|2005-01-05 - Traveling on a Winter road
Traveling on a Siberian Winter road
5 Jan, 05 - 23:31
GPS-pos: N67°28´ | E153°42´ | Alt: 11 M
It´s the 5th of January 2005 and we are hiding out in our apartment in Srednekolymsk. The temperature outside today is -46°F, it´s a clear sky and a light wind from the south.
Written by Johan Ivarsson
´´Blime, this car has had it!´´ , Julia hollered and continued: ?And there´s 30 km:s to the next village!?
It was noon and the daylight was already fading away. Behind us, with a shimmering red sky wheezing off in the horizon, we could see a couple of caribou´s slowly walking across the big lake that we´d just passed with the Russian Jeep, UAS, right before the suspension gave up on the right wheel. A hundred meters ahead of us the road turned right, disappeared behind an array of bushes and continued it´s way into the empty whiteness. The temperature, at the time we left Srednekolymsk was -49°F, but as we´d traveled into this extensive area of lakes and marshes there wasn´t much that could stop the wind from making life even colder.
This situation took place yesterday as we traveled towards the village of Oyondarnahk (which in the local tongue, yakut, means a three year old moose), for a visit to the local museum, study village life and meet some more interesting people. (More about this visit in a later dispatch.) This village is located 130 kilometers, as the crow flies, from Srednekolymsk and, like many other villages in this area, it is only possible to reach it by car during the winter, since it is surrounded by hundreds of small lakes and marshlands. These temporary winter roads are so bad that I´m amazed that it´s possible to travel them at all!
No one could say exactly how long it would take us to reach the village but around three to five hours was to expected, all depending on what state the road was in. And as I said before, it is really amazing that it is possible to use them at all! I think Julia´s, our interpreter, description of them as a ´rollercoaster at Disneyland´ is quite good (she´s never been to Disneyland and neither have I, but anyway), if you then imagine that you are driving on a giant frozen potato field, which makes you bounce around in the car constantly, then I think you are getting close to the truth. It´s impossible to relax at anytime since you always have to watch the road and at the same time hold on tight so to avoid hitting your head in the roof to hard. Even though Julia claimed that the road we traveled on yesterday was a good road compared to some others, I feel like I´ve been run over by the train!
Suddenly, after almost four hours slowly and bouncy traveling, it happened! Whilst going up a shore, all of a sudden the whole car shook hard and stopped. The suspension on the front right wheel was broke and driver explained to us that it wouldn´t be possible to go any further with that car, not on this type of road. So there we were, standing in the middle of nowhere, on a road by which very few travel and with a temperature around -49°F. What do you do? Me and Mikael immediately started to discuss our options. We still had 30 kilometers to go before we would reach the village, a distance to far to walk in this cold, especially when it´s starting to get dark and you have no idea what the road look like ahead. We could stay in the car and wait for the next one that would pass but we had no clue about when that would happen, it could take days. What we had forgotten, though, was that we actually were in Siberia, the land where the word problem doesn´t have a meaning. Before we had come to a conclusion about what would be the best thing to do, Vasilij, the driver, had removed the broken suspension (every driver here is a great mechanic) and told us to get back in the car. We would just slowly, slowly move forward until the car broke down totally and then take a decision what to do.
We never had to take any decision. The road ahead of us was very good and one and a half hour later (six hours of total traveling time) we saw the streetlights from the village as we closed in on it. Soon we where walking around in the museum as nothing had ever happened. When the evening came, and it was time to go back home, the car had been fixed by the driver who had found a spare part somewhere in the small village. Five hours later, at 1 a.m. we stumbled into our apartment, exhausted from all new experiences and not least the eleven hours that we had spent on the road bouncing around in the car.
For the people that live in this areas this is normal life, this happens all the time they tell us, ?why worry??. Well, I guess they are right, but next time we are going out on the road, we will bring our satellite phone with us!