Travel from Yakutsk to Tomtor via Ust-nera

12/01/2007 - 13/01/2007

A flight of about two hours brings me from Yakutsk to Ust-Nera, a town of approximately 8000 inhabitants, from where the tour continues to Tomtor by car (the real overland expedition to Yakutia actually begins in Ust-Nera), crossing valleys, mountains and villages having the lowest winter temperatures of the northen hemisphere. This area is also sadly known for gulags and executions during the first half of past century.

Air Yakutia Antonov-AN24 Air Yakutia Antonov-AN24
The Antonov AN-24 used on the route Yakutsk - Ust-Nera. Because of the extreme low temperature, the engines are pre-heated by a truck bringing hot air through a huge pipe.

 

Flying over Siberia
Flying over east Yakutia.

 

Air Yakutia Antonov-AN24 Landing in Ust-Nera
Landing in Ust-Nera at -46 degrees centigrades, over a snow covered runway. The passengers take care of their luggage, loading and unloading it by themselves from the airplane (here there is no risk that your luggage is routed elsewhere by mistake!)

 

Ust-Nera, Yakutia Ust-Nera, Yakutia
Ust-Nera, Yakutia Ust-Nera, Yakutia
Photos of Ust-Nera, a town with approximately 8000 people living here. The temperature is holding at -46, but just one week ago it was -62.

 

The ice grows in quantity really everywhere!

 

 

Ust-Nera museum Ust-Nera museum
Gulag memorials in Ust-Nera museum Gulag memorials in Ust-Nera museum
A small, but nice and compherensive museum in Ust Nera. Top-left: the museum from outside. Top-right: a refurbished typical old yakutian house, taken from an ancient settlement. Bottom pictures: this region is also sadly known for the gulags and executions during the first half of past century. It is unknown how many pepole died here exactly, but is estimated that they were from 20 to 110 million, a really horrible thing that must never happen again, anywhere in the world.

 

 

Travel overland in Siberia Travel overland in Siberia
Now the real adventure begins, driving all the way back to Yakutsk, via the Pole of the Cold Oymyakon. The group is made by myself, a guide and two drivers. Of course, we have a satellite phone and lot of safety equipment. The car is very simple, no electronic parts at all... this lets people to fix it quickly anywhere, should something happen. The engine is covered with blankets, to let the heat to accumulate. As there are no gas stations for hundreds of kilometers, additional fuel is loaded into separate small tanks.

 

A gulag memorial in Siberia
A memorial to a gulag on the way to Magadan, where executions were performed.

 

After about 10am the sun comes out, illuminating the tallest mountains.

 

Driving through taiga in Siberia Driving through taiga in Siberia
Driving through taiga in Siberia Driving through taiga in Siberia
At noon, the light of the sun is still very goldish/pinkish. Today is January 13 and, because of the high latitudes, the days are shorter, but with amazing lights.

 

Driving through taiga in Siberia
A truck carrying coal for other villages.

 

Driving through taiga in Siberia
The road in the middle of the taiga forest. Driving here is safe because at these low temperatures the snow is like sand and not slippery at all. Moreover, there are really few cars, maybe you may encounter one every 2-4 hours, or even less.

 

Everything is ice-covered and pastel coloured because of the low sun, even at noon.



 

A yakutian settlement
We stop in this old Yakutian settlement, where there are few people living. We are invited inside a typical home, where a lunch is also offered. It has been one of the most beautiful experience of this trip to appreciate how this people live in such extreme and isolated environment, visiting their homes and eating with them.

 

A cowshed. The heat is generated by the animals itself and kept inside by thick insulation.

 

A yakutian settlement
On the left: an horse. This is a very important animal here and they ability to survive in such low temperatures is really impressive.

 

At about 2:30pm the sun starts to set.

 

Sunset in Siberia
Sunset in Siberia
Sunset in Siberia
At 3:07pm, looking in the opposite direction of sunset.

 

Sunset in Siberia

 

The hotel in Tomtor The hotel in Tomtor
After about 10 hours by car and 350 kilometers among the frozen tracks in Siberia, I'm finally in Tomtor where I sleep in this nice hotel.

 

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