Helen has been travelling through Russia in some bitterly cold conditions and bivvying out when she can't get in a hotel. Our Filo and Hunka XL are making sure she survives, but she is contemplating on whether that is the aim of the trip - 'to survive' ?
Oh where do I start?! I think for now, I will just show you the photos from the last couple of weeks. Mostly it was too cold to stop and take photos… sometimes when I did, the camera wouldn’t work anyway. When it’s -40C and colder (when I woke one morning from the bivvy, it was -50C), priorities are about keeping the blood flowing in your fingers and toes. You only stop to eat or drink or repair punctures (4 now) or sleep. Things stop working. Bike pumps and fuel pumps won’t pump (the o’seals just don’t seal any more). Plastic shatters (bottle cages and pannier clips break). Cable ties snap and duct tape unrolls – which makes fixing things harder. Anywhere there’s water or moisture freezes quickly – jacket zips freeze shut under your chin, thermos and nalgene lids freeze shut so you can’t get a drink, the thermorest valve won’t open (or shut). Touch anything that has been outside (bike, panniers, sleeping bag, trail mix…) and soon your fingers are numb (even with gloves on).
I don’t mind a few hardships, but in the last two weeks the good bits (and they were really good) were too few and far between to make the grim tough bits (and they were really hard) seem worth it. Although now I’m safe in Yakutsk with a few days rest, my memories are already warping and fooling me to think that ‘hey, this is really cool – totally loving this – why wouldn’t you want to bike in Yakutia in winter?’ "