My Yakutia adventure starts in Tommot, a random village in the south of Yakutia. It’s the northern most place you can reach by train for the moment. It takes already a full day in the train, about 20 to 24 h, riding all the time straight up north, starting from the famous Tran Siberian railway. The ride on this line leads trough stunning landscapes, a real winter fairy tale! Christmas trees below a thick snow layer. And me, the tourist, was already the attraction number one in the train. While arriving in Tommot, I already have somehow the feeling to have reached the northern end of the world, it’s actually just the beginning of my very long expedition way further to the north, towards the sibirian polar see.
Hitchhiking in Yakutia
The train station Tommot is a very small train station. My first rides goal is Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world. It’s a city with 270'000 people. So I expected at least a proper bus connection from the last train station to the capital of Yakutia. And if not, at least many people to drive there. But I was wrong in both points. When I reached Tommot, the train was already pretty much empty, I was one of the last passengers. Just a few cars were waiting on the parking place, no bus and no shared taxi, and not even any taxi at all. From all the cars just 2 were going to Yakutsk, and they were already overloaded and couldn’t offer me a ride.
It was already 16:30 in the afternoon, and Yakutsk still a long ride away. So I walked to the next petrol station, a perfect place for hitchhiking, as there was also a coffee in which basically all the drivers stopped to have dinner. But all the drivers means not much, as there just are almost no cars, and also few trucks driving there. I was first waiting in the coffee, eating dinner. I met just one truck driver driving to Yakutsk, however he didn’t have any space for me.
Finally, I waited until 19:00 in the evening. Once, a car stopped and told me he couldn’t drive me, because he lives just one km away, but gave me his number and told me: “if you can’t find a car, call me, you can sleep at my home for free!” This is just one example of the extreme kindness, how guest friendly, and open hearted Yakutian people are. The open hearted and most helpful people I’ve ever seen!
From Tommot to Yakutsk, with Yakutien people. What a surprise to observe a full lunar eclipse ("Mondfinsternis")!
And then finally a car arrived, with the goal Yakutsk. And in a traditional Russian car we started driving towards Yakutsk. Once on the way we stopped. And watched up to the moon. Everyone was amazed by the seeing the moon. It was exactly half full and everyone was speaking about “exactly half” beautiful for sure, but what’s so special about that? Yes, sure, strange somehow that the other half was also slightly visible, somehow it looked different then what it usually looked like!? It took me 10 min. to understand what happens. Still staying there and looking to the moon I finally realized, that it was now just a quarter full! And this in 10 min! How is this even possible? Is this normal in “the north”? But then I realized, we were just observing a lunar eclipse ("Mondfinsterniss")! A word I didn’t understand in Russian 😊 10 min later the lunar eclipse was complete, it was a total lunar eclipse!!!! How amazing, and this by hitchhiking!
It was late night, about 01:30 in the morning when we finally arrived in Yakutsk. What a luck that my amazing couchsurfing host there was waiting for me even in the late night!
Yakutsk, a very exotic city and an amazing Couchsurfing host!
A few days later my big adventure to the pole of cold started. I already met a Couchsurfer in Yakutsk that grow up in Oimjakon and frequently travelled there. She wanted to help me to find a shared taxi to Oimjakon, which is expensive thought (almost 100 Dollar one way) and very infrequent available. I told here that I’m not planning to take a taxi, but just going to hitchhike there. She tried to explain me that this is not possible, because the streets there are very small, it’s just a small village and almost no one driving there, and if anyone is driving there the car will already be full! She tried everything to explain me that hitchhiking there was a really bad idea and far to dangerous in these temperatures. But as an experienced hitchhiker I knew, nothing is impossible, it’s just a matter of patience. Where there is a road, there are also cars, for what else should the road be built?
Hitchhiking out of Yakutsk at -44°C
It was a bitter cold morning when I started hitchhiking in Jakutsk: -44°C! My host in Jakutsk even walked with me all the way to the beginning of the winter road, which crosses the big river to the Jakutsk – Magadan highway (well highway is just the name, but it’s basically a small street covered in snow, at the beginning some asphalt, and then very soon only gravel). However, it took me just 10 min. to find a car. After a short ride to the next village I had to wait outside again. About 20 min. later another car stopped and in the evening I arrived in Chandiga, where my driver drove me directly to a hotel.
My personal hitchhiking record: By the time I was outside the temperature was at -49°C!
The next morning was even colder! -49 degree when I started hitchhiking. I walked about 20 min to find a good place. In my down dress and with a layer of thermos underwear and a good sweater I didn’t feel anything of the cold. I was staying not too far of a coffee, so if I would get to cold I would just go there to warm up. I would only enter cars, that drive somewhere to another village, for safety, sleeping outside at these temperatures is no option. I was waiting about 35 min. And then I had a ride like a 6 in Lotto 😊 I was picked up by 3 guys who were working for the TV, they were technicians and their plan: service at the antenna in Oimjakon! We were driving the whole day, spending the night in a hotel in Tomtor, and the next day driving on to Oimjakon. While the technicians tried to find the guy of the villages administration to get the key for the antenna I had a hike around the village. It took them one hour to find out that the guy of the administration was in holiday and no one else would be able to give them the keys. Russians seem to be not so well organised like Swiss people 😉 While for me the trip was a full success, they had to turn around all the way back without doing their work in Oimjakon. By the way, when we reached Oimjakon on lunch time it was just -28 °C, really hot for this place…
Hitchhiking with TV technicians towards Oimjakon, through an amazing mountain winter landscape! At below -40°C...
Interesting street to Oimjakon. This old fuel station is the last one for hunderts of km, and still working. The street to Oimjakon is not the savest, on the way you can observe several cars that fell down the mountain of the curvy and icy road. On the way no fuel station, but we have eneugh fuel with us. Then the street gets bader. And I see for my first time in my live a real, huge owl!
Oimjakon, hot weather today at -28°C! It will get colder in night thought. Toilets here are only outside.
After an hour in Oimjakon they took me all the way back to the crossing of the street to Chandiga and Ust Nera. There is a fuel station and a coffee. When we reached the place it was already evening and dark outside. I was waiting in the café, having dinner there. After 2 hours I still haven’t met any driver to Ust Nera, just a truck driver, he was willing to take me but he would drive just the next morning.
The street from Oimjakon to Ust Nera. A few spectacular, but dangerous bridges. Partly broken, but they are the only way to cross the river. However the wooden construction isn't save anymore. Holes in the ground (partly covered by snow) and whole parts allready falling off. On the last immage: The café and fuel station where I could spend the night in a biwak.
To not miss any car, in case anyone would not come to the café, I finally went outside waiting on the dark street. After about another hour waiting, there was a truck approaching, that didn’t stop at the café. When he saw me, he stopped. I opened the door. Inside a huge mess and all full of cigarette smoke. In his hand a knife. I don’t think he was dangerous, I guess he was more just afraid of me, it was dark night outside. However, for the first time in my live, I decided that it was probably better not to drive with him. After he asked me some questions he finally accepted to take me to Ust Nera. But I told him that it was actually usually to late for me and that I will go on tomorrow.
Further to Ust Nera in a big 40 tonnes truck.
And that’s also what I finally did. There was a small biwak beside the café, where I could spend the night. Well warm in the evening with the fire in the oven, but freezing cold (maybe -10°C) in the morning. I finally went for breakfast in the café and then joined the invitation of the truck driver of the evening before. In his 40 Tonnes truck we used the whole day to drive to Ust Nera, however the way over the mountains in such a big truck was quite spectacular. Finally, in late afternoon I arrived at my Couchsurfer in Ust Nera.
Finally I reached Ust Nera. The last stop before the winter road begins.