Taattara = To Taatta: Taattara = To Taatta

June 21, 2015   |   Galya Morrell


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May 1, 2015  |  Galya Morrell


Some of us know how the M56 Kolyma Highway (a.k.a the Road of Bones that connects Yakutsk with Magadan via Pole of Cold) can be. In the winter it’s a fictional place. One’s exhale crackles in the air and the clothes hung on the rope to dry shatter easier than glass. In late January temperatures drop to – 60°C and in late March it gets only a little warmer. Summer lasts only two months with the first snow arriving in late September. So, we thought, since we’ve seen this road in the times of cold, why won’t we try to travel on it in the summer when the temperaturures quickly rise to + 40°C, when armadas of blood-thristy predators arrive to party and propagate and when it gets so dry that even the tiniest of cars raise horrendous clouds of dust that are thicker and denser than famous cold fogs of early January.

Our old generous friends one of whom was a white shaman, another – a horse herder, and the third one – a living Fire Ball, said that they will go along with us and help us interpret certain things we will surely run into during our journey. «On this road, they said, things happen. They happen for no apparent reason, neither good or bad, but if one does not show respect one will end up in a trap».

Needless to say, our expedition was not about speed, but rather about schooling. We wanted to learn from our friends and their friends living along the Route about the art of adaptation and survival in one of the harshest climates on Earth. We also wanted to know if this harsh climate was changing, and if yes, what these changes meant for people living here all year round.

We decided to travel pretty much baggageless hoping to receive gifts from Nature and local gods whom we were ready to please with all possible means. For them we prepared a special bag of pancakes and other important goodies of which I will talk later in detail. Our road teachers have already instructred us, there are times to talk and there are times to keep your mouth shut.

Early in the morning we made a casual crossing of the Great Lena River in an old boat and continued in a «UAZzik» that has seen it all. Our young driver, Platon which means Plato, was eager to reach Taatta, our first stop-over, in some 6 or 7 hours.

If the road is good, the journey from Yakutsk to Taatta may be much shorter, as it is almost always shorter in the winter time. But this spring unusually heavy rains have arrived, following all the heavy rains of the last fall, causing the flood that has already gobbled 106 km of the Route and the water kept rising fast.

If one wants to learn first hand about climate change in Siberia, one would not have to travel far on the M56 Kolyma Highway to receive some convincing answers. What seemed to be an endless, annoying but quite innocent rain back in Yakusk, turned out to be a major destructive force on the Kolyma Tract.

At the beginning of our journey we were flying in the air like tennis balls can fly in the empty shoe-box – along with pancakes for gods and bottles of kumis (mare’s fermented milk). No seat belts, of course. Plato was good. He has already driven this segment of the road twice in the last couple days and he told us that each time driving was getting harder and harder. Plato heard on the radio that another thunderstorm was on the way which meant that we had to hurry up.

But then our speed decreased as we ran into the area of rutted quick-sand like quagmires. Slow we went – like snails.

We saw many things on the road. We saw huge powerful KAMAZes stuck in the mud and waiting for a rescue. We saw courageous road workers repairing the damage caused by the flood. And we also saw the forests eaten by voracious silkworms. This is only one of the reasons why permafrost soils have become so vulnerable and why the road «sinks» no matter how much effort and dedication people put into it.

But this time we were lucky. Some 7 hours later we made it to Taatta’s border where our friends were already waiting for us. And we wouldn’t have thought twice to make a much longer and more exhausting journey for a chance to be with them this night.

From one house we wondered to another one, listening to the stories about the water that may have flooded the road, but at the same time nourished the land which will know give everyone its generous gifts.

And then the Sun came up as people were singing and thanking Nature for every single moment of Life we live through. We were surrounded by people who do not complain, who do not blame others for their misfortunes, who don’t talk too much and who feel pride for their land. We finally were at home.


Thank you to all those who continue to support my work and occasionally are crazy enough to jump into a frozen river to see if the whole thing is real!

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