Frozen frontires; The life of Normal-na

8th of February 2013 –
Somewhere in the taiga with a view over the Okotsk Mountains –
Around -40 Degrees Celsius

Woow, where to begin……

The last 2 days have offered some of the best winter landscape scenery I have ever come across! It has just been magical!

Right now I am really knackered and slightly run down. Vika is mending down my trousers that ripped quite badly a couple of hours ago when the taiga hit back and relieved me of some goose down. It has been a freezing afternoon after a very dramatic day. Our tent is still far too cold, due to a wood stove which isn´t doing its job but such is life. It could be worse. We’ll survive. It is all normal-na here!

Yesterday morning we started to climb up through the taigam with trees dense of deep snow and tracks of wolf, hare and mountain goat. These are plentiful here. We climbed with a certain sadness because the reindeer which Slava was given as a gift died due to the stress of being tied up. But I always find out about these things a day later, due to my lack of Russian. The Eveny look at these matters as an integral part of their way of life. I am very fond of the four Eveny in the group. Always humble, kind, helpful and they never, ever complain. The night before yesterday for example, even if they all suffered from sore throats and colds due to the freezing temperatures, they still gave us their wood stove. They would suffer from our rotten one. When I asked them why, they seemed surprised since in this part of the world this is what people do for others. I also learned over these days, that the four are really, really poor and travel around with what they have. They where the only ones who said yes to bringing us along this historical route. The route passes their village Arkan where they rest once a year.

They have done this route 3-5 times and it passes through mountain and winter scenery. It resembles Antarctica with a great open plain, surrounded by old rounded mountains with a slight wind. To see 36 reindeer pass through here is magical! We climbed over a treeless plain over a pass and it was well into the dark before we set up camp at the bottom, in a forest where the reindeer can find their food. Before we reached camp we passed through a dense forest. In this Bolot got thrown off the sled and we hit a tree. Our driver Vika then fixed the sled while they others ran off and left us (Bolot and I) walking a kilometer to the chosen night camp. It was passed midnight before we set up the cumbersome camp, finally to fall asleep.

Because the reindeer need to eat, we never leave before 1 p.m. They are let free each evening and it therefore takes time to find them again, tie them to the sleds and get going. In the meantime we eat something small twice (second breakfast). They call it tea here and then we are off. Today´s ride was the one we feared since the start. Going downhill for an hour, zigzagging through the dense forest and there´s no doubt, this descend was dramatic. But no accidents happened, all due to the safe guiding of Slava, Yura and Tolya. Tolya did however got hit by an antler and came down with a bloody face riding on the plain.

The most gruesome part for the reindeer seems to be these many crossing of ice patches, where they skid along. It’s worrisome at times.

The last 2 hours was really, really cold and the reindeer and some in the group wanted to hurry on and reach Vikas fathers camp (a couple of days from here). I can understand the Eveny are tired. Vika especially who cooks so much and works endlessly. They have been out like this all winter like the nomads they are.

I’m full of admiration for their humbleness and character.

Time is soon midnight here.

This is really an amazing adventure and I am learning so much every day. I wish I had the strength to write more.

Map Expedition Route click here

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