An icy post.
2017-10-26 (day 283)
The trip back to the “what-to-do?”-point took another 4 days. The route was exactly the same as the route to Vladivostok. 3 nights in the car between the trees, one night in Khabarovsk, in the same hostel.
2017-10-29 (day 287)
A few kilometers before the junction it started snowing. It was also cold so the road quickly turned white. I turned right, towards Yakutsk. It was getting dark and the sky cleared up a bit. Everything turned a strange kind of purple. It felt weird going north in stead of west. A good kind of weird. 15 minutes after some shopping in the strangest shaped building I’ve ever seen (sort of bent like a banana, which made my brain trip a bit) I turned into the forest again for a rest.
2017-10-30 (day 288)
Yup, Kyolma highway is cold, even on the first day. Temperatures started dropping in the first meters to the north, and the landscape turned winter wonderland. About 300-something kilometers into the day trip, Brutus started acting up. When climbing or accelerating, the engine would stall. Two times, it would even switch it self off. Not a good sign when entering winter wonderland. But, I remembered that it had been a while since I had new air and fuel filters installed. When I flushed the fuel filter sink, a lot of water and dirt came out. So I went back to the previous town, about 20 km back. I found a tire repair shop who was willing to help me out the next day. So I decided to camp on the drive way. It was the first night I slept in the car with the engine on. The temperatures dropped to about -20 ºC.
The next morning, the tire guy came back, and with some difficulty helped me replace the fuel filter (I brought a spare). There was no air filter around so he cleaned it for me with an air hose. A lot of Mongolian dust filled the Siberian air. When we were done, he wished me good luck with my trip, and didn’t let me pay for anything. Russians man… I didn’t get too far that day. The road was icy and I saw a bunch of trucks which had slipped off the road into the forest, so I took it easy. I parked right next to the road and spent another night with the engine running. My estimate is that it takes a bit less than a liter of diesel per hour.
2017-10-31 (day 289)
This morning at 6:30 I was woken up by someone knocking on my window. I opened the door and a snow plower guy summoned me to come have breakfast in his trailer. Apparently he had also spent the night there and ad made a heavy pasta breakfast to start his snow plowing shift with. His colleague had just finished a 12 hour shift and it was his turn. We conversed a bit in Russian / sign language and had a few laughs. The pasta was quite good, and the coffee strong! After taking some pictures, exchanging gifts and packing up the car, I set of to an early start. 400 km left to go to Yakutsk with an average temperature of -22. Arriving at the Lena river was amazing. Large swaths of ice moved by slowly while small open water parts were steaming off residual warmth. I knew there is no bridge over the river, but hadn’t considered the following: There was too much ice for ferries to go, and too little for an ice road over the river. After some deliberation I decided to go look for a heated garage for Brutus and try to go to the other side by air boat and hover craft. I asked at a guesthouse in the town on the east side of the river. The main guy spoke reasonable English and told me I could use his garage. Also I was not to worry about money, and the amount of days, and he also offered to take me to the air boats. Again, unprecedented and unexpected kindness! The air boat ride was awesome. In the middle of the river we had to transfer to a hovercraft. This one took us to the other side, and into a side river until it broke down. We waited for 10 minutes until another one picked us up and brought us to the edge of the city. I contacted someone on Couchsurfing a few days before who allowed me to stay a few days. But we could only meet in the evening so I decided to go to a pub and ended up having a few drinks with a couple of locals. Funny (drunk) guys :). After that I walked to Nariyana’s place. She had worked all day and we had a beer together before turning in for the night.
2017-11-03 (day 292)
It was good that Brutus was inside. The temperature this day went down to -34 ºC. I walked around town for 5 or 6 hours, getting some parts for Brutus, going to the cryogenics museum (for free! :)), and taking some pictures, before heading back to the flat. It’s actually not even that cold for Yakutsk. The temperature in mid-winter can drop to -65ºC. Sushi and beer time! Naryiana came home very late but we still managed to talk a bit and have a few drinks together.
2017-11-04 (day 283)
Time to leave Yakutsk again. After a final stroll through town, I walked back to the hovercrafts. There was a big queue for the small amount of hovercrafts that were going. I ended up waiting for about 2 hours (at -32ºC ). The trip to the other side was awesome again. It’s just a very special feeling to cross a moving ice mass. When I arrived at the hotel where Brutus was parked, I called the owner to have some lunch with him. He offered me a free night at his hotel because he was enthusiastic about the trip. Yet another example of amazing generosity!
After that night I set off towards Magadan. I knew that I would not be able to make it there because of the Aldan river, which was in a similar state as the Lena river. 385 kilometers of icey roads and more trees later I arrived at the river side. There was a path over the ice to the other side, but there were no car tracks yet. So, that was it. The end of the road. From here it would be a looooong drive back home. No more detours or side adventures, probably :).