Traveling the Roads of South Siberia
This is the first article from our new “Travel Russia Stories” series. We talk to people who explore different corners of this diverse country and ask them to share their adventures.
Ever asked yourself how would it feel to travel the endless roads of Siberia, Russia? Ever wondered how to arrange such a trip and what to expect? We did. That’s why we’ve decided to ask Dmitri from a Russian travel project “Road man” to share his experience.
Hello, Dmitri! First of all, could you please tell us briefly what your travel project is about? How did it start?
Hello, Olga, sure! Originally, in 2011, “Road man” was a name for a group of student travelers who wanted to cross Russia and reach the Arctic Ocean. The idea was to use only what we had back then, which means… well, practically nothing. We didn’t even have any experience. However, what we had was enthusiasm, tons of it. In the end, we were mostly hitchhiking, sleeping in a tent and eating pasta and buckwheat that we cooked on a portable gas stove. It was a great trip though and most importantly it made us understand how much there is to see and try in this world. This first-year success inspired us to continue and go on such trips every year. Since then we have visited more than 60 big cities of Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine. We’ve even stopped counting kilometers – there’s been way too many of them! All the Russian midland, Far East and Sakhalin island, Central Russia, Volga region and North Caucasus, North-East region, Ural mountains… One can change the means of transport, but once started, can never stop moving. We’re planning to see many other places – Kamchatka, Taimyr, Central Asia, China, South-East Asia, South America…. So much ahead!
Wow, that’s impressive. What was your most recent journey?
We’ve just come back from a trip to Southern Siberia – Khakassia, Tyva, Altai. I was writing a travel blog (NB! It’s in Russian) during the trip, so you can read about our adventures online. We had also started Instagram, where you can now check out our photos from the trip.
What was the plan for this trip and how long did the journey take?
This was a very unusual travel experience for us. We were a big company of seven and we went by two four-wheel-drive cars. Before there had always been only two of us and we even took different roads sometimes. The main route ran through the South of Siberia and then led us to Altai. The duration varied for different team members. For example, in my case, the trip took 16 days, my whole vacation, and for some of the others – nearly five weeks!
Looks like it wasn’t spontaneous, this trip. Do you plan everything beforehand?
Generally getting ready for the journey doesn’t take that much time – one checks the equipment, drafts the route… Preparations mostly depend on the trip length – the less time you have, the more precisely you have to plan everything. However, for our Siberian trip, things were more complicated – we had quite a lot of people, more complicated equipment and the roads we had chosen were much more challenging. My co-traveler Andrej took care of nearly everything while I was just following these preparations from afar (we live in different cities). Luckily, it all went smoothly, everyone came back safe and happy. But maybe we should double check it with the participants! :)
What was you strongest impression in this Siberia trip?
The region of Tyva is a really special place, to my mind. The local cuisine is interesting, but a bit specific because they eat a lot of horse and different kinds of fat meat. The food is quite similar to that of Mongolia. But what is really stunning in Tyva is the nature: endless uninhabited steppes* among proud mountains.
And do you meet locals during your trips? Do you get on well?
Usually, we have to communicate with them a lot, especially if it’s a hitchhiking trip – in this case most of the time on the road you are talking to drivers. As of now, we’ve never had any problems with the locals. In every city, people think that outside there are wild lands with crazy thieves and criminals, but it’s not like that, really. There are good people everywhere, and evil people are really few. We didn’t communicate with locals a lot during our Siberian trip, though, as we went by car. Those with whom we spoke were mostly people from Altai region called telengits. They live poorly, but in great harmony with nature, mostly they hunt and grow cattle.
And the final question: can you give any advice to those planning to go on such a journey?
The main thing is to understand that anyone can do it, even if (s)he doesn’t really believe (s)he can. The trick is to find out if one needs it. For me being on a road is a vital necessity. It’s really difficult to stay in one place knowing that all the barriers between you and the endlessly exciting and versatile world exist only in your head. There are people who spend all their life in stuffy flats and offices without knowing how much they lose. I could have been one of them if I hadn’t made this first step. My advice is not to think about the difficulties you will have in such trips. It’s true, you can’t avoid them, but you can overcome them – just go, get on a road and drive. It’s really easy. The two most valuable things that a human being has are time and experience. The members of our project would be glad to answer your questions, share our knowledge and provide support!
* Steppes – a large, flat area of land with grass and very few trees especially in eastern Europe and Asia. (retrieved from Merriam-Webster dictionary)
This article has first appeared on the Russian version of 80days&counting.
All photos were kindly provided by Dmitri.