Yakutian winter roads, photoshoots on frozen rivers, and 4×4 and other good fun.

Hi folks!

You’ve had your aperitifs, finger-nibbles, and soup (one, two, and April 1); now for… a salad starter!…

How long have we been road-tripping on Yakutian highways and winter roads? Oh – three weeks already! Time to be heading back home I guess…

As usual for my expeditions, I’ve taken a ton of photos and videos during our road trip, and they’re gonna take plenty of sifting and editing, which will take plenty of time. That’s why today you’re having an extra starter in the meantime – a few more pics and impressions from this extraordinary Siberian automotive adventure to tide you over. I hope they’ll be interesting in and of themselves, and also to act as a stimulus for some of you, dear readers, to one day make the trip yourselves…

And so, my preliminary sifting has given me images from our trip like this ->

That’s not a highway; that’s a Yakutian winter road – no asphalt, just ice!

But it wasn’t all super-smooth cruising on ice; we had to resort to roads and sometimes just tracks too, upon which even in sturdy 4x4s our speeds came down to under 20km/h ->

Regular 18-wheeler traffic was noted, but never any traffic jams ) ->

Suddenly – a brush with the law! Hardly ). They simply asked where we’d come from and where we were heading. They appeared amazed when we told them we’d come from Tiksi. They told us they’d never drive there – “ever” – and then off they popped to police other “traffic” ). Meanwhile, of course, we turned the encounter into a photo-op! ->

Back on land-based winter roads, the incessant potholes and ruts were a nuisance – trying to overtake trucks: more so ->

But a little later we were back on smooth ice, seeing our speeds increase up to five-fold ->

In places – a meter or two of snow; like here for example, approaching Verkhnoyansk:

Then the air temperature rose to around -10°С, bringing with it cloud and then snow ->

As usual when there’s so much snow and ice, the road scenes were occasionally “embellished” with accidents ->

…Sometimes we had to wait, but not for long.

Alas, beautiful views were marred by fog – canceling any chance of meditative contemplation:

However, when we emerged out of the gorge the fog simply vanished and we were back to positive vibes again! ->

And now for something different: check out these large chunks of ice on the banks of the Indigirka river:

And what are these – can you guess? ->

Just so you can gauge their size, we placed Petrovich next to them:

And further along the Indigirka – another mysterious construction; what is it? ->

Meanwhile, we crack on along – on – the Indigirka…

A few more turns on this here by far not the smoothest stretch of the winter road…

…And then we come to the Indigirka Tube:

An astonishing place, about which I’ve written before. But that was in 2022; this year things looked very different. Two weeks before we got there everything was flooded (details later) and the water then froze to give this here… natural skating rink! ->

All four vehicles striking ice-poses ->

Onward – down the “Tube”:

Curiously placed rock formations up on the peaks of the mountains all around. There’s even a special term for them; alas – it’s slipped my mind ->

The cracks in the ice take on an object-of-kunst aspect:

The clear-ice becomes milky ->

We drove the full length of the “Tube” and back again, and then continued on our way…

And here we were yet again – back at our favorite Oymyakon! ->

But this time there was none of the -60°C fun and games, with the mercury hovering around -3°C!

We then had a day to spare, on which we decided to race up and down the Old-Kolyma road, which isn’t cleared of snow or otherwise serviced any more. Why? Because we love and challenge and an adventure! But first we had to cross an abandoned and unsafe bridge! ->

Driving across a ramshackle (and very long!) bridge that looked like it could give out at any moment – it was a first for me (and I think the last, thank you!)…

Here’s another bridge, but it had already partly collapsed:

Suddenly – a new bridge being built (across the Old-Kolyma road). Now that was a surprise ->

A warning to all those who love off-road/rally-driving in snow! It looks like this old road will soon cease to be abandoned, so get here soon to experience it as it is now; once they’ve repaired and reinstated it, well, it won’t be “off-road” any more – just “road” :).

Abandoned means abandoned, and that goes for the signposts too: check out this one – atop an ancient wooden pole! ->

Oryto-Balagan. Up to this tiny settlement the road is cleared and can be used by regular cars; after it: no cleared road – only for all-terrain vehicles ->

A little later, and we were back where we started 21 days earlier – in sunny Yakutsk ->

In all, from Yakutsk to Yakutsk, we stayed in 20 towns/villages, covered 8000+ kilometers, and spent 245 hours on the road (actually, since the latter measurement came from how long our engines were running, take off six hours – which was how long we once needed to sleep in the ticking-over cars). Also – untold quantities of impressions, emotions, mind-boggles, and meditations. Eeeh, I’m already getting nostalgic and it’s been just days since I got home!

This was already the third time I’d driven from Khandyga to Yakutsk – and in as many years: who’d have believed it when we set out first in 2021 after having decided to try driving from Magadan to Yakutsk via Oymyakon? Not me!

From Khandyga to Yakutsk it was just 400km; the road’s mostly a goodie – if a little boring: alas, mountains all in snow and assorted other winter wonders were behind us…

There was a stretch starting some 180km from Yakutsk that was pretty terrible – as in uneven, bumpy, holey and rutty. Then, nearer the city, it became as smooth as silk, with the added bonus of its being lined with lush evergreen coniferous trees (and not the bald, dead-looking larch trees as before) ->

Almost there! This is Nizhny Bestyakh – on the right bank of the Lena river. On the left bank – finally – Yakutsk!

Over the Lena – on the Lena – we went. If you wanna do the same – be quick: they’re finally building a bridge across the river!

Phew. Made it. And now for a mammoth mammoth steak ) ->

The next day – we took the train! ->

Cozy! ->

That’s all for today folks, but I’ll be back with more detailed tales and pics from the snowy Siberian side shortly!…

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    Yakutia is a fascinating place with stunning scenery and unique geological formations. Overcoming the challenges of the trip, like the uneven roads and harsh weather, must have been a real bonding experience for the team. The scientific discoveries they made along the way add another layer of accomplishment to the trip. I can see why the author is already feeling nostalgic for the experience!

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