First week in Anadyr

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You thought Anadyr totally isolated, but you just spot a drive south of the town on the OSM map (OpenStreetMap). A dead end, but you need to get out, to ride.

The first few kilometers, some vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. Residents of Anadyr go in the tundra to collect mushrooms and berries. Then, nothing. Just the tundra. The road becomes bad and you go slower. You make rodeo, avoiding as much as possible the flooded parts.

At the foot of a small mountain a white tent. Could be a Chukchi family. The road passes two hundred meters below the tent, but while you are approaching, you meet a man on a quad. He seems as surprised as you. He speaks English … He tells you he leaves to pick up his wife, but he quickly returns, you could wait him at the tent.

You go and park the bike near the tent. A boy of about fifteen years receive you. He offers you some tea. After twenty minutes, the man comes with his wife. Vladimir is Ukrainian, Nadia is Chukchi. They spend the summer here, with young people from Anadyr. A kind of scout camp. But the camp will be soon discontinued because the bears are starting to be too many and too pressing.

Vladimir is a photographer for the Department of Culture of Chukotka. He is also volunteers as local representative of the National Geographic Institute. Finally, he organize this camp for children during the school holidays. You talk to him about your trip, the failed crossing of Bering. He crossed it in 1989, during the perestroika. With several friends, they sailed on an Eskimo boat made of wood and walrus skin. From Provideniya they had reached Nome in Alaska and had come back. The number of crossings is quite low, and you didn’t know this one.

The tundra is a desert, but you are doing some amazing encounters.

Vladimir makes you visit their installation. Near the river, he built a shower that takes water upstream. Everything would be perfect if the place was vandalized in their absence. The hut by the river was on fire. What for? Vladimir can only be saddened.

With Loucha and Maxim, the last two young boys who remain in the camp, you get on one of the small nearby mountains. You’re happy to do a little exercise. Since you left Grenoble, you’ve done little more walking in the mountains and that you lack. In the tundra, you see mushrooms and several kinds of berries. The days of the year when the tundra is generous. The bear must have been also very busy in collecting their own supplies.

Upon returning from the top, you’re invited to dinner. Once more, the war in Ukraine is in focus. Vladimir is a native of Donetsk and the siege of the city is very painful for him. Again, you hear reproaches aimed Obama. Why Obama? You do not understand that the sources of the conflict is brought back to his person. But the Russian medias focus on him.

Vladimir would be interested in your project for 2016. He also has a friend in Alaska, a photographer like him, he could contact. He knows your contacts at the Department of Tourism, and also Kosta. Chukotka is huge, but everyone knows each other.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yesterday was rainy and cold. At night, you were hoping for news from the airline, but the answer is further postponed to tomorrow. As every day.

This morning, the weather is nice. You go to the sea port. As the aircraft remains uncertain, it is best to take the boat to leave today or tomorrow. You are familiar with the guards of the port. At the first a first barrier, the man is a Buryat native of Ulan Ude. Then the blonde lady who knows that you’re going to visit the dispatcher.

The “dispatcher” is not the man you saw last Friday, but the one who told you three weeks ago that there was no ship to Provideniya. This time, it’s for Vladivostok there is no ship. Nieto. Nothing planned in the coming days nor in the coming weeks. You insist a bit but you understand that he cannot create a ship when there is none. It remains to hope that the company Transaero will accept the bike. You had at least the assurance of being able to go on the ship, and now it has vanished. And then there is also a second company for whom things would be simpler, but they require that the motorcycle is on a crate. It may be time to find or to make a crate.

In the evening, you call Vladimir, the man you met in the tundra. You would need his help to find a crate for the bike. Maybe the store that sold his quad keeps some crates that had been used for the motorcycles or quads they received?

Vladimir and Nadia invite you to dinner. You show them your book, they show you some pictures taken by their American friend who lives in Alaska. Silver panoramic photos from there twenty years. Objects worthy of a museum. You did not know there analogical cameras dedicated to this technique. Vladimir plans to do a show with these beautiful prints.

At 20h, the TV news. Vladimir suffers. His brother and sister are in Donetsk, in the bombed areas. It has the same grievances against America, Europe, Obama you have heard many times. You understand his suffering, and hear his anger.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vladimir go with you to the store where he bought his quad. It is is the main distributor of equipments in Chukotka. There are warehouses, but also a mechanic workshop and several shops. The director, Sergeï, is a friend of Vladimir’s. There is no crate available, but he agreed to make one and to deliver the bike to the airport. You’ll spend tomorrow to disassemble it. A big worry discarded.

Vladimir must join the Scout camp near the river. You go with him. They came to fish, but their rare taken will not be enough to feed the troops. However, there is all along the beach huts with fishermen who use nets. Their technique of fishing seems far more efficient. Three men withdrew a net laid across the bank, about fifteen meters. In the net, fifty salmons.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Vladimir is chasing time. He must take care of the youth camp, go to his work read emails, take care of his future trips to Moscow for the National Geographic Institute … Busy, you still solicited him to fix your own worries: pass migration office for registration, find a place to clean the motorbike, call the airlines for information, contacting Sergueï for the crate,… He saturates and forgets his keys once, another time his documents, or his phone. Once or several times.

Besides the occupations you know, Vladimir also chairs a committee of citizens who checks public accounting. In the past he was a geologist, a radio DJ or a singer. He also established a museum dedicated to the cosmonauts. Finally, he teaches photography and mounts exhibitions of pictures at the Department of Culture. So many things..

By early afternoon, you go to the mechanic workshop which belongs to Sergeï. You remove the front wheel, the fork tubes and disconnect the swing arm to make the bike more compact. You also disconnect the battery and empty the fuel tanks. The opportunity to clean the air filter, that you had not done since Bilibino. It is more than necessary. Everything done quickly. It will be harder when reassembling, alone in the Moscow airport.

You’ve decided to give the boat to Vladimir. It will be useful for his youth camps. It will also facilitate your way back, the shipment of the bike and may be it would serve as replacement boat for 2016.

In the evening you are again invited to dinner by Nadia and Vladimir. They celebrate Ronald’s birthday, their youngest kid. Before the meal, Nadia proceeds to a Chuchi ritual: take a small portion of each dish and throw all in the tundra to feed the spirits. As the tundra is a bit far from downtown, the spirits will recover these crumbs at the bottom of the building.

Nadia is native from Siriniki and you have questions about her village that lies between Nunlingran Provideniya. Before meeting her, you did not know even the existence of this village. On Google Earth, even knowing the exact coordinates, you see nothing that looks like a building. The area is blurred.

The population of Siriniki is divided equally between Chukchis and Eskimos communities. Hunters of marine mammals that circulate on boat not only to Nunlingran or Provideniya, but also to Enmelen and to Kenerguina or Egvekinot. Good to know, but it’s surprising to have to go to Anadyr to learn it.

You discuss the difficulties of Russia. As for alcohol, vodka, Nadia reports that in Siriniki more than half of her generation has already died due to alcoholism or suicide.

At 8pm, Vladimir leaves the table to watch the news of the day. Always Ukraine. He came back furious as each evening against Western countries and Barak Obama. You do not repeat anymore that you appreciate the American President. You gave up to replicate. You know that your arguments are nothing compared to his suffering. After ten minutes of shouting, he smiles at you and promise not to talk politics anymore. Even though he knows it will be for a short duration.

While you listen without understanding the discussion, you realize how many are the origins around the table: Vladimir Ukrainian, Nadia Chukchi, Gula, the friend of their daughter, is Eskimo, and the little Micha who is present for Ronald’s birthday was born of a Tatar father and an Eskimo mother.


Friday, August 15, 2014

You make a presentation of your travels to the youth camp and Vladimir translates what you say. Since they came back from the tundra, Vladimir and Nadia trying to keep the kids as they can. The camp would have to happen over the lifetime of the tundra, but the bears have decided otherwise. They must now place the planned program in the city rather than wildlife. Not easy. It annoys everyone. Meeting locations in the city is the Museum of the Cosmonautes created by Vladimir. A little noisy apartment overrun with canvas tents and other camping gear. Fortunately, the group can go on foot or by bicycle to the river, or in the nearby tundra.

Vladimir has frequent interruptions to take care of your worries. The deal of the day is your registration with the Migration Board. This will be a week since you arrived in Anadyr. Register is not as easy as you had imagined. But after two round trips between the Migration Office and the Department of Sports, everything seems back to normal.

You were surprised that a migration office exists in Bilibino. You understand now that the office is not just for foreigners, but also for non-resident Russians. Russian have both national and international passports. To travel in Chukotka, you need a passport and special permissions. Whether one is foreign or Russian. Are there any other countries in the world where the travels are controlled like this? You do not know, you’re far from going everywhere.

You return in the late afternoon on the bank of the river to find the youth camp. In addition to the fishing, they are entitled to today sessions rifle and a workshop for marine knots.

The day ended, Vladimir calls for you the Vim Avia airline to ask them if they would accept your bike. For now, your last chance. The bad news of the day: a shipment should not exceed 150kg. The bike alone already exceeds this limit. So no ship, unreachable airline, and another that limits the weight. The situation appears to hang every day.

It would remain a solution: put the bike without wheels an fork in one crate, and all the rest in a second crate. It’s a pity you do today may learn it because the single big crate has been completed today. You will probably have to reopen it, put the bike out, and cut the box in the lengthwise to make two crates from one. Not very encouraging and the cost of the operation will continue to increase.

Keep cool. Anyway, there’s nothing left to do before Monday morning. This is what you already told you last Friday.


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