Part 5 – Bikerafting in Yakutia – We are back!
We are back. Happy, alive and healthy. At least we think so. Our brains still full of impressions and thoughts, we wont forget that journey to the far east of Russia too quickly. But to be honest, we will keep everything at a slow pace. In a chronological order we will talk about what happened. We not just took over a few thousand photos but also filmed a decent filling of storage cards. The aim of this journey from the start, was to create a film, a short documentary of our trip. It’ll take another little while but I will keep you guys informed as soon as there is something to see.
Starting from, yes, the start, we were confronted with a few hurdles. Higher and lower. But living by the motto: “It ain’t no use.“ we got up and went continued.
In advance it’s worth to say, that we weren’t actually in Siberia but in Yakutia. Similar to inhabitants of, well, Cataluña to the rest of Spain, Franconia to Bavaria, Scotland to England or other separatist movements, Yakutians want to be distinguished from Siberians. Yakutia or „Sakha Republic“ is also farther northeast than Siberia. Clearly.
28th of July 2018. It’s a little past six on a Saturday morning in Bavaria. We are in Romans fathers car on our way to Munich airport. A camper van that can fit our entire luggage of two 40 kilos heavy bike cases, two regular bags with 30 kilos each and another two bags of hand luggage with each 10kgs.
The sun, shining in theatrical manner across the hills of southern Bavaria, where the A9 the autobahn number 9 winds southwards towards Munich. Roman is sleeping in the back, Frank is driving, I’m napping shotgun.
Shortly after, this highway will turn into the largest parking space north of Munich. A traffic jam, for miles. The school holidays have started and millions of cars creep towards the south. We are not among them, because the early bird, you know…
Smiling, Romans father steps onto the pedals: Normally I can keep fuel consumption below 8 litres per 100k, but today I managed 8,6 litres.
He’s also the guy who helped us out on a big amount of planning. To the displeasure of Romans mom, he spent hours studying Russian maps, grades and flow speeds of the rivers we paddled on. Joining us on our journey, he supplied us with regular weather predictions, fun facts and occasional news from the outside world.
On a side note: many professional expeditions had outside help from Karl “Charly” Gabl, a meteorologist from Innsbruck. We had Franky from Erlangen.
We even gave him a proper title for his work: FBi – Frank Brünner Investigations. A great agency!
Still uncertain if we will be able to reach Russia, we reach the airline desk on time. I had spent many hours on the phone the past few days, receiving many different versions of what would be possible. No one seemed to have a clue, and we weren’t able to register our bike gear.
Obviously under pressure, we had packed our bags and bikes days before, saying goodbyes to our families and friends. Always with a slight notion that our trip might fail before it even started.
After a little while the airline desk manager finally comes up with an answer: Russian law prohibits check trough luggage of more than 50kgs on transit routes. In detail: We can only send our luggage to Moscow, were we have to leave the terminal, collect our luggage, run to the counter and check in again. With a sweet challenge of doing all that in under one and a half hours.
The desk manager bids his farewells with a distant “good luck”. A sentence we will hear a few times in Yakutia.
So while we repack our suitcases and sort everything a lot of things happen: at around 7am an unknown person breaches the security area of terminal 1 at Munich airport.
The terminal is evacuated and over 200 flights are cancelled. Seems like a lot of people have a bad start into their summer holidays.
The flight from Munich to Moscow is of no importance. During our approach to landing, our adrenaline level start to rise again. Roman and myself are silent for a while.
The plane lands and the tension remains. After a long time the doors open. The air outside is thick and wet with rain. My t-shirt clings to my body.
With busses we are sent to the airport building.
At passport control area, which consists of a few glass cubes, stiff looking women with huge peaked caps start looking at our passports. It feels like eternity. The woman keeps on looking at my visa. She makes a few comments. Is it fake? I have no idea. We had sent our passports to a business visa agency. Maybe it’s not real?
Maybe I should have cut my beard. I look like a terrorist? I mumble to myself.
The woman smiles bored and hands over the passport. I can go. Roma already collected our bags and we head of to find the airline counter.
The start of another odyssey.
At the expresscounter we try and convince another stiff looking chap. We need to hurry. The our left and right, hundreds of Russians cue to start their summer holidays.
Agains the summer heat, the AC seems to fail. I hope nobody can smell us.
The young blonde behind the counter, doesn’t understand a word of English. And we are not the keen Russian speakers ourselves.
After some arguing, she finally understands, what we want to do. Re-Check-in our luggage to Yakutsk. She asks us how we want to pay.
Roman and I look at each other. We already paid a decent amount of money in Munich. We will not pay anymore. It seems useless.
Out of nowhere, a woman turn up. She asks us, if we need help, and without waiting for our answer, she starts to translate. Shortly after, we name her “the angel of Moscow”. Not just for optical reasons.
She argues with the woman behind the desk and shortly after we receive our boarding cards. The airline woman is obviously happy to get rid of us and the angel, her real name is Irina, disappears into the crowd.
Happy to be able to board the plane to Yakutsk, we run back to the Terminal and everything for that part turns out well.
Funny, because our “angel of Moscow” seems to take the same flight.