The feeling is incredible, the dream has come true, finally, I am riding a motorcycle in Chukotka!
While the weather is good I decide to go to the Shelagsky Cape, the northernmost point of Chukotka and the entire Far East. To the abandoned village of Yanranay about 30 km, there I want to find Chukchi fishermen. There are many animals around. Gophers on their hind legs are met on the road, ducks swim in ponds, and cranes fly up from the tundra.
Driving through Apapelgino. It is a dead village that used to serve the airport. Old planes and helicopters are lying on the streets. Near the abandoned houses, this old technique looks very apocalyptic.
Between the hills and the sea I reach the village of Yanranay, whose inhabitants were resettled in the town of Pevek.
On the shore i found a fisherman's house with two inhabitants. The Chukchi introduced themselves as Ivan and Nikolay. One catches fish, the other looking for berries. At the end of the summer, they will sell them and go to graze the deer.
They fed me fried venison and boiled fish. This is the most delicious fish soup I've ever eaten. I take a backpack and go out in the direction of Shelagsky Cape, which can only be reached on foot through the swampy tundra.
Foggy mounds ahead. I saw these foggy caps still on the ship during the stay in the port. I did not think that in a day I would enter them. Fog is created due to strong winds that break from the cold sea to the warmer Chaun Bay.
It became very cold, I put on all the clothes that I have. Walking on the wet tundra is very difficult. This is permafrost under a small layer of soil. The ice melts in summer and the top layer of the earth is always wet. I wanted to shorten the path, but got lost in the fog. I went on a cliff in front of the sea, from which it is impossible to descend.
Whoever walks by a short way doesn't spend the night at home
— an old Chukchi saying
Finally, reached the village in the Gulf of Shelagsky Cape. I saw that there were only ruins left here. The settlement was abandoned in the 1960s. I didn't take the tent with me, thinking to find at least some roof here.
The only building that has been preserved is a metal booth, which served as a refrigerator for the local population, which was engaged in fishing. I decided to spend the night here. I changed clothes, boiled water, had dinner and wrapped myself in a sleeping bag and went to bed.
At night, someone was noisy, who always makes noise at night around the tent, when you are alone in an unfamiliar place.
Returning to the motorcycle, I'm going to look for the most northern camps of the prisoners of the Gulag. Leaving the sea becomes warmer.
Most of the bridges on the way are broken. There are detours along the streams. No bushes or trees grow in this part of Chukotka. Red-yellow tundra with bare mountains looks like the surface of another planet.
Behind the concrete bridge begins the ascent to the valley of the camp. On the slopes protrude huge rocks, visible remnants of wooden barracks and metal constructions. A terrible and beautiful place where, when you are alone, you want to turn around and quickly leave. I remove all things from a motorcycle in order to drive a difficult part of the road. I discover that I have lost bag with a raincoat and a jacket, things so necessary in Chukotka.
I remove all things from a motorcycle in order to drive a difficult part of the road. I discover that I have lost bag with a raincoat and a jacket, things so necessary in Chukotka.
I leave all the things on the road. Motorcycle loaded and empty has a completely different character, as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The road after the stone river goes up the mountainside. Self-preservation instinct and fear suggest that one does not need to go here, and the adventurer and photographer want to continue.
At the top there is a view of the extinct black volcanoes. In these inhuman conditions, a uranium ore processing plant operated. People lived in the most severe conditions of this cold stone desert.
After walking through the stone buildings, I move down, have a snack and return to the town of Pevek.
From tomorrow, it is predicted that there will be rains, which bothers me. On the one hand, it is impossible to wait because the rivers will rise greatly. On the other hand, I don't want to go at all in this weather.
Met in a cafe with Alex, this is the man who will lead the column of trucks in Bilibino. He knows everything about local roads. I need them to throw my motorcycle across deep rivers. One of the drivers agreed to take me.
I leave first. I will spend the night before the bridge over the Palyavaam river. Next, I will need to move to the truck of the Chaun lowland with the largest rivers flowing from the mountains into the Arctic Ocean. Total from Pevek to Bilibino about 650 km, of which only 400 I will ride the motorcycle.
The police stopped me on the way out of town, made a remark that the license plate of my bike was dirty. It sounds very strange here! The road is good, but very dusty. On the way are several beautiful passes and a couple of large abandoned villages with operating gold mining enterprises: Komsomolsky and Maysky.
A few hours later twilight passed into the night. What I did not expect to see on this stretch of road was the fords. When only 10 kilometers remained, a large spill appeared on the road. It is the first time I put on waders, take a flashlight and go in the water. It is deep, I take all things off the bike.
After a couple of kilometers again wide river, but with shallower water. Ural truck pulls up. I turn on the headlights so that the driver sees me and does not drive through me. Men go hunting, will spend the night on this river. They also suggest that I sleep in their car. I pull out a sleeping bag from the motorcycle and go to the car.
In the morning I drive only a couple of kilometers to the bridge over the Palyavaam river, where I had to wait for my truck. This bridge looks monumental here. In the conditions of extreme north and undeveloped logistics, it is very difficult to build and to keep it in order.
Permafrost does not allow the local rivers to go deep, so they diverge in breadth. This whole intricate network of water flows changes annually. Therefore, the river should be directed under the bridge so that next year the water would not go around the side.
One of the houses is kept in good condition, yesterday the drivers spent the night here, it was warm inside. Putting the bike so that it was visible from the road, I went to sleep in the house. After a couple of hours the trucks arrived. We will lift the motorcycle a few kilometers from here, where the base for slaughtering deer is being built.
On the way, I got stuck in the dirt, I had to again remove all things from the motorcycle to pull it out.
At the base is now lunch. Kitchen in a large tent. In such places in Chukotka, it is customary to feed all passing drivers for free. Came my Kamaz track. Loaded the bike, drank coffee.
Driver's name is Ruslan. Nickname Cap, because always in a cap. 35 years. He is Chukchi half.
After a few hours, we pass two beautiful mountain passes. White and Red. Such names are due to the color of the stones on the tops. Landscapes are very unusual. On White we are on a planet with yellow-orange hills around and brilliant rivers below. Top of the Red pass mountain is pink colored petrified clay.
Top of the Red pass mountain is pink colored petrified clay.
From the red pass about 30 km to the place of overnight stay and the first big river Melguveem. We approach the river already in the dark. The cars, having crossed the river, are camped in a wide valley.
August 19. On the river Chaun there are road builders who are engaged in marking up fords for drivers. Behind the river there are wild deer. Hearing a convoy of cars, they run from the road.
We are riding in the Chaun lowland with the largest and most dangerous rivers in our way. There is so much water here that the land area is slightly larger than the area of rivers and spills.
The next big river is Ugadka. One of the trucks gets stuck in deep water, immediately the other rushes to the water to help him and pulls him to the shore with a cable.
Most machines carry large and heavy containers with cargo. Careless action while crossing a river may cause the entire machine to roll over.
There is another big river ahead - Pucheveem. We cross it and make a stop to have lunch. Some drivers go fishing. It's starting to rain.
I plan to remove the motorcycle from the truck after 40 kilometers. The closer we get to this place, the more I worry. I do not want to be alone in the rain in the middle of the tundra. I feel like a weak traveler for this fear of being alone, the fear of uncertainty, bad weather and the rivers that rise from the rains with which I will have to exist on my own.
To change this, I need to ride a motorcycle and try to come to terms with nature and weather. All together we lower the motorcycle from the truck, saying goodbye to the drivers. I am driving away from the main road to see the lakes of Ilirney.
Behind me remains a rich red-pink sunset. I was in vain so happy for its beauty, because I did not know that such bright sunsets are harbingers of very bad weather here. The road goes along the black and red mountains.
"Chukocia is a sublime country, and we often came across mountains of amazing height. We had such species before our eyes that put our delight in thought and forced us to look at those objects with the deepest reverence."
— Billings, 1791
In the dark, a surface of water suddenly appears, illuminated by the not very dark nights of the ending polar day. On the one hand, a large lake is supported by mountains, on the other - gentle taiga slopes. Here, for the first time, I see trees in Chukotka.
On the lakes are based road builders. They were very surprised at the appearance of the motorcycle. I ask about the possibility to spend the night in one of the trailers. A couple of questions to understand who I am, and they escort me to the trailer where there is a bunk. I take a sleeping bag, food and the minimum necessary things. Finished with tea I went to the banya (sauna). After a cold road, hot steam and a bed seem like real dreams, which have come true!
"Gentlemen, here is the first star appeared in the sky, I haven't seen stars since May"
— said a gray-haired, strong men about the first dark nights
August 20. Having slept well, I set off in the direction of the village of Ilirney. The road goes along the top of the hills, and ends with a bridge under construction over the Maly Anuy river. On the bridge i can go to the village on foot.
Ilirney is a national Chukchi village with 250 inhabitants. Judging by the empty streets, all the people are located in the tundra and on the river.
In the village, it smells nicely like smoked fish and there are a lot of dogs. They look at my appearance in amazement.
Returning to the motorcycle. I put on one more layer of warm clothes, on what the weather also has, what to answer to me - snow falls.
Snow and wind drive me out of the valley. Ahead 170 km to Bilibino and several large rivers that I will need to cross. After the pass, the snow stops, it becomes warmer, the tundra again returns to bright colors instead of the snow blanket left behind.
Crossing the river Yarakvaam. After it begins the hills with steep ascents and descents. On the next big river I leave to the right. Nam-Nam river with a monument to the driver who drowned in it. At the beginning of summer, these rivers are very dangerous due to the high water and strong currents.
First, I walk a ford on foot, then I carry bags to the other side and then I ride a river on a motorcycle. Three hundred meters away, hearing the sound of a motorcycle, a pack of wild deer runs away. After the snowy wind in the Ilirney valley, a little rain now does not bother at all. I wanted to come to terms with the weather, and now I am really calm, the fear is gone.
The rain again goes into the snow with fog. Yellow trees appear on the bright red tundra carpet. I stop under a wooden bridge, where, hiding from the rain, I prepare myself a royal dinner with a dessert for celebrating the achievement of the goal of my trip.
The town of Bilibino lives by the fact that here is the only nuclear power plant in the world in the permafrost zone, supplying electricity to human settlements in the region and gold mining deposits.
I need to find out whether the Kolyma River is navigable to bring the bike back to the mainland. I called the Kolyma shipping company. The answer to the delivery to Magadan is negative. This year the bike will not be taken due to the shallow water in the river. Kolyma is most navigable at the beginning of summer during the flood.
August 23. Last day in Chukotka. Bought a plane ticket. Before we prepare the motorcycle for wintering in Chukotka, we go with local motorcyclists for the Krutoy pass to the abandoned gold-ore mines.
In the evening I take off the battery from bike, sort out all the things. Motorcycle roll into the container.
With a small track on the map ends a long and difficult journey to one of the most remote regions of Russia. I take with me the cold and harsh beauty of the Arctic, the bright sunsets and the silence of the autumn tundra, the noise of the wings of cranes and the glances of running deer, the clear water of hundreds of rivers and the desire to return.