Explorer Mikael Strandberg

The Russian words Normal-na!

29 Nov, 04 – 14:54

GPS-pos: N66°18´ | E151°46´ | Alt: 24 M
-43°F, it is cold into the bones today. We´re at an abandoned logcabin at N 66°18´52,0 and E 151°46´34,7 after 3 freezing nights in the tent. We´ve got the rusty stove going slowly. It is just below zero after 3 hours hard work on getting the fire working.

Even though we´ve had -43°F the last three days, we´re freezing pretty much all the time and it is no doubt very cold, I think we finally are getting used to how to handle this extreme cold. We needed to, since it will only get colder from now on and we´ve done only 35% of the distance to Srednekolymsk.

I promised myself before leaving Zyryanka, no matter how much the cold would dominated our lives or would damaged us, the dispatches would have to be more than words of suffering. Even though there´s very little positive aspects with freezing in itself, there´s plenty of positive things out here in this freezing cold. I am thinking about the extremely hardy, but enormously kind and generous, people living out here along the Kolyma. Let me tell you about three of them.

Ivan Fralov - a true Siberian and one of the most extra ordinary people I have ever come across! Mr Normal-na personified!
Ivan Fralov – a true Siberian and one of the most extra ordinary people I have ever come across! Mr Normal-na personified!

Ivan Fralov is a living legend in this neighborhood. This is due to the fact the he in the late spring 1979 skied from Zyryanka to Cherskii. It was, and still is, considered heroic. Today he´s in his early sixties and he´s still a small packet of power. And when he during his yearly holiday in Moscow heard about us, he cut his holiday short and returned to Zyryanka to be able to help and give us good advice. He turned up at our flat the same day we left and wanted to show us the best way out of Zyryanka and to a place we´re we could spend the night indoors. He set of running, in -35°F, making a track for us to follow, for 20 km;s! On and off he stopped, waited for us, gave us cookies and sweets and than sat off running again. Once he reached the old hermit Alexej he turned around in the darkness of dusk and ran back to Zyryanka! Almost a marathon in -35°F.
´´Are you really going to make it?´´ I asked him.
´´Normal-na!´´ ,he laughed and set off.

The old man Alexej had lived by himself for 20 years. He had a rough, but big and majestic beard, and like everyone else we´ve visited north of Zyryanka, his logcabin was pedantically clean and tidy. Alexej offered us hare stew, lot´s of sweet tea and had lots of intelligent questions that we were unable to answer. We slept on a couch near the fire, which Alexej kept alive all night. He had a severe tooth-ache, but didn´t complain.
´´Normal-na!´´ , he said.

Anatolij wasn´t that happy with us. He thought our Russian was poor and said, why do you travel all this way, with all this gear, and can´t even communicate about the great Russian authors? What a waste of energy!
Anatolij wasn´t that happy with us. He thought our Russian was poor and said, why do you travel all this way, with all this gear, and can´t even communicate about the great Russian authors? What a waste of energy!

Dima, the yakut, offered us, a couple of days later, frozen raw fish liver when we arrived frozen to the bone, straganina (cold raw fish), hare stew and downed a liter of vodka whilst watching us eating. The liquor made us unable to sleep since it gave Dima lots of energy to entertain us throughout the night with playing the harmonica, discussing cold war politics, crying at length over his dead mother, loathing our choice of equipment or showing us the compulsory family album. The following morning he cooked us fresh pelmeni (Russian variety of ravioli) and gave us a pair of beautiful wolfskinn gloves and a furhat from fox when we left as a parting present.

´´Normal-na!´´ , was his answer when we thanked him profoundly for his kindness and generosity.

For more reports from Siberia, click here!

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