Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Frozen Frontier; Mission Accomplished, Arkah reached

March 2nd
-37 degrees Celsius
The settlement of Arkah, a warm nice little log cabin

Arkah!

The epic journey by reindeer and sleds, through about 500 kms of wilderness, has reached an end!

We entered the settlement quite late a couple of days ago. The last day´s ride had taken longer than expected, due to an icy road, tired reindeer, and weary people. We pitched the Explorer´s Club Flag number 179 on the back of Slava´s train of sleds and around about 25 kms from Arkah, his brother Valentin, came running to meet us. Just a short 25 km jog in -30 degrees Celsius is surely refreshing. He told us:

”The whole town is waiting for you! Everyone has been waiting for days!”

That news gave us all more energy and I noticed especially that Slava looked forward to getting there. This young man is bursting with restless energy, intelligence and the need to get things done. He has such a potential. We set off at full speed over a plateau with a chain of alluring snowy peaks to the east and suddenly we could see our goal for a whole past month – the settlement of Arkah!

I was sad that my friend Egor Petrovich Makarov wasn´t with us. He left us a week earlier to return to sort out his business in Yakutsk. He has done so much to get this Expedition on its feet and to get the best possible opportunities for this film, so it was a bit of a let down with him not being part of us riding like a bunch of wild cowboys into town. One of the first houses we came to was Tolya´s. We stopped first there and his wife and daughter came out and greeted us. Tolya hadn´t been in town since April of last year, but spent time with his wife and daughter Anita this summer in one of his wilderness camps. His daughter turned out to have signs of asthma there, so an emergency helicopter had to pick her up and bring her to the hospital in Chabarovsk.

”I will stay in Arkah for a month, sort out a whole year of firewood for my family in this time and then I will set out again”, he said; ”For another 9-10 months. Hunting mainly.”

Slava and Vika´s house, which they share with his parents, was located pretty much opposite Tolyas. Same style. Log cabin, small rooms, but with electricity, but like ours, the one we are staying in now, heating is all done in a wood stove. They will still wake up quite cold in the morning for another couple of months. (This morning we had -37 degrees, and it meant waking up sligthly cold, since we don´t burn fuel during the night, but much warmer than inside the tent!) The Eveny members of the group, quickly reorganized the sleds, with basically only our kit left, than we all set off downtown to make a tour of Arkah!

Arkah turns out to be a picturesque, western-like settlement, with high snowy peaks as a backdrop and both dogs and people seemed slightly surprised when we rode through town with our long train of reindeer and sleds. We eventually ended up at Yura Grigorovich’s home. His three sisters were waiting for him and they seemed very happy to see their brother. They invited the whole group into the almost unbearable indoor heat for dinner. We all squeezed ourselves inside a tiny room, had a plate of tasty potatoes and then set off again.

”I have gotten used to the life in the taiga”, Yura said before we left; ”It is odd to sit on a chair next to a table.”

Yura Grigorovich isn´t the chattiest man on earth, but when he talks, it always makes a lot of sense.

Next stop was at Slava and Vika´s place, where Slava and Zjenyas sister had set up another tasty meal, and when finished there, we all went to this little log cabin, where we live now. Nice and cozy. Once settled, we were invited to dinner at Ludmilla Nikolayjevna´s place. We had come across this angel already at Piotr´s camp (Vikas dad if you remember) where she had sorted out the helicopter trip for Larissa via satellite phone and radio. (you know, Yura Grigorovich’s pregnant wife, who is still at the hospital in Chabarovsk). The child is expected to arrive the 12th of March.

Ludmilla Nikolayjevna and her husband first sent us to their sauna (banya in russian), for us to wash off what felt like many layers of dirt. Unfortunately none of us had any change of new clothes, so we had to pull on the old dirty ones again that we discarded three weeks back. Not that pleasant, but such is life as a journeyman. Then she overfed us with blinis, fish cutlets, mash and bangers and after this third dinner of the day, we staggered back to our log cabin and quickly dropped off to sleep.

Yesterday we were invited to a specially organized dance show just for us at the cultural centre and it was a joy to see. After the performance, we walked a few hundred meters through the settlement, passing an old gigantic bust of Lenin and did an interview with an old reindeer herder. He immediately stated that he during the Soviet Era, was a 100% communist and he was full of good opinions.  He even sang two beautiful songs from the taiga for us. He thought the young herders today were lazy. If Tolya, Yura, Vika and Slava are lazy, I just wonder how hard the herders worked earlier!

Today, earlier in the morning, Ludmilla had set us up for new interviews and visits. We went to the local school and a boarding home where the kids of the herders stay whilst their parents live in the taiga, and she immediately begged me to re-do the interviews I did with her the day before, since she was of the opinion, that she wasn´t dressed nice enough the day before. So this we will do. Of course. It is the un-written law of the taiga, to help each other out. People are amazingly nice here and once again we are invited out for a late dinner and surely a bit of vodka to go with it.

By the way, just to show you what a great group of Eveny´s we had the privilege to travel with, Slava came over last night with a couple of beers, but spent most of his time, seeing too the fire…

There is so much to write, so many stories to tell. This is the enjoyable work I will have to do once back in Yakutsk and later Sweden. I just have enough energy to give you a small taste of life from Arkah this time and its extraordinarily welcoming and generous people. Next update should, if all goes well, be from a nice hotel in the giant city of Chabarovsk. We will see. You never know what will happen…

Do I feel happy that I have made it to Arkah?

Sure, I feel content. It has been a magic journey in many ways, one of the most spectacular trips I have ever done and I return with what I believe will be an epic film for OutWildTV. I feel incredibly privileged to have had this extra ordinary experience. It is almost hard to believe it has happened!

I have done what I came here to do – Make a great film!

Keep your eyes open for upcoming dispatches!

And most of all, thanks to Vika, Slava, Tolya and Yura Grigorovich for allowing us to be part of your very extraordinary life!

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3 comments

  1. Glad you had such a great trip. I hope I catch the show to sewe teh video you took.

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