Судьба! "Destiny", as my Russian friends like to point out!
Bolchoi Spassiba Vladimir and as well as to my other new Magadan friends!

I spent the next few hours in my hotel, sleeping and packing what I was about to leave in Magadan such as additional "city" clothes & shoes, laptop and better prepare what I was about to take on with me for the expedition in Evensk.

A few hours later, early Tuesday Feb 8th, I was picked up at my hotel by Misha Maxime, a friend of Anatoly Subotin.

Misha, a 34 years old manager in a family owned construction company was on his way to Evensk to manage the restoration of an old soviet building into a more modern apartment building.

My friend Anatoly had simply mentioned that no one in Evensk could look after me better than Misha and he was definitely right!

The 1.5 hours flight from Magadan to Evensk was a very smooth ride, where I was able to enjoy a clear view of the southern coast that I am currently planning to trek, once I will have passed my halfway point in Evensk. On the flight, I was also able to meet Oksana Teraya and her small son Aleg glued to the window. Aksana is an Eveni school teacher and valuable contact in the small village of Ghiziga where I am planning to go through on my way from Paren to Evensk.

On a sidenote, let me mention that when I state Even/Eveni natives, I am referring to the local Eveni natives, living in the Kamchatka/Magadanskaya region and not to be mistaken with the Evenki, who are a much larger native population living further west in Northern central Russia.

Once landed in Evensk, I was quickly reminded that I was in deed in Mother Russia, when I was strongly reprimanded for having taken a picture of the plane I flew on and consequently asked to delete the shot.

In Evensk, I was quickly able to meet Pasha Barbanyaga, the main contact for the Tavatum hotspring and with whom I am currently negotiating to transport some of my food cargo by snowmobile, 100 kms west of Evensk during his next foray in the region.

After having retrieved all of my cargo which had miraculously made it from Seattle via Paris, Moscow and Magadan, I went with Misha and his 34 years old engineer Magadan college Kyril to an old small kommunalkaya where I was told this will be my place to stay until I could secure transportation to Verniy Paren. I was graciously offered a bed in a common room that I have now shared for a week with Misha, Kyril and his 8 years old daughter Amalia.

Amalia, visiting from Magadan, is currently "on vacation" with her father, because her own school in Magadan is currently closed/quarantined because of a fever epidemic crisis.

In exchange of a bed, I have offered to buy some of the food and definitely help with some of the cooking and so far it's working out well! I have also been able from time to time to buy meals at the local small cafeteria which serves full healthy meals for the construction workers.

During the week, I have seen countless amounts of evens, koryaks, white Russians and even Uzbeks coming and knocking at the door to request to talk with Kyril in light of potentially securing a construction job under his authority. It has been an interesting experience to say the least to see a large amount of these men begging for needed construction work!

Evensk is a settlement of about 2,500 inhabitants, down from its heydays when it had approximatively 8,000 inhabitants.

In the past, the town was an important port, a geological survey center (where surveyors were searching for gold!) and a bigger airport. It also provided support for the now defunct cold war airport of Chaibura and for the large reindeer brigade center in Ghiziga which has now greatly diminished.

As a result, one can see a large amount of empty buildings including a five floor high abandoned Gastinitsa (hotel).

At the time of its glory, the school also had two shifts (a morning and an evening one) to be able to accommodate all of the students in town as well as the ones in the boarding school coming from the neighboring koryak and even villages.

Evensk is now the regional administrative center for the northeastern coast of magadanskaya oblast, and an important center for the local gold mining towns such as garmanda, located 40kms North.

Over the last few years, the gold mining industry has been resurfacing in the region progressively and companies such as Polymetal have definitely pumped some badly needed cash in the local economy.

According to mayor Mikail Arnazarov, the town now has a ratio of 72% native inhabitants and 28% white Russians. The native inhabitants are comprised of: Eveni, Koryaks and камчадал (which are metisses/racially mixed amongst different native groups and/or with white russian blood).

They are also currently in town 7 Uzbek foreign workers and one odd French-American traveler roaming…

So, over my last week spent in Evensk, I have tried to fully maximize what the town has to offer:

- Met with Sergey Kurichkin, the chief of the local police, to ensure that I was well registered in Evensk, explained my planned route, exchanged phone numbers in case of a potential emergency and clarified one more time that indeed the coastal zone was now open to foreigners without requiring any additional propusk. Indeed, until recently, I would have needed a special permit to come within 1km of the coastline and/or to get on any island in this strategic "border region".
I was also clearly reminded of the dangers that I was about to face and of the disappearance of yakut expeditionist Efremov, the father of the man named Nyurgun Efremov with whom I have trekked from Vayegi, Chukotka to Slautnoye, Kamchatka.

-Met with hunters to clearly review my maps and learn what could be the best alternate route to follow as well as learn where are the potential baloks/cabins to look for along my way, when I will want to take a break from camping in my tent…

One of the hunters named Sanya was particularly eager to share with me the location of the rivers where I will be potentially encountering open water. I clearly understood why when I heard that Sanya has lost all of his toes and noticed his badly scared face as the result of having being exposed to open water and hypothermia. This happened after having been stranded with a broken snowmobile and apparently inadequately prepared to make his way home by foot.

- Did 2 presentations on Nexus expedition at the school in front of fully booked classrooms where I was inundated with questions and requests to sign a large amount of authographs!
I was able to achieve this thanks to the great help of shy English teacher Nadezna (thus far, one of the only two english speakers I have met in town) and Tatiana, a great Koryak school director who loaned me gracefully her notebook for a few nights to write and organize pictures!

- Visited the administration center, where I met with the journalists for the local newspaper named Evenchanka. I also met there Toly, the manager for the region reindeer brigades.
As a result, I learned that this time, reindeer brigades are sadly NOT going to be anywhere near my planned route through the tundra.

- Enjoyed a great day of ice fishing and partridge hunting with my friends Andrei Kushnaro and his son Sasha. Andrei is an engineer at the airport and his son Sasha is studying to become a car mechanic, visiting his family, while on a 2 weeks vacation back home from Magadan where he lives. We came back with no prizes but nevertheless I truly enjoyed that day!

- Spent some time learning further more about the beautiful state of Magadanskaya Oblast while reading Russian and one English (!) picture books at the local library.

-Spent some time at the local orthodox church learning from its keepers about its history, kissed my first icon and learn a few additional characteristics of the orthodox practice. I could not meet the local baitushka who is currently away in Magadan.

-Spent some time at the local banya with my friends Andrei and son Sasha as well as a few locals and employees of the gold company polymetal.
This time, I received a Venik beating simultaneously performed by 2 men three times and even finally learn to be able to reciprocate! Pay back time!

- Spent some time connecting to the slooooow internet thanks to my friends at the post office, such as Vladimir, the general manager, yet another retired helicopter pilot who loves to ask me questions about venturing through the tundra…

I was however able to purchase a local megaphone SIM card from the same local post office which allows me to thankfully being able to talk to my girlfriend Gulnara who is currently in Kazan as well as call anyone I need to in Evensk or elsewhere.

- Spent sometime "exploring" the local bakery which dish out 400 loafs a day as well as all the numerous well-stocked shops in town, thanks in part to an existing winter road which brings Urals from Magadan in 2-3 days. A far cry from what I have seen in equivalent villages in Chukotka and Kamtchaka Koryak where the limited products are brought in by plane or expensive gas-guzzler wezdehods through the winter months.

- Attended 2 parties at the school for alumni where I watched, amused, some of the skits performed.

- Attended a Valentine's ball, where I was able to win in a contest some black shoe polish! Not the most useful prize for the tundra unless of course, as Misha suggested, I plan on painting my face!

- Visited the local small refurbished sports center for the children that had been paid/sponsored by the gold company Polymetal.

And last, but not the least,

Learned some about the colorful past of some of the white Russian men I meet in this part of the world. Some indeed have moved away from western Russia, fleeing a troublesome past to be able to somewhat freely start a new life in this last frontier land…
One of the persons I met shared with me that he had spent time in a notorious jail, sharing a cell with 56 mates, sleeping in shifts and only allowed to shower once every 3 months! Witnessing a large amount of bullet wounds on his leg and stab wounds around his neck and chest, I could only think how lucky he was to still be amongst us! One advice this man gave for future sections through Russia: "Better to be scared 5 minutes and overly cautious than laying 6 feet under…"

I also loved also a Russian poacher's quote I heard: "It's not illegal to hunt and shoot anything when no one sees you…"

And oh, before I forget, I also learned about a Japanese monk that was found dead a few years ago partly eaten by wolves, while trekking between Magadan and Yakutsk. Now, the question still remains whether he was eaten by the wolves once found dead or whether a pack of wolves killed him. The recomforting news that have learned though is that an even hungry, easily scared, pack of wolves do not usually attack human beings unless of course these humans already are in really bad shape…

But, as my Russian friends would say:
Волков бояться - в лес не ходить!
"Don't go in the forest, if you are afraid of the wolf!"

Well, as you can all see, I am fully experiencing what Evensk has to offer while waiting for my Verniy-Paren bound transport… and I am still planning, if time allows, to visit the local museum as well as watch the local Even children practice traditional dance in the "Culture Club" (nothing to do whatsoever with the 80's new wave band…) and wrestle in the sports center!

Now, I just need to cross my fingers to make sure that Sasha, the mayor of Verniy Paren does not vanish in the night in his convoy of Urals and forgets to take me along with him on his way to Verniy Paren…

That's all!
Paka, Paka!

Dimitri on standby in Evensk waiting for the call…
On my way back to Paren via Magadan!
Wednesday February 2, 2011 - 55.7517° N, 37.6178° E
Before I forget... I want to mention that over the last few months, Nexus Expedition has been highlighted/mentioned in a few press related pieces.

The last Russian TV interview was conducted by the local TV channel in Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky in June 2011, prior to my return to the states.

I felt also priviledged to read the vote of confidence I received in Angus Adventure blog, by Colin Angus for whom I have a lot of respect.

Indeed, to this day, the Canadian Colin Angus is with the Briton Jason Lewis, the only TWO persons (to the best of my knowledge!) to have completed a human powered circumnavigation of the planet.

For the "history buffs" amongst you, I have also posted recently an NTV National TV Russian report from April 2005, relating some of the propusk related issues, Karl Bushby and I faced at the time after having crossed the Bering Strait from Alaska and landed in Uelen, Chukotka.

You can also access all the Nexus Expedition related videos in the page called: Expedition videos.
And all "In the news" related articles are listed on the right side of the home Nexus Expedition screen. Just scroll down a a little bit and you will see them appear on the right....

OK, so, I am now back in Moscow for 48 hrs of planning, prior to taking off to Magadan.

Why Moscow?

Well, this is the first year where I have to move "backwards" (going Eastbound, Seattle-Moscow-Magadan-Evensk-Paren) in order to get back to my starting point. And this is actually a sign of progress!

I am now indeed far enough West of Alaska and Chukotka that it no longer makes sense to travel through these two regions to get to my starting point in Paren where I last stopped in May 2010 and instead it forces me to travel "the long way around the planet" eastbound to get back to my starting point!
So long my Alaskan and Chukotkan friends!

So, besides booking a plane seat to Magadan, I have also been able to secure cargo space with Transaero airlines which is going to allow me to bring 120 kgs of new gear, clothes and food.
For example, I am bringing 8 kgs of shredded US beef jerky which I use to compliment my dehydrated food and provide me with some of the needed proteins to combat cold winter temperatures on the trail to come.

I am also excited to share that I now have a new russian sponsor for dehydrated meals: Альп Еда, the russian sole distributor for the US company Backpacker's Pantry.

I am bringing about 30 kgs of these prepackaged dehydrated meals which is going to be vital for this spring section, when I would not be able to use traditional russian "traveling" food products such as bread and canned food which obviously freeze and becomes inedible in -40 degrees Celsius/Farenheit.
You can see a complete list of my 2011 and past generous sponsors in the page called: Expedition sponsors.

I have also contacted by phone, my "adoptive" koryak family in Paren, Yura and Olesia, and they have reassured me that my sled is indeed waiting for me in their attic where I last left it on May 31st 2010!

I am also taking with me a few items for Yura and Olesia's family to help them fight their isolation in the remote village of Paren: toys, MP3 music, mobile phone and snowmobile part.
This is my way of thanking them for all the support and hospitality they have provided to me during my 18 days stay in their Paren home!

A few days ago, I was also pleased to be able to ship to Vitte in Slautnoye, a snowmobiler that provided me quite a bit of support last spring, a pair of powered ESS Turbofan goggles kindly donated by my ESS sponsor.

I am also bringing with me, new sled runners, straps and buckles to repair my badly battered sled and therefore being able to prepare it for its next and hopefully final leg.

I have also taken the opportunity to call to catch up with friends in Anadyr, Vayegi, Slautnoye, Kamenskoye and Manily with whom I will regretably not be able to meet again this spring as I have now moved further West...

Once I get to Magadan, I am planning to meet with my supporting friends at Kulu Safaris, who have been kind enough to store and transport in the region some of my food/fuel and gear over the last few years!

In Magadan, I am also planning to meet with my friend Anatoly Vitalivich Subotin (Анатолий Суььотин).

I met Anatoly a few years ago in Anadyr while I was waiting for transport, for days, in a Kommunalka (коммуналка квартира) where he was also stationed.

Anatoly was in Anadyr with his crew to install and repair large cranes in the commercial port. We rapidly connected well and he mentioned at the time, that I should definitely contact him the day I should arrive in Magadan!

So, I called him a few days ago and he mentioned that besides wanting to welcome me upon landing in Magadan, he was also currently planning an expedition with his 4*4 vehicle from Magadan to Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky, via Paren!

This means that he will be going on MY ROUTE in opposite direction.
He is planning to start in Magadan at the end of February and has kindly offered me to get a ride with him to my starting point in Paren!

Of course, I would rather prefer to find an alternate option taking me to Paren earlier, which would allow me to start walking sooner, before the snow/ice starts melting rapidly!

However, I may not have too many other options on this remote trail besides his generous offer and therefore I will have to decide how to proceed next, after having landed in Magadan and talked to the local authorities.

In any event, it is good to know that he will be on the trail and logically, I will be able to run into him, unless of course, I missed him while travelling parallely in opposite direction, 2-3 miles away on a fogged snowed-out trail....

Finally, I am apparently thinking quite a lot about my incoming return to the tundra! I recently DREAMT that a threatening huge bear, got up on his hind legs, trying to intimidate me in front of me while I was progressing on the trail... Thankfully, I was able to scare it away, while shouting very loud.
I woke up from my dream and scribbled down immediately that I needed to acquire MORE FIREWORKS in Magadan to be able to deter post-hibernation bears this spring.

Indeed, as an unaccompanied foreigner in Russia, I am not allowed to carry any type of firearms and therefore need to look for alternative options such as US made bear spray and Russian local fireworks!

That's all for now & happy trails to all of you!
Dimitri in Moscow
Total of kilometers estimated: 680 kms / 422 miles
Planned max amount of days on trail: 70

Going northwest, following potentially (and hopefully!) a small snowmobile trail, going through the Paren river bed, and along the flanks of the hills located on the eastern side of the river.

Moving between the two remote Koryak fishing & hunting villages, of Paren (Парень) & Verniy Paren which have a current local population of about 60 souls each.

On a sidenote, the village of Paren was well-known in the past throughout Russia for its infamous knives which were built massively with the shipwrecked metal collected on the shore!

Along the way, I will be crossing the "border" between the two states, leaving Kamchatka behind and entering for the first time my 3rd Russian state by foot: Magadanskaya Oblast!
(More information on Magadan Region)

2d section: Verniy Paren to Ghiziga (Magadanskaya Oblast)
200 kms estimated. Max 20 days
This is probably going to be the hardest and most remote section this winter. I plan to trek between Verniy Paren and Ghiziga, hopefully following the wezdehod route where a single wezdehod (вездеход) makes the monthly round trip from Ghiziga to Verniy Paren in order to resupply Verniy Paren with food products.

Needless to say that as soon as the first blistering storm/purga (пурга) would have passed through, I will probably not be able to find any more wezdehod tracks to follow and will simply have to rely on my map, GPS and common sense to be able to move forward towards Ghiziga.
Nothing new!

However, I have heard that 10 kms northwest of Verniy Paren, I might come across a Koryak reindeer brigade where I will be glad to stop and meet/stay with the nomadic herders if I come across them, as I have had the chance to experience twice last year in Chukotka and Kamchatka!

After that, I am planning to continue following the Paren, Chernaya and finally Ghiziga river systems towards Ghiziga (Гижига).

3rd section: Ghiziga to Evensk (Magadanskaya Oblast)
80 kms estimated, Max 8 days
Planning to follow the winter/zimnik road (зимник) between Ghiziga and Evensk.

4th section: Evensk to Tavatum (Magadanskaya Oblast)
100 kms, Max 10 days
In Evensk (Эвенск), planning to resupply with food & stove fuel.
Then, follow the coast on hopefully an existing winter/zimnik road towards Tavatum.

I have seen pictures of the Tavatum hot springs, Таватумские горячие источники in a book and definitely hope I will be able to stop there for some well deserved rest!

Alternate route: In Evensk, I will gather more information from the local authorities on whether the route through Tavatum to Omsukchan is the most suitable or whether I should consider going on the zimnik route leading to the gold mine of Kubaka (кувака) via Tenkeli & Buksunda.

5th section: Tavatum to Viliga -Kushka (Magadanskaya Oblast)
70 kms estimated, Max 7 days
After Tavatum, I plan to continue along the coastline, following hopefully an existing zimnik/winter road.

6th section: Viliga-Kushka to Merenga (Magadanskaya Oblast)
80 kms, Max 8 days
After Viliga-Kushka, I plan to follow the Viliga river upstream towards Merenga on hopefully an existing zimnik/winter road.

7th section: Merenga to Omsukchan (Magadanskaya Oblast)
100 kms, Max 10 days
After Merenga, I plan to continue upstream towards Omsukchan on hopefully an existing zimnik/winter road.

I plan to stop in Omsukchan (Омсукчан) (More info at Мой Омсукчан) once I reach the infamous M56 Kolyma Highway also known as "road of bones" which connects Magadan to Yakutsk and plan to return this summer to continue my circumnavigation of the globe. This time I will be biking for a change instead of skiing & pulling a sled!
Landing in Omsukchan will mark my completion of what I called the "Missing Link".

Indeed, the roadless section from Anchorage, Alaska to Omsukchan, Russia represents a "missing link" in the chain of asphalt, gravel and dirt roads which connect our continents going from Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of the Americas to Capetown at the bottom of South Africa!
Training in Western Russia
Thursday January 20, 2011 -
Here is a very quick update!

First of all, I am sending this email through my PDA & satellite phone to test my communication tools before I get back into the tundra!

I have already been back for a few days training with some of my new gear in Western Russia, (mostly in Moscow & in Kazan, in the republic of Tatarstan), and already getting acclimated to milder temperatures varying between from -5c to -25c°

And I would like to take this opportunity to state that I am very satisfied with some of the new products provided by some of my kind sponsors such as my Atlas snowshoes 12, as well as my Westcomb shells, ESS Turbofan goggles, Ibex clothing, Gregory bags, Treksta & Nuun products!

I am now scheduled to fly Moscow-Magadan with the Russian airline Transaero on Feb 4th 2011.

Currently assessing with local authorities & contacts in Magadan and Evensk how I will be able to then transport myself and my gear from Magadan to Paren via Evensk & Vernyi Paren.

Also currently planning the purchase and shipping of dehydrated food & white gas stove fuel for this coming section of approximately 700kms between the Koryak village of Paren (Kamchatka Koriak Okrug) and Omsukchan (Magadanskaya Oblast).

That's all for now!
Paka, Paka!
Dima.
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