Dog sleigh in Yakutia/Siberia in Winter -60C (exclusive photos and 20videos) also ice fishing and other activities.

Have you ever experienced the coldest cold of the coldest…what does -60C sounds like?

I have heard that there is this one place you can visit in winter and the constant average temperature in the town is -45C. Before I even looked at the details, I was talking to other people and friends about the place, called Yakuts, or Yakutia, and some people refer to Siberia for the same idea… Extreme cold! They have confirmed the same stories and I had to see this on the internet.

Here are 3 photos for a teaser:

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I decided to go and experience this epic adventure. It took me 8 months of planning, details planning had to be done, it was going to be isolated and dangerous, I was the most concerned about the extreme cold and getting frostbite in my hands or feet. 

In this blog I am going to talk you through this adventure from start to end, this will help you when you plan the same trip, sometime.

I was flying from Doha to Moscow with Qatar Airways, you can look at their specials here. 

So you are wondering what month of the year I have chosen. I did research for the last 20 years on historical records to pinpoint the coldest month in Siberia, my conclusion where mid-January will be the coldest time in Siberia, so I wanted to book this dates. Who on earth will book a vacation in the coldest time in Siberia from all places? My friends called me pucking nuts…LOL

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In Moscow! Yeah man, let’s do this!

When I arrived in Moscow, I took Uber from the airport to the accommodation, the hotel is very nice and comfortable. Also what I like about the hotel is the location, I was able to walk to so many attractions, well I was only there for one night and enough time to walk and eat. Mini explore the city by foot.  The hotel can also assist with visas if you require assistance. However my nationality are exempt from visas to Russia and Siberia, people have asked me this before.

Lunch sounds good after a few KM of walking in the city and I heard about this great place close to the Red Square where you can buy black hamburgers, but I forgot the name now…ugg ok well at least I took a great photo for you to enjoy.

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After this great burger, I explored the city more and walked to so many different areas in and around the Red Square. Here are a few photos is me exploring the city solo. I used a tripod to take self-photos.

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From the back side.
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Streetview, look how nice.
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Kremlin
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Monument to Prince Vladimir

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Monument to Marshal Zhukov


The temperature was cold in the city, but bearable. I was equipt with some of the latest thermal clothing. We will later look at my outfit so you can buy the same on your trip.

There were not so many tourists in the street for obvious winter conditions in Russia. I went back to my most favourite restaurant, Korchma Taras Bulba. It was now time for dinner. And I know what to expect at the restaurant, the food is super and love it. Actually every time I’m in Moscow I visit the establishment and order the same food all the time, you can also contact them for takeaways if you prefer to stay inside the hotel.

After the meal I headed back to the hotel, to get some sleep and get ready for the next flight, tomorrow morning.

The flight from Moscow to Yakuts was booked with S7 Airlines, it was the only airline that was doing the flight on my specific dates of travel. There were also warnings that the flight might not be on time due to the severe weather in Yakutia. But I had to deal with that when it happens. The website was predominantly in Russian and the translation option fro Google didn’t perform so well.

Before we continue, I want to share a few details of the town I am about to visit.

Yakutsk is the capital city of the Sakha Republic, Russia, located about 450 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. Population: 269,601, yes that is only 450km from the Arctic Circle. Yakutia covers an area of more than three million square kilometres, representing about eighteen (18%) percent of the Russian Federation, and making it roughly the size of India, despite having a population smaller than that of the US state of Rhode Island.  Yakutsk is the largest city built on continuous permafrost, and many houses there are built on concrete piles. The lowest temperatures ever recorded on the planet outside Antarctica occurred in the basin of the Yana River to the northeast of Yakutsk, making it the coldest major city in the world. The lowest temperature recorded in Yakutsk was −64.4 C

The flight was a little longer than 6 hours from Moscow to Yakutia. Be aware to be prepared for the cold. I didn’t expect it to be so cold, on the day of landing it was -50C at the airport. When I walked out of the terminal, my body got a massive shock! My jeans froze solid, luckily I had 2 pairs of thermal underneath of them. I walked over to the smoking area, light a cigarette with much effort, as I had to take the gloves off and the lighter didn’t work due to the cold. So another guy came and introduced me to the simple matchbox..it makes me think of the same story from the space shuttle, where the Russians used a pencil in space, because the ink pen from the Americans was not working due to the gravity… I’m telling you this Russia is an amazing place.

Now that the smoke is going strong, and my hand is in pain from the 3 seconds without a clove, I still need to contact the people of the accommodation and organising a taxi. This is where the adventure started. I took out my phone in the cold, and then the phone froze before I could talk or make a phone call. OMG now what, and there was no taxi in the area as well. After everyone left the airport, it looked like a Soviet abandon airport. I’m stranded and tried to go back into the terminal, but got denied entry by the security, whom could not speak any English. So I had to struggle to ”body warm” my phone and external battery power pack, just to get a small amount of power to call the guy from the Airbnb and he could not speak English, after a few minutes his daughter called me back and luckily spoke great English and organised it all for me. Just before I died there in the cold the taxi arrived and took me to the accommodation, I tried to make small talk with the driver but was not able to do so…He replied to me, LOL Only Russian. So funny.

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On the way to the accommodation from the airport.

I got to the accommodation and met the owner, who is a really nice guy. I wish I could have a conversation with him. He showed me around and got introduced to the basics of the apartment. View On Airbnb1-комн. квартира в центре Якутска

The apartment was warm and cosy, also the one thing I asked is there warm water? So I walked and opened the tap and then he shook his head, Da Da…Ok, thank goodness for that. The room was also very central in the small town of Yakutia but there was no need for that I was going to be outside with the tour operator most of the time and didn’t really use the apartment to full capacity.

I made contact with the tour operator after I have checked in, Bolot Bochkarev who is the Director. I would highly recommend him and the service they provide. His communication and teamwork are definitely world class, I didn’t expect great service at all. I am going to mention this again, I have been to 41 countries and have done hundreds of trips, and will place this company in my the top 5.

You can email them on: contact@visityakutia.com and they will reply and answer every question you post.

There is also a great website you can visit:

VISIT YAKUTIA, LLC
www.visityakutia.com

Russian Tour Operator Reference: PTO 018223

 Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Siberia/Russia

+7 (924) 660-99-30 (mobile / моб.)

+7 (4112) 25-99-30 (work / офис)
8 (800) 550-99-30 (tall free within Russia / бесплатные звонки из России)

Skype: bolot.bochkarev

Twitter: @visityakutia

Instagram: @visityakutia

Facebook: VisitYakutia

And there you have just about every contact detail imaginable, contact them and book your next adventure.

Bolot explained to me to be ready in the morning and also send me the contact detail of the guy that will pick me up from the accommodation. On this day we are going Ice Fishing, something I have wanted to do for a long long time.

This evening I decided to dress well and take a short walk to the town centre to explore and see what is there to do or maby to eat, and I need coffee for this cold weather.20180112_160056

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04:30pm in the afternoon.

I want to update you on the gear I am wearing for the trip.

Below is the exact clothing I used for the trip, and would highly recommend them.

Boots I got myself the best of the best rated for the extreme cold, the shoes were ok for most of the trip but unfortunately the -60C areas I visited was not suitable, in these areas I changed over to another special boot, you will see them on photos, Reindeer skin.

My socks were thermal socks, it works great to keep your feet warm and dry. For me, the most single important thing is to be dry in such extreme cold conditions to prevent frostbite. Somedays I also added 2 pairs of wool socks that I bought locally at the market.

Then I used 2 pairs of thermal long pants underneath, and this worked fine for me.

To cover this I was wearing a bib, These heavy-duty overalls come with adjustable, industrial strength 2″ elastic suspenders and insulated pockets so you have plenty of mobility while staying warm and blocking out the wind and cold.

The top of my body I choose a thick thermal top to keep my top body heat in.

On top of this, I was wearing a really nice and comfortable fleece sweater

To cover this section of my check and upper body, I was covering them with the below top, that was very useful and versatile.

The last piece of jacket to my collection was the below I got from Refrigiwear, and their clothes have been designed for subzero temperatures.

For my head and hands, I used a variety of items and bought most if it locally and in Moscow, not sure if you will be able to buy them online. One last piece of advice is not to buy cheap clothing for such a trip. Your life, hands and feed depend on the heat to stay on your body.

Time for ice fishing!

Alexi collected me the next morning from the accommodation. Along with 2 other local friends. We introduced ourselves quickly, and I noted the guys are well dressed, they actually look like thick fat bears in comparison to their heads. LOL, I wasn’t so sure of my attire and thought I might get cold later or may freeze to death outside.

We stopped at a small shop to buy water and some snacks they have also prepared some local food for the day out on the frozen river. Nice things like boiled eggs, something similar to pizza, boiled potatoes with salt and homemade bread.

The road leading to the fishing spot was actually a 2-hour drive on a frozen river, I have never seen something like this. At some places, the road is blue from the water below and transparent ice road…they are used to this but I felt very uncomfortable at some places. It was my first time driving on ice.

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The car we used to get around.
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You can also see a few cracks on the ice road.

When we arrived on the thicker snow with the car, you could no longer see any roads and had to drive on the snow. What makes me think, this is even more dangerous, if you don’t stick to the 2 track roads. So hard to see the horizon at this time with the snow, ice and sun on the horison. The sun never reached high in the sky.

Now its time to start drilling the holes, set up the weatherproof tent, get inside and start fishing like a boss, well at least this is what I had in mind.

We scouted the area looking for a good place to set up. Eventually, the best areas were selected and we got out of the car to start preparing the holes and the rest of the equitment.

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This photo was a little bit later when we look at other prebait fishing holes.

The sun was setting super quick and I realised that we are only less than 350km from the Arctic circle. That’s why the sun rises and set is fast and daylight is only 4 hours or so.

 

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Cold like never before.

I am trying my best but, the cold is something beyond human capabilities to handle. Check out the below video for a quick update outside the tent.

To describe the cold weather, well that is not an easy conversation. I will start to say that when I removed my hand gloves, my fingers had the most extreme pain immediately if this endured then after 1 min, I was not able to bend my fingers. When I removed my facemask, my cheeks froze and my lips whet stiff from the cold, if I endured this then frostbite will set in 4 min. I am not used to this weather, however, these guys were born here thus they have much better adaptability to the cold, plus they love it outside…

My feet were the worse and was wearing the shoes I bought. But when we arrived I had to change the shoes out after the first 10min when I realised my feet are actually going blue colour. I only knew this in the car, as I took my shoes off and Alexi told me to put on other shoes that were made locally.  The pain is so much and the pain remains constant so you cannot feel when the frostbite sets in. Excepts in your fingers if you monitor them constantly.

The wind chill factor is -60C at 3PM

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Me and Alexsi
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Boys will be boys, goto love fishing.

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Check out the fishing rod, LOL… Also look at the boiled eggs, soup, Vodka and bread.

Here is a quick video from the GoPro on the inside of the tent, you can have a good idea of how small space there is for 4 guys.

Unfortunately, the fishing was not so great as we had hoped for, so I asked Alexi to help me with some hot water that I wanted to through into the air… check ou the below video.

After some fun and games, we headed back into the shelter, as the weather was now so bad – not even they wanted to be there any more.

This has been a very fine day! And I can also now say, that I have experienced the most coldest inhabited place in the world, I feel very happy that I have done this.

So we have packed up and ready to leave in the dark, driving in the dark was another challenge by itself…For now, I want to heat up my body and head back to where I can take a warm shower. The drive back was long, dark and cold but we made it safely late in the evening. Thanx guys, I had a blast with you !!

The next day was relaxing and met up with another guide, Ayar whom spoke great English and German. He told me before he came back to Yakutia he was working as a translator but the simple life made him realise to come back and live life on a better quality.

We met the morning and headed off to The Mammoth Museum located inside of North Easter Ferderal University of Yakuts. It occupies pretty small premises, but full of bones and samples right from the Ice Age. Most of all, I like to be in the lab of the mammoth museum. The entrance to that rooms is very restricted, but I was lucky to get inside.

The establishment of the World Mammoth Museum in 1991 as a scientific and cultural centre for the study of the mammoth fauna and its habitat and the promotion of scientific knowledge was initiated by the first Yakut paleontologist Petr Alekseyevich Lazarev. In 1995, in order to strengthen the scientific research, the Museum became a part of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and was renamed to the Mammoth Museum. In July 1998, according to the Ordinance of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Museum was attached to the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) as a structural unit. In 2011, the Mammoth Museum, as part of the Institute, also became a part of M.K. Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University.
On September 14, 2012, by the Order of NEFU Rector E.I. Mikhailova, the Mammoth Museum Laboratory was named after its founder, Candidate of Biological Sciences, the winner of Prize of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the field of Science and Technology, Honored Scientist of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Honored Veteran of the SB of RAS, Lazarev Petr Alekseyevich.
 P.A. Lazarev Mammoth Museum Laboratory is a specialized scientific and cultural institution, which conducts the study of mammoth, mammoth fauna, its natural environment in the ice age and spreads the scientific knowledge among people.

Before the establishment of the Mammoth Museum, almost all the animal fossil, found in Yakutia, were being moved to the institutions in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. Now, after the establishment of the Museum, scientists are able to conduct comprehensive studies and keep mammoth fossils and organize exhibitions in Yakutsk.

The word “World” in the original name of the Museum is not used accidentally, since unique paleontological materials of universal significance, kept and shown there, are considered an invaluable heritage of mankind. 75% of the world’s known mammoth graves and other representatives of the mammoth fauna with preserved soft tissues were found in Yakutia.

It is also important that leading world experts took part in the study of found unique animal fossils.

When we arrived inside, where met by a Professor who gave us a very nice video induction and presentation. I wish I remember his name…but I was the only tourist in the building and when he heard I am from South Africa, we immediately clicked. For some undisclosed reason, we knew we are very like each other as we discussed some African travel stories.

We departed and he showed me some special items not visible to the public and then proceeded to the main area…here follows a few photos.

I must admit, I would love to work there and explore the remote mountains looking for fossils and ice age artefacts.

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I am holding a woolly mammoth tooth that is 40 000 years old, with the professor.
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The typical woolly mammoth.

Unfortunately, our time has not been long enough here, I am very grateful to have had this experience in the museum and also one on one with one of the world leaders in woolly mammoth research…

The next stop was lunch, by now I am starving and needed new fuel for the cold. So we went to one of the local restaurants that are also one of the best, and this is also the base hub where we are going to start with the dog sleighs.

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Temperature remains on -45C (this is by the lodge)
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I love the decor!
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The menu is well set for today, enjoy. Will you eat here?
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Raw frozen white fish, dip them in salt and pepper, enjoy with local vodka.
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Great selection of meats from the menu, you saw the menu right?

Now that we enjoyed a super nice lunch to warm up, it was time to head over to the frozen outdoor market. A place I have heard about. All the vendors are outside, the constant average temperature is -45C in the area, so there will be no need for any freezers to keep the products cold.

It is a quick drive to the market from the restaurant.

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I am holding white fish from the river.

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So many frozen items to choose from.

In the video, Ayar explains some of the products available in the market. Watch the video to understand the situation and items for sale there.

After the outdoor market, we headed to the one inside the building. I was so excited and bought many fresh items to enjoy for the next few days. Some of the items I bought; fermented horse milk, butter, honey, smoked pork, pickled fish, cheese, fresh bread and of course homemade vodka. This evening was a feast when I reached my accommodation. I knew not to overeat or drink, tomorrow will the training day for my dog sleigh. Super excited!

The next morning was an easy one and Ayar collected me by midday when the sun was on a good place. I had a lot of time for myself and updated my other blogs, uploaded some videos and called friends.

On the way there I had so many questions, about the days’ development. Ayar explained to me the whole thing on the way there. Keeping in mind this will be my first time ever! (yes, dog sleigh in Siberia)

We got to the lodge and settled in, in the far I could hear the dogs barking from excitement, the trainer was already there to set them up. Enjoyed coffee and biscuits and met with other people. From there we walked outside to go and meet the dogs and trainer who is waiting for us. Walked down the hill in the thick snow, still, the temperature was sitting on -45C ( i just cannot get over this cold) The guys greeted us and Ayar translated all the details to me, then I got introduced to the dogs and each character (they have Russian names, and I never wrote them down). We will be riding as a team so it was very important for me and the dogs to know each other. I rubbed their backs and said hello to each one the dogs in the training team. And they smelled me too as some sort of a greeting. Now that we were introduced, the trainer explained the whole sleigh concepts and technical terms, how to drive it, the commands for the dogs. All the commands were Russian so, I had to quickly learn, this will mean so much when we are out in the field.

Here is a brief introduction to the dog breed, The Yakutian Laika is a working dog breed that originated in the Arctic seashore of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. The major habitat is estuaries of Kolyma, Indigirka, Yana and Lena. In terms of functionality, Yakutian Laikas might serve as a reindeer herder’s dog, hunter’s dog, and a sledge dog. Yakutian Laikas were developed in ancient times by native Yakuts involved with hunting mammals and birds; the dogs were indispensable assistants. They proved to be a valuable asset and became companions to the Yakuts. In the Sakha language, this breed is known as “Sakha yta” meaning “Yakut dog”. This is a versatile dog with an excellent sense of smell, hearing and vision, strong hunting drive, endurance; they are aggressive to predators and soft and gentle to humans. They are multi-purpose, have got an excellent sense of smell, absolute pitch and good eyesight. They are tireless and with good anger towards predators. At the same time, they’ve got the kind character and are very faithful to people. Yakutian Laikas are not demanding to conditions of life and easily endure the hostile climate of northern Siberia. In harsh Siberian conditions, they reveal their stamina; they tend to work in small groups and can work through the whole day, from dawn to sunset. The popularity of dog sledging appeared with the arrival of Russian traders to the Arctic.

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I am about to die from the cold, and they love it.

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There is a small field that is used for football in the summer, but in the winter this is used for the training sessions with the dogs and sleighs. We headed back to the lodge so I can get dressed for the training session.

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Unfortunately, I only have this photo of my training day, one selfie…LOL

But here is a video for you.

Now that I am dressed and ready, the guys showed me to get on the sleigh. And stood with both feet on the ice break to keep the sleigh not from moving. The dogs were going crazy, and they knew it’s going to be fun. As I released the break we shot off like a rocket! OMG, this is super fast, I held on for dear life as the first turn came closer. The turn was sharp and I learned to the one side so the sleight can track better. Around the bend and the straight…they were going fast. Around another coner…and back to where we started. It was all over, as fast as it has started. When I stopped I had the biggest smile on my face, this was fun guys. The all laughed and said I did very well and wanted to trail another route into the closeby mountain. Well ok, let’s go…

They went to fetch the snowmobile, and other guys changed the dogs and refitted the sleigh. All set, and off we go, I steered the dogs well who was following the snowmobile, over another field and up a mountain pass. The mountain pass was so steep that I had to get off and walk up while holding onto the sleigh. So the dogs don’t have to work so hard and save some energy. Once we got to the top, I got back onto the back and continued through the forest along the snow path. This path has continued for another 5km or so. By this time I was getting more use to the riding conditions and how to handle the dogs, but I was still a rookie on my first day… I was told that the training sleigh and the actual sleigh that I will be using are worlds apart. The modern sleight I will be using are world class and designed for long endurance races, the sleigh is much faster and more delicate to handle.

I met the guys at a turning point and had some tea and biscuits. We discussed the operation in detail and got new tips. The also mentioned, keep in mind the dogs know they are going home now and most of the road will be downhill. You have to keep your ice brake hard or keep one foot on the break and if needed stand with both legs on the break…ok this sounds so easy.

They first went with the snowmobile and then I followed with a great speed through the forest, down the first hill. The dogs are so fast and the path is narrow, I am getting nervous now as this is not easily controlled, down the hill and around tight corners. The first section went well. And we continued riding, it was getting dark and more snow started to fall. The visibility was very low and the snowflakes kept getting into my eyes, making it difficult to steer, hold on and wipe my eyes with fur gloves. Keeping in mind the temperature is lower now and it is getting dark too. At this point I was super cold and also excited at the same time, I think it was -49C or even -50C

We continued and there was one last section to navigate, down the hill on a small path, tight left turn, over the rail track that is covered with ice, then onto the open field. All went well until we reached the sharp left turn, I lost my balance and had both feet off the sleight, and was only holding with my hands. As I shouted to the dogs, there was no response from them and kept going full speed like demons in hell. I manage to put my one knee on the break and slowed them down from here I managed to get the other knew on aswell and then with feet…released the break and continues over the rail track onto the field. By now it was dark and super cold, still shaking with adrenaline…

Back at the lodge, stopped and knew I am going to love the next few days with the dogs…there is a major adventure waiting for me with lots of dangers involved.

I helped the guys to removed and organise everything, then joined Ayar for dinner back at the lodge. Where we talked about all the details and things for the next few days waiting for us. I was feeling good and confident to do this. He reminded me if I want to cancel then I should tell him in the next hour, as the teams will start to prepare everything for the excursion…Also, keep in mind the location will be very remote, and the temperature will drop more, I think about -55C, then we are also going through hunting blocks and there are possibilities to encounter wolfs.

I nodded and said let’s do this!

Let’s order some food and vodka to celebrate…

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Learning to make cream and berry for dessert.
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Ready for that young horse steak!
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Young horse steak, it is actually really nice.
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Typical potato salad with caviar.
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Raw white fish in pickling spice.

That evening I was packing all my items, charging batteries, organising myself and mentally preparing for the next few days. This will be the last warm bed I going to sleep in for some time. So goto enjoy this evening, with a long warm shower.

Early next morning (remember the sun only rise late, about 10am) Ayar was there to pick me up and head off to the lodge. The big day has come and this was the reason why I came to Siberia. 

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I took this photo at 0837am that morning.

I have everything I need and ready for this very cold expedition. We got to the lodge and enjoyed a warm breakfast with coffee. Walked over to the rest of the crew whom will be supporting me.

The setup is, I will be riding alone on my own sleigh with 8 dogs, not 6 like in the practice sessions. Then there will be one snowmobile with 2 guys on, the one is a local guide and dog handler, and the other one is Ayar, for translating and additional support. To get where we have to go are 3 other guys, who are helping to pack and offload, getting the dogs ready and setting up the sleigh and supporting snowmobile with everything in for the next few days.

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Still cold, yes. here is the sleigh, and dogs, plus additional items on the trailer.

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All of us gathered and we had a discussion to review all the details, all in Russian but Ayar translated it all to me. We got into the car and started to drive, and we drove for the next 1 hour, to a set destination where we will be getting off and they will leave us behind. Then it will be only me and 2 guys and 8 dogs.

Arrived at the location and we all offloaded and got the dogs ready along with the snowmobile. We greeted and the other guys still had to hold the dogs while the snowmobile departed. And then it was my turn…with lots of hauling from the pack.

With a massive speed, we launched into the fresh snow road into the sun, this is where you get feelings of happiness and freedom. A place so remote, only me and the dogs for the next 30km.

The wind is cold on my face and my hands are freezing, even that I do have fur gloves on. The outside temperature is cold as we move along the snowy road. The air is so clean and quiet, I can see tiny snow diamonds floating in mid-air as we move along the white trees. There are no sounds in the area and all I can hear are the huffing and puffing from the pack. Occasionally looking back to me with excitement on their faces.

It was not always easy to take photos while on the sleigh, I had to hold with one hand and used the other hand to remove the GoPro from under my clothing, and the same place was my mobile. These were hidden under my arm on my flesh to keep the electronics warm. I did try to leave the GoPro outside, but the battery only lasts 3 mins and then the whole unit freezes up. The same with the mobile. When I wanted to use them, then it was quite a tricky situation to get hold of them while balancing and holding on.

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One of the snowy sections, about 8 km after the start.
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The photo is not so clear, but the area is pure white.
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The guys on the snowmobile were waiting for me at one point and took nice photos.

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Here we crossed a frozen lake, in the afternoon.
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I had to stop for a selfie, as my eyelids could not open anymore, my eyes were in a frozen state at -50C

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This is the only place that I have seen pure white in all the forms and all the areas. This type of fresh soft white really touched my heart. While I drove on the sleigh, I could feel fresh air, and my lungs were burning with pure oxygen at this high altitude.

And we continue to drove and at some point, we stopped for some tea and biscuits, which I enjoyed and this really heated my body up again. We had a chat about the dogs, the weather and how do I find this experience.

It was indeed a very cold but heartwarming experienced I explained to the guys, I love the all white and soft snow there are all around me.

Ayar explained that I have to be careful in the next block as there might be wolves in the area, they will not be too far ahead of me with the snowmobile, but they will leave enough freedom to enjoy the ride.  They explained that if there are wolfs then I should stop the dogs immediately and asses the situation of where they are and how many in the area. My safety will be a priority and I should shout to them on the snowmobile should I feel endanger so they can turn around and come help, luckily they also packed a loaded rifle should any situation get too tight to handle.

This video you can see how slow we are travelling in the snow, usually in the afternoons when the dogs are more tired they tent to walk sections.

The sun was setting fast at this time and there are still a few kilometres left before we will reach a safe place for the evening. The sunset and sunrise was magic I will never forget in my life.

 

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You will see the one guy walking and waiting there on the far left.

 

But there was good luck we have made it to the wooden house in the forest, now its time to unpack and settle in with the guys for the night.

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Typical house for the evenings, no toilet inside and no power, and no cell reception…

We have settled in for the night, and all the duties are done. including curring wood for the stove and keeping us warm. The only thing now to do is to cook food and have a few vodka shots.

 

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Traditional potatoes, and Elk meat.

 

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the 3 man band…the food was great! Dinner by candlelight.

The night was long and cold, on the inside was a long bed that could sleep up to 8 people, the bed was raised about 1,2meter from the ground and build with solid wood to prevent any cold penetrating from the bottom… I was still excited and was not able to sleep easily. I was laying there listening to the sounds and sometimes the dogs also barked. They sleep outside in the snow and cold but remember they have been bred for this duty and conditions.

The night was long and I didn’t get much sleep as I should have, blaming it on jet lag…7hours East from my normal routine. I was putting more wood on during the night keeping the little wooden house nice and warm.

Next morning was cold outside, and we had to feed the dogs and make some food, defrost the snowmobile and pack everything and move on.

Defrosting the snowmobile and starting it so the engine can warm up for the day. While the engine was running I wanted to BBQ, in the cold outside. We all agreed and made a delicious elk and pork fat sosatie over the fire.

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A small fire with my guide, here I have reindeer skin boots on.
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a close view of the temperature and bbq.
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Elk and pork fat on natural wood sticks.

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This was the first time for me to bbq in the snow and this type of temperature. It was definitely a great experience and so happy I did this in the Siberia. In the video, you can see the pink sunrise. And the temperature was -47C this morning.

From here I realised that the previous video I made with the boiling water was not good and this was in the dark as well. We boiled new freshwater and I looked for a good place with through the water into the air…having some fun in the morning.

And there were the beautiful dogs, I had to say hello to them in the morning and also feed them. In this conditions, they are being fed with raw salmon fish. Very nice and friendly companions, thinking about it how do they survive in this cold…

It took some time to pack all the gear and get the pack of dogs secured on the line for the sleigh. But eventually, we manage to depart on another road leading into the soft pink sun. Like every morning the dogs were excited and fast. When they are this fast there is no chance for me to take photos to play around with the sleight. But I loved the speed and didn’t want it to stop.

After about 10km the pack was slow and I had the opportunity to take a few photos.

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Ayar was and the guide was also going slower to ensure we are safe and this presented him a good opportunity to take a few snaps shots throughout the day.

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These are incredible moments in my life, and will do this any time again! 

There is also a few nice videos that I wanted to include in this blog. Below are few very nice videos.

The day has progressed very well, but the last 20km was super slow and the dogs were walking most of the time. Also, the terrain was mountainous and I had to get off much time to walk and help the pack up the hill.

At one point we passed an old house and there was some hunters with their dogs, as we passed the old building that was about 30meters from the road, the other dog heard us and came quickly to investigate what are we up to, they were barking endlessly. They were not aggressive but only barking a lot and our pack of dogs was also excited and was messing up the lines, that had met stopped in my tracks, put in the ice break and first had to untangle them before we could proceed. I also made a snowball and chased the other dogs…LOL, there were no rocks and had to be creative in the situation.

I was watching some of my other videos and took a few screenshots while watching, unfortunately, I am not able to upload these videos now, but will add them later on in time when my internet connection is better. I am sitting in Africa and the lines are so poor, this blog took me more than a week to complete due to slow internet.

Here are a few cool photos as I progressed.

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My face is so red from the cold.

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Lots of fun when the road is long and there are nothing else to do entertain your self all the way. Here you can clearly see the clothing that I have on. The coat is Reindeer skin, same as the boots. This has saved my life, the coat is super heavy but there is no cold that can enter.

The sun was setting and I was tired and half frozen, I knew there is only a few km left before we reach. After a few minutes, we stopped and cathced up with the guys on the snowmobile. We enjoyed tea and biscuits for the afternoon to regain some blood sugar and body heat. After the discussion, we all departed and continued trought the last piece of technical section.

This section was extreme downhill with a bad small road, I had to be alert to be able to safely navigate here. And the pack is ready to run, they have been resting on the tea break and built up new energy. As we approached the narrow downhill road I stood with both feet on the ice break to slow the pack down, but one section is very bad and had to lean to the left to navigate the sleight safely, and as leaned my foot slipped and fall down, only with my one holding on. I was shouting like mad for the pack to stoped but never the less the continued to drag me down the hill…Later on, I manage to stop and applied the ice break. Now its time to walk back and collect everything I lost in the fall. The snow was thick so I didn’t get any injuries from the fall. And continued for the rest of the way. By now the sun was on the horizon about to and the cold was getting worse as the night sets in.

The road continued and I could see there is a field on the horizon and some lights. The dark night was coming very quickly and so did the cold. By the time I was on the field, it was dark and cold. I made a video but it was too dark to upload. In the video, I explain how my face and cheeks are completely and solidly frozen. I was scared and feared frostbite in my face. It was so bad that I was not able to speak anymore and had to end the video.

From here it was another 2km before I reach back to the lodge, that is going to be my safe haven and rescue point. As we got closer the pack was going faster and faster they knew where they are going, all I had to do I turn around with my back facing forward not to gain any cold on my face and hoped for the best…The other issue I faced is that I was wearing braces at the time and the metal was also cold, thus the inside of my lips was attached to the braces. Making it impossible to speak at this point. I thought I was going to die from the cold. Apparently, this evening was one of the coldest for the season, with an estimation of -65C to -68C.

In urgent need to be rescued.

Eventually, we made it to the lodge and the guys were waiting for me there and welcomed me. Well done and congratulation you have survived coldest of the coldest. 3 guys took the dogs, and I had to pet each one of them in the pack. They did an extremely good job. My hands were not able to move anymore, so the other team guys rushed me into the warm lodge, where I had to sit and slowly defrost. I was able to drink warm tea after 40min, I mean holding a cup with my hands. My face was still bad and super red, dark plum red. Almost turning black. Nothing we can do now, just wait and wait until my whole body returned to normal temperature. This took over an hour in the warm lodge.

I was so tired and dehydrated, I had to get sleep and more warm fluids into my body.  We had a quick dinner in the lodge then Ayar went to drop me off at the accommodation.

The next day…

The next day I took off and didn’t want to do anything, all I wanted do I stay in the accommodation, eat good local food and drink vodka. My body has taken major shock with the cold. And my face had to relax, although I applied a lot of face cream there where some skin damage. But luckily nothing to bad or permanent damage.

The day after Ayar came to collect me and we went for a nice lunch with tradition Yakutian food. For some reason, I really like the cuisine, not only Russian but also Yakutian. It does remind me a lot of home in some way or another.

From here he said let’s go and visit the permafrost tunnel outside town. The Permafrost Kingdom was originally built to be a natural refrigeration complex for food storage in Soviet times. It was opened in 2008 as an attraction. The site is 7km in a northwesterly direction from the town centre. Bus 7 stops closest to the caves, but bus 15 and 41 stop on Sergelyakhskoye Shosse, which is a 10-minute walk away. The entry fee is 500 ruble with an additional 200 for photography. We took over 100 photos here, so make the most of this additional charge. We were handed orange helmets and silver ponchos and had our boots inspected. I think that boots may be rented here, but as we wore hiking boots, we were fine. The pathways can be very slippery, so be careful in the tunnels. It is important to keep moving, as you will be fairly warm walking throughout the extensive caves.

The sculptures were brilliant and were even better highlighted with the coloured light displays which were professionally done. Our favourite display was the Yakut fireplace with the red lighting at the base. We had visited many ethnic villages and the main fireplace was always the central area of focus. There are many photo opportunities during the tour. Other impressive displays included an ice bed covered with bear fur, ice slide, ice chess set with seats, ice bar and many interactive sculptures. The guide used a map of the world near to the entrance to explain the areas of permafrost in the world, naturally, Siberia was the dominant permafrost region. Look out for roots of trees pushing through the natural walls of the caves in many areas.

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Took the opportunity to do ice graffiti.
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The kind of permafrost

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Mind your head.

It is really nice here and would recommend the place for any visitor in Yakuts. We headed home after the permafrost tunnel experience and he dropped me off. I knew this will be the last time I am going to see Ayar, and it is hard to think I have to leave a good friend behind as I move on.

Suddenly I remember, I have not written any postcards from Yakuts and told him in the car, please stop at some place so I can buy postcards and write to my friends and family. So we did and I completed 20 postcards the afternoon, with addresses all over the world.

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I got to the accommodation and made some nice food in the apartment, I was planning my day in detail, the next day for the flight back to Moscow, and still had to book accommodation there as well. But could not be bothered at this stage, the food was good and made my body warm. Then I started packing and organising my self.

Before I could see I was at immigration in Yakuts, the flight was more than 6 hours back to Moscow. Ahh as I walked out of the airport in Moscow, the weather is actually very nice and warmer, I could feel the sun on my skin. While I got a taxi I booked new accommodation. Got there for the evening, I checked in and walked across the street to the wine shop. A cute little shop with bread, cheese, smoked pork, olives, and lots of wine. This was going to be my dinner, and have to enjoy the little bit of time because the next day is my flight back home.

This will also be the end of my blog, for now if you require assistance with this trip, leave a comment and I will surely assist you.

Happy travel and leave your tracks.


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