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Fuel in Tiksi – literally double in price (but still cheaper than in Europe)!

I left you yesterday with us on our way out of Khonuu early morning heading to the nearest filling station. As you’ll no doubt know, refueling is normally rather straightforward; however, up here – just outside the Arctic Circle – it’s far from simple…

First of all, you have to find a filling station, for there aren’t many. That often means heading to the next village – or the one after that – and in northern Yakutia that can mean serious distances (an extra hundred kilometers, for example). But there’s more to refueling than just that; accordingly, I hereby announce that this post is dedicated to… Yakutian gas stations!…

Now, filling stations in the Far North aren’t the all-singing-all-dancing minimarket-cafes with hotdogs and assorted other bells and whistles like you get in more temperate climes across the developed world. In a word, here, they’re simple:

Read on…

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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?… ->

Read on…

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…

A digitalization conference in Nizhny. I’m hardly not gonna be there…

With conference season still in full-swing, I’ve been busier than a bee of late. Just recently I only had two days at home and it was back on the road again. This time though it was a domestic business trip – albeit it a thoroughly important one …

It was for CIPR in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. CIPR?…

CIPR is a transliteration from the Russian ЦИПР, which stands for “Digital Industry of Industrial Russia”. That was a direct translation that came out clumsy in English (curiously due to the fact that there are two words for industry/industrial in Russian; only one in English:), but it’s now taken on the more modern and pertinent (in terms of content), and appropriate (in terms of English language sense) name of “Digitalization of Industrial Russia”.

CIPR: conference, exhibition, presentations, speeches, agreement signings, meets, greets, handshakes, chats. Never dull, and always a pleasure (it takes place yearly in Nizhny Novgorod – Russia’s sixth-largest city, 500km east of Moscow) ->

That fine historical building is where the talks and panel discussions take place, while the exhibition – needing a bit more room – is in the large, modern hangar-like building next door. That’s where we head first…

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…

You’ve heard of a road trip. But what about an ice-road trip?!

You’ve had your intro posts already; now, if there are no questions from the audience, I’ll proceed to my next tale from the Far Northern side, which could have been titled “Yakutian ice roads heading north from Kolyma Highway“. But first, I think – an explainer…

What is an ice road? And what’s a winter road?…

But before I get to that, a few pics (what else?) ->

That pic is of a stretch of winter road between the villages of Sasyr and Khonuu (here). As you’ll see by that there Google Map, there’s no regular (asphalted) road between the two, but in winter (and into spring) there’s the winter road you see in the pic. From around April to October each year the only thing here is impassable tundra, marshland, lakes and rivers. But by November, everything here is covered in deep snow and thoroughly deep-frozen, and along come large snow-clearing trucks and… voila – the winter road is ready for use; until, that is, the next heavy snowfall – when the snow-clearers come back for another pass.

That’s the basic description of a winter road. An ice road is pretty much the same – only it’s not on land but on the thick ice of a frozen river; for example – on the Indigirka (see next pic). And these are much-preferred by long-distance truckers to winter roads since they’re normally so much smoother: they even call them “asphalt”, since they permit speeds just as on actual roads.

Read on…