Preparing for the trip to the nenets
First of all we need to get prepared. "We" meens, Steffi and me. Steffi, my best friend, joined me for 3 weeks of my trip. And get prepared meens: Test our clothes, see what is possible, before we will get stuck in middle of nowhere in a chum (tent). So we decided to got for 3 nights to a wooden hut of a friend of mine in Salechard. This hut is 9 km away from the next small viallage, in middle of the tundra. A friend of me drove us out there by snow mobile. Then we had to spend there 3 nights, and at the last day just walk back to civilisation through the tundra. We had eneugh firewood and even a sauna! And our cloths proofed that modern technologie works: Also at -28°C we were not cold at all. The adventure to the nenets can start!
The long way to find the Nenets!
In the train to "nowhere" in the tundra: They let us out at "km 110"
The way to the nenets was an adventure for itselve! The day we arrived in Salechard, we met some Nenets nomades in the train. We spoke to them and got their phone number plus invitation in their chum! Communication is not that easy: They have their own language and their Russian is not very good. The oldest Nenets don't even speek english!
By phone we could finally tell them the day of our arrivel. However as they moved through the tundra, they didn't have any phone reception anymore and we couldn't reach them anymore. So we knew at which place they wanted to search us, but they didn't know what time we will be there and we couldn't get the confirmation it's finally allright for them. However, we decided to go!
At the train station, we bought a special train ticket: Not to another train station, but just to a place in middle of the tundra: km 110!
No Nenets in sight, only way, trying to walk back to the next train station, a small village in the tundra
Finally we meet the nenets
Finally our train stoppes, in middle of nowhere, at km 110. One small step and we are in the tundra, the train drives away. But no Nenets at all! Nowhere in the whole vally! Our meeting didn't work! To our surprice, there were 3 people close by, a very small settlement just with some containers. We asked them and they told us too, that they didn't see any Nenets in this region. So the only option we had: Walk back to the next train station, about 10 km away. And the only way to go there: Along the train track! There was anywhere no train until the evening in the other way! And there in the tundra, the maximum speed is 40 km /h anyway...
We allready lost the hope to meet the Nenets, but suddenly, they were there
After over 3h of hiking and 10 km later, we reached finally the first train station. And then we allmost couldn't beleve our eyes! A Nenet on a snow mobile was waiting there! How did it happen: The Nenets crossed km 110 while moving with their deers. They expected our train for some hours later, as on ohter days the shedule is different. The mans in the small settlement told them about us and our plan to walk back to the train station, and the brother of Galija, our Nenets contact, just drove by snow mobile for 10 km to wait us there at the train station! After that, we were riding 20 km in the sledge of his snow mobile to reach the Nenets! And the most amazing: 4 famillys where just moving, all the Chums where packed on the sledges and a convoy of about one tousend deers was walking to search a new location! This time, together with Steffi and me!
Moving with deer convoy and setting up the first chum!
After we accompained the convoy for half an hour (the nenets were walking since over 10 hours) we finally reached the place where they will set up the chums! It was quite a special feeling: we were in middle of the Sibirian Tundra, surounden by Ural mountains far away from any civilisation on a place with no phone signal! It was about -15°C and quite windy. Hot weather for locals, as temperatures can go down to -50°C in this area! And still I realised suddenly, that we were really in the wilderness! No place to warm up, no place to hide! Just in the cold and wild Sibirian weather with not even phone signal for a backup. Walking around was hard, as the snow was sometimes up to 50 cm deep. However, my cloths did a great job and keept me well warm.
Building the last chum
How long will it take to build a chum? I expected it to get a late night! But the teem of Nenets was really great working together! Everyone had his job and me and Steffi tried to help as good as we could. 1 h later the 4 chums were built and the deers released! Soon after they brought some freshly falled trees by snow mobiles. While the kids and me were splitting wood, the womans started to cook! And splitting wood was a really hard job! It was really hard wood, and not dry...
Kultural chock, thats food hardcore!
After that, it was time for dinner! It started with raw frozen deer meet. Some bread, tea and a lot of huge frozen pices of meet. We were cutting some small slices and ate it raw and frozen. Better in taste then I actually expected, but this was not yet all!
A little later Steffi called me: "Syril, they are just slaughter a deer, come and see how it works..." I was halping to hold the dead deer, while they were pulling of the skinn. But this was just the easyest part. Soon after, we were back in our chum, our host told us in russian: "let's go to eat outside!" OK, why not. We followed them, and then it got really strange: The dead deer was liing on the ground, the organs beside the deer. We had some knifes and then everyone just started to cut some small pices of the deer, meet, lever, gullet, and the kids experimented with all parts of the deer! At this time, the raw meet was still warm and not yet cooled down!
Now it's our turn, let's try!
When I came to the place, Steffi allready cut a small pice of meet. She showed it to me and told me: "Try it and tell me weather I can eat it or if it smells terrible!" OK, why not, this is for sure an experience! I tried to push the disgust away and not to think what I'm actually eating. Just thinking it's only a pice of meet. I was surprised: With some salt or moustard it was even quite delicious! The next pice I cut for Steffi and she was also OK with it. We ate more and more and finally even tried the raw lever, which was also quite good for me. How ever for Steffi the lever had to much the tast of raw blood.
The daily live of Nenets
The next day we splidded some more wood, helped to sort the deers, showed the children some swiss games and they also showed us their Nenets sport, something close to the Swiss Sport "Schwingen", where you have to trow your partner on his back. We were also playing with the deers and dogs (the dogs are used to keep the deers together) and just enjoied the traditional life. Exept the snow mobiles and my high tech cloths it really felt like 200 years back!
Our Nenets familly
The second evening, we were again eating raw meet, as they anyway do 3 times in a day. I ate a big pice of raw lever of the last day. A little getting used to their practice, it wasn't anymore so discusting for me. I just didn't think about one important fact: I still had a Swiss stomach! And against a Nenets stomach, a Swiss stomach is nothing :-) However, all was fine this evening. It just started in the night! Suddenly it got worse and worse and I got really sick in my stomage. It was the same for Steffi. She was the first to throw up. After that it was my turn! And at the same time I got diarrhea! Finally also fewer! While Steffi only had to throw up, it was quite worse for me. (She put the lever a little on the oven and didn't eat it completly raw like me). And I can tell you: To get sick in that way in middle of the Tundra at -15°C far away from civilisation is actually really not something you wan't to experience! Specially when you have to go to toilet again and again, and when the toilet is just the tundra! Each time freezing my back and fingers with in the snow that is blown all arround in the wind. At this day, we were counting and sorting deers far away from our chum. Sick, with fever and no energy I had to wait the day gets passed for hours in the open tundra! At this moment my costume could proof its quality :-)
Not funny: With fever, no energy, diarrhea and throwing up a whole day in the tundra (-15°C), until finally, in the afternoon, relaxing at the small container village at km 110, waiting for the only train in the evening.