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300km of pure whiteness, plus some unexpected volcanism.

Hi folks!

So many business trips – so little time for… continuing my tales from the deep-frozen Siberian Far North side! But since flying back from China, let me get back to it. So, where was I? Ah – yes: arriving in the village of Sasyr after nightfall and, given there are no hotels or guesthouses to stay at, we were bedding down in the village school’s gym hall on rubber mats!…

Unusual circumstances? Yes. Original? Indeed. Uncomfortable? No!…

We were warm (here – crucial!), there was food, there was fuel at the nearby filling station (we drove there later), and – most importantly – there was table tennis. What more could you ask for?

The following morning – on the fourth day of our Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk road trip – after breakfast, we were back on our way on the winter/ice road. Next destination: the village of Khonuu (see the map at the very end of this post). And what an interesting and gorgeous day it was too…

First – warm-up pic:

Read on…

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The Shuto Expressway – a pioneering road project from back in the day.

Hi everyone, from… ->

Having delved into my archives, I discovered that this trip to Japan is my 31st! Yes, I love Japan – with all its… uniqueness, about which I’ve written plenty. But it was only on this visit that I realized I haven’t touched upon Tokyo’s road transportation system – particularly its special highway network. And it really does deserve touching upon since it’s one of the most striking features of the Japanese capital…

Read on…

Tiksi expedition 2024 – Kolyma Highway, then the “Arctic” winter road to Sasyr.

All these business trips of mine and the corresponding blogposts of late have kept me from continuing my tales from the ultra-frozen side – from our Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk winter/ice-road expedition. That all stops here!…

So, where was I?…

Ah yes. Our original plan of heading north along the frozen Indigirka river had been scuppered since the Indigirka Tube had flooded. It was therefore decided by the more experienced among us to take the Arctica winter road instead. So, leaving the village of Ust-Nera, we did just that. Straight away – wonderfully wintery Siberian scenes ->

Our expedition leader – former long-distance trucker Alexander Elikov – had done the full length of this winter road plenty of times in both a trucks and Toyotas. His comments to us about it both soothed and instilled some worry at the same time: “It’s a fairly straightforward winter road; the only issue is that it’s so long and monotonous that by the end of it you’re bored silly”. Oof.

Early on, however, we were anything but bored – so enthralled were we by the passing scenery ->

Read on…

No FOMO – @ Lake Como; much ardor – @ Lake Garda!

When you find yourself in Milan with a weekend to fill with non-work stuff – what do you? That is, if you’ve been there plenty of times in the past, the city’s parks and downtown highlights have all been strolled, and the top of Milan Cathedral has been climbed up to? When you fancy checking out Paternkofel in the Dolomites but the April weather just can’t be trusted – especially given the poor forecast (we attempted such a thing in 2021 and failed). Well, there are a few other options…

…One being – Lake Como! ->

And not just the lake, but the charming small towns along its shores too:

And that was that: decided. Time to rent a car and head on over there

Read on…

Que sera, sera – in Ust-Nera-Nera!

Our next overnight stay on our Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk road trip was in Ust-Nera. As you can see on that Google Map – that’s a long way: 560 kilometers, which should take around 10 hours (!). However, all those 10 hours were to be spent on the Kolyma Highway, so, we were like: yes, bring it on!

I’ve told you plenty of times already – this isn’t just a fascinatingly beautiful road-route to be taken through the deep-frozen Siberian countryside, this is a candidate for one of the most beautiful road-routes in the whole world! Yes, that is a bold statement; but it’s not as if I haven’t driven on some of the other contenders for that title around the world; therefore, I’m sticking with my boldness. I mean – just look! ->

Still need convincing? How about our decision to drive along Kolyma Highway already a third time in as many years? Still need convincing? Read on…

Read on…

Tanks aren’t afraid of dirt – or the Arctic.

I’ve been asked rather often already about the vehicles we undertook our road trip to Tiksi in. And that’s understandable – especially since they aren’t quite the instantly recognizable household-name vehicles like, say, Land Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers…

First off, I have to say that we didn’t choose the vehicles ourselves; we left that to the experts – Arctic automotive-expedition specialists Alexander Yelikov and Yevgeny Shatalov. Alexander – Sasha – was in a specially tuned Great Wall Wingle 7, while we – the tourists – were in the three Tank 300s, as supplied by Yevgeny – Zhenya. Here are all four vehicles – somewhere between the settlements of Nayba and Tiksi upon a frozen Laptev Sea:

And here we are in the Indigirka Tube:

So – why were we in “Tanks”?

Read on…

Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk-2024: first overnight stay – Khandyga.

Hi folks!

Herewith, another episode in my  Yakutsk-Tiksi-Yakutsk expedition series…

You’ve had my warm-up posts (about winter/ice roads, naleds, and the Kolyma Highway). Now’s come the time to climb behind the wheel and get going!…

It all started in Yakutsk. From there we headed east/northeast along the Kolyma Highway for nearly a thousand kilometers. Next, the plan was for us to take a left turn and head north all the way up to the village of Tiksi on the northern Russian coast up inside the Arctic Circle: no cakewalk – even with all the necessary vehicle customization, special other kit, experienced crew, and professional supervision. The plan was to then drive back down from Tiksi, albeit it by a different route, and take a right onto Kolyma again and back to Yakutsk.

Like I say, that was the plan we had – as we were all set at the “starting line” in Yakutsk for our ceremonial pic. More on how things didn’t go to plan and why, of course, coming later (still – we did make it to Tiksi, as the title of this series on our expedition hints at)…

Also coming up: why particularly this pickup and these jeeps were chosen for the expedition, how they were specially adapted for the cold and ice, how they actually dealt with that cold and ice, and in what state they were in when we arrived at the “finish line”. Patience, dear Watson…

Read on…

1500km on the R504: devilish cold; snow, ice and hoar.

There are many different kinds of roads and highways. There are straight and there are winding; there are smooth and there are bumpy; there are fast-moving and there are snail’s pace; there are ordinary and there are beautiful (rather: ordinary, pretty, beautiful, and mind-blowing). There are plenty of beautiful roads around the world – most often among mountains and along coasts. Especially beautiful (mind-blowing) are those that follow the coast on mountainsides (= x2 the effect); for example – the GI-682 along the Costa Brava near Barcelona, which we drove on last month.

Other great along-the-coast roads I’ve had the pleasure of driving on down the years include, among many others, Chapman’s Peak Drive between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa (which, alas, is waaay too short), the Great Ocean Road in Australia, and the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West. Then there are the many meditative roads I’ve driven on, like the TF-436 on Tenerife, State Highway 2 in New Zealand, Highway 565 in Tibet, and the R256 in Altai, Russia (which I’ve only done in summer).

Now, the above-mentioned are great, beautiful roads. But then there’s the Premier League of roads – the crème de la crème of roads that both boggle and truly blow the mind. These include: State Highway 94 ending at Milford Sound in southern New Zealand; the roads of Namibia that cross the desert; and also – less of a road and more just a frozen surface – Lake Baikal. Then, of course, there’s R504 – the Kolyma Highway – through the Russian Far East

Read on…