Monthly Archives: August 2009

Day 53 – Thursday, August 20th, Kansk to Krasnoyarsk, Russia (230 km – total to date 10,169 km)

Headaches this morning!! Thank goodness our drive was short only 213 km.! Our new group was waiting for us at Krasnoyarsk, Kenny and Barbie Ross; Bob and Terry McGregor. So we were all in good spirits despite the headaches. Okay, we did move a little slower than usual but only for a couple of hours. We left early at 7:45 a.m. and it definitely felt like fall 13 degrees C. and a little reminder of the apple moonshine of last night. We were all anxious to get moving but Russ and I got locked in our room and at last with all of Russ’ fiddling the whole lock fell out of the door handle with the key! And when Terry took his shower (in the little 1/2 bathtub) the shower head fell off which let the water spray all over the room. So we are pretty sure that this sketchy hotel was just as glad to see us leave as we were to leave it.


As we entered into the city limits of Krasnoyarsk the houses were still the same style as in the little villages. Also the street into the city was paved but all the side roads leading to the houses were unpaved mud or gravel streets with little paths leading up to the doorways of the houses. 900,000 people live in this city! As we got closer to the center we were relieved to see more modern buildings and we actually came upon a 4 lane bridge going each way (that is 8 lanes)!! Up to now all the highways have only been two lanes, one going each way. Many of the buildings we passed as we got closer to our hotel, were unfinished. Our guide told us this was because the builder had run out of money and the power changed from one political party to another which made the construction stop. Almost every city we have been to has a Peace street and a Lenin street, interesting. We were delighted to meet our next group as we checked into the hotel.


That afternoon we all went on a tour of the city’s museum.  This was a great museum and we learned alot about Siberia that we did not know previously.  Siberia has nine different Aboriginal Tribes. These tribes plus the Mongolians and the Russians have all settled into Siberia. In ancient times the Buryat’s which is the Republic in Siberia closest to Mongolia (I believe they are probably descendants from Mongolia). Anyway there were more girls than boys so parents had to arrange marriages at a very young age for their sons or they may never marry because all the girls would be taken.  So by the age of 3 most boys and girls were betrothed to someone. To confirm the arrangement the two families would exchange scarves but the boy’s family would have to pay for the bride. The dowry would be goats, horses, silk or whatever the two families decided. If a family had many sons it would take awhile to raise the dowry for his bride so even though the two were betrothed to marry it sometimes took a long time before the man’s family could pay for the bride. So sometimes the man would be a lot older than the bride.  Also if a family had a lot of sons they married them off in order of their birth.  (Maybe that is one of the reasons families gave a son to the monastery to be raised as a monk as they had no money for a dowry or was it just because it was an honor to have a monk in the family?) As the Russians started to move into Siberia the Buryat men started marrying Russian women and this ended the custom of dowries being paid for a bride.


A couple of the tribes in Siberia raise and herd reindeer; some hunt and fish; some live in wooden Gers while others live in “Chums” (T-pees).  These Chums are made of bark in summer and animal hides in winter. One of the nine Aboriginal Tribes have tattoos on their faces. To make the tattoos they use a needle (or sharp object) to make a pin prick design on the face. Then after they are happy with the design they sew a reindeer tendon or ligament (which has been boiled to make it soft and pliable) in and out through the design. Exposure to the sun makes the reindeer tendon black and viola they have a permanent tattoo on their face. Brilliant really, who would have thought of that!


Another tool we were shown at this museum was used to help in the delivery of babies (human babies). It was a long stick with a knife blade at the top.  This tool was used to cut the umbilical cord and each family had one of these important tools.  When a baby was born a ribbon was knotted to the bottom of the handle (opposite the blade end). This showed everybody how many babies the woman of the house had delivered (or it may have showed how many chords this tool had cut after all there may have been more than one woman delivering babies in a family).


There was a great exhibit of Shamans which was the first religion of Siberia and Mongolia. The Shamans dressed as animals or birds. Their jackets had lots of fringes along the arms representing bird feathers and their gloves had claws or feathers tied on to them.  (Claws represented bears). The faces were always covered by decorated strings dangling from their hats. They wanted their eyes covered because they believed you could reach a person’s soul through their eyes and by covering their eyes it protected their souls  from evil spirits.


The most obvious thing we learned by touring this museum was how similar aboriginal people are around the world. These aboriginals in Siberia are very similar to our Native American Indians (First Nations) and Eskimos. Our Aboriginals had T-pees; Siberia’s had chums; Alaska’s have igloos. All first nations hunted and fished; have elders, shamans, and witch-doctors. There music consists of chanting, throat singing and dancing. Aboriginal people are all similar around the world and they all come from the same knowledge and the same roots whether it’s Hawaii, Siberia or North America! 


At dinner which was the last night with Gordie, Laverne, Terry and Gillian (Boo Hoo), the girls and the boys entertained our new group and each other by singing songs we wrote about the trip. The girls sang a song to the tune of “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” only of course we were the three queens traveling from Ulan Baatar! The boys actually sang us two songs!! One was to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun” and the other was to the tune of “We Will Follow You” It was a great night (again!!) and very sad to say good-bye to everyone.  We definitely want to adopt “Bubbly” our guide Ksenia.  We looked forward to continuing our adventure with Ken, Barb, Bob and Terry. We have also been reunited with Tatiana who was with us through Mongolia and she was brave enough to join up with us again.  She will guide us to Moscow.

Day 52 – Wednesday, August 19th, Tulun to Kansk (441 km – total to date 9,939 km)

I have to give credit to our guides and drivers from MIR Corporation.  They go beyond the extraordinary and work very hard. We meet at 8 a.m. (sometimes 4 a.m.) and they stay with us until we hit the pillows at night usually around 11 p.m. day after day. They are fantastic (Russ wants to bring all of the girls home to work for us)! They all deserve a big pat on the back and we greatly  appreciate their efforts!


Today we left Tulun and are driving to Kansk, a 446 Km. day. This day started off in our usual routine; breakfast at 8 a.m., check out,  pack up the cars and head off about 9 a.m.  As we left this city we noticed more of the extremely large steam pipes used to pump heat into the people’s homes. Steam is made from a large factory or steam plant and then pushed through these pipes into the houses and apartments.  These factories burn coal to collect the heat via steam which they push through the large insulated pipes spread all around the city. They are above ground and cross above the roadways, circling up, down and back and forth along the populated city. Not only are these pipes an eye sore but we do not think they could be very efficient, we would not want to be the last house to receive the steam from these pipes.


There is an unkept look about the small cities and the villages in Siberia.  Even though the houses are very cute with the painted window frames and shutters and many homes have flowers growing with their vegetables behind the fences. From our western perspective there is a dreary look about the unpainted houses and unpainted fences. Sometimes there has been an attempt at painting a house but it usually has only one coat of paint or only one section of the house is painted. Lots of the houses are actually duplexes so one half will be painted and the other half is not. We are assuming this is because all of the land is owned by the government and only the buildings are owned by individuals.  When a person owning half a duplex moves they pick up their half of the house and move with it! Grass is never mowed but animals are free to walk around and eat it.  That is why each house is fenced and their little settlement includes the house plus a few sheds to hold the cow, goats, geese, feed, wood and whatever else they need to survive and protect from the cold winters.


Driving this day was challenging. It was like driving up mountain trails as the roads were gravel with lots of pot-holes which sometimes turned into straight mud. We all received a Russian massage today driving along these roads. At one point we stopped off to the side where there were these little stands set up, right in all of the mud! People were selling berries and pine cones. Plus tea where they heated up the water using Russian Samovars and wood kindling as fuel.  One little girl had knit some baby booties which of course we had to buy. I am intrigued by these pine cone nuts because they are so difficult to harvest and only come from the Siberian Pine tree which grows in the forest here. The Russians grind these nuts up to make oil. I will have a lot more respect for pine nuts when I get home! It was a cold wet day and these poor people were muddy and had to stand around to wait for the truckers and drivers to stop before they could sell their goods.  We bought a bunch of berries, tea and of course the booties.  Gave them some Canadian hats and took photos.  The two young girls were thrilled. (Probably more thrilled by the tips we gave them).


As we went back to our muddy trail we could not believe the amount of traffic on these roads.  The roads are like off-road driving only this is the main highway in this section of Siberia. We kept passing big trucks slipping and sliding, trying to get to their destination to deliver their goods. Unbelievable that anywhere in the world today a main highway is just mud and gravel. Every once in awhile there would be a section of pavement but it would just be for a block or two then back to the off-road conditions.  For lunch we stopped at a truck stop which was full of parked trucks and it also looked like it was newly built.  The whole parking lot was mud but the log building was made out of pine trees. It was a one story long building made up of a bunch of  little log shops and cafes. It also had a couple of very clean washrooms which was a big bonus! It cost 10 rubles to use because a lady was there to keep it clean (well worth the 10 rubles). Canada would do better by adopting this custom, especially on our ferries to Vancouver Island.


Russ and the boys had a little visit with one of the truck drivers whose truck was broken down.  He had been waiting there for five days, for parts for his truck. He had two very greasy mechanics helping him out and all three of their names were Sergey which is our driver’s name as well. Our next stop was at the side of the road where a village was settled along side the highway.  Two kids were playing in a mud puddle and we gave them some hats.  They though this was the funniest thing and couldn’t stop giggling. Up to now we had noticed cows and goats grazing along freely now we are noticing the odd pig or two walking around the villages as well. At 6:45 p.m. we finally reached a paved highway. We had started out off-roading at 10:30 a.m. so we drove for 5 – 6 hours on unpaved road which was the main travelway in Siberia. Approximately 380 kms. of mud and gravel. 


The hotel we finally arrived at was a little sketchy.  It had two doors which you reached by climbing up some concrete stairs.  The door on the left was for the restaurant and it had a big hole punched into it. (I am assuming as a result of a drunken brawl).  The right hand doorway was for the hotel. No elevator just stairs (same as Abigail’s Hotel which is a historical building and has a completely different feel). We walked up to the 4th floor carrying our bags and gulped at the hallway which was long and narrow, painted hospital green and reminded us of an asylum or jail. Rooms were clean though with lino floors and a rug between two single beds.  The washroom had a 1/2 tub with shower head and there was a sink right beside the tub. The faucet for both the sink and the tub was the same; you would just swing it to the side you wanted the water, from sink to tub.


We walked down the gravel road to a different restaurant  from the hotel thinking this was a very poor city if that was the best hotel in town.  So we were a little worried about the quality of the restaurant we were going to. Well we get into the restaurant and there was one other table besides ours with several women and one man sitting at it. Russ asked how this one man was so lucky to have all the women in town sitting with him.  Turned out they were celebrating their 34th anniversary from graduating from school and they all went to school together in this little city. Well Russ bought them a bottle of wine, they bought us a bottle of vodka.  We gave them a toast, they gave us a toast. They sang to us the Russian National Anthem, we say ours to them.  A couple more toasts; a couple more Russian songs, we then sang (not to be out-done) “Take me out to the ball game”.  Then the music was on and we were all dancing!  And wouldn’t you know it; today was the first day of fall in Siberia. August 19th and to celebrate they have an apple feast. So out come the apples and apple moonshine. Lots more toasts (tastes like nail polish remover).  Then the dancing was really friendly. One lady loved Russ and another lady loved Gillian.  We finally left after having a great time (we were a little worried about Terry’s dancing around without the cast on his foot) he said he couldn’t feel his feet so all was well.  How we found our hotel I will never know but we really, really liked this city! It was a fun night and if we hadn’t stayed at this sketchy hotel we would not have met our new best friends!

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