Around Russia

Part 1. Arctic

For two years I have been looking for an opportunity to ride a motorcycle in the most northeastern region of Russia. Chukotka Peninsula is one of the most distant parts of Russia from Europe. This land still belongs to the wild and not to man.

Most of the territory of Chukotka is located beyond the Arctic Circle. Duration of winter up to 10 months. The whole Chukchi land is permafrost.

There are no summer roads to Chukotka. I chose the most exciting and unusual way of moving with a motorcycle to a tundra country, the Northern Sea Route. Two weeks on a freighter going from Arkhangelsk to Pevek through 5 seas of the Arctic Ocean.
The last days were completely gone to the preparations for departure. It was a familiar and exciting procedure. Lists were made, things were packed in water-proof bags that filled the floor in the room with their multi-colored rows.
I am going to Arkhangelsk, the oldest port of Russia, where a freighter Alexander Sibiryakov is waiting for me.
I'm going to the beach while the ship is loading. The sun warms as if it is the South, not the North, the colored jellyfish are thrown ashore, screaming fat seagulls, heated sand caresses the feet, and only very cold water, catching your breath, suggests that it is the White sea.
Route due to the slow melting of ice in the Arctic opens only on July 10. In the port, with the help of a crane, we raise the motorcycle to the deck, having determined a place under the roof, where salt water will not get in a storm. I was settled in the cabin with everything I needed: electricity, a bed, a sink with water, a window, a table, a wardrobe and even a sofa.
I get used to the daily routine, get acquainted with the team. 19 people are with me on board: the captain, his three assistants, sailors, mechanics, a cook, a doctor.
July 27. Woke up on the clock at 4:30 to find the exit from the port. The team is celebrating going to sea. Today is the first cloudy day for a long time, probably, it is a good sign.
July 28. At night, the ship crossed the Arctic Circle in the Barents Sea. We enter the ice zone in the Kara Gate - the strait between the islands of Vaygach and Novaya Zemlya, connecting the Barents and Kara Seas.

Having risen on the upper deck, I observe a bird circling monotonously above the ship. Large seagull, which clearly likes to catch the flow of warm air from the ship and soar.
It is a real polar day now when the sun is circling around the ship, not sinking beyond the horizon. The distance from Arkhangelsk to Pevek is 5170 km, according the laid course. According to this data should reach 10 days.
Traveling is a drug that makes me ride the bike over and over again. First I want to go back. There is a comfortable life, my family, deserving more attention. But over time, calm comes, confidence, and finally, the real joy of travel. It is a pity that any, even the longest journey ends very quickly.
The Arctic seas are incredibly beautiful, the water changes color depending on the height of the sun. When it is cloudy, the water is gray. By noon, the clouds diverge, the sun turns the gray water into a rich blue-green mass. The evening sun colors the water in a soft turquoise color, and the nightly low sun of the polar day makes it pink.
By the evening the ice was over. A strong wind begins, the cargo deck is flooded with water. Strong blow from the North, all compartments on the left side are closed.
Our ship carries construction materials to Chukotka, which otherwise cannot be brought to remote regions of the north.
August 1. It's been a week since we left Arkhangelsk. Ahead of us is the Vilkitsky Strait, which connects the Kara sea with the Laptev sea. The Strait is filled with ice. We cannot pass it by ourselves. Out of the fog shows nuclear-powered icebreaker Taymyr, which will accompany through the ice caravan of ships stuck here.
Outside the temperature is 0 degrees, the fog sometimes dissipates, reminding of the neighbors in the caravan. After lunch, the ice situation worsens, large ice often have to move themselves, constantly losing in the fog laid by the icebreaker path.
We go on the water of the fourth sea on our way. Finally, the fog cleared, which pressed us for several days with its grayness. I lost my orientation in the days of the week. Maybe this is the way to live. We are so skillfully robbing our time, as there is no time for thinking.
Entertainment on the boat includes a tennis table, a TV with a collection of movies, a library and a small gym. The main places where everyone meets during the working day are a smoking room and a dining room. Here you can always listen to interesting stories of sailors.
The New Siberian Islands have passed - the archipelago between the Laptev Sea and the East-Siberian Sea. The ice is about to begin, which does not correspond to warm weather at all. But rare lonely pieces of ice are already running towards us.
August 6th. At night, we tried to get to the point designated by the icebreaker. Our ship is stuck in the ice. We will stand here for a day, and maybe two. Soon there will be a month since I left home, and still can't get to Chukotka.
After breakfast, go out on deck to watch the quaint ice floes and enjoy the silence of the Arctic. From the north on the horizon is clearly visible the large island of Bennett with snow-covered hills.

It is rarely a quiet sunny weather here. Ice does not crunch, seagulls do not shout, the wind does not blow. Everything froze in mighty silence. Only the seal several times stuck his head out of the water, looked at the ship and did not show up again.
The beauty of this spectacle filled the soul with admiration and horror.
James Cook
If in the Kara sea we often met different ships, in the Laptev sea and East Siberian we seem to be alone. The second day we are waiting for the nuclear icebreaker.
Установите.

8 August. Atomic icebreaker Vaygach appeared on our radar. Our Captain gives the command - a small move to go out to meet the icebreaker. Taking a course to the southeast, Vaygach leads us through the ice of the last sea on our way.
At dinner celebrated the birthday of the boatswain, especially for this cook baked a cake. Wherever we go to travel, how exotic would not be the place, there are always live and work people for whom everything is not exotic, and the usual and boring routine. So here, on the ship, which for two weeks passes 5 seas of the Arctic ocean for sailors an ordinary day with ordinary icebergs and hummocks, ordinary water that changes color from the sun, ordinary animals, an ordinary polar day. At the boatswain it is the last contract, after this swimming he retires. For all the years of work in the sea, he made several trips around the world, sailing millions of kilometers.
Throughout the trip in the Arctic, the sun did not set below the horizon because of the polar day. But now it is suspiciously dark, which means we are moving south. I prepare the bike to descend to the ground.
11th August. After 14 days at sea, we finally moor to the final destination, to the most northern city of Russia - Pevek. On the slopes of the hills there are amazingly stone rocks - kekurs, over which cirrus clouds hang, creating unusual northern landscapes.
The military took the passport from the entire crew for an inspection. The vessel is preparing for unloading.
Finally, it comes to my bike. We safely lower it to the Chukchi land.
I pack my bags, say goodbye to the sailors. The feeling is incredible, the dream has come true, finally, I am riding a motorcycle in Chukotka!
Arctic
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