We “drove” to the Arctic Circle’s Khonuu… but it’s a village there are no roads to!

In the previous installment in the series of blogposts on our Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk expedition, we’d just arrived in the small village of Khonuu after nightfall.

Now, since Far North villages fascinate me – particularly how life can and is lived in such places – I really wanted to get a closer look at what’s what here to be able to then convey it to you, dear readers. Not that we ventured out far: we literally just walked around our lodgings, but still…

Here are those lodgings:

You see the pipes in the above pic? Those carry hot water to all buildings in the village from a centralized heating plant. I was rather astonished to find out that this – a holdover from Soviet times – is a mandatory attribute across the whole of Yakutia – even its northern reaches.

So what’s it like inside apartment buildings like this one?… ->

All fairly basic and spartan – but clean and in good condition.

Khonuu is here, btw – between the Chersky and Moma mountain ranges:

That’s Khonuu close up on a map. From a satellite it looks something like this: as remote as you can get ->

As you can see, Khonuu is just outside the Arctic Circle. That meant we’d be inside said circle the day we left the village.

Come the following morning we were up and out early. While warming up the cars we had some time for a short walkabout…

Not far from our apartment block was a curious installation: an old, rickety stall with square blocks of ice on its table. “What gives?” we mused…

Turns out that the water that comes through the pipes and out the faucets in homes isn’t potable. The hot water’s good for washing floors, taking showers, etc. but not drinking. So what the locals do is cut (pure-water) ice out of the frozen Indigirka River, and store it in blocks in places like this here stall. When folks need some drinking water – they come and take a block, melt it back in their apartment, and Boris is your uncle! Oh, and by the way: the water that fills toilet cisterns here is hot too. Don’t want it freezing once it’s been flushed and on its way into the sewage system now do we?!

The ice blocks are placed most anywhere off the ground:

Arctic Circle realities: dear droppings ->

Deer droppings within a village are a common sight. It’s funny: in big cities, dog owners these days can expect much wrath of passers-by if they don’t clear up after their pet. Here, things are a little rawer: dears, not dogs; wild, not domesticated – and no wrath!

These pics were taken first thing just before sunrise. But regardless of the time of day they do show how, despite the extreme location and thus climate, the village does look all very “normal”.

Some apartment buildings, which resemble more barracks, are still made out of wood! Still, at least they seem to have double-glazing. Apparently these relics from the past are gradually being phased out: demolished to make way for larger, higher-story, more comfortable modern apartment blocks.

And that’s Khonuu folks. In closing – the view from our hotel ~Airbnb:

Setting off, the first thing we needed to do was refuel. But, perhaps since there’s no asphalted road in/out of the village (only the winter/ice road on the Indigirka), there’s no filling station in the village! We had to go elsewhere for gas ->

Actually, the whole refueling topic is an interesting one – so much so it gets a post all of its own (coming right up)…

The rest of the photos from our Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk road trip are here.

Leave a note