Saturday, June 21, 2014
The boat docks on a simple bank of sand. You expected to land downtown, but you see on your GPS that you are a few kilometers north of Yakutsk. You follow the stream of cars.
Yakutsk seems built on sand. You didn’t expect this atmosphere. You had in mind a town with a winter temperature of -50 °C. And now you find 30°C with sand everywhere, a hot, dry air. It looks more like a North African city than Siberian.
Arrived in the city center, you park near a place where the classic tank of the Second World War is exposed. You think that if Valera should join you, it will be easier to explain the place. On the boat, you had sent him an SMS. You want to know if he received your Visa card. You just receive the answer: no Visa card. Valera also writes that you will find hotels from 150 euros or hostels from 50 euros. Life here is rather expensive for someone who has no credit card.. You try to call him, but your phone turns off. The battery is discharged. You unpacked your stuff looking for your auxiliary battery or the connector to plug on the bike. A bike, Yamaha TT 250, parks near you. The man asks where you’re from, where you go… You answer while continuing your research. You tell him he has a good bike thinking about the Australians you met a few days earlier.
The man speaks to you with hands. You understand that he wonders if you know where to sleep. He invites you otherwise. His name is Andreï. You are still trying to get news of your Visa card, but still no battery. Ok, you decide to follow Andreï.
You leave the bikes in a guarded garage, then get into a building. His flat looks under construction; but it is a rather tidy site. You put your bags in a corner. Andrei present you his apartment and offers you coffee.
You understand that he lives there for only two weeks. He and his wife recently separated after 30 years together. He looks affected. A difficult time for him. It shows you pictures of his family, his wife, who was world champion in super-marathon.
You were hesitant, but you’re finally glad with the decision of following him. You tell him your travel, show him your maps, your book, photos and video. You feel that all this interest, entertains.
After a shower and laundry, you continue your presentations. You’ll quickly progress in Russian. You use Google Translate on your phone when some words miss you.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
The summer solstice. You ‘re lying when it was day, you woke up in the night but still the day light, you wake up when the sun is already high. Yakutsk is a northern city.
It is Sunday. No way to get news for your Visa card. DHL website says it is still in the Moscow region. So you spend time on the internet to update your blog. You risk to spend some time in Yakutsk but you have a lot to do to prepare for the rest of the trip.
Klim, a friend of Andrei pick you up by car. Andrei and Klim are associates. They have in common a small transport company. Five trucks in a large parking sand. Their business idle during the summer: they work mainly on winter roads. Their trucks are old. Old Russian trucks, two Kamaz, a Urals. Also a MAN and a newer Volvo.
Klim leaves his car to Andrei to show you around the city. The city is not very big, it is actually faster around. You start by the rich suburb, the “haciendas”. On a wall, a tag says “Gangster Zone.” As for the rest of Russia, Yakutsk knows great inequalities. Great wealth and great poverty. But not extreme wealth or extreme poverty. It seems that there is some work for everyone here.
The roads are also very uneven. But most are in a poor state. Apart from two or three beautiful central avenues, streets are often full of holes.
Urbanism is very heterogeneous: old wooden buildings, newer concrete buildings. Everything is mixed haphazardly. A common point that you plot: all buildings are mounted on poles that hoisted at least one meter above the ground. Nothing touches the ground. Similarly, all pipes, pipelines, power grids are suspended. We go permanently under “bridges” of pipes. You had often seen these air ducts in the rest of Russia, but never so consistently. The ground seems to be the enemy .. The permafrost? But when winter comes, it should not be good either in air at -50 °.
You go with Klim to a restaurant. The manager of the place leaving his party of pool to join. He is in business with Andrei and Klim. But it is time to relax. You all take a big bowl of soup. Korean food, very refined. Klim is Korean. Since you’re in Yakutsk, you know that the city and the mines of the region attract many people from all backgrounds, even if the Yakuts still largely predominate. A Far East which is very close to the Wild West. Nationalities seem to coexist in good composition.
You return to the apartment and you will leave it to your literary activities. You also discussed with the Andrei rest of your journey, your route. When Andreï wonders how you plan to protect yourself from bears, you show him your mini-rockets. He thinks it is a good solution, even though he would have preferred a firearm. It shows you the gun he has in the small bag he always carries with him. You’re surprised. Still the Far West … It also shows you the Kalashnikov he has in his cabinet. He has the permits for these weapons, but as a European, you remain amazed that we can possess.
At each meal, Andrei cooks for four. Yet he does not eat. You guess his diet is due to his recent separation. However, you eat like two.
You often eat fish and meats. Many proteins. There are few vegetables in stores, only potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Some fruits are present but appear as luxury goods. Probably they arrive by plane. In any case, Andrei really takes care of you.
Monday, June 23, 2014
You contact Bob, your English spoken friend in Irkutsk. You ask him if he could get news about your Visa card from DHL. He calls you back an hour later with reassuring news. The card should arrive in the day in Yakutsk. It also calls Valera to prevent it.
Andreï went to the garage to work. At your side, you prepare the GPS routes that you need to follow the Kolyma, then when your crossing of Chukotka. Many things that you have not had time to do before your departure.
Around noon, you see on the website of DHL that your card has been delivered. An appointment is agreed front of the tank with Valera to late evening. You began to despair of recovering a Visa card.
Valera is accompanied by two of his friends, more at ease in English. All follow you to see where you live. In your discussions, you show them a spring pin. You never know … but they have never seen such things. However, Valera expects to find a solution. He gives you an appointment the next morning at 8:30 a.m.
Andrei will return later. He was invited by Klim at the birthday or baptism of his grand child.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
You leave early the flat to find Valera. You cross the city to a huge Yamaha center. There are motorcycles, but also boats, Jet Skis, snow scooters … A large modern facility. You had tried to explain to Valera that your pin was not a spare part of a motorcycle or boat, and you’re first disappointed. In the shop Valera, seems to know everyone. You finally get into a reception room, then in the office of Oleg, the director. Oleg was part of the group that crossed the Bering Strait in 2012 on Jet Skis. You’re surprised by the situation. Known Bering crossings are so rare. Maybe 5 or 6 since the end of World War II. You are of course aware of this Jet Ski crossing., And happy to talk, to acquire information on the state of the sea routes, relationships with administrations.. Oleg also learn you the impossibility of finding other than gasoline octane 80. That could be a concern.
Oleg inspires you trust. He quickly made a good status of your mechanical issue. For him, the best solution would be to replace the spring pins with solid pins with a greater diameter. So you let him your lower unit for the change is made.
Upon returning, you write Loïc asking if your bike bear several days of gasoline index 80. Loïc, with whom you rode in Bolivia and Peru, is working in the injectors for motorcycles. He quickly answers: he thinks he should not have other concerns that an increase of the consumption. Especially in “boat” mode, when your engine never gets high revs. You are reassured.
For a few days, you were in contact with friends in France and you asked them to ship these famous spring pins that are not found in Russia. New regulations for the shipment of goods to individuals in Russia that the shipment has been delayed. Now, you ask to cancel.
You feel to many people involved. But you think that sharing this journey is important. And you know that you would be unable to succeed by yourself. You are here thanks the help of the IUT of Grenoble, thanks to all the friends who gave you a hand. And now thanks to all those people who help you during the trip. There are many.
In the afternoon, you go to the garage with Andreî. You want to recheck motorcycle and boat after 1000km of track. Also clean your air filter.
Again, everyone helps you. There are around you Philip, the Armenian mechanic. Andrey, Klim Klim father and junior. The garage is a kind of Tower of Babel. There are still a Kyrgyz driver and a carpenter you think Yakut. No two identical nationalities. The atmosphere is family. You feel that all will enjoy, all are related. A great complicity. Yet they are all quite different.
As you felt some tension between Buryats and Russians in Irkutsk, as you have the impression that the people of Yakutsk are insensitive to the origins. In the street, everyone just sharing with everyone without racial distinction. You also see frequently mixed couples.
While they having fun tone horn pear, you say as a joke it is to replace your electric horn that no longer works. Philip and Klim junior then set to work to repair it. They finally repair the two, the one from the Kawasaki recovered Irkutsk, and the original one. From what you know, there was a series of problems, bad contacts, mechanical blockages that caused nothing worked.
Senior Klim also helps you to check your boat. Again, it is in very good state.
You spend time checking the structure of the bike, to control tightening. Everything look normal but you have the impression that the tank would be a little down compared to the luggage rack. There is slack in the screws that connect the two. Maybe the plastic spacers that hold the bottom of the tank they are a bit overwritten. But the tank bears no trace of distortion. So far nothing to worry about, but you will have to keep an eye.
As you still have to pack the boat, Andrei asks Klim Junior drive you back.
Wednesday, June 24, 2014
The temperature has fallen since the beginning of the week. After the 30°C of the weekend, there is now around fifteen degrees. Wind and at times a little rain that does not last. You like it because it sticks a little dust on the ground.
At the garage, Andreï helps you to pack the boat again, reinstall everything. Andrei and junior Klim takes you then see a museum of ice sculpture. A permanent exhibition that kept cool in burrows in the hills on the edge of the city, near the garage. Beautiful sculptures.
The ambient temperature is below 0° C. You begin to understand why the lines are never buried …
You then return to the flat where Valera will join you. He has your lower unit. Nice work. Valera explained you that the new pins are made from highly resistant parts from Mercedes. They were cooled before being entered. They also prepared spare pins with a diameter slightly larger. In case where it would eventually move. You are reassured.
Thursday, June 25, 2014
Your last day in Yakutsk. You write an email to Chukotka to inform them of your progress. You also give them a link to a map where they can follow your route in Chukotka through a SPOT device that you bought in Australia. Chukotka is a region for which you need special permissions. You provided this link because the administration wants to know where you are, but it could also be a security for you.
You invited Valera, Ruslan and Andrei to a restaurant for lunch. A restaurant that offers traditional Yakut cuisine. The national meal consists in slices of frozen fish. Delicious.
Ruslan takes a lot of pictures and movies. He is a photographer and journalist and would like to publish an interview about your travel. When paying, everyone wants to pay the bill. Once more, Andreï wins. You are disappointed.
You were afraid of having too much time to spend in Yakutsk and finally get busy. You will have done everything you wanted to prepare the rest of the trip. A pleasant and effective break.
Your web site is updated, and you don’t know when will be the next time you will have an internet access.