“Lake Mainitz. This lake of tectonic origin is located near the northern spurs of the Mainopylginsky Ridge of the Koryak Upland. The name comes from the Chukchi Mainygytgyn – “the Big Lake”.
The maximum depth is 120 meters. The area is 60 sq. km. The waters are inhabited by a huge amount of fish – char, grayling, burbot, coregonus, broad whitefish. In summer, Mainitz becomes one giant spawning ground for sockeye salmon. The shores and foothills of the nearby mountains, overgrown with cedar-elfin and alder forests, are the real kingdom of the brown bear”.
This is how our report on the trip to Lake Mainitz began three years ago. As it seemed then, it was our most difficult expedition. It contained everything that, for years afterwards we remember with a sense of satisfaction, as a duty well done. But as often happens, over time, this satisfaction turned into passion. Passion to experience it again. Again, feel the elastic tremor of technology under you, feel the heaviness of the path and the joy of the route passed.
Our usual summer began in winter, with long disputes over the map. The main question of these disputes was – where to go?
The winter days flew by. We lazily went through the options: we can try Vankaren, or we can go through the tundra to Geka Land, or we can agree on a transfer on a barge to the Rarytkin Ridge, but also, we can… It was especially nice to think in the evenings, when the wind scrubbed the window glass with a snow float, and the blizzard knocked down rare passers-by. Slowly, an idea began to emerge. While still completely unformed, it hovered in the air, glistening with lakes and rivers, and curled in the corners of the room with a mysterious greenish fog, resembling an elfin cedar.
Finally, the word was told – “Mainitz”. Lake Mainitz.
The approximate plan of the expedition is as follows. The minimum is to reach the lake, the maximum is to check the possibility of a route to the village of Beringovsky. And there you never know, how the chip will fall, it may even be possible to reach the village fast and simple. As events later showed, the chip can easily lie on the edge.
Keeping in mind how much effort, nerves and torn cables were spent in the last UTV expedition, this time we decide to go only on quad bikes (ATVs). The whole June and half of July were spent on preparing new equipment and making trailers or carts. We made one cart ourselves, the second one was ordered on the mainland. The factory cart was terrifying for its size and the cost of transportation. Together we brought it to the desired conditions, leaving only the carrier, wheels and hubs from the original design.
Abnormal weather this summer has also affected Chukotka. And very much so! A month and a half of rains. No not like this. A month and a half of freaking rains! Powerless anger at the water pouring from the sky has long grown into a dull irritation. Gloomy poking around in the garage, bringing the technique to perfection. For the hundredth time, hopeless thoughts about swollen rivers, big water, soggy swamps were spinning in our heads… It seemed that our expedition was covered with a copper basin before it even started.
There are thoughts full of decadence that this may be for the best, as the team of the expedition still cannot be formed. Kolya was the first to hand over the trenches. This bad person will not be able to go – he has a lot to do in a new job. He repentantly hid his eyes, under our snide remarks that there he is, as it turns out: “And not a friend, and not an enemy, but something not really known…”. Trying to beg forgiveness, in his free time he helped with the packing, patiently listening to our thoughtful reasoning about how people die for metal and the text of the finished dissertation on the topic “On the innate fear of some individuals to leave their comfort zone.”
Jokes aside, but there still was no third member of the expedition. The travel plan was bursting at the seams. Already bestial of despair, we began to slowly develop a plan for two, although both of us understood that this is practically impossible.
But it turned out that not everything was so hopeless. Artem appeared on the horizon – about five years ago, he was a participant in our first trip to the village of Egvekinot. His only problem was that he does not have his own technique, which we solved simply – there are enough free quad bikes.
As if only waiting for this, the weather began to improve rapidly. The sun, generously paying for its previous sins, fried with might and main.
The camp trumpet suddenly began to sing at full volume, and the pre-launch fever seized us completely. The numbers on the calendar, as if enraged, screamed: “Hurry up, hurry!” Tundra lakes, the silvery strings of the rivers, stones at the fords, passes, and mountains are waiting for us!
Finally, all the ups and downs of the fees ended. All dozens of times outweighed, counted, stacked, tied, rammed. Late in the evening, with cast-iron heads, we crawled home.
Let’s hit the road tomorrow!
Let’s start. I can’t even believe that all this hassle is over.
“To freedom! To the pampas!” – Igor shouted. We supported him with a mighty scream. With a joyful roar, the quads rush forward from the spot.
That’s it, the journey begins.
Straight ahead is the hill of Dionysius.
25 km of the road ends, and the tundra joyfully opens its arms to us.
Scrabbling for the Bald Ridges.
We climb up. The Bald ones greet us with an expectedly good road, driven by all-terrain vehicles.
The cliffs stretch in an endless long ridge. After passing them, almost completely, we begin to turn left on the all-terrain road, keeping a reference point to the gas substation. The road runs along a gas pipe buried in the tundra to the Zapadno-Ozernoye (Zero) gas and oil condensate field, located a hundred kilometers from Anadyr. Non-residential substations are located every twenty kilometers.
First gas station.
Covered with mosquitoes and midges, we beat the route. Hell. Snorkel pipes swallow the gnat with a whistle. The carts are in full swing, bouncing on the hummock and wobbling from side to side.
Ten days of heat did not affect the tundra in any way. The same blurry, squishy surface, mixed with hummocks and swamps.
It is not clear why, out of the blue, the white BruteForse, dragging the cart, boils spitting out antifreeze. While the quad is cooling down, we add more fuel and go forward again.
We get to the next substation. We begin to take away towards the Gitcheninkuul River bypassing the Sludge Swamp, so beloved by us in the last trip. The road laid along the river is broken and disfigured by recently passed all-terrain vehicles. Leaving behind a drunken dotted line of tracks, we move into the tundra, bypassing this mud bacchanalia. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how cautious we were, we nevertheless grasp the edge of this damned swamp, tightly planting the forward BruteForse there. With difficulty, having pulled it out of the bog, we row back to the river, rolling the brown mud with our wheels. Gurgling in the mud, we cross the road and carefully crawl along the very edge of the shore, cutting a road through the bushes.
Having reached a relatively dry place, we camp.
Mileage – 81.1 km; Travel time – 12 hours.
Morning did not bring us joy. The rain that began at night, only increased now. A strong wind gusts the tents with a wet palm. Reluctantly, we crawl out and climb under the shed to have breakfast.
Together we decide to wait for the good weather. Two hours later, a strong wind begins to disperse the rain haze. We pack, collect things, pick up tents, link carts. Check and refuel equipment. We find an empty expansion tank on the boiling Brute Force. We fill the fuel to the top, check the hoses – everything seems to be in order. While we were busy, an angry and prickly fine rain began to drizzle again. We put on our raincoats and move out at 12:00.
We squish forward, keeping to the all-terrain track.
The road winding between the lakes leads us to the Gechmytkukuul river.
Long story short, we reach the river, leave the road going to “Zero” and continue on, along the old geological road to the lower crossing.
Damn, some kind of Deja Vu. Just one hundred percent coincidence with the last trip, right up to the weather. 18 kilometers of a bumpy swampy track cut by many streams, as well as the ubiquitous hummock!
We were especially exhausted by deep stream with steep banks originating from Lake Bratskoe. We grinded our teeth, but kept moving forward.
I will not describe how we crawled through it – I’m afraid there will be a lot of swearing. To top it all off, I also caught a barrel buried in the ground with my quad protection.
But all the “good” things come to an end. Finally, here is the crossing. Such a wonderful crossing, by the way. Its distinctive feature is its stable knee-deep depth. It’s about seven o’clock, so we decide to break a camp. We fenced ourselves with equipment and set up a camp.
We have dinner, looking hopefully at the strip of clear sky on the horizon.
Mileage – 28.4 km; Travel time – 6 hours.
The morning is full of sunshine and warm weather. We pack up fast. The mood was spoiled by the white BruteForse – antifreeze was gone again; the expansion tank was almost empty. We fill the fuel to the top and look through all the hoses again. We find one loose hose clamp and tighten it, remembering the Kawasaki company with a quiet kind word. Well, let’s hope that the problem is solved – we do not have infinite antifreeze.
We move out at 8:00 o’clock. On this trip, we decided to act smarter – we did not burst directly through the swamps to the Burnt Tower, but from the crossing we turned left and scalded along a small, dry lump.
The road seems to be okay. For now, anyway …
The end of this “now”, however, was not long in coming. The road runs into a deep swampy channel. Searching for a crossing, measuring the depths… and the quads finally crawl to the other side.
The road continues to wind from hill to hill. A hummocky, dug-out tundra alternates with swamp eroded by streams.
Ruff Hill. You can hardly think of a more accurate name. A brown bump sticks out like giant thorns. Movement speed drops to a minimum. We patiently jump forward, scaring away broods of partridges hiding in the rut. Indignantly clucking, the partridges quickly scatter in different directions and disappear.
Well, we continue to drill the tundra further, looking wistfully at the array of mountains in the distance.
Cursing the leaping, bogging and overturning carts, with a fight, we move forward. We jump over the river of Avtatkuul – the water is just above the wheels. Happily grinning, we spark on.
Our joyful ride stops really soon. Driving around another swamp, we climb a small hill. We crawl like a turtle in the high grass. Pits, bushes, swamps… Barrels! I came across these scattered things in the grass with the Quad for three times! Damn geology! Damn it… Soon we run into some nameless swampy river. The result of a cursory inspection of the all-terrain crossing brought a brief verdict – we’re doomed.
We scour among tall bushes in search of an acceptable place for crossing. We find something similar about a hundred meters away. In this area, the river, bifurcated into two deeps but not wide channels, is densely overgrown with bushes. It’s a pity, of course, for the bushes, but it’s much more a pity for us. Having cut our way, we bridge it with gati branches. Climbing along them through the channels and straining to the colored circles in front of our eyes, we push the quads to the high bank.
Little by little, we reach the Burning Tower.
After plowing the swamp for another two hours, at 19:00 we get to the Nygchekveem river.
Here, among the dwarf cedar, on a cozy meadow covered with a soft pillow of lichen, we stop for the night. Wearily we set up our tents, have dinner. For dessert, we admire the gigantic sunset across the whole sky.
Mileage – 43.5 km; travel time – 11 hours.
In the morning, with difficulty, groaning like an old man, we get out of the sleeping bags. Yeah… we broke down a lot yesterday. We slowly pack up, check the equipment, gather everything. On the white BruteForse the same problem remained – the expander is almost empty. Desperate to find the reason, we just add antifreeze and jump into the saddle.
We are moving along the road near the Nygchekveem River.
The road is simply striking in its heterogeneity. There is everything here: streams, lakes, hummocks, solid rocky surface, well, swamps, swamps, swamps…
We go further through the mud. We can’t even remember how many times we got stuck. Many.
At 13:00 we crawl to the crossing. Here, near the descent to the river, our familiar prospectors had to stash cans of gasoline. Yeah, here’s the turn for the all-terrain vehicle; they said that they would also tie beacons from ribbons to cedar trees. Tried searching for the stash… We climb through the bushes for almost half an hour — no cans, no fucking ribbons. Having divided the plot into squares, we continue to search. Another half hour later, we come across canisters scattered in the wilds. “Oh, what the heck!” – Igor mutters angrily, spitting on the gnawed canisters pierced by bear’s claws.
Moving the barrel of my carbine from side to side, I scan the thickets with hatred. My index finger on the trigger was already cramped. If only one bastard decided to show itself… I’ll be damned. Usually the ubiquitous bastards have gone quiet…
We roll down to the river and fly to the crossing.
“Well, no freaking way!” – we exhale together on the shore. The hell with this water level! How will we cross?!
I put on my wades and, fighting the current, paddle forward. Having passed a third of the way, I turn around and start shoveling back. Can’t pass! A strong current lift and drag me downward, put my head in the water a couple of times. Soaked to the bones I try to crawl out onto the shore.
In frustrated feelings, having equipped the camp, we arrange a meeting. Whatever one may say, the crossing through Nygchekveem was the weak point of our journey. On the last trip we were just lucky – we were dragged by an all-terrain vehicle. And there was less water in the river. Much less.
The dream of finding another ford is not feasible because of the furry bear addicts. By the way, there also may be problems with returning home. If we do not cross the river, there will definitely not be enough gas for the return journey. No, we have a lot of fuel, but this “a lot of fuel” was located on Lake Mainitz.
There is nothing to do, we decide to wait for the water to fall, all the more the weather is favorable for this. Having placed our marks on the shore, we silently sit by the crackling fire, admiring the Kenkeren ridge, so close and so far away.
Mileage – 26.5 km; Travel time – 5 hours 30 minutes.
The first morning of our “Great Standing on Nygchekveem” began with a curiosity. A bear ran into on Igor and Artyom, who were washing their faces. Well, it not really ran at them after all, it was just walking slowly along the coast. It didn’t reach them about fifteen meters. The incipient conflict was corrected by the bear itself, which rushed into the bushes with fright, and I, who added acceleration to him from the carbine over the withers. We laugh and whistle after the shaggy little coward.
We check the placemarks and happy notice that the water has fallen. It dropped about fifteen centimeters overnight.
We have Breakfast and lie down on the spit to sunbathe. The weather is not typical for Chukotka. In the morning, it’s already +30 degrees. Such a fairy tale. Mosquitoes and midges almost disappeared crushed by the heat. We bask in the sun, not forgetting to look around.
The river is clogged with pink salmon going to spawn, and here and there we see fishermen bears wandering around. A couple of times we have to shoot, driving away especially arrogant clubfoot.
Artyom goes fishing.
In the evening, sipping whiskey, we sit by the fire and watch the Discovery Channel. One by one, they show episodes about the life of brown bears.
At night, having lit two giant, smoky fires, we fall asleep.
Mileage – 0; Travel time – 0.
It was really difficult to get up this morning. The night was intense. Nocturnal visitors, fast rises and night shootings were annoying. In the morning, everyone had a tortured look and a burning desire to thin out the local population a little.
We sleep in the afternoon, on the “beach”. The temperature is over thirty degrees. We dream sluggishly that suddenly the people from the mine will feel an urge to go to Anadyr. Well, hope springs eternal… They will drive up, and here we are – toiling at the crossing. And they’ll take us to the other side…
Yes, as they say – the fool gets richer with a thought. We even almost believed that help was about to come…
Meanwhile, the water continues to fall – it has gone almost half a meter. Right before our eyes. Toiling from idleness, we run to check the water level every hour, looking at a piece of torsion bar driven into the bottom.
Artem still won’t stop. The fisherman. Hehe.
In the evening, exhausted by the heat, we listlessly sipped whiskey, meditated and watched the sun set over Kenkeren. After watching the next episode of the endless bear series for the night, and having already lit three fires, we fight back and go to sleep.
Mileage – 0; Travel time – 0.
The night passed in the same vein. Such restless creatures. We might run out of ammo.
In the morning, we run to check the level. Wow! Wow! The water fell so nicely. We can really try crossing it.
We have breakfast. We put on the wades with Igor, and go ahead for a swim. Backing each other up, we slowly make our way forward. Damn, what a strong current! We skid but row further. Meanwhile, the water is slowly reaching a critical level. Shall we pass? Or shall we not?
Yes, we did it! We passed! We hear Artem’s triumphant cry from our shore.
We also go back without any problems. Everyone is in joyful anticipation – we are completely tired of sitting in one place. During the day, the water will still fall, so we will be crossing tomorrow.
After lunch (by the way it’s the third day we crack on fish saving supplies) we begin to pack. We are conducting an audit. So, we really need to eat less, or we won’t have enough food, gas is also a problem — but that’s okay, we usually cook on the fire, alcohol is over — well, but maybe it’s for the best, also we are running out of mosquito repellent — but it’s fine, we are used to it…
As you can see, we are well prepared for the journey, joke on us.
By evening, having calmed down, we crawl over the tents to sleep.
In the coming twilight, our camp, surrounded by a ring of fires, resembles a besieged fortress.
Mileage – 0; Travel time – 0.
Finally, it’s morning. We gather and pack, remembering the events of last night with laugh. As we fell asleep, we heard the endless movement around the camp, then Artyom pleaded for a shot, as I at the next alarm, broke up the tent, tripping over the tripwire, and almost fell into the burning fire…
When we have finished packing, we have once again worked out the plan for the upcoming crossing. Its main difficulty will be alloyed on a braid. The current, at the place of the crossing, accelerates from the opposite bank, twisting, rushes to our bank, bypassing the desired spit. So, an error of just a few meters may threaten us the loss of a quad. So, we make the following decision. From the opposite bank, as far as possible, we stretch the cable to ours. Igor with one end of the cable on the bank, Artyom with the other end in the river. We’ll pull up a quad bike with a cable to the winch hook and try to move forward floating. Igor at this point will pull up the cable, correcting the direction of the floating quad. We do not knit cylinders for obvious reasons, except for one on the bumper, so to speak, to facilitate the search for a drowned man.
We discuss all the little things again. It seems that everyone agrees, except that Artyom is shaking a little.
“Don’t be afraid, fellow, we’ll save you no matter what!” – we cheerfully promise him and begin to prepare for the swim.
Having crossed two trips to the opposite bank, Artem and I wander back, stretching the cable behind us.
As I struggle, I suddenly notice that I’m not walking, but just skidding in place. What the…! Is that how the cable sails? Struggling with the current, I turn around and see a rope curved in an arc and Artyom, who flails along the current like a flag of surrender clinging to the rope.
Encouraged by the power speech I gave him, he concentrates and we, having made a double dash, jump out aground. Leaving him to hold the taut cable, I hurry to the quad bike. I jump on it and drive it to Artyom, who is exhausted from the load. He clings to the quad and …
“Come ooooon!!!” – rushing along the stream, literally choking with adrenaline, I shout, either to myself, or to the river, or to the quad, or to Igor, running with a rope along the bank.
Almost at the spit, Grizzly howls, and begins to slip, splashing water from the variator snorkel. I jump off the quad, and together with Igor we push it to the shore. Cursing our stupidity, we drain the water. Why didn’t we stretch the snorkel clamps for three days of idleness?
After spending an hour and a half checking and twisting the snorkels of both BruteForses, Artyom and I dragged the cable from shore to shore again. More screams, nerves, shouts, and a frenzied mad slalom down the stream.
After crossing the quads through the river and leaving the exhausted Artyom on the shore, together with Igor, we drag all our belongings on ourselves.
It takes a long time to figure out what to do with the carts. Probably already numb with fatigue, for some reason, we disassembled one of the carts and dragged it in parts to the desired bank.
With the second, we decided not to bother, and again stretched the cable, and dragged it across the river with a quad.
Come on, darling!
Exhausted, we crawl along the bank, preparing for the road. Eight hours. Eight hours of crossing. There is practically no strength left, apparently the fish diet is also affecting here. Correctly, the Chukchi say that – “Fish is a light food for the stomach, but legs do not go uphill”.
Finally, having laid down, we move on.
After skipping through the dry, elfin-covered hills, we burst out into the operational space with a roar. Well, finally, there is a holiday on our street!
Breaking through a completely overgrown section of road, we fall out to an abandoned Canadian base. In the early 2000s, a Canadian firm tried to mine gold here. However, the company quickly collapsed and now once quite a decent room with an equipped kitchen, sauna, shower cabins and much more, slowly dies, falling apart and growing into the tundra.
Leaving behind clouds of dust that obscure the sky, we quickly make our way to the pass along the road squeezed by the mountains. The mood is nice. It seems that even the boulders of the mountains are looking at us with joy.
Rumbling carts over the stones, we climb to the pass.
The Pass Through.
Hurrying to get to the lake before dark, we roll head over heels from the pass. Around a bend to the right, the edge of the lake suddenly flashes like a bright pennant of victory.
Already at dusk, breaking through the dense thickets of alder and cedar, we leave for the balok (Chukchi’s fishing house) standing on the shore of the lake. Unpacking, we happily chatter about nothing, maybe from an excess of feelings.
After dinner, we stand for a long time in silence by the balok, enjoying the wild nature and ringing silence, looking at the freely spread lake surface of Mainitz and Yanranai mountain, surrounded by a pale halo of clouds.
Mileage – 49 km; Travel time – 5 hours 30 minutes.
We finally got enough sleep. The first time in four nights, we didn’t have to listen to every rustle and fly out of the tent with a cork, gripping a carbine.
The weather is fabulous.
After having a snack, we leave Artyom in balok, and as we pack lightly, we decide to reach the abandoned mine Kenkeren, where our friends work. Skipping the remains of the mine and slipping through the maze of hills, pitted with quarries, we get to the prospector’s base. The people are genuinely happy to see us.
Ten minutes later, working hard with spoons, we tell the guys about our adventures. Gradually, the conversation turns to the next part of our trip, to Beringovsky. Listening to Volodya, who went to the village in an all-terrain vehicle last year, our mood deteriorates sharply. According to him, the situation is as follows: there are two roads, one along the tundra, the other along the river beds. No one has been walking on the tundra for a long time, and according to rumors, part of it passing through the hills was generally licked by a landslide, and hell knows where to look for a detour.
Last summer he traveled along the river road, but there are three crossings more serious than through Nygchekveem, on which he roamed freely, plus a bunch of holes and a serious current. Given that last summer had a record low water level, the conclusions can be made disappointing for us. We sit thoughtfully at the table. Volodya and Kostya cautiously suggest – “Maybe it’s not worth it guys, huh?”
We leave back loaded with food. After learning that we are running out of food, the guys generously share their provisions. We approach the lake. At the balok looms emaciated Artem. We disassemble the brought treasures: potatoes, onions, stew, sweets… Oh, what a luck!
We did the chores until evening. We service equipment, wash, clean…
In the evening, after chopping up fried potatoes with stew, we sluggishly try to philosophize about the meaning of life.
Mileage – 36 km; Travel time – 4 hours.
In the morning, after a quick snack, we go fishing. We hit the water with a spinning rod with no result. Fish doesn’t bite.
Cloudy and stuffy weather allows midges to roam with might and main. An hour later, gnawed to the blood, we tumble into the balok. Draped in tight clothing, we launch the boat, lying on the shore, and set off to sail. We tried to swim to the island, where a char is usually spinning, but with these stubs, instead of oars, it is unrealistic.
We return and, having pulled out a small net from the balok, grinning maliciously, we put it in the lake, opposite the balok. Well, now let’s see who gets in…
After a while, we rake it out to go through the net. The net is completely packed with sockeye salmon, whitefish and coregonus. Part of the fish is released — we do not need so much. The rest, after processing it on the shore, we drag in the balok. We fry, cook, rumble caviar…
Late in the afternoon, a downpour started. After eating too much fish, with thoughts of good weather, we pass out.
Mileage – 0; Travel time – 0.
By morning, there was no sign of the downpour. Over breakfast, we decide what to do next. After a small debate, we decide to try to rush to Beringovsky. Today we will stop at the mine, agree on a gas filling and take a little ride on the road ahead of us.
Frightened by the demand that if he wants to continue driving, he must weigh at least 75 kg, Artem is working hard on his mass.
We pack up and, taking a bag of fish with us as a gift, we move on.
Ahead of us is the former Kenkeren mine.
After a lot of twisting in the confusion of quarries, we drive up to the base.
In short, so as not to distract people from work, we inform them about our plans and, having found out where it is better to jump out on the all-terrain road to Beringovsky, we leave.
After searching the tundra a little, we find the road. Trampled by all-terrain vehicles on hills and rocky tundra, the road is almost perfect. It’s just a pity that this road ideal ends after eight kilometers, and instead only the direction remains.
On the course is Mount Utes.
Enjoying the weather, we roll along the tundra along the Kenkeraveem River. From time to time we taxied to the bank, examining the river. It’s really deep!
A mountain with an interesting name, Poteha (Fun).
Having almost reached the Cliff and considering that it is not good to eat much gasoline, we turn back.
“Witch” circle in the middle of the tundra.
Having reached the mine and having agreed on the account of tomorrow’s gas filling, we return to our balok.
Along the way, Artyom anxiously reports about incomprehensible knocks and clicks coming from the quad during the ride. We get to our balok and urgently begin to find out the essence of the problem that has appeared. The conclusions are not comforting – the outer grenades of the rear drives are dying. It is not clear how long they will last. But given the conditions… We’re doomed.
We don’t even mention Beringovsky anymore, only wishing we will be able to reach home. Risk is certainly a noble cause, but this is not the case.
We decide the following. Refueling and packing for tomorrow. The day after tomorrow we’ll start our returning trip home. We completely unload the disabled Grizzly – it will go light. I’ll hook Artyom’s cart. I think Yamaha will get home safely, how can it not.
We spend the whole evening fishing. After eating canned food only, we ultimately demanded fresh fish. And a lot of fresh fish. We set the net and, while the fish is being caught, we reflect on the vicissitudes of fate.
After sorting out the net and processing the caught fish, we fall asleep.
Mileage – 51 km; Travel time – 7 hours.
In the morning, leaving Artyom at the balok, Igor and I go to the mine to get fuel. Having reached the mine, we pour fuel into cans and warmly say goodbye to the guys. Our friends one last time tried to load us with food, but we fight back as best we can, even though these very products would be very much appreciated since we have almost nothing left. It’s awkward, damn it. But we’ll make it through somehow. We’ll be at home in four days, but these people will stay here until the end of October to work hard. We agree only on four gas cylinders and a loaf of bread. Oh, I also beg for a liter of antifreeze, the white BruteForse continues to eat it up. We reach the balok and spend the rest of the day preparing for the upcoming road. Refuel, pack, wash… In general, it was really a busy day. In the evening we fall asleep early, tomorrow we will be on the road.
Mileage – 36 km; Travel time – 3 hours 30 minutes.
We get up early. The weather is beyond praise. We gather at the pace, fit in, and link up. We start at 7:30 in the morning.
Until next time, Mainitz!
Having passed the cedar-alder barrier with a bang, we fly out onto the road.
Slowly we storm the long pass.
Such a beauty!
After speeding up on the descent, we roll on. Despite the carts, the road on this section allows you to move at a decent speed. Today we have a plan to cross the Nygchekveem, so we don’t have much time, we need to hurry. We will cross in another place, upstream, but in the same direction — rafting on the spit.
Somewhere at the entrance to the Canadian base, I stop to wait for the stragglers. They are really taking their time. I go back and see an inverted quad and Igor sitting next to it, his face gray with pain. I find out that when he fell on his side, his leg was twisted and pinned between the rear wheel and the footrest. Carefully pull off the boot. Damn it! What the actual hell… The leg in the ankle swells before our eyes, turning blue. Looks like a fracture. While Igor, throwing painkillers into himself, enjoys the ammonia, we take a splint out of the first-aid kit and apply it. Pulling the liner out of the boot, we carefully pull it over the leg. It turned out fine – it sits tightly, like in a cast.
“Igor, how so? It was so out of the blue…”, — we are questioning Igor who has come to his senses. Rather, he didn’t understand it himself. But, in fact, it is clear how it happens — you relax for a second and that’s it. You’re lying with your wheels up.
We turn over the quad with Artyom and conduct another castling — Igor and Artyom exchange the quads… Ah, what the hell… Why now… Why it happened before the most difficult section! It seems that the journey ceases to be languid.
If it wasn’t for the GPS, we wouldn’t have found the right turn to the ferry. “And this happened, apparently, so that we don’t think we are in a fairy tale,” – I mutter sarcastically to myself, burying my face in the solid wall of the cedar tree. This road was never good, but it was never this overgrown in three years…
Breaking into the bushes with a crash, we fly straight into the swamp. Oh, man! And how did we pass through here before?! Where even are we?! Why the GPS track clearly shows the correct direction?
The pathetic ghost of the road leads us… but who am I kidding, it doesn’t lead us anywhere, we are pushing ourselves, kneading this damned swamp between mounds studded with elfin trees.
Where to next?
Having lost one “horsepower” in the person of Igor, Artyom and I have to give our best. We are not driving, but dragging, pushing, pushing again… The carts “help” us with might and main – they get stuck, turn over, cling to everything they can. Beasts!
Having dumped out of the swamp, we stumble into deep streams overgrown with willow trees. What the hell is that again?! For the life of us, we don’t remember any streams here. We push forward with a bang. Quadr, skidding, hang on bushes sticking out of the water. It’s not tundra, it’s some damn South American jungle. Together with Artyom, cutting a road through waist-deep water, we drag our caravan forward.
Machete is a great thing, after all!
Finally, at 15:30 we get out to the ferry.
“God damn it!” – we groan in doom, looking around the wide flood of the river. Having pulled on the fords, we squelch to the opposite bank.
“God damn it!” – we groan in doom, looking around the wide flood of the river. Having pulled on the fords, we squelch to the opposite bank.
The level is critical, but we can move, the trouble is that the quads will have to be launched into the river afloat from a depth, above the crossing, otherwise they will be carried by the current past the spit.
We stretch out the snorkel, pump up the cylinders and unload the carts. The first to start the swim was Grizzly, I perched on it together with Igor. Having plunged into the water, we slowly drift to the shore. Well, it was okay…
Leaving Igor on the shore, I paddle back and launch BruteForse into the water. I do not know what happened, maybe because of the larger size of the wheels, maybe I missed the race, but the quad quickly became afloat, briskly rushed downstream, not obeying the steering wheel. Trying to level his course we almost turned over. With difficulty I level the quad, and finally, catching the wheels on the bottom, I jump out of the river with a roar.
On the next swim I take Artyom with me, hoping to load up the quad. Hope dies painfully after the first ten meters. Dangerously swaying, buzzing quad, drags downstream. Suddenly something incomprehensible happens. Artyom then claimed that he just wanted to kill a mosquito on my back, and that’s all – but the quad suddenly swayed sharply, begun to rotate around its axis, the crossing point flew by and the current continued to drag it further, past the spit.
“Don’t even breathe, you, bastard!” – I shout to Artyom, trying to extinguish the rotation. On the next loop I see Igor, who jumps on one foot, rushing down the spit. But fortune is on our side today – at the last moment we manage to get closer and catch on the edge of the spit with the wheels.
Once again, breaking out of the hellhole, we nervously catch our breath. Lucky us!
Anxiously looking at the darkening sky, we drag carts and things across the river at an accelerated pace. We finish crossing at half past eight.
While we were fighting with the crossing, the sky was completely covered with clouds and a piercing wind arose. Little by little it starts to rain. Hastily shoving the junk into the carts, we rush through the bushes to the balok.
We barely manage to drag the junk into the balok when a downpour starts. Having settled down, under the roar of rain, we recall this eventful day. Remembering how Igor galloped along the shore on one leg, we unanimously baptized him into Silver. Igor likes the nickname. Silver, aka Ham, aka One-Legged, is grinning with satisfaction from his lounger.
“Who wants to have a heart-to-heart talk with me, gentlemen?” – he asks menacingly, and we make a nice crutch for Igor so that he doesn’t go out of character any further. In the best traditions of Treasure Island, we sharpen the edge with an axe – you never know, if you will have to pin some bear.
Rummaging through the balok, we find three expired packs of instant noodles. We brew it with a can of stew. Mmm… Such a nice way to end a day.
Mileage – 45 km; Travel time – 13 hours.
We were late with the start. Having assembled a meeting, we examine Igor’s leg. A blue swollen foot and ankle does not add optimism, but there is neither severe pain nor displacement, and this is pleasing. Okay, having passed the verdict that the patient is rather alive than dead, we again fix everything with a splint and an elastic bandage.
Once we are ready, we jump into the saddle.
“Set sail!” – Silver roars and we, slowly swaying, sail on the sea of cedar elfin.
For about an hour, we scramble between the hills in search of a road. Finally, we cling to it and, screeching engines, rush further.
And what a hell of a road it is – a swamp dug between the hills with a palisade of bushes, happily chomping, pulls all the veins out of us. After a couple of hours, Artyom and I were already exhausted. Wet legs cramp, back hurts. The carts are literally doing anything but moving. The apotheosis of this activity was Artyom’s cart, which we pulled out of the lake, where this beast happily dived from a small hillock.
But, despite everything, we continue to fight our way forward.
The diversity of the tundra in some places is simply amazing. Just a crazy ride for crazy ATVs drivers.
Continuing to play push-and-pull with Artyom, we gradually get out of the maze of hills. The exit was remembered for a battle at a pernicious stream with quicksand, in which one quad was almost buried. The rescued quad looked like… Well, it didn’t look like a damn thing! It didn’t look like anything, but some iron shit. Taking off the seat and seeing a sandbox instead of wiring, we mentally cross ourselves, and put it back: “Thanks God, it still moves, we will sort it out at home”.
Finally emerging from the hillocks, we begin to take away to the right, trying to taxi on our way. We fight further, skidding in a swamp with a giant hummock. In general, everything is as usual – we fight till we die!
It’s getting late. Having crossed, streams Zhemchuzhny and Poperechny (Pearl and Cross) without losses, we faced a dilemma – to spend the night in a swamp, never reaching the road or, despite the beginning of a twilight, still try to do it. Nobody wanted to spend the night in the swamp, so we decide to try. We try long and tedious. In the dark, by some miracle, we even manage to cross two channels. Another swamp and a cart overturned in it put an end to our heroic attempts. Looking longingly at GPS (damn, there is only 1.5 km left) we are trying to place tents on the hummocks. There are two liters of water left and only one can of stew for the three of us for dinner. Ah, it’s nothing, but we’ll live. Artyom refused to eat — he’s shaking from side to side, feeling sick, dizzy. He’s tired…
“Oh, IT guys these days…” — Igor booms in an old-fashioned way.
By nightfall it got colder. Having eaten and warmed up, we crawl to the tents. Artyom is drying a wet sleeping bag over the gas stove, and again tries to start his hurdy-gurdy about of the bears.
“Bears… Who cares about them bears…” – I groan, trying to settle down between the hummocks. Tightly wrapped in sleeping bags, we pass out.
Mileage – 36.5 km; Travel time – 12 hours.
We get up at 8:00 o’clock.
Reluctantly getting out of the sleeping bags, we gather near the gas stove. It’s cold, damn it. After a quick bite, we’re getting ready. At 10:00, we jump from the hummocks into the swamp like frogs. We row on the slurry further. Having drilled these ill-fated 1.5 kilometers, we splash out of the swamp onto the road.
And who, I wonder, was there? An all-terrain vehicle that recently passed along the road destroyed our entire route. There is nothing else to do, we hit a new one.
And again, a hummock, a swamp, a hummock… Artyom, who pushes carts, begins to look more and more like a scarab beetle, which has a cart instead of a dung ball.
Speaking of carts. During the trip, both of them have long earned names – Bitch and Bastard. Although they have a certain common set of characteristics, the nature of their actions on a person is different. Bitch usually likes to jump over bumps, thundering and ringing like a tambourine, looking for a moment to accelerate a somersault with a coup into the nearest puddle deeper. Bastard, however, acts more sophisticated – after waiting for the next swamp, the axle clings to everything possible, and then, when lifting or turning, it sharply pushes the quad, exhausted from the load, planting it deeper, tightly twisting the coupling device.
At the entrance to the Burnt tower, I catch a barrel in the bushes with a wheel. With a blow, the quad is thrown to the side. It seems that everything is okay, we move further (already at home we found out that the disk had burst from the impact, but in a sense, we were lucky — the cracked disk did not try to ruin our journey).
Igor is completely unhinged. He is silent and practically does not take photos.
Burning tower. Cyclopean structure.
We got to the Avtotkuul. We stock up on water, we never know where the road brings us to spend the night.
Ah, it’s not that bad of an idea to travel on an empty stomach. Cool even. I feel some kind of lightness formed in the body. If I didn’t feel sick from hunger, it would be absolutely wonderful.
We skipped hummocky rocks at a pace, while it’s not a swamp, we can burn a little faster. At 19:30 we are on the crossing over Gechmytkukuul. Suddenly it quickly got colder, damn steam is coming out of my mouth. Hastily putting up tents, we prepare food. At this time, we decided not to be petty and thumped all our emergency ration into the pan — the last pack of pasta with a can of stew. Artyom, who ate nothing since yesterday, now throws everything he sees in his mouth and eats with a great appetite. Igor and I don’t really want to eat, apparently, we got used to it, so we pecked a little. After drinking tea and rousing Artyom, who was dozing off embracing the pan, we fall asleep.
Mileage – 52.1 km; Travel time – 9 hours 30 minutes.
We get up at 6:00 o’clock. Having finished off yesterday’s pasta leftovers with enthusiasm, we hastily pack our supplies up. At 9:00 o’clock, strainingly humming, we once again continue our epic journey.
Having crossed the river, we dive into another swamp with a chomp. On the sixteenth day, all these swamps are already home to us, like a thorn Bush to Brother Rabbit.
Fighting with leaping and wobbling creatures (I mean the carts), we knead the tundra dough further. At some point, I catch myself thinking gloomily: “As soon as we get home, I’ll throw these two bastards off the cliff into the estuary. Although no … This will be too easy on them… I better rip up the plastic troughs with a sledgehammer, and shred everything else with a “grinder”. I wish I could get the explosives, otherwise I would have given them a reincarnation…”
We get out to the section of the road Zero-Anadyr. This is where such a bad luck comes from! It seems that a tank column passed along the road. The torn, shredded, squelching tundra gleams faintly with the brown windows of the swamps. Not being able to walk along the track, dangling, we jump along the bump next to us, periodically diving into the sucking slurry.
The carts, apparently having a presentiment of imminent death, are coming off with might and main.
At last, we get to the Gitcheninkuul river. The road creeping along the river looks like a cesspool. Showering curses on all-terrain ghouls, we trudge along it at a truly snail’s speed.
As soon as we reached the next gas substation, we stop for a meeting: “We should find a shelter for the night, it’s already late…” “But it’s only fifty kilometers left to Anadyr…” “And so, what…? ” “So that twenty-five of these kilometers we’ll drive on the road…” “And what about the rest of these kilometers? Twenty — five on the tundra is a hell of a lot, too…” “Yes, I don’t argue, but the daylight still allows…” “If we get to the Bald Ridges by the dark, we can easily get in trouble… It would be nice to get closer to Dionysia, before dark…”
We look at each other in silence. We look really bad – unshaven cheeks have sunken in, an unhealthy shine in our eyes. The picture is complemented by wet, dirty clothes and worn out hands, twisted in the shape of the steering wheel. We look like real tundra tramps.
Sitting obliquely on a quad, Igor sums up, waving a crutch: “Why even thinking? Let’s go!”
Hastily draining the rest of the crackers, we climb on the exhausted quads. After kneading the tundra with our wheels, we climb the Bald Ridges. We pass them in a good mode, since the terrain allows. We stop on the descent. Yielding to persuasion, refusing and boozing, Igor still takes the final picture.
Here it is, Dionysia.
Literally sliding down the mud, already at dusk, we storm through the swamps to the hill. In total darkness, fumbling with the headlights and howling at a low speed, we get out on the dirt road. We jump off the quads with chattering teeth-frozen. Hastily unpacking the carts, we put on warm clothes.
Having accelerated, we roll stupidly along the road. There are no emotions, they are all lost somewhere in the tundra. In a head wadded with fatigue, the alarm is ringing: “Home, home, home!”
Having driven the equipment into the garage, we look at each other for a long time, stunned, not fully understanding that this is All. Our journey is over.
Mileage – 110 km; Travel time – 14 hours 30 minutes.
As Oleg Kuvaev once wrote: “…Every person has a nomad streak. Maybe it remained from the times when our fair-haired ancestors fought on bareback horses with cross-eyed Kipchak, sailed on tiny boats along the Black Sea, along the sun-burnt Scythian land, they believed in God and in the soul, making their way beyond the Ural, into the mysterious land of the Arimasps…”
Probably because of this very streak the heart begins to beat faster and painfully and incomprehensibly suck in the stomach when you, bending over the map, plot your future route.
Elgygytgyn, Pekulnei, Rarytkin, Vaamchegyrgen… These names, similar to shamanic spells, begin to attract you more and more, slowly circling in a whirlpool of coordinates, latitudes and contours.
And now, through the brown-blue jumble of lines on the map, it suddenly begins to appear: rivers seething with water, rocky mountain slopes, a champing abyss of swamps… The roar of the Quad bursts into your ears, the branches clicking on wings, the clatter of stones under wheels… Emerging from this kaleidoscope of images, you shake your head a little dazedly, trying to shake off this haze.
And you, frozen over the map, continue to dream of those beautiful places and incredible adventures, about which such a universe named Tundra whispers, with maternal tenderness.
And here, this streak of the nomad, subtly ringing a tuning fork inside, forces you to act. You at once find arguments for your wife not to go on vacation again, you’re scared, but the work is carried away to the second, or even to the third plan, and the head itself, with the accuracy of a computer, begins to calculate the mileage and the required amount of fuel and food.
And you, frozen over the map, continue to dream of those wonderful places and incredible adventures about which such a boundless universe named Tundra whispers softly, with motherly tenderness.