|2004-11-14 - True Siberians!
We have -28°F degrees today, the 14th of November here in Zyryanka and the temperature is on its way down again. We except to reach -50°F within two weeks.
´´My sister fainted from pain, when she had a tooth removed today´´ , Sergei Serbinov laughed when he came and visited us the other day, ´´but than again, she´s a sissy!´´
´´Didn´t she have a local anesthetic?´´ I asked surprised.
´´There´s no painkillers to be found in Zyryanka today!´´ Sergei laughed and continued: ´´It´s better to do it the Novikov way! And cheaper!´´
Sergei Novikov and Sergei Serbinov belong to an exclusive group of lorry drivers. They only drive during the most extreme winter months and hardly ever along roads, since there ain´t any. As fast as the ice is thick enough on the surrounding rivers, lakes and streams, they set off in all directions with their loads of necessities to isolated villages all over Siberia. It is almost impossible to comprehend the difficulties they have to face on each trip. They normally make 3 trips every winter and it takes about a month each. At times they can only travel 10 km/h due to the amount of snow, for days, at times in temperatures well below -60°F and almost always something devastating happens. Either they go through the ice, get stuck in the thick snow for days, or the transmission brakes in two parts and since nobody can help them, they have to be expert mechanics, hunters, survival experts and so on. The brand name of monster trucks they drive are Ural and Kamas. When they´ve done their job, they have to disassemble the truck in every little detail. And I mean every detail! That´s the damage these trips do to the trucks. It is also a fact that a driver dies every year on the road. Not do to accidents with meeting cars, oh no, because they either get stuck and starve to death or go through the ice! It was during when of these work trips that Sergei Novikov suddenly developed tooth-ache. When the pain became unbearable, he just stopped, swooped down half liter of vodka, walked out in to the extremely low temperature, took a wrench and pulled the aching tooth out himself, downed the rest of the vodka, went inside the truck and fell a sleep immediately. When he eventually woke up, he continued his trip!
When I first grabbed the IPAQ this morning, ready to write today´s dispatch, my idea was to write about all the difficult obstacles which are awaiting us, since we´re leaving Zyryanka on Wednesday. The extreme cold we´re expecting, the open water, the fast currents, the thin ice, that we only have 6 hours of daylight and that we´re pulling pulkas/sledges with a weight of 150 kg:s per person. But than I realized that our challenge is no different from other physical challenges one can find at extreme parts of our world. Challenges there to satisfy the modern human being, when normal day to day survival doesn´t exist, as it is in the well fed part of the world. Johan can write about that. This is his first true challenge. I´ve been living with those for so many years, 16 years in total, so I know it only takes the right concentration, motivation and proper acclimatization to get through alive. And no matter how much the modern explorer or adventurer wants to promote his or hers Expedition as the last great adventure on earth, one can not compare it with, for example, the first human beings or explorers which for example went up or down the Kolyma river. It is a ridiculous comparison, really. We modern explorers have, well, we wouldn´t even be let in here or travel the poles if we didn´t have GPS:es (one note, though, we only use our GPS to get the correct coordinates when putting up camp, not to orientate with), 3 satellite phones, an emergency unit (Epirb), super light polar gear and equipment and decent maps. The true explorers, the first ones, they had only courage. But than again, many perished along the Kolyma. Which could well happen to us, since the Kolyma is no easy place even today. But, in comparison, modern explorers and adventurers are spoiled and weak. Therefore, I rather write about these exceptionally durable Siberians! I mean the true Siberians, those who truly love Siberia, their birthplace and their place on earth and who will stay in Siberia no matter what opportunities show up in the future. There´s still quite a few of them still in Zyryanka. Like the two Sergey´s. Especially Novikov, since Serbinov has traveled the world and he´s becoming lost, like myself.
The true Siberian is easy to like. They´re generally very easy going, positive, funny, nothing is impossible for them, they take the day as it comes, don´t stress and they´re very generous. Every time Serbinov comes to visit, pretty much every day, he brings something to eat. Moose, fish or homemade salad. And Novikov, every time he accompanies us to help us find things in Zyryanka, he stops at his garage, opens it, grabs one of the hundred stored frozen fish he has, gives us a schirr (white salmon) and says:
´´Eat as much straganina as you can before leaving!´´
Straganina is as you know, frozen raw fish which you eat just as it is. Or, if he decides to put a bit more effort in it, he finds us a female schirr full of caviar, so that we can get the healthy caviar and eat it frozen, it is called ikrá. Both great for putting quick warmth into a cold body. Believe it or not. For the true Siberian, the image that the western media is painting of the modern day polar explorer, you know, visit any polar site and that is what you get. Pictures of frozen beards, eyebrows, snowstorms and extreme cold and stories including dirty underwear, frozen limbs and unknown ices and lot´s of equipment problems, this is not in a life time for the Siberians, it is a every day occurrence! Nothing worth talking about. Still, amazingly enough, they cannot fathom what we´re going to do, starting Wednesday. Skiing the whole winter and finishing in Ambarchik Bay in May, living in a tent with no heating and pulling our own equipment. Even though it would be dead easy for them!
´´We´re not nuts as you´´ ,they say and adds, always,: ´´You won´t survive this, that´s for sure.´´
They all reckon we´re badly dressed, to colorful and modern and they think we´re not used to this life out here and, well, they reckon it is not enough Siberian in us!