Sunday Oct 9th 2011
Gulnara and I rode into Nizhny Bestyakh, Friday night Sept 30th, on our 49th day.
Our 49 days journey included
-our 42 cycling days from Omsukchan to Yakutsk (Nishny Bestyakh) and our row across the Aldan river!
-our 7 visiting/socializing/resting days which we took along the way to:
* visit gold and coal mines, interesting museums, gulag ruins, meteorologist stations, road construction settlements, a dairy farm and a fire station.
* take the time to connect with interesting characters, making countless new friends along our way.
We arrived in Nishniy Bestyah after having completed 1962 "official" kilometers on our bicycles since Omsukchan.
However, our unofficial count is closer to 2100 kilometers completed between Omsukchan and Yakutsk according to Gulnara's cycle computer and taking into account all the additional kilometers we rode in/out/around villages, and including the section between Nishniy Bestyah and Yakutsk.
The last 20 kilometers prior to reaching Nishny Bestyakh on the federal road were particularly challenging, covered with a mixture of large round rocks, sand and a much greater amount of trucks, cars and kamikaze tabletkas (UAZ 452) zooming by at high speed!
I thought many times of the classic Paris-Roubaix bicycle race while riding the last 200 kms since Churapcha...
Gulnara's classic words upon landing in Nizhny Bestyakh and looking at the paved road ahead were: "Is that asphalt or is that a mirage!"
Once we reached Nishny Bestyakh, we decided as we had originally planned to go a "sidetrip / excursion" to Yakutsk!
Stopping officially this section of the expedition in Nishny Bestyakh was going to allow us indeed to embark on the ferry between Nishny Bestyakh and Yakutsk across the very large Lena river without having to find a way to row across it both ways...
This means that today, as I am leaving Yakutsk, I need to get on the ferry back from Yakutsk to Nishny Bestyakh to be able to resume my expedition in Nishny Bestyakh (where I last stopped) and start cycling southbound on the Lena Highway (M56) towards Neryungri, approximately 820 kms away.
Riding Lena Highway (M56) down South
Friday Sept 30th, Gulnara and I were ecstatic to reach Nishny Bestyakh and to quickly get on the ferry across the Lena river towards Yakutsk. The crossing took more than a chilling hour and upon landing we stopped for a quick meal at the nearby food stands before taking off on an additional 20 kms to get to our location in the center of Yakutsk, riding through town on late Friday night.
Thereafter, Gulnara and I were able to spend together a great and busy week in the fast growing city of Yakutsk.
We mostly spent our time:
-meeting and making new friends, such as German & Irina, Kyril/Vladimir/Svetlana, Leonid, Yegor, Bolot, Maxim & Gulnara, Yuri, Slav, Evgenia, Mac and Alex, Ania and Masha, amongst others....
-making 2 TV, 5 newspapers interviews and one additional AskYakutia.com internet/TV interview by my journalist friend Bolot Bochkarev which you might enjoy...
-visiting sights, the museum of Yakut/Sakha fine arts, the ethnological Yakut/Sakha museum, a permafrost tunnel and a diamond cutting/polishing factory.
- spent time organizing and repairing some of our gear with the great help of Kyril at Stark: Tuning and repairing my Surly Big Dummy bike (replacing a broken front Tubus rack Lena Highway (M56)
Gulnara is currently planning to return and join me on future cycling sections next summer when the climate will be once again warmer and therefore definitely more enjoyable!
I have chosen to continue further South now on the Lena Highway (M56) because:
-my Russian visa is allowing me to stay until November 1st and I want to make the most use out of it.
- the unpaved Lena Highway is apparently not in a very good shape and might actually be easier to ride now as the temperature gets cooler (October forecast: from -20c at night to +5c daytime), and it starts snowing rather than wait until Spring 2011 months, when torrential rains will probably turn the entire road into a beautiful mud cake!
- the world is not so small and if I still hope to complete my circumnavigation of the planet some day, I need to make some progress while I can...
Before leaving Yakutsk, Gulnara and I wanted to thank once again all of our Yakutsk friends for their help and hospitality.
We also do want to thank our Russian sponsor Avia Partner / Авиа-Партнер for having once again facilitated the fast and efficient transport of our cargo from Moscow to Yakutsk and back. We especially want to thank Director Kosyakov Mikhail Yurevich, as well as Anna Davydova and finally Alexandr Oparin, Avia Partner's representative in Yakutsk.
We also want to thank Guerman and Irina Arbugaev at Chochur Muran (Arctic Travel) as well as Yegor and Kyril, Vladimir and Sveltana for having kindly welcomed us in their property and/or private homes!
And yes, I will hopefully take the time to share more stories and pictures on what Gulnara and I have experienced over the last month when I get better internet access in early November, after having completed this next section.
But for the time being, here I am, getting ready to depart Yakutsk, escorted by Yakut bicycle riders, under the falling snow...