The Beast at Rest
out eating Scha-schlick, a Russian favorite meal of BBQ meat,
Henning and I encountered a strange vehicle in the parking lot.
Intrigued we both ambled over to get a better fix for our curiosity.
Before us was
something straight out of the pages of the National Geographic.
A large, armored vehicle that was obviously built for some serious
expeditions. On the side of the truck were the words Polar
Explorer in English along with the picture of a Polar Bear.
Andrey, who was also eating with us,
asked if we wanted to meet the occupants of the vehicle to which we
readily accepted. After the echoes of the knocking had died
down, the door was opened by your very typical version of a famous
explorer. Long straight hair framed a leathery lean face layered
with a short salt and pepper beard. Dis-interested eyes quickly
took in the sight of both Henning and I before becoming quickly focused
on Andrey with the evident look of "This had better not be wasting my
later after the translation came through that we were like minded
travelers interested in hearing more about what he was doing, his
demeanor changed and he warmly invited us into his modified military
BTR-80 to share, with the help of Andrey, his story.
Novgorod, 53 year old Valintin Efremove is a famous russian explorer
who has had a long passion with the arctic. Trained at the
Moscow University in Cosmology Engineering with the aim of working in
Russia's expanding space industry, Valintin then went to work at the Chicotka nuclear power station between Russia and Alaska.
only there for only a year, he quickly became enraptured in the Arctic
environment with it's pristine beauty, unique animal inhabitants and
large open spaces. Quitting his job he followed this thirst to
live with the Russian Eskimos for a few years where he spent
considerable time traveling the region by dogsled as well as by
Reindeers and where his nights were lit up by the Aura Borealis.
expedition is centered around the Island of the Stone Giants. At
first I thought he was talking about Easter island, but as the
conversation continued on, he was in fact describing an island near Novarserbisk and Verchoynsk where the temperatures reach as low as -73
The island is
covered with stones which resemble human faces and animals as well as
remnants of mammoths and an ancient cultures, which Valintin is
spending his time and effort into discovering more about.
After driving us
in the gargantuan vehicle of his, which was a true experience in
itself, to another bar, we proceeded to drink some more and meet his
friends before retiring for the evening.
each other again a few days later we sat on the beach and talked some
more via sign language while showering me with beer. After a
short sail on his friends 38 foot Polar Circle where I met a
charming couple of University students, Valintin invited me to
join him next year in February or March when he is selling the BTR-80
to purchase a balloon in which he will continue his exploring.
I don't know how serious he was,
but it is an interesting proposition to be sure as I don't think I have anything
on the calendar at that time ;-)
Being on the
bikes, we have stood out somewhat and have met some of the most
interesting people that one might not usually meet. I'm looking
forward to meeting many more - maybe even from a balloon