Go back to Russia.
Go back to A Failure.
Departing the mountains.
Some 3 hours later as we emerged from the mountains and onto the main road (this time following what looked like directions recommended to us by Evgeni), Sergei made a turn in the direction opposite to Bilibino. When we asked, he said a few things but only one word stuck in my brain: “rybachit”. “Shit, I think they’re taking us fishing” I told Shirley who speaks the second best Russian between the two of us. Shirley was doubting my linguistic skills until we pulled off the road and parked under a bridge next to a mid-sized river some 60 kilometers further. “Fuck, we ARE going fishing.” Resigned to our fate of boredom, we pitched our tent and went to sleep. Having apparently pulled an all-nighter, they were still out on the river in their waders when we woke up. Later that morning, we started driving towards Bilibino with another 3 or 4 stops along the way to do some more fishing and even one stop to do some panning for gold. We rolled into town in the afternoon. That night we enjoyed a home cooked dinner at Evgeny’s apartment and polished off a bottle and a half of whisky. The long walk back to the hotel (~8 minutes) was positively epic as I tried to keep up with Shirley who was cold, sober and jogging.
At Sergei’s compound.
With an unexpected extra day to kill in Bilibino (we could’ve been climbing), Vadim had told us that he’d take us sightseeing. In the morning, one of Vadim’s drivers – Vanya – showed up and we set off to see and experience all the highlights of Bilibino. These included driving up a hill with a decent view of town, visiting a children’s summer camp, and getting a tour of industrial green houses where some of the veggies available in stores are apparently grown. Our status as rare visitors from the outside world (from America no less…even rarer) was Vanya’s trump card that allowed us VIP access. When we asked him if we could get the same sort of tour of a military facility we spied just beyond the edge of town, he crossed his hands behind his lower back and leaned over the hood of the car. I guess not. We did however drive up to the gate of the nuclear power plant where we were allowed to take photos to our hearts’ content including tourist shots of the two of us (frankly, cooler than posing in front of Saint Basil’s). Vanya then took us to a bakery to pick up 3 loaves of bread. Now, keep in mind that Vanya knows 6 words in English (one of which is “America”) and I know 8 words in Russian (Shirley knows 3 but unfortunately those overlap with my 8). Anyway, I translated for Shirley what Vanya had told me: we were going for a picnic in a boat on a lake. I was pretty close but instead we drove 3 minutes to a small pond in-between two city blocks where we fed the bread to a flock of ducks.
Friendly canines of Bilibino.
At that point Vanya was clearly beginning to struggle – we were glancing the bottom of Bilibino’s highlights bucket. A moment of eureka: Vanya asked if we wanted to see a cow, the only one apparently in the arctic town. “Fuck yeah!” So we drove around a bit ending up at a compound on the edge of town. Though Vanya did not know the farmer, we nevertheless knocked on his door. He then delivered a similar monologue where I caught “korova” three times and “America” twice. The farmer’s face lit up and we were invited in. The farmer was named Vladimir and he spoke both Ukrainian and German (neither of which really helped us too much). As we were chatting, his wife Natasha began to set the table: homemade dairy products, cold cuts, fresh veggies and a bottle of Russian brandy. We were invited to eat and through a combination of Russian, Ukrainian, German and brandy, we learned that Vladimir had served in the Red Army where he was stationed in East Germany. He had also been a free style fighter (broken nose) and had apparently wrestled Putin back in the East Germany days (who apparently had been an excellent wrestler). Both of them also seemed to love dogs and have rescued quite a few homeless ones.
With Vladimir and Natasha.
While we were chatting, Natasha fried up a large, freshly caught fish. Honestly, all three of us were pretty stunned (and getting very, very full) – three strangers had knocked on a door and were invited in and treated to a 5 course meal. Another example of Russian hospitality we have been experiencing on the trip (albeit this was an extreme one!). As we were forcing down the last of the fish (did I mention being absolutely stuffed and getting a touch drunk?), Natasha showed us a rather large container of marinating shish kababs and promptly took them back to the kitchen. This was our sign to politely extricate ourselves before we exploded. We thanked Vladimir and Natasha profusely and – after getting a tour of the compound including a new house that they’re building – got in the car and drove out.
Right outside of Vladimir’s gate, the car died. We all had the image of being dragged back and made to eat the 5 kilograms of kebabs. We never got to see the cow by the way. That night we had another dinner at Evgeny’s place. This time Shirley did the cooking after another wild marathon across Bilibino’s many small stores in search of some ingredients. We thanked Evgeny for his beta, the bear spray and his wonderful hospitality and headed back to the hotel.
Look! Another car!!
Views of our mountain range from the main road (Aug. 2018).
For a full value Russian off-roading experience, one needs to (help) change a flat on a 10 ton Kamaz (Aug. 2018).
Fortunately we had help during the process…or at least an audience (Aug. 2018).
Told you we were going fishing!!
Pretty sunset (midnightish?) from our fishing camp (Aug. 2018).
Sergei setting up for a nightlong marathon of fishing (Aug. 2018).
Our fishing camp (Aug. 2018).
Views from near to our first fishing spot (yes, there’d be 2 or 3 more that day; Aug. 2018).
Killing time in the lowlands of Chukotka while Sergei and his copilot get their fishing in (Aug. 2018).
Let’s go burn some more shit (Aug. 2018).
Out of boredom, Shirley tried her hand at fishing too. Not so productive (Aug. 2018).
Giving it an honest go (Aug. 2018).
Fishing spot number two (Aug. 2018).
Checking out yet another fishing spot (Aug. 2018).
Fishing Chukotka (Aug. 2018).
One of the fishing spots was kind of a misfire (nothing) but provided a nice view of the mountains we had left the day before (Aug. 2018).
Another fishing spot we tried. All of these were along the main road from Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
The second (third?) fishing spot surpassed the harvest of the previous night in about 20 minutes (Aug. 2018).
And Sergei was happy (Aug. 2018).
An abandoned village along the road (Aug. 2018).
And then we stopped for more fishing?
No, Sergei went panning for gold (Aug. 2018).
Returning to Bilibino (a day prematurely; Aug. 2018).
Unpacking at Sergei’s compound back in Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
At Sergei’s compound (Aug. 2018).
Back in Bilibino, this is right outside of our hotel (Aug. 2018).
View of Bilibino from a hill we drove up to the following morning (Aug. 2018).
Town of Pevek on the Arctic Ocean coast – a mere 650 (adventurous) kilometers away (Aug. 2018).
Checking out the children’s summer camp with Vanya (Aug. 2018).
Posing with the director of the camp. She was quite welcoming and gave us a tour of the place (Aug. 2018).
Visiting the industrial green houses in Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
Bilibino’s nuclear power plant. We asked before taking the photo…no problem apparently (Aug. 2018).
Two wankers posing in front of Bilibino’s power plant (Aug. 2018).
Bilibino’s little museum (Aug. 2018).
Shirley admiring Chukotka in Bilibino’s museum (Aug. 2018).
Not quite the picnic on a boat on a lake…but I got the water part right (Aug. 2018).
Posing with Vladimir and Natasha at their compound. On our final day in Bilibino, our driver Vanya took us on a tour of the town which included knocking on Vladimir’s door (whom he does not know) in order to see the only cow in the Arctic town. We were invited in and treated to a 5-course meal of home made cheese, meats, fried fish and fresh veggies. 2.5 hours and a liter of Russian brandy later – my Russian having improved considerably along the way – we learned that Vladimir is an ex-freestyle fighter who had served in the Red Army in East Germany which apparently included having wrestled with Putin. Typical example of extreme hospitality we experienced in Russia (Aug. 2018).
Two of the pups rescued by Vladimir…there were more in his compound. If there ever was a litmus test for human nature, love of dogs might be an excellent candidate (Aug. 2018).
…and then our car died right outside of Vladimir’s gate (never saw the cow either).
We enjoyed Evgeny’s hospitality during two dinners and got to try some Russian beer (Aug. 2018).
Even we could see the shrinking of the daylight hours during our brief stay in Chukotka. Here we are returning to our hotel from dinner at Evgeny’s. Shirley’s running while I’m trying to keep up in a slightly incapacitated state (Aug. 2018).
Strolling through town (Aug. 2018).
An UAZ in Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
Strolling through Bilibino on our last morning in the town (Aug. 2018).
A handsome sobaka in Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
Another UAZ with a case of Finskaya (Aug. 2018).
At the hotel (hostel?) in Bilibino (Aug. 2018).
Waiting for Vanya to take us back to the airport (Aug. 2018).
Go to The Return Trip.
Go back to Russia.