Gulags & Abandoned Cities & Diving
Leaving Dneprovsky and back to Magadan
July 10, 2012
Morning came and I slept actually quite well snuggled inside my sleeping bag and sitting up in the truck. I am a little stiff this morning and not sure I can climb out of the truck but I will manage somehow. Very proud of my accomplishment yesterday and the three hours plus I spent walking up very steep hills and down again in the gulag. Not sure I want to do it again but I have accomplished this at least once. Ta-Da.
Turns out I had a more comfortable bed than my hubby in his tent. With three air mattresses and he still couldn’t get comfortable. Poor baby. At least he was flat!
This morning we are going to hike to the prisoner’s cemetery and then on the way out we will stop at the mill and a ruined factory. So we will do a couple of meals before we leave and then the “boys” will strike the camp and we will be out of here and back to Magadan.
Breakfast was yoghurt and some fruit and bread. At the stop yesterday in the café in Atka, there was a man selling “honey” from his car. It had the consistency of honey yesterday but he said he makes it out of pine needles and sugar and lets it ferment a bit. I hadn’t tried it yesterday but did this morning. Its consistency had melted in the heat but there was no way I thought it tasted like honey. I thought it was like chewing on pine needles but others thought it was good. To each his own but I’ll take some nice bee honey over it any day.
Our historian/naturalist takes us over to the prisoner’s cemetery and we only have to cross a small creek and climb up a steep short embankment and then up another short hill and we are there. My bod was really aching and creaking at this cavalier treatment after the workout from yesterday. But of course I made it with the help of my entourage: my hubby, the historian, and our tour guides. It’s nice having an entourage just too bad that I need one.
There is a cross there now which of course would not have been allowed when the gulag was in operation. There were a lot of candles that had fallen into the rocks around the bottom of the cross so Julia and I fished out most of them and set them in the stones again to burn. Otherwise, most of the cemetery was an overgrown area of mounds of rocks with a single stick rising from the head of the gravesite. Some were knocked down and some graves didn’t have sticks. Could not see that there were names on the sticks, jut a marker.
As we are going over there, I realize that I had turned my bear flare back to Volodka, our Bear Guy. I don’t have my 5-6’ protection flare but luckily we should be safe this morning as Volodka is walking right with us and staying close and the group is not scattering at all. He has us all where we can be seen so we shouldn’t need our flares today. How comforting walking with a man with a big rifle and machete.
Olga and Vika were doing a bang up job on cooking over the campfire and providing good sustenance but lunch was definitely a bit of a question mark. It was pasta with what my hubby called the pink slime meat that they put in the sauce to pour over the pasta. OMG. Apparently this is a common canned meat in this part of the world and not sure why my husband was familiar with it but to can the meat, it is processed somehow with ammonia and it turns the meat pink. Just didn’t care for it without the fact that it was nasty looking. Thought the taste definitely lived up to “pink slime”. The pasta itself was good though so I fished out most of the slime meat and ate just the pasta. Oh well. Can’t please everyone all the time with all the meals.
Everything gets packed into the truck or the support vehicles and the flares are all collected and we hop into the truck for the journey back to Magadan. We stop first at a ruined mill which wasn’t far from camp. It had quite a few buildings but none were in very good shape. Then further down the road was a ruined factory which must have made equipment needed for the mine. Also, not in good shape at all. The entire gulag is slowly decaying and falling back to nature but it is still one of the best preserved gulags in the area.
From the factory, we are back on the road of bones to head back to Magadan. The support vehicle is in front of us and they radio Julia that there is a bear on the road. Of course it is on the wrong side of the truck and everyone jumped up to take photos and I couldn’t get over there so gave the camera to my hubby who is not aggressive enough in photo taking. So we have two photos of the bear but they are not good photos. Plus is was a young bear and very confused with the traffic. And our truck driver was in a hurry so he only paused a few minutes and then roared off again. My only Russian bear and we didn’t get much time to admire him.
When we arrived at the café at Akta, there were a lot of people waiting in the shade of the café and as our truck pulled around, they started moving towards it. To me, it looked like they thought we were a bus. They soon realized we were not a bus but I was right. As we are waiting to leave again, two more of the Kamaz trucks with passenger mountings on the back pulled into the café. People poured out of the two new trucks and everyone played Chinese fire drill as they scrambled to get into a new truck. This is apparently the local transfer station for Kamaz trucks/buses for people to change and go to Yakutsk or Magadan. Amazing that somewhere so far out in the back of beyond, seemingly, can be such a busy hub for 20 minutes and then a sleepy barely awake café for the rest of the day.
On to the airport! This is the end of the Magadan tour. Some of our tour members are leaving today and heading for different parts of the globe and other things to do. The rest of us are staying for the next tour, Abandoned Russia. We will still be based in Magadan and from here – go north to Susuman and visit Kadykchan, a city that was abandoned several years ago. So a stop to say goodbye to our new friends of the gulag and then back to our hotel in Magadan where we get the same room we had before and get back our suitcases and have a free evening in Magadan.
At one of the roundabouts in Magadan, there are several planes displayed and looks like a bunch of other WWII type armaments and remnants. We decide to walk down there to take photos and see what is there. It was quite a lot of equipment settled in for the kids now, I think. Or at least there were kids playing on the tanks and sitting on the turrets. The planes were mounted on poles so nobody could get into them. Still, an impressive display of old wartime equipment.
I think the group headed out for the Steak House for dinner again but as we are walking up the hill, my poor bod (namely knees and hips) are going “what the hell! Haven’t you done enough the last two days”. Plus the group really was already pulling away since I am a slow walker so I told my hubby to catch up to them for dinner and I would go back to the room and relax. While I know he hates to leave me behind and worries about me a lot, he was happy to do it when I assured him I was fine. Luckily I knew where one grocery was so I stopped there to get just some snacks for my dinner. They had some nice looking puff pastries but I didn’t realize they were unfilled until I got back to the room. I did get some fruit and some yoghurt so I was good.
Now we are ready for the next tour: Abandoned Russia!