“I live here all my life but I’ve never seen one, you don’t see them but you hear them, at least in the past you could“ We went by the road sign saying Zemlya Leoparda, the entrance to the Land of the Leopard National Park. “I used to work in road construction right over there” Our driver gestured at the dirt road to our right. “The other workers were Uzbeks. I was driving with them to the workplace and all of a sudden we could hear a loud roar from the forest. They stopped the truck, got out and ran away in panic! They thought it was the devil himself!” When we were saying goodbye to the driver he still was giggling at his little story.Continue Reading
Russia – Siberia
We were around 180 km east from the city of Minusinsk where Vissarion gave the first public speech in 1991. Finally the only van on the dirt road stopped – yet again for some time saving us from clouds of mosquitoes and the possibility of a close encounter with a bear. We jumped in the back of UAZ van as if it was our home – it’s pretty common automobile in Central Asia. The driver and his friend were not the followers, two fishermen, already semi drunk, knew little of the community at the end of the road, deep in the Siberian forest. Slowly moving we were getting closer and closer to the place which was a long time pinned on our travel map. Suddenly on the dirt road curve, we spotted an older bearded man walking towards the opposite direction – stick in his hand and a clothes in shades of white and gray made him quite noticeable. “Ha, here you go – a wizard” grunted the driver scratching his arm through a camo shirt. After a few minutes he stopped the machine, they packed up their fishing gear and went somewhere into the forest, we still had 30 minutes walk to do. Our faces were more sweaty than we expected once we got to the wooden guard post. After explaining our story in half-Russian the kind man inside made some calls on the radio. Soon we were greeted and warmly welcomed by the members of the Mountain community.
“If there would be a dead human body back in the trunk, would that be a problem for you?” Somehow no one asked us that question before. The night was freezing, around us only wild forest inhabited by siberian tigers and brown bears. Looking into the darkness through the van window, we decided that we’re comfy inside, even if we’re accompanied by a surprise motionless passenger somewhere in the back…
It was supposed to be be Olkhon Island, but we changed the plan in the last moment and went for Svyatoy Nos (Holy Nose) Peninsula. Like in many places, at Lake Baikal we would wish to stay for months, there’s so much to explore and this time we could just take a look.Continue Reading
It was getting brighter and we started to wake up in bunk beds of the train. Its jarring and scrooping sounds made a good, authentic lullaby. In the third class carriage we could observe the rest of the passengers sleeping and snoring around us, but the view outside was something much more worth our attention. Mystic Kodar Mountains emerged from the dark curtains of rain far in the horizon. We smiled as we were getting closer to our destination, though this time they were not mountains, it was something rather unique at their foot – the desert.
Siberia’s Lena Pillars is a specific natural rock formation in the Republic of Sakha stretching for over 40 km along the Lena River. This unique nature park was one of the first points that we marked on our travel map and it kept us moving to get there on time. It was already early autumn – the end of the tourist season, it might be more difficult to find a boat we needed to see the Pillars. Ardently hitchhiking to the city of Yakutsk, we had huge luck to meet a driver, who actually knew a fisherman (Sergey) going to the Pillars with his relatives…The man had a space in the boat and with an unusually small fee he welcomed us to the tour! Early next morning, full of excitement, we travelled from our couchsurfing hosts to the Bulgunnyakhtakh village, from where the journey began.Continue Reading
Federal highways were not the roads we chose to hitch in Western Siberia. “Here I’ll stop to rest” said the driver of KAMAZ truck. We agreed to meet at 6AM sharp in the morning and went out into the mist of the night to look for the camping place. Next day we entered Khakassia – the Republic that remains close to our hearts. Igor – the boss of our truck driver, turned out to be as kind and helpful as his employee – we changed the rides, now sitting in his jeep. In Kop’yevo, his hometown, he explains how grass fires destroyed many homesteads and how many families moved into the new tract houses. Emotional and seemingly drunk he describes “All of it thanks to Putin. All new places to live for the families”. Later we toured through some villages, which are nameless in google maps. “Everything was here, people were busy and happy, now who will stay here” changing the tone for less positive one, he gestured at abandoned kolkhoz buildings and empty streets. Nostalgia for the Soviet Union was a common phenomenon occurring on our road, from the western borders of the Caucasus countries till Vladivostok. Although live might be not easy here, each village was surrounded by grassy hills dotted with dark needle-leaf forests, they looked like they come straight from fairy tale. We thought that reaching Sunduki will take quite some time since roads began to get worse and we didn’t see any other car. We were wrong, “No problem, I take you there”, it was hard to refuse Igor’s offer.Continue Reading