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Thread: Paris / New York - Transcontinental 2009

  1. #21

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    November 14-17, 2008: Moscow to Kazan

    Unsuspicious driving

    “We should not drive a fourth round if we do not want to seem suspicious“, is how we reproved ourself by the third turn around the Kremlin and the Basilica in the center of Moscow. So we exercised ourselves in unsuspicious driving and were enjoying Moscow’s highlights in the sun during our photo shoot. Even the long limousines which were cruising around the Basilica with a –for us Western Europeans – remarkably high density of wedding couples, have not been able to distract the pedestrians from our expedition vehicles and trailers.

    The employees of the Department of Trade and Industry, the German Embassy and high ranking representatives of our partners Jeep and Goodyear prepared a really nice residence and a well attended press conference for us. The presentation of the expedition was especially interesting for all automobile journalists and offered a broad variety of information about the importance of the Jeep Rubicon in Russia and plenty other up-to-date news – first publications have already been online on divers Russian homepages. The two nights in the apartments of the embassy area were a special honour for us – a worldwide unique accommodation to stay overnight. I would like to thank all parties again for the great support and helpfulness in Moscow. Thanks.

    Apart from that, the two days in the capital city of Russia have been dominated by changes within the team and current weather reports. Lena, our photographer of the first six expedition weeks has been replaced by Joachim Stretz the new photographer on board. Furthermore, Nastja Zilich and Juergen Graf headed home from Moscow on Saturday. Nastja supported the expedition with translations on the track between Warsaw and Moscow especially during the border crossings. Juergen was there to organize the press conference together with Chrysler and additional clarified some administrative stuff. Evgeny used the time off to visit his mom on her ninetieth birthday and to have a good night’s sleep. He came back yesterday - totally rested and fully motivated. Additional we will be accompanied by an intern of the German Embassy till we reach Novosibirsk. He speaks Russian and supports us with the numerous police controls on our way.

    A continuous topic was the weather: While we have been told in almost every conversation we had in Moscow that the weather is way to warm for this season and that it is actually supposed to be all white and wintery cold by now, the first snow reports from the Altai Mountains arrived. There was so much snow fall on the Altai Mountains as it has not been for several years. This information – as well as all border and customs experiences - has already direct effect on our further planning: Matthias currently attempts to reschedule the appointment with our guide and to prepare the border crossings. Our goal is a time schedule keeping all general conditions in mind and which is even possible to stick to if we had extreme dense snow fall.

    After we stored the luggage of all the old and new team members and the entire equipment, we started from Moscow towards Yekaterinburg on Sunday night. On the way to our first stopover, the ancient city Kazan, we were driving along Europe’s longest river, named Volga, with a length of approximately 3,700 km. The hilly Volga-Delta offered us the following special conclusion: The two trailers are brilliant! With floats and their attachments, respectively 1000 litres of bio ethanol in the tanks and further tightened materials like e.g. spare tires, each trailer weighs 4,5 tons. It is unbelievable how smoothly these trailers are running behind us by the conditions of the streets, which challenged us with extreme bumps, lane grooves, sudden droppings and unsecured roadsides as well as all kinds of roughness and unevenness. Our way from Kazan goes all the way over Perm to Yekaterinburg – I guess the streets will not get better.

    November 17-19, 2008: Kazan – Ural

    First continental border crossing

    Unlike planned, we did not take the route via Perm but instead via the city Ufa to Yekaterinburg. We had to cross 1,200 kilometres in order to arrive in Yekaterinburg on time for the presentation of our project on Thursday morning. The aim was to drive the 1,200 kilometres in one go. Another look at the map and discussions with the journalists that Chrysler Russia had sent to accompany us in a Jeep Commander, made us change our plans for the route. The reason: The streets were supposed to be better than those that we would have taken on the route via Perm.

    En-route there was a real highlight of Russia waiting for us: The crossing of the Ural Mountains. Although there were only the southern foothills of these up to 3,000 meters high mountains on our route, they were enough to make us crawling up the hills in second gear like snails. Luckily, the streets were still free of snow and ice and we managed most parts of the Ural Mountains during the night! The usual daily appearance of trucks combined with poor weather conditions, probably would have meant for us to cover the entire 800 kilometres distance of the mountains in first gear, surrounded by clouds of exhaust fumes. Thus, we were at least able to drive faster at the downhill track. In the morning we were rewarded for the slow night drive by a wonderful sunrise behind the mountains. The mountain scenery and the auburn, autumnal tundra offered our photographers good opportunities to take impressive pictures of the landscape.

    Let me mention a few words regarding the better streets on the way from Kazan to Yekaterinburg: Luckily we do not know how the worse streets would have been. The street on which we were driving was littered with lane grooves, bumps and partly extreme pot holes. Especially nearby the bridges in the valleys we got shaken due to the roughness and unevenness of the streets. It was even more wondrous that one of us was always able to sleep along the way. Once we hit a giant pot hole with F1, but fortunately without any consequences for the vehicle. As we pulled over to check the situation we saw a Russian standing on the roadside, changing the left rear tire of his vehicle. Obviously he must have driven through this pot hole right before we did.

    Actually, the highlight of the expedition is the continental border crossing at the Bering Strait. Currently we already practiced the continental bond right away: In the early morning we crossed the border between Europe and Asia – without ice, without water, without the mounted floats though but safe and riskless over a normal mountain road. A high stony monument with two direction signs “Europe” and “Asia” marked the line where the borderline goes.

    After a quick coffee at a gas station during the refuel-action, we decided to keep on driving for a while and to eat breakfast a little bit later. At ten o’clock and after numerous photo shoots we had a good rest. The four drivers – Matthias and Astrid with the F1, and Evgeny and Jockel with the F2 – switched driving and sleeping through the whole night, so that everybody was looking forward to this breakfast. Unfortunately we forgot the time change in our plans. The expedition time plan and my cell phone with an automatic time zone localisation left no doubt: The morning was over - it was already noon. We quickly changed our breakfast plans towards a great lunch with shashlik, salad and borszcz.

    We made it to Yekaterinburg, where we will present our expedition at the technical university on Thursday. On Friday morning, we continue our journey to Tyumen. The Jeep Commander and two journalists from Chrysler are accompanying us. Furthermore a new journalist took a place in the F1 at the invitation of our partner Goodyear.


    In Moskow







    To Kazan





    From Kazan to Yekaterinburg







    Yekaterinburg




  2. #22

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    November 20-22, 2008: Yekaterinburg - Tyumen

    Two cities – two successful days

    Shortly after our overnight arrival in Yekaterinburg, the first light snow fall started: The next morning when we looked out of the windows, a thin snow layer covered our vehicles. Unfortunately the temperature was not low enough to save the tender skin of snow. Bummer! Within few minutes, Yekaterinburg was covered with a thick brown layer of mud instead. Shortly after that - the few kilometers from the hotel to the Technical University were far enough – F1 and F2 were covered with a thick film of mud. The vehicles looked like they had just returned from their toughest off-road experience.

    In Yekaterinburg, the consulate general and the Technical University invited us to present the project. The president of the university welcomed us personally and informed us about the university and its 43,000 students. Next to students and press representatives, numerous TV teams with cameras were attending the presentation which was prepared by the consulate in an excellent way. The success of this presentation was noticeable: We have been the attraction of the 8pm newscast on the second Russian channel. Besides images of the Jeeps and trailers, they showed interviews of Matthias and Evgeny as well. Now we are well-known In Russia.

    We covered the 350 kilometers from Yekaterinburg to Tyumen in a relaxing day trip. At the city border we were directly escorted to the biggest Chrysler center in Eurasia. Due to the fact that our vehicles have already been too high for the garage entrance in Yekaterinburg, we should now check our vehicles here in Yekaterinburg. Within seconds everybody’s nerves were frayed. Matthias has not even had time to greet the attending Chrysler representatives. Then a security guard in uniform came running by and heatedly told us to take our trailers and leave. Meanwhile our Russian drivers were already talking to the mechanics and they started working. Evgeny performed a maneuver that made the trailers lurching and towed the Jeep – with a journalist sitting on the engine bonnet – into the workshop. At the same time two Chrysler colleagues began to clean our totally dirty vehicles and we had to unload our luggage for the night. It got hectic and Matthias got loud.

    To arrive at this garage showed us once more what it means to be on an expedition: Even though everything is planned and prepared in detail we all have to expect unforeseeable situations that call for ultimate concentration and cooperation. It is more than possible that in situations like that the stress and hectic discharge themselves in loudness. But no storm without the subsequent quietness: The meeting at the Chrysler center with the local press representatives took place in a special friendly atmosphere. The journalists were really interested and the three representatives of automobile magazines, who are attending the expedition at the moment, integrated themselves very well. For the first time Matthias was not the only one who explained the story of the expedition. The three attending Russian press representatives were dynamically supporting him with translations and representation of the expedition.

    We left Tyumen early Sunday morning. Our way lead us 650 kilometres towards east – thereby the sun was shining towards Omsk and lead us the way to the next milestone. We gladly followed this bright light.




















  3. #23

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    November 24, 2008: Omsk

    The sun of Omsk

    We were not mistaken when leaving Tyumen: The sun that came shining from Omsk was a good sign. Right in the morning Joachim and the Russian journalists made several stops to take photos. It was not only that the light of the rising sun was illuminating the landscape in an extremely scenic way, but we were also able to drive offroad for the first time. A full closure of the main road made this trip possible and necessary.

    Matthias and Evgeny first performed a spectacular transposition manoeuvre with both the vehicles and the trailers on this narrow part of the street and then drove on an earth road through little villages, forest and the brown tundra. We started early in the morning, but due to the beautiful but time-consuming detour we had the suspicion that we would be driving until late at night. According to the wish of our fellow journalists we stopped at a guesthouse for lunch break. This break let our suspicion become certainty. With new power, good humour and with the sun shining bright, we jumped back into the vehicles and created a little wonder. The kilometres to Omsk were melting away. And despite the bad condition of the roads – which were especially bad during the first half of the section – for the first time we managed to arrive in Omsk way faster than the designated time. Drivers, mood and landscape were great so that these 650 kilometres turned out to be one of the most beautiful sections to date.

    Thanks to the commitment, spontaneity and the cooperativeness of the vice consul, everything was prepared in Omsk despite our unexpected early arrival. At the city limit we were heartily welcomed and escorted to the hotel. They even thought about our parking situation. Without further negotiations we were able to park the vehicles on a locked and attended parking lot right at the hotel. That was something which we have not yet experienced too often on our way! Less than two hours after crossing the city limit, the team met up for a late but well-earned dinner.

    The press conference at Chrysler Omsk was scheduled for 5 p.m. – therefore everybody was able to use the Monday according to their own desire: Astrid and Jockel send pictures and reports home via e-mail, Matthias used the day to get some office work done and Evgeny had a good night’s rest. Some of us accepted the offer by the vice consul for a guided tour through Omsk. The trip to the city was worth it! Omsk is beautiful. In some parts of the city the influences by architects from Petersburg are clearly visible. The cityscape of this 1.2-million-inhabitants-metropole is accordingly scenic. We learned a lot about the “white capital of Siberia” and its history. Highlight of our trip was the visitation of Omsk’s church. Besides the Basilica at the Red Square in Moscow and the Cathedral of Petersburg, the Omsk church is one of the three most beautiful churches in Russia. We returned to the hotel with a lot of photos and new impressions – beginning with Omsk’s first building from prefabricated slabs to the ancient tartar fortress which was also the place of foundation of the city in 1716.

    The first camera team was already waiting for us at the hotel parking lot when we were leaving for the project presentation. Accordingly we arrived late at the Jeep-representation due to the interview and the photos that were taken. Nevertheless we were heartily welcomed here as well. The open German-English-Russian-speaking conversation which was led mostly by the fellow journalists, who already proved its value in Tyumen. Therefore Matthias suggested this form of presentation again. It was a relaxing and happy atmosphere. An animated conversation developed between the representatives of the press, the management of the car dealer and the expedition team which was continued during a luxurious buffet. We have hardly ever been welcomed in such a hospitable and heartily way and with such a great interest before.

    Omsk was a great milestone! We are glad that we had the opportunity to be here and get to know these people.











  4. #24

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    November 25-28, 2008: Novosibirsk

    Busy in Siberia’s capital

    Right from the start we scheduled a stop in Novosibirsk for several days. The reason for that: Here, our vehicles and trailers were supposed to be modified for the cold. Spikes have been attached to all tires – on vehicles and trailers as well as the backup tires. Additionally the engines and transmissions will receive a felt insulation as protection against the cold. Basis for this planning was the assumption that we would have to deal with Siberian temperatures by Novosibirsk at the latest. But still the thermometers show temperatures around zero degree. The Chrysler-center in Novosibirsk is the last possibility for the necessary changes before we reach the Altai Mountains where there will definitely be snow. Therefore and despite the extraordinarily high outside temperatures, we are in the middle of the vehicle remodelling. Several Russians told us that nature uses this long period of mild temperatures to prepare itself for an extremely cold winter.

    After expecting difficulties in the garage – once again the gateway was too low for our roof construction – now everything works according to plan and to our utmost satisfaction. The garage was rearranged especially for our two vehicles and the entire mechanical team was waiting for us. In a special garage, several men were spiking our tires. The first set is already fitted with spikes and returned to the Chrysler dealer in order to be assembled to the vehicles. Evgeny – who has some vehicles himself – has a lot of experiences when it comes to the protection of engines against the cold. Now he is supporting the mechanical team with the insulation. Matthias was able to take the first vehicle and trailer to the car wash. Finally we will (even by colour) be recognized as expedition team again and stand out among the other car traffic. Despite the cooperativeness and the focussed work, Matthias is afraid that we will have a long night ahead of us in order to get the vehicles completely done.

    Besides the necessary modifications against the cold there were other reasons for the long stop in Novosibirsk. Two important aspects were the presentation of our project at the Technical University as well as the personal contact to the German Consulate General. First we were invited to the consulate. There, we met all the people who are responsible for the support of our project. Since that time we are extremely happy to know that this great team of the consulate will back us up all the way to the Bering Strait.

    Nobody knew that the press conference at the Technical University the very next day would top the positive impression of the work in the garage and the consulate general! The entire event was characterized by a highly professional, intensive and successful cooperation between the consulate, the university and DAAD. In regards to location, technology and the announcement of the press conference we can assure that they made a good job of it – everything was prepared at best. Therefore the project presentation turned out to be a huge success. After we were welcomed by the principal who also informed us about the university, we had a short conversation concerning the topic “renewable energies”. When entering the ballroom, we were overwhelmed by the big audience and attending TV-teams. The room was packed. Further listeners were standing in the hallways and in front of the rearward wall. Matthias made a very short presentation of the project and relied on the interest and the questions by the audience. An animated conversation about the cars, the expedition and renewable energies – Russia’s future market – developed between the vice principal, the consul general and Matthias on the podium and the journalists and students in the audience. For the first time there was another item on the agenda: An invitation for tea and pastries which we gladly accepted. After the two meetings with the consulate and the university, Matthias said that we could have taken another Jeep with all the interested and cooperative employees from both facilities with us on the road.

    Our next goal – the Russian-Mongolian border – is about 900 kilometers away. Whenever possible, Matthias is already sitting in the Chrysler-showroom to prepare our border crossing via telephone with the help of an interpreter.






  5. #25

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    November 29-December 01, 2008: Altay - Mongolian Border - Olgy

    Mountains, snow and another border!

    In the afternoon we hit the road from Novosibirsk towards the Mongolian border with the completely re-packed and frost-resistant vehicles and two new expedition participants – in Novosibirsk, the TV-journalist Hendrik Pfefferkorn and cameraman Marco Schwarzer joined the expedition. We had 900 kilometres and the drive through the scenic Russian region Altay ahead of us. This mountain stage presented us three challenges: the first snow, heavy inclines and declines - and all that during night time driving. As long as there was enough light we have been able to take some nice photo and film shoots: flock of sheep, wild horses, cows walking by, green rivers, snow covered hilltops and scenic wooden bridges.

    About 50 kilometres before we were supposed to reach the Russian-Mongolian border, we reached our accommodation, the hotel transit in Kosh Agash. The surprise was, that this hotel was the best hotel in the area – the only one with restrooms inside. We thought that the entire second floor was reserved for us but in the evening we saw that a Mongolian was occupying one of the other rooms and at night time another four Mongolian women moved into a room on the second floor. As we woke up in the morning and started to get ready, we noticed how efficiently the premises got used: Besides us, another 10 to 15 Mongolians have been sleeping in these two rooms which were not occupied by us. Luckily, we thought to be alone for the entire evening. Due to the fact that the only restaurant in Kosh Anash was closed that day, we went to the supermarket, bought plenty of food, and improvised the cooking which was not really tasty, but at least we had a cheerful dinner together.

    On Monday morning we left towards the Russian – Mongolian border in bright sunshine. First topic in Kosh Anash: we had to be present at the border office, because of our female translator who is supposed to accompany us till the customs clearance at the Russian – Mongolian border. This unexpected extra appointment made Matthias feelings change into apprehensiveness in connection with the upcoming border crossing. From this point our way was snowy, straight and uphill for many miles. We could see the beginning mountains and a vague idea of a right turn at the horizon. Right there we decided to make another stop to take some photo and film shoots. Scenery, Lands-end-atmosphere and the fantastic light had to be captured in photo and film.

    Immediately after we left the curve behind us, we reached the border town Tashanta. Right in front of us were the border superstructures of the Russian side, two cows on the street and primarily no traffic at all. Surprisingly the custom clearance at the Russian border was really fast. They knew that we were coming, waited for us and after three hours we were able to cross the border. With its impressive demonstrative bigness, Russia said goodbye for a while: The no man’s land between Russia and Mongolia is an over 20 kilometres long fenced mountain range.

    Mongolia welcomed us with a big sensation: Not only that the entire border office was informed that we were coming and all worked overtime, furthermore they did their job in an absolute record time as well. Within 45 minutes the Carnet ATA´s got stamped, the passports have been controlled and the entry approved. Additionally, those friendly officers allowed us to take pictures and film them, which were forbidden on all the other border offices. Icing on the cake of our entry was that our guide Nasaa waited as arranged directly at the frontier. A happy reunion with Matthias made this uncomplicated entry perfect.

    After a short stop for tea and noodles, we had to handle the first real off-road passage: With snow flurry and a visibility of down to two meters, Nasaa directed us and we followed an around 55 kilometres long snow covered mountain track. Luckily we had our guide with us, because we would have never believed Matthias that this track was the right way. We were really tired but in this way we reached the hotel in Olgy one day earlier than planned. Now we are ahead of the designated time in our schedule, primarily owed to the successful cooperation at the border crossings. We would like to thank all the Russian, Mongolian and German authorities for this great support. Thank you!


  6. #26

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    December 02 Olgy - Hovd Tract leg with mountain action


    Different strokes for different folks: Our day started with an entirely unlikely breakfast. We ate shish kebab and soup in a Turkish restaurant. - Who knows when we will get such a square meal for the next time? Meanwhile a person with obviously different breakfast habits than our own had breakfast in our hotel room. The evening before, we found a raw piece of meat on bones in the freezer and when we came back from the Turkish restaurant to load our vehicles, we noticed that this “different” meal was gone. Luckily we could abstain this special breakfast choice of the hotel!

    Not only regarding the breakfast, but also with our telecommunication we crossed a border yesterday. We lost our service right after we left Novosibirsk and it came back only for the short border crossing from Russia to Mongolia. Luckily, Matthias was able to put or on-board solution with satellite-telephone, -fax and –email into operation after no modern terrestrial communication worked! Nonetheless, on every milestone we are looking for reliable internet connection in order to send pictures and reports in higher quantities. The publishing house Ullmann and several other editorial departments as well as the project-page are constantly waiting for new information. In an exhausting one-hour-long action in a public internet café in Olgy, Hendrik and Astrid have been able to send the latest report from the border crossing from Russia to Mongolia and three pictures to the office in Limburg. It seems like we have to set new standards for this in Mongolia.

    According to the upcoming kilometres, the next stage was quite short with just 200 kilometres from Olgy to Hovd. Therefore our photographer and film team spent much time on the street – it was not very far anyway. But, this stage was the first one without a regular street at all. We slowly moved forward on tracks out of sand and stone. Besides that, we had to manage two mountain passes with a over 2.600 metres. Due to the heavy trailers, we had to drive in low gears for many kilometres.

    The scenery was breathtaking. Lakes, a 4,000 metres high crest, snow covered mountains and ridges out of sand and snow were on our way. Sometimes in between it felt like we were driving through the desert. As far as we could see – and that was really far – there was no tree, no bush and definitely no other vehicles. On the 200 kilometres long road we crossed only one road sign. More than once we needed our Mongolian guide Nasaa to get us in the right direction.

    As the scenery was beautiful then ever – a wide tableland, lakes right and left and a sunset as kitschy as it could be – we were challenged by a real off-road mission. Right in front of us, a truck broke into a frozen lake while trying to cross it. The two drivers had already piled up the freight next to the truck and made themselves a rough-and-ready tent out of a rag. That’s not much in contrast to the -24 °C and a strong wind. They had been waiting for help for two days now. Without further ado, Matthias activated the winch. With full brakes and eight blocking tires, the Jeep and the trailer got pulled closer to the truck by the winch. Even together with the second vehicle with 8,5 tons in total, it was not possible to move the 12 tons truck which has already been frozen into the ice. With all possible effort and both vehicles, we tried for about 1 ½ hours to help the truck drivers, unfortunately without success. We hope that the bulldozer which is on its way to rescue them arrives quickly in order to get these two drivers out of this life-threatening situation.

    Nasaa´s family heartily welcomed us in their home when we reached Hovd. We were offered a great dinner and had good night’s sleep in our sleeping bags.






  7. #27

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    December 03-05, 2008: Hovd - Gobi - Altay

    Along the desert towards the hydroelectric power plant

    Matthias already awoke with the feeling that the vehicles had to be checked after 200 kilometers of humpy earth road. Intuitional driving: The feeling was correct! Both exhaust systems had to be fastened and numerous screws had to be retightened. At dusk – after the inauguration of F1 and F2 by Nasaa’s mother and after saying good-bye to his very kind family – we set out for the Mongolian city Altay which was 450 kilometers away.

    Again, we had to drive on humpy earth roads made of stone and sand. Unfortunately it was dark once again, so that we did not see much – if anything at all – of the mountains and lakes which were located only few kilometers outside of Hovd. This definitely had to change! Today’s section leads us through the Gobi Desert. We all wanted to get the impression of it. Accordingly, we were driving to exhaustion before we stopped for some sleep in the cars. We awoke with the sunrise over the desert. The break was well worth it – the view was breathtaking! Despite minus 27 degrees outside temperature, we all jumped out of the cars with our cameras in our hands. Unfortunately, besides the touristic highlight “Gobi Desert by sunrise”, we also had to refuel the vehicles (including a tank-to-tank fuel transfer). Now even the last member of the team got an idea of the expected temperatures ahead of us.

    The landscape of the desert was very impressing – the pictures that our photographer took are self-explanatory. Not only the landscape but also the encounters we had, were very special. A goatherd came up to us – after spending the night outside between his animals – to ask for a drink. A caravan of camels crossed our path. We also met truck drivers at a nomad family who did not have enough fuel to continue their journey. However, our tanks were empty as well – and the bio ethanol which we could have donated to them from our big tank would not have done any good to the Russian truck. After these experiences in the desert we were all very surprised to find the 12,000-inhabitant city Altay only kilometres away. The contrast could not have been any bigger!

    The main message of our expedition is the usage of renewable energies. This topic is also of crucial importance in Mongolia. Already, every second Mongolian uses renewable energies for his supply. The country offers all necessary resources for the use of wind, water and sun to generate energy. Starting in Altay, we headed towards Mongolia’s biggest hydroelectric power plant - The power plant Taishir: The dam with a height of 45 meters will restrain 930 million cubic meters of water once it is completely filled in five to eight years. Nature is taken care of, even while restraining the water: Only additional floodwaters of the Zavkhan River are restrained – the other water follows its natural course. An engineer explained the dam’s sphere of action to us and guided us through a tunnel underneath the impressing city wall. With this construction, the Mongolians are on the right track to ecological energy generation.











  8. #28

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    December 06-08, 2008: Gobi Altay - Arvaiheer - Harhorin - Nationalpark Hustai

    On our track from Gobi Altay to Bayanhongor we were faced with every imaginable surface like: a hard humpy earth road, difficult-to-drive sand tracks with heavy potholes, snow tracks, up- and downhill on brown grass as well as a nearly endless high plateau with a well drivable road combined with comfortable new and perfectly even asphalt on the last 10 kilometres before we reached our goal. That was not Bayanhongor anymore, but Arvaiheer. The reason for this spontaneous change of our stage goal: All of a sudden the price of the heated garage for the vehicles was 20 times higher than agreed in the beginning.

    Due to the fact that we passed the friendly Mongolian border check so quickly and that we came along so well driving a lot at night even though we had to stop twice to work on our trailers, we are ahead of our schedule. We enlarged our lead to the plan with our journey to Arvaiheer. Accordingly we have some more relaxed days as usual before us, which is a good feeling for a change.

    Because we altered our stage goal from Bayanhongor to Arvaiheer we had to cross a stream course by night. We were not sure, if it was frozen or not. Right before the river we made a refuelling stop. The routine visual check of Jeeps and trailers was negative: A number of things were loose due to the shaking and a tension belt of one of the pontoons was ripped off. With a storm of sand and snow combined with temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius, even simple repairs like those turned into a big action for the entire team. To fasten the belt, we had to remove the fender from the trailer beforehand. Luckily there was a yurt colony at the stream course where we have been able to warm up and eat some fresh made noodles directly after we had our two hours of work. Therefore we were strengthened to drive through the night.

    Later at another repair action we had a strange encounter: We passed through a giant valley – 30 kilometres to the left, to the right, behind and ahead of us – just this huge valley but not any single person or boundaries. After a ground hit in a big pot hole, Matthias decided to change the front shock absorber of F1. Right when we jacked up the vehicle on a stone pile, a car rushed by, stopped and parked right next to us. Four Mongolians got out of the car and asked about the expedition and the repairs. We immediately got invited to horsemeat and vodka. They made an improvised picnic with all their supplies and in the end we received another bottle of vodka as a present. As it turned out later, one of them was the owner of a big Mongolian company. Finally it felt stranger than ever, when they gave us a music CD each and Evgeny as well as Matthias two DVDs where the business man acted as Chinggis Khaan.

    The next stage after Arvaiheer was Harhorin, where the entire team had to check the jeeps and the trailers again for shaking damages and afterwards could rest in a comfortable hotel. In the old city of Chinggis Khaan which is now an UNESCO cultural heritage, we got an anglophone guided tour through the museum and the buddhistical temples. From this place, an overnight stay in a yurt was supposed to be organized – not an easy task. Matthias already slept in a beautiful camp at the foot of the impressive dune Elsen-Tasarhai during his scout tour through Mongolia. Unfortunately we had no chance as that camp like many others have been closed for the upcoming really cold winter and no more accommodation was possible. Consequently, this stage lead us 250 kilometres further in direction of Ulan Bataar into the yurt-camp of the national park of Hustai.











  9. #29

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    13.-15.12.2008: Ulan Ude – departure to Jakutsk

    With the Amazons to the lama-school

    A really hard decision had to be made today. Due to a contact of the German Embassy in Moscow – who we would like to thank again for his dedication – we met Slava Bulatow in Ulan Ude. He had different things prepared for us. Unfortunately these things did not work out because of the previous border-crossing which caused our timing to shift. It was absolutely necessary, though, to visit one of Russia’s most important Buddhist temples. Our reasoning: This sanctuary needs to be seen if you are visiting Buritania. The miracle of this Buddhist temple – which, in Buritania, is called “Datsan” – is a sitting lama which has not aged for the last 70 years. Furthermore we were welcomed so heartily when we reached Ulan Ude that we just could not refuse this request.

    The concerns which made it so difficult for us to accept this proposal spontaneously were complex: The next section to Jakutsk – with a distance of 2,560 kilometers – was ahead of us. We wanted to accomplish this part without stopovers – this alone was already a big challenge for the entire team. The weather forecast for the route to Jakutsk said there would be fog, a lot of snow and temperatures down to -50 degrees Celsius – not very good conditions for a fast accomplishment of the route. The team wanted to start early and have the whole day for driving. We were afraid that by agreeing to the suggested trip, we would loose half of the time that we are ahead of the schedule right now. All in all, the conditions to reach Magadan by December 26 are difficult enough as it is.



    In the end the trip to the Buddhist monastery “Gandan Dashi Choinkhoryg” proved to be one of the best decisions that we have made so far! We did not just get an insight into the most important Buritanian Buddhist center, but also found new friends in the Baikal-Amazons as well as Slava and his son Roman who were also on board. While some Amazons were happy to drive the 30 kilometers to the monastery in the Jeeps with Matthias and Evgeny, we enjoyed the walk in the rising sun through the area around the monastery. Each and everyone of the expedition team probably used some of the numerous praying drums on this trip to ask for the success of the expedition, an accident-free drive or similar helpful aspects. Furthermore we were informed about the history of the monastery and the lama-school. This early Sunday morning trip was definitely worth it!

    Back at the hotel, Swetlana, head of the Baikal-Amazons, had arranged a TV-team. Because of the interviews of Matthias and Evgeny, we almost made up for the cancelled press conference the day before. Afterwards we all had lunch together. We told our friends from Ulan Ude what we experienced the day before at the border – which we have spent without a warm meal. Therefore they wanted to send us on the way to Jakutsk well-prepared. Of course all this hospitality, the interesting program, the presents (the day before we were given Buritanian balm which is some kind of herbal liqueur) and the happy tri-lingual conversations over the last 20 hours were more than enough. But additionally, when we were ready to leave, they provided us with a contact for an accommodation in Jakutsk.



    This encounter especially delighted us. We hope that one day we will be able to pay them back for their hospitality. We will definitely keep in contact with the dedicated and interesting off-road drivers of the Baikal-Amazons and follow their activities. We would like to especially thank Karl Bauer from Moscow and Slava from Ulan Ude for the preparation of our stay and their perfect support in Ulan Ude.

    After this great encounter and the successful visit of the temple, we were well-prepared for the long way to Jakutsk. Our first landmark on the route was the city Chinta which was about 800 kilometers away. We reached Chita about 24 hours after leaving Ulan Ude – unfortunately we also used these 800 kilometers to get completely lost. After getting stuck in a courtyard, the local police was a big help for a change: By the help of some very friendly policemen, we were freed from the dead end and escorted to the outskirts of the city. There, we continued on our journey but due to difficult and very rugged tracks, the driving was tough. We are curious to see how long the drive to Jakutsk will finally take. One thing is for sure: The news about the -68° Celsius temperatures in Jakutsk seems to be true. The outside temperatures are getting colder and colder. Long ago we reached the minimum value of -39° of our digital thermometer – for now, our makeshift outside sensing devices show a temperature of -46°. Brrr…










  10. #30

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    December 15-21, 2008: Chita - Jakutsk

    XXL-section with obstacles

    Shortly after our departure from Ulan Ude, the outside conditions became even more difficult than in Mongolia: Temperatures of down to -52° Celsius were extremely straining for people, machinery and material. Furthermore, we were on our 2,650-kilometers section from Ulan Ude to Yakutsk, which we wanted to cover non-stop. This burden became clearly noticeable very soon. Within about 200 kilometers, totally unexpected damages occurred on the special rear-axle-differentials (from the free accessories market) – the original differentials have been replaced during the vehicle modifications – of both cars. This made a direct continuation of our journey impossible.

    The problem about these momentous breakdowns: First there was an unmistakable damage on F2. After a hara-kiri rescue-procedure in less than -50° Celsius and action which could fit in the program “daredevils without nerves”, we had a transport to a garage in the next village (about 120 kilometers away) with the name Aldan. There, they were able to diagnose the damage and order spare parts from Germany. Starting at the industrial plant about 24 hours later, the journey to Jakutsk continued for the F2 and its team via truck and trailer skip. Unfortunately, only 100 kilometers after continuing the journey, an identical damage occurred at the leading F1. This time the consequences were even more dramatic and unpredictable. Matthias decided that the already broken down F2, as well as the trailer and all team members should continue to Jakutsk, where the necessary spare parts were supposed to arrive 24 hours later. He himself spent the night at the damaged F1 and was towed – in a ten hours long procedure – back to the garage in Aldan, to gain clarity about the damages as fast as possible. The organisation of further urgently needed spare parts, which were supposed to be brought along from Germany, happened under most extreme time pressure.

    Meanwhile, the team, which by now was on the road for three days and nights, continued its journey towards Jakutsk. A sudden new obstacle occurred here as well: Before entering the city Jakutsk, you have to cross the Lena. The unbelievable: Not a single bridge exists for this big city! Not even before or behind the city. You do not have another choice but to cross the river. In summer time there are ferries, in winter it freezes. But at the moment the crossing of the frozen river was only permitted for a specific load which we had more than exceeded. Therefore our trailer and the Jeep had to be reloaded onto a smaller truck. Once again a lot of organizing via telephone: Who is doing what? Where does the crane come from? How much is the truck? Can Jeep and trailer be reloaded? What happens when Matthias arrives piggyback with the F1 at this exact same spot the next day? What does all this mean for our time schedule? The catalogue of questions seemed to be unlimited!

    At this point we would like to thank all helpers for their effort during this very difficult five-day section! It is unbelievable how many people from Ulan Ude, Jakutsk, Aldan and Germany have made an effort of tremendous intensity to find solutions for this section – which has been characterized by unpredictable difficulties – and helpful participate.

    Altogether the entire team was working nonstop for five days with hardly any sleep. Matthias reached the city only a few hours after our own arrival in Jakutsk via a special minivan. With a hotel in the city center as head quarters for the next two days, we were able to manage many things: The receipt of the spare parts which were organized by Extrem Events, the upcoming repairs at F2, photo- and film-shootings of the city for the book by the Ullmann publishing house and the documentary of the expedition, travel preparations for all team members and preparations for the continuation of the expedition to the Bering Strait in January with the next team. Due to the current situation and the excellent infrastructure in Jakutsk – a great garage with a professional and extremely helpful boss Serafim, an international airport, the possibility to purchase missing things in the city, extensive film- and photo-possibilities, as well as authorities which can issue the necessary permissions for the drive through Chukotka – Matthias decided that both vehicles will be prepared for the drive through Chukotka and the crossing of the Bering Strait in Jakutsk, and not (like previously planned) in Magadan. Furthermore, the team change will be relocated from Magadan to Jakutsk, too. After making sure that all team members have a return flight to Germany, Matthias drove back to Aldan tonight via the special minivan to repair F1. As soon as the Jeep and trailer will arrive in Jakutsk on its own wheels and by its own accord, Matthias will have provided a good, secure and warm location for the Jeeps by rescheduling the necessary work and all organizational concerns from Magadan to Jakutsk. An excellent basis has been created for the continuation of the expedition in January.

  11. #31

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    December 21-27, 2008: Jakutsk - Magadan

    How to build a rear axle differential on Christmas due to boredom

    I was still in Aldan on the 24st to repair the expedition vehicle F1 and drive it together with the trailer MJ46 to Jakutsk - which finally was successful (arrival 25st 1.00 a.m.). The reparation as such was extremely difficult and together with my Russian companion Dima, I needed two days and nights for it, due to a wrong delivery of the rack & pinion set of the spare parts distributor. As in Russia everything is possible, we manage to build the differential out of 2 wrong differential sets together with the support of some helpers from Aldan.

    How? Take a too thick ring gear, destroy it for testing purposes and turn it to fit with an axle turning machine of a gigantic size. Therefore one has to modify those machines, which means a lot of ours of work, after stopping the production of industry parts with the help of an understanding manager. To use those huge machines, one has to produce a suitable clamp tool out of a chain set of a crawler which is not in use any more (instructions on demand :-)). Same procedure for the bevel gear shaft, after determining the necessary measures in uncountable installations and demounting in advance without any measuring tools. Furthermore, ideally some old screws with special thread measured in inches are needed. These have to be modified to screw thread carving tools with the help of a rasp. This effort similar difficult as a puzzle is necessary to carve new screw threads in the ring gear.
    Later on, let an exceptionally gifted, old Russian mechanic whet three 0,2mm space discs by hand and them with other discs of the wrong modification sets. From then on there are only some more hours of patient setting test, the manual construction of a gear clamp as well as a special lifting tool and self-made thick washers (on the above mentioned huge axle turning machine). There you are, a differential (otherwise only available in the USA for a lot of money) build out of nothing.

    To make it perfect it is recommended, to accept the hospitality of helpers when the tiredness and the cold in the big halls are overpowering, to pay hundreds of telephone Euro, and not to feel annoyed with it - of course. Reaching Jaktusk on 24st December together with Dima who kept me somehow away to be able to drive, I flew to Magadan 3 hours later (at the crack of dawn) for discussion and other remaining topics. Evgeny also flew there via Habarowsk.

    The remaining team which accompanied me to this point were already flown out on the 24st with the last plane and has sooner or later reached Germany.

    At this point again many thanks to the excellent team which accompanied me and Evegeny since Moskau:
    Astrid, Joachim, Marco, Hendrik you did a great job. I had much fun travelling with you. Thanks for all the support and the mutual, basically never-ending, laughter.

    The new team will arrive in Jakutsk on January 15, 2009 to start the journey through Chukotka towards the Bering Strait.

    Finally, thank you to all for the supported first part of the expedition with approximate 22,000km from Paris to Jakutsk and I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  12. #32

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    January 23, 2009: Second part of the expedition

    Right now the expedition team is still in Germany. The departure date is Friday, January 23, 2009. Due to the preparations of the return to Russia and the upcoming most difficult part of the entire project, the team needed some extra time in Germany and thus will depart to Jakutsk by today.

    The time was also used to create two more short movies (http://pny2009.com/cms/front_content...cat=659&lang=4). The movie clips now cover the entire driven track.

    Considering that the communication possibilities will become less, the team now has a satellite messenger which will show the current location online. Therefore it is now possible to follow the driven route via this card: http://pny2009.com/cms/front_content...cat=707&lang=4

  13. #33

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    January 23-25, 2009: Back on track

    It was a troublesome start - hopefully now everything bad is covered right from the beginning.

    First of all we had to pay almost 1500 € for our excess luggage at Frankfurt Airport, which should not be the case. Furthermore we became problems with the Russian administration for the first time since the expedition started – apart from that they always exemplary supported us – because they confiscated my signal pistol and ammo right at the Domodedovo Airport with the reason that an important document is missing.

    Right before our connecting flight was leaving, they let me go – unfortunately without my signal pistol and ammo. Together with Marco, 240kg luggage, 2 luggage carts, 3 employees of the – in my opinion - most impolite airline ever – S7- and 2 police officers, we ran through the corridors, hallways, security checks and over a special entrance to the luggage compartment where additional four helpers were waiting to load our stuff in the last seconds before take off. Afterwards Marco and I stepped inside of the airplane, the doors directly closed and we started.

    In Novosibirsk the fight with another employee of the S7 airline continued after 16 hours waiting at the airport, because they charged us another 1000 € and acted like they where displaying. Again, we barely reached our flight and this time with a special bus for me and Marco. It really suc*** to travel with the S7.

    42 hours after leaving Germany it got nicer when in Yakutsk. Serafim perfectly prepared our arrival. We were picked up and already at 6:00 am they opened up their garages for us to store our equipment. Now quickly to the hotel so we can start early enough with the modification and preparation of the vehicles for the hardest track at all. I planned 4-5 days for this.

    Ulrich, our photographer is going to be here January 28th, Konstantin from Moscow at the 29th and Kasper from Zurich at the 30th. We are going to meet Evgeny in Ustnera which is about 1000 kilometres away, where he will directly travel to from Magadan…

  14. #34

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    January 26, 2009: Modification/preparation of the vehicles

    Our job right now is the maximum weight reduction and the preparation as well as modification for one of the most challenging off road tracks in the world with parts which have never been managed before.

    We checked everything, really everything for usefulness. If we do not actually need it anymore, we sell it or give it to poor people. Not only clothing but also equipment. We just take what is absolutely necessary.

    As planned right from the beginning, we dismounted our roof-boxes in order to send them to Fairbanks where we are going to mount them again. That is necessary because our emergency exit on the Bering Straight will be through the removable front roof halves of the PNY Jeeps. The front tanks will be given to the local people of Uelen.

    Furthermore, we exchanged one of the two subsurface tanks that we accidentally ripped a hole in. We established the satellite communication system and navigation system (laptop, fax, GPS, compass, emergency signal, emergency radio communication etc.), reactivated a closer contact to the University of Alaska, turned on our new tracking device, started to release one of our trailers from the frost numbness, fixed the electric of F2 and exchanged the oil seal of F1.

  15. #35

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    January 27, 2009: Strip my trailer

    „Does everything has to upset me?“ That were my thoughts when the „Sesaria” hotel (written in German as I understand it in Russian) all of a sudden wanted to charge us with a doubled price. I hate stuff like that. Before our departure, we stayed in the Polar Star Hotel and everything was ok. Now we decided to stay in a simpler hotel.

    For an according price you can easily ignore dirty rooms, a smelly bathroom, drain pipes passed on plaster, leaky bathtubs, lukewarm water, no roomcleaning service at all, no towels, greasy walls, broken closets, no blankets, insulting employees, falling sheathing, self-floating bathrooms due to the leakages etc. However, if the price doubles while excluding breakfast at the same time, then Matze really gets angry.

    Ok, so far, a little bit of frustration - now back to the modification activities. Four mechanics, Marco and I are parallel working at the two PNY Jeeps and the trailers. Today we worked on my trailer. “Strip my trailer” was the slogan after the special trailers survived the toughness since the expedition started without any problems – They did a great job.

    Then we started to demount, grind, weld etc. everything that is not essentially necessary. The unbundling of the specially designed trailers started. A total mess when the last melted ice out of the smallest corners, makes you wet after flowing down the dirt of the trailers – everything because you have to work lying on the floor underneath because a car hoist does not exist. Little by little we will dismount the trailers until nothing is left but the frame. By then we should have been arrived in Uelen. The before/after pictures will be published in about two days. Furthermore we started with the installation of the auxiliary heating system from Webasto, exchanged the second fuel tank, replaced the previous trailer couplings with the current and new special “nato” trailer coupling from Rockinger for extreme off road driving and mounted the third winch at the vehicles.

    Totally exhausted we hit the sacks at around midnight. Already at 5:00 am we have to get up again to pick up Ulrich (our photographer) at the airport.

  16. #36

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    January 28-February 01, 2009:

    During the last three days there was a lot of work and organization as well as arrivals/absence of team members going on.

    On the 28th early in the morning, I picked up Ulrich Kaifer - our photographer - from the airport. He arrived in Jakutsk without complications. Now we were three people and completely addressed ourselves to the mentioned modification of the vehicles.

    It was great that we were also able to meet some old friends in Jakutsk:
    Thomas Beil and Uwe Lay. Thomas, to whom I sold a motorcycle some time ago, travelled with his friend to Oimjakon with. Both supported us organizationally and brought material to Jakutsk and back home. We sincerely thank both of them for their help.

    Konstantin Savva arrived on the 29th. Our second Russian team member came from Moscow and took care of the special permits right away. We were four.

    Kaspar Mettler arrived - after some delays and flight changes - on the 30th.
    After a 48 hours long flight he was directly involved in the garage work for another twelve hours. He perfectly faced that exhaustive task and did a great job. We were five.

    Now we were simply waiting for a message from Evgeny who was supposed to let us know when he would arrive in Ustnera (1000 kilometers away from where we are right now). That's where we wanted to meet him in order to jointly continue our trip. Unfortunately, it didn't develop as planned. Two days ago Evgeny let us know that - due to urgent business affairs - he had to stay in Magadan for another 10-14 days. That's not what we had in mind. Now we were missing a driver and had to change the teams. Marco in F2 with Kaspar who is now driving the F2 on his own responsibility. Konstantin, Ulrich, and myself in F1.

    As of today, February 01, 2009, after receiving great help by Serafim and his team - Artyom, Valarie, Dima, Micha, Sonja and Dima - we are heading towards Belibina.






  17. #37

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    February 01-03, 2009:

    Sometimes I am wondering if certain incidents can be called normal or coincidental, for example Kaspar Mettler. Only a few days before my departure, Kaspar called and let us know that he wanted to take part in the most challenging parts of the expedition. We made it possible and integrated him in the team. Only 2-3 days later I received the news that Evgeny will not – or maybe a lot later – be able to join us. Eventually we will meet him in Pevek. Not only that we are now missing an experienced off road-driver but also the driver of the second expedition vehicle. Neither Marco nor Konstantin – possibly limited Ulrich – can drive the Jeeps through thousands of kilometers of tough terrain. Kaspar can do it. Already after a few days we know: Kaspar ideally fits in our team. He is an experienced, reasonable and reliable driver and team player. He is a perfect match. We are very grateful for this. Altogether we have a great team at the moment. Uli, Marco, Konstantin – all of them professionals in regards of teamwork, fairness and cooperation. Uli and his great humor, Marco and his Bavarian easy-going nature and Konstantin and his Russian calmness.

    Since yesterday 4 P.M. we are on the road again and it seems that Yakutia presents us the same challenges as in December when we arrived. The region and its down to -52° Celsius is the reason, that everything is very difficult.

    Today, for the first time we saw a phenomenon which is dreaded by each and every driver around here: Nalid Ice.
    What it is, how it occurs, and what kinds of risk it implies:
    Generally it occurs when a river totally freezes all the way to the ground due to coldest temperatures. The oncoming water cannot flow underneath the ice anymore. Therefore it squeezes through or over the ice. At some points water bubbles up to a height of several meters appear. The overflowing water does not freeze right away and is not stable enough to cross it. Vehicles that drive over it will break into the ice and freeze up – if they are not recovered fast enough. Some vehicles/trucks wait for weeks or even months to be recovered. At the river Setorym we experienced Nalid Ice. Fortunately it only broke open for about 10/15 cm. We were able to cross it.

    Meanwhile we arrived in Ustnera. After almost exactly 42 hours of non-stop driving. All of us are awake for about 53 hours (if you disregard the three 1-hour sleep stops in the loneliness of Jakutia). Today’s task is still ahead of us: We have to prepare the vehicles for the next section which will lead us along the Kolyma river to Syrianka.

    The people in Ustnera have warned us that due to the low temperatures, there will be a lot of Nalid Ice. Furthermore there has been a storm two days ago which has covered everything in snow – damn!








  18. #38

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    February 04, 2009:

    We had to rearrange our plans and decided to spent the day in Ustnera. After all, five hours of sleep is not enough to make up for the 60 hours that we have been awake, to face the dangerous 400 kilometers to Syrianka. Everybody advises us to be careful. At the same time they also help us to make some tricky adjustments to the cars and organize special icebreaker bars, etc. We will set off tomorrow morning again.

    In the evening, our friend Vitalie from Ustnera invited us to his mother's birthday party. We were served with the best specialties from Jakutsk, like intestines of young horses and other treats. We spent four hours amid his family. Dancing and singing are a tradition, therefore also we performed a German song and - after some shots of vodka - danced with women in the age of our mothers. It was a great celebration. In other words, it was a very nice farewell from civilization to the hardship of the Kolymar area.


  19. #39

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    February 05, 2009: Start of the winter roads

    After having loaded about 850 liters of fuel and produced the correct bio-ethanol mix ratio, we left Ustnera at around 10 a.m. Temporarily we felt like captains of a ship: With initial 1.2 bar air pressure (lateron we reduced to 0.7 bar due to heavy snow drifts) and a precautionary measure which was going to pay off - we removed the stabilizers - the vehicles were rocking like in rough seas. The reason: Without the stabilizers, the lacing bond is improved. Furthermore, the electric disconnectors - which will freeze when breaking into water - cannot threat us with removed stabilizers.

    After driving about 90 kilometers on a winter road towards Magadan, we reached the small, unimpressive junction to Szyrianka. This point marks the beginning of Chukotka's tough winter roads. From here (about 600 m above sea level), we followed our first winter road section towards Sasyr. The 60 kilometers long track lead us over the rivers Burustach and Andigitschan. During this 15 hours long drive, altogether we covered a distance of about 220 kilometers, crossed three mountain passes of up to 1,300 meters above sea level, helped two truck drivers whose truck broke down with an engine damage by making an emergency call to their head office via satellite telephone, drove through the aquarium* and winched my Jeep and trailer several times out of deep snow after getting stuck while breaking through the snowy surface. The winches definitely proved their value with the Jeeps and trailers (weight about eight tons) as well as the special trailer coupling system from Rockinger. These systems ensure the most extreme lacing bonds between vehicle and trailer - which we had often enough. The winter roads are tracks that were cleared by 6x6 or 8x8 trucks.

    They lead cross-country, along or through/across rivers, woods, hillsides, plains, etc. Just where the trucks are able to get through. Often we were driving with 6 mph or less and passed through valleys or high plateaus and over passes which were of impressive beauty. On one of the plateaus there must have been a fierce storm not too long ago. It looked like an area after an earthquake. There were jags, ice and snow drifts of several meters everywhere. In the surreal light of the headlights they looked like broken earth.

    En route we met truck drivers in their extreme Urals and Kamaz, which were keenly struggling through. They told us about several open rivers that are not freezing due to warm water. We should be cautious when crossing them. After arriving at the open river at 3 a.m. we stopped and prepared ourselves for the night. It was too dangerous to cross the river at night. By good coincidence, we saw a convoy of trucks coming towards us the next morning. The trucks only barely crossed the river. We saw how a Kamaz, that was not able to scale the meters high ice step, was recovered out of the river. Not far from where the trucks were crossing, Kaspar found an old, destroyed bridge. It won't carry the trucks, but we hope that it will bear our vehicles which would save us from a difficult winching action.

    *The Aquarium: For truck drivers an infamous little lake close to the third mountain pass on which usually forms a lot of Nalid Ice. In the morning we met truck drivers that told us that it was 5 cm thick. In the afternoon it were already 30 cm and when we arrived we broke into the ice to above our axes. We had to drive through it because we would probably break even deeper in the ice the next morning and damage the vehicles at the wildly upwards pointing ice, broken by trucks. Consequently, we could not - as planned - stay the night at the third pass (temperatures at such altitudes are usually 10 degrees warmer than in the valley), but had to continue driving in order to prevent the wheels, breaks and axes from freezing after driving through the water.

    Feeling group: After six hours of sleep and an extensive breakfast in a beautiful landscape at sunrise, the power was back. Before, the exertion was wearing us out.







  20. #40

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    February 06, 2009: Sasyr

    The little bridge resisted the weight of our Jeeps. Additionally we passed a large area of Nalid Ice without any problems because it was already frozen again. The day was saved. A difficult section was completed.

    Along our further way we spotted a basecamp of reindeer shepherds between some trees. It was temporarily abandoned. Nevertheless we were impressed. 1.5 meters above the ground there were some planks of wood tied together. The sheperds usually sleep on them in furs. There is only a makeshift cover for protection. Already yesterday we saw traces of one or more shepherds with a large number of animals. We followed the traces - but without meeting them.

    Around 5 p.m. we arrived at the native village Sasyr which is about 85 kilometers away from our resting place for the night. It is mostly inhabited by horse and reindeer shepherd families and has a long tradition. Here you can also find the only museum which shows the history of the Ewene tribe. Less than five minutes after our arrival we were surrounded by approx. 20 children. They were really happy when we bought them chocolate from the little store. Immediately one of the children invited us to his home. Upon arrival, the family served us tea and pastry.

    Afterwards we drove around 70 kilometers on the worst humpy earth roads through woods to our current nightly resting place in deep snow at -48° Celsius.








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