I start the post with a general introduction, followed by my personal travelog, and finally gallery.
On 29th of December, 2018 we left for Elbrus, 7 of us: Anton, Liza, Sergy, Nick, Anton the Guns, Irina, and I. While this might be a usual journey for the rest of the group. For me it’s an exploration of Russia from North to South, of the European part of Russia. This puts me a step closer to a possible adventure to Siberia. But for the time being, I just want to say that this has been, like Nepal, an extraordinary adventure for me. I want to sincerely thank the group to make it this cool! 🙂
I prepared myself by bringing the following stuff as recommended by Anton:
And my response:
I left my dorm room at Petrogradskaya, to Anton’s apartment. We planned to leave by the evening but there were some troubles with the van. Thus, we decided to leave the next morn by 8:00 AM.
In my mind I had already left Saint Petersberg, so I didn’t want to go back to my dorm. I met Sergy, Anton’s cousin, and we ate Sushi at a Japanese-European restaurant near Moscowskaya metro. Here I met Liza, Anton’s significant other-half.
Later I left with Anton and Segy to there garage. In St Pt’s you can rent a garage for DIY works. I mention this specifically because it motivates me to make my own cool little shed with tools.
I stayed the night at Anton’s. He showed me all his cool stuff, I didn’t know that Anton played guitars, has a cool 3D printer, plays video games. And Liza plays video games too… how cool is that!
We left early in the morning, we took all the ski equipment to Sergy’s car. Then we left for the van. After packing all the stuff and knowing that the van would do fine. We left to meet the other three fellow travelers, Guns (also named Anton) and his other half Irina, and Nikolai (Nick). Finally we began our journey for Elbrus.
We traveled for 32 hours, it was more than 2500 kilometers. We passed from Moscow (which is crazy big!), and through Rostov, all the way to Terksol near the Russia-Georgia border, Caucasus, the cradle of Indo-European hopes.
Throughout our way, we made stops after every 3-4 hours to eat some snacks, drink some coffee, and warm ourselves up. Half the way Anton drove, half the way drove Sergy. It’s amazing how they could keep up with such constant speed and efficiency. The rest of us were mostly sleeping, watching movies, I was just reading a book about Russian history, and some basics from cognitive neuroscience. While occasionally Nick would take out his little bottle of magic filled with Conyak (about 40% alcohol) and make toasts with the fellow passengers. For a cool recipe, one spoon (odna lodghka) of Conyak with black coffee can warm you up like a volcano from insides.
By the time we reached there our apartment was already booked. All we had to do was unpack, settle and sleep for the next day.
In the night we went to a nearby café as we didn’t really have anything to eat. As soon as it turned 12:00 AM in the night, a huge number of fireworks were ignited. Everywhere there were people rejoicing the coming of a new year.
We enjoyed the firecrackers, ate crazy and danced the night off. It’s strange that Guns thought that ‘I ate a lot’. But now that I think, I really did eat and drink a lot. With dancing, I guess it was all digested rather quickly.
Today, begins our adventures. We dressed up fine. For winters Anton had already advised me to bring some warm clothes.
We left for the Ski encampment. For a tourist it’s cheaper as compared to Russian people. Unlike most of the places in India, where they would squeeze you out of money just because you look like an English-boi. My pass was valid to take me all the way to the summit, but it turned out that after 3000 meters it was heavy fog and useless to go higher.
The cranes would take us up to 4000 meters above the land, to the heart of Albrus. Guns, Irene, and Nick had already been skiing for 3 hours. And Sergy, Anton, and Liza would Ski for another 4 hours while I would just stand in the snow like a potato.
Not that it is a bad thing to stand like a potato, but maybe if I knew how to Ski it have been better for me. It’s uneconomical to buy a Snowboard from 15000 Rubels (about 17000 Rupees) for a single event. For everyone in the group they go for Skiing or Snowboarding each winter.
I was just happy to be able to reside in the mountain, all packed up, watching hundreds of Snowboarders gliding down the summit of the majestic Elbrus. Anton had hurt his wrist doing some serious Skiing, whilst Liza would go down the summit in an hour, Sergy, Anton, Guns, and Nick would do that within 10 minutes, like a boss. It turns out that Liz learnt to Snowboard maybe two years ago, which brings hope to me. I know how to balance on a skate-board and move forward, so maybe I can do it too!
More importantly, I felt what it is like to stand in a constant snowfall with heavy winds, and the buzz of Snowboarders. It’s great that I was well packed. Thanks to my tolerance of winter I could stay out for hours enjoying the beauty. I appreciated how people lived in northern Siberia, where record low is 90 degrees below zero, LOL! By the time I could say LOL, I would freeze to death.
I would stay this day, relaxing myself. Sergy told me about ice-climbing at a nearby valley. We would go for ice-climbing next day. I would spend the day reading, cooking, drinking coffees and starting outside of the window. If the vid is this beautiful, who wouldn’t want to do this ritual (see picture below).
In the evening we left for a nearby small town, to buy some stuff form the supermarket. I brought a lot of stuff to cook and eat.
In the night we watched the soviet movie Vertical (1967). It was about a few mountaineers who would champ a fictional mountain. It justifiable to say why Russian cinema of the past was one of the best, I didn’t feel that the movie finished so quickly. This was my 3880.5th movie. In the upcoming days I watched three more.
0.5 because I had half-watched First Men (movie about Niel Armstrong going to the moon). Which I would watch on 8th of January. LOL! 🙂
Others left for Snowboarding, while I, Anton, Liz, and Sergy left for the valley. Firstly, we put on some heavy boots (my God those were heavy) with Koshke (Cat-claws that help to grip the ice while climbing). With proper safety equipment, our task was to climb a 20 meters tall and frozen waterfall.
Anton and Liz were just there to enjoy the beauty of the hills, and make video of my silly struggle with the ice-climbing for the first time.
Our instructor gave us all the tips and tricks and set up a long cord bound to a tree branch at the top, one end of the cord was bound to his waist while other to the waist of the climber. As we would proceed with our ice-climbing he would keep reducing the length of the cord to keep our progress during climbing intact.
Finally, Sergy had a go at it. In 10 minutes, he went up and down, it was a piece of cake for him. It was tough for me but I went up to 75% through the top, in between I shouted “Long Live Mother Russia” to give me strength.
I had no energy left, after that, I felt my soul was going to leave me and dance in the nether. I felt nausea, I pondered how people who climbed the fictional mountain in Vertical did it? I somehow came down, sweating, thinking how bananas this whole thing was. While I relaxed Sergy went to the top and came back again.
Now I had another go at it. This time I think I did better, I was properly climbing but at about half the height an icicle hit me on the lip. I became distracted with the cut on the lip and decided not to continue. Better safe than sorry.
When I came down, I, Anton and Liz left for the bottom of the hill, and waited for Sergy who would eventually repeat this whole climbing 4 times in total, crazy, crazy. But for Sergy it was more of a sport, he had some training in climbing, so no comparing with that. For me it was a new and enjoyable experience.
In the evening we planned to go to the Banya (Russian sauna) but we extended this plan for the next day. Instead, I ventured the streets with Liz and Sergy. Where Liz had to buy something for the skin. The winter is indeed tough. No matter Napolean’s great army suffered so much after he decided to attack Russia in winter.
While Guns advised me to leave for Snowboarding the next day, I did not follow. It would be justifiable for me to spend thousands of rubles on an activity that I know I cannot comprehend in just one day. So, I decided to spend the day relaxing.
Everywhere there was snow up to the ankles. It’s good that I had some fine boots, that made me feel warm and accepted. We went to the sauna. Gunz, Nick, I and Sergy. We would spend four hours here. We had about 5 liters of beers and mint drinks.
So here is how it works, you go into scorching hot temperature (about 80 degrees) and pour water over hot stones, which gives of steam that makes you feel like you are going to burn to crisp. After which you jump into a tank of freezing cold water. Then you go to the room nearby and chug in a lot of beer. And repeat.
Occasionally we would stay in the sauna for 10 minutes then quickly run outside to the snow and rub our whole bodies with the ice and then rush back into the sauna. It was a crazy routine, but by the time we came out of the sauna, it was one of the most relaxing feelings.
Gunz told me that “you’re going to sleep like a baby”, which was indeed true.
I woke up at around 5 in the morning. Sergy thought I didn’t sleep at all, which is quite an accomplishment for me. I didn’t feel tired at all. Today we were going to leave for horse riding.
We walked about two kilometers, I, Anton, Irene, Liz, and Sergy to the open stable nearby. For all of us except Liz, it was the first time riding a horse. The instructor explained everything about how to mount and maneuver the horse. How to make it go fast and slow, and most importantly sit like a king and enjoy the view.
My horse was Basmach, a bit of naughty lad he were, I lost control in-between but managed to go properly in the end. Antons boi was Apache, which seems nice given Anton’s background a military engineer, Irene’s horse, I forgot its name, but Liz’s I shall remember my whole life. It were Byednechka (the little poor one). The story was that Byednechka’s previous owner treated him improperly leaving a lot of hurting wound on the poor lad. It’s good that Byednechka found a proper home.
He took us about 4 kilometers into the valleys, where we stayed for about half and hour. I remembered my God and inscribed Joji in the snow, remembering Nepal. This was altogether amazing experience. Interestingly to warm my hands, I kept it under the nape of the little dog, I might seem like petting it, but mostly I am just warming my hands up. It was -7 and heavy snowfall in the valleys.
On my way back, I maneuvered the horse like a boss. The snow was knee thick (no kidding). I remembered the excerpt from the history book, “a man is done for in the winter without a horse and a woman”.
I slept at around 3 in the night. Me and Nick, 20 years apart in age, were drinking tea, conyak, and discussing about life. He in his broken English and me in my broken Russian. We talked about Socialism, Siberia, Ufa and lots of random stuff. He introduced me to Jack Fresco, I to him, Gibran Khalil. A memorable talk.
We left in the morning, for Saint Petersberg. It will be another 36 hours before we reach St Pete’s by the evening of 7th. On our way we stopped at a hot spring for an hour. Go to hot water, then to the freezing cold water, then to Luke warm water. Sergy and Guns gave me some instruction for swimming but I am so afraid of the water. Partly because in the desert, there is no water to swim LOL. Anyways, I am positive that one of these days I’ll learn how to swim.
Overall it was an interesting and memorable experience for me. A lot of firsts. First time going to summit through a crane, seeing a Ski-park, enjoying Russian Banya, ice climbing, maneuvering a horse, and most importantly, to sit down and do nothing.
By the time we returned to St Pete’s I still had the experience fresh in my mind. I parted my way after Segry dropped me off to my drom near Nabereznaya Reki, Kapofkii.
Thank you, comrades. You made it an excellent vacation! By the time we finished, I had learnt a lot of swear words in Russian, and phrases for being grateful and cherishing life in general.