Monday, 6 September 2010

KHANDYGA TO YAKUTSK

Walter did carry on that night so as to meet his French friend Arnaud, who was staying in the next town called Khandyga, but needed to move on the next morning.

I arrived in the rain about 9 AM, and called Walter to get instruction of where to go.

Arnaud was just ready to leave and they would meet me instead.

As upset as I was the night before, I was really glad Walter got to move on to town and meet his friend. He arrived after midnight, found Arnaud staying in the Gulag Museum for free, and they ended up camping out on the museum floor. They had a couple beers, shared stories and info about each other’s trips so far. However, no shower as promised!  No warm bed!!  I am so glad I stopped at Anya’s… it worked out for the best!

Arnaud’s passion and study are of the Russian Gulag’s. We managed to visit one first, as Walter likes to point out to him.. but Arnaud has a goal to visit several.  I worry about him going alone as the road to the one Gulag we visited was really difficult.  I wouldn't think anyone should go in there alone even in a car!  But it sounds that Arnaud is an experienced adventurer and he said he'd walk if he can't ride his motorcycle through. So he moved on down the road in the rain (thank goodness it was him and not me!), and we settled into the guest house. 



Doesn’t look like much on the outside, as usual with Russian style. But it was darn nice inside! It makes this culture even more of a surprise..  In this very small town, while at the window, I didn't get a photo, but a large Lexus 4WD pulled in, clean as could be.  I have passed that many Toyota Landcruisers and Lexus' here in Russia, even that huge Cadillac Escalade 4WD - on those crazy roads.  There is such a misconception this country is struggling.  There are plenty of wealthy people here!


I had a very long hot shower… and pulled everything in from the bike.  Every single little thing was soaked right through. Every waterproof bag I had didn’t work.  So I laid everything out in the room to let it dry.

Since it was still early in the day, we head off to the shops to find some food.  We wanted a café, but again there wasn’t one open at the time, so I opted to make a meal since we have a kitchen available! 


Our eyes were too big for our stomachs.. I made a big pot of soup, got a loaf of bread, butter and cheese and grilled them up to go with the soup.  Even celebrated with a bottle of wine!  Life is good again!! (wine was yuk, but it did the job..)

On the way back this man stops me and wants to give me some berries,  they don’t taste like blueberries, not sure what they are.. but he was excited to share and I did not want to disappoint!

I love how self-sufficient the people are. They all have gorgeous gardens, so plentiful and perfect!  And rather than a hobby, it’s just part of life here!


They must have it down to a fine art, because their gardens look so perfect and healthy as they have such a short window of season to grow anything.  That is why we mainly eat tomatoes and cucumbers.  They are ready and available now. Always growing quickly, and there is so much you can do with them for winter.. Jarring and pickling.

Walter wants to take me to the Gulag Museum.. now that I have actually visited a real Gulag. It will help to make more sense of what I was looking at.

Below is a map of known Gulags across the country.  When I did a google search, I was surprised to learn there are still some Gulags in operation, but apparently only used as correctional facilities.  The majority of them are abandoned now.

I was also surprised how far and wide these things are.  Look at the one at the top right corner of the photo, it’s on a very far north island, and as far down as China!

The word on top of the map says “Gulag”.  I'm still struggling with reading things, but this one is easy...





The director brought an interpreter over to help us understand.


I think I saw this building at the Gulag was visited. And here is the actual blue print!


Also shown is a list of how many people are estimated to be prisoners in the gulag system.. ending with approximately 12 million by 1953.  That is a massive amount of people in controlled forced labor.  It is so hard to fathom...the cruelty, as well as the logistics of controlling them.


Stalin didn’t create it, but he was the main abuser of the system.  Once he was gone, they began closing, but as mentioned earlier, most men who went in never got to go home and see their families again…

Well, we had a nice rest day, learned a lot and enjoyed watching the rain finish with blue skies returning again..

Imagining all those who died while building the Road of Bones, and all the suffering they went through. I was able to recuperate after only one horrible day, whereas they went through years and years of horrible days. I should never complain… about anything… honestly…!

Up early we must get 60 km down the road to catch a 9 AM ferry.  They tell us in town if it’s full, it might leave at 8 AM, and we know the road to get there is not good.  So we leave extra early to be sure.

Either the road wasn’t as bad as expected, or I am getting used to some BAD roads being better than other BAD roads... But there she is, we got it!


Hmmm, I don’t much like the position of the loading ramp.

Walter reminds me, momentum is my friend..again..


The ferry had to reposition to load a big truck, lucky for me… now it’s easy!

Once the truck and the Wazik’s were on board, we can get on! (this is the nickname for the Russian vans we see everywhere.  My spelling is wrong, but that’s how it sounds, so I will use it this way for blogging.. ;-) 


I found a lovely little friend as I do… I love animals!!  And I would take this little dog with me if I could!!  We had a good time on the boat.. She stayed at my feet most of the time, unless the little girl in the Waziik was throwing food out the window.




 Walter is in a good mood, he feels the need to do some wind-swepped modeling!


Thank goodness, we’re nearly there.. I am ready to ride again!


Finally back on the road after that chilly little ferry ride.

The road is just being graded, and it is nice and soft sand and gravel… bummer!

As usual I start off hating it, but then I end up getting used to it and we trail on down the road.

We have quite a long day riding ahead, the graders had finished and we were back onto roads whose conditions continuously changed.  Sandy, gravel, mud, ridges, corrugation to the hilt.. but made good time for the most part.

We are coming close to Yakutsk, a large town where Walter has friends and where we stay for a couple days.

He gives me a heads up only 20 km to the big ferry crossing the river into town.

Yay!  Only 20  km to go, no worries!

And then the road turns to full on thick soft sand – really bad!!  I tried to go fast, but I was tired and wasn’t up for the fishtailing everywhere.  It was a seriously long 20 km..  I would get going and something big would slow me down. I look down at the gps, and didn’t even accomplish a kilometre. 

This is mentally challenging.  I would do anything just to get off the bike.  Cars close to town are going fast, stirring up so much dust, I can’t see at all..  I am completely dehydrated with sand and dust filling my mouth and nose.

I hated that stretch.  It brought me very close to tears.. So close to ferry yet so far…

I finally arrived,  glad to find that I didn’t miss the ferry.  I had imagined that since it took me so long to get there that poor Walter wouldn't have been too pleased with me. But even after waiting quite a long time for me there,  he was kind and said “Well done, that road would’ve thrown a lot of people”.  I felt better… I got my bike on the boat, and settled in while the others loaded.


This cute little very shy boy, slowly made his way out of the family Wazik, and came up to me.
He sign languages that he wants to shake my hand and have a look at the bike. So polite!


He really is shy… and he ran back to the Wazik.

Later on, he came out with family who wanted me to photograph his sister I assume as well.
Then the others came out of their cars and we were surrounded.




I’m looking a bit rough, but looking forward to a somewhat relaxing ferry ride…


Once off the boat, we ride into Yakutsk to the town square, where Walter has arranged to meet his friends.

Parked on the pavers in the square, we turn off the bikes, while Walter makes his call.  The town square is a gathering point for locals, children are roller-skating, parents are walking through with strollers.  It takes only moments and we are surrounded by people taking photos of us on their cameraphones.

I felt famous!!  Maybe I should take off my helmet.! When I do, you hear the people go, “ohhh”.. Do I look that bad or are they surprised to see a woman under there!  I guess the first one ;-)

Walter’s friends took photos of our arrival as well..  his good friend Bolot who has a wealth of insight about Yakutia  www.askyakutia.com  (If you need to know ANYTHING about Yakutia, please contact him). He's also on my Facebook friends you can connect there )

Also, another new arrival from an amazing Italian cyclist who had just completed the road of bones on a push bike!! with a bike trailer!!  (those must be the tracks we had seen on the road!) And I thought I had it rough...  Daniele Robino.. He kindly supplied me with the following photos - thank you Daniele!!  For more information on his adventures go to www.danielerobino.it  




Before we could go anywhere and enjoy a beer, we needed to wash all the caked on dust off our bikes and bags. 


Nothing like a car wash with a very low pressure - pressure washer!  


I think we finished up around 11 pm...  after another very full day - Time for a beer!!
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2 comments:

  1. Sherri Jo - another fascinating blog. I'd quite like to speak to you when you reach Europe about that gulag museum... Could be a "must see" next year...

    You forgot to mention the welcome party... That was quite a hoot - albeit I was a cyber participant !!

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