summer tour 2002
This summer, a couple of members of ICCC grabbed the chance to go caving in
Siberia. There was almost no planning involved, as there was barely time to get
the visas before we left the country. If you would like more information, feel
free to email either myself
There is also a large collection of photos from the trip here.
Arriving in Moscow, we took the bus to the outermost Metro station. The fare was 1 pitance.
Our first sight of Moscow was the Metro underground, an extremely efficient and absurdly grandiose feat of
Stalin era engineering and architecture. We're talking marble walls, mosaics, statues, oil paintings, chandeliers and so forth.
The trains came every minute and jouneys cost 7p. London Underground users: permission
to weep. That night we booked into a hostel and wandered around Red Square.
The next day we went to Domodyedevo airport to get a flight to Krasnoyarsk.
Typical Russian queue barging and seemingly endless beaurocratic conversations between
customers and and ticket clerk meant that half an hour later we were still no closer to
Krasnoyarsk. In the end, we went to a different airline and bought tickets
to Novosibirsk. Well, at least it was in the right direction. Of course they only
Arriving in Novosibirsk, we tried to use get through to Dmitri, our guide, using the
station phones. These are almost impossible to use, but with help we managed to get through.
We got the first train to Krasnoyarsk (11hour journey) and some much needed sleep on
the train. At Krasnoyarsk we met Dmitri, his dad, and their Toyota 4x4 van. This vehicle
would be responsible for taking us to some
The first caving area we visited was near Askiz [Аскиз]
(only a day's drive
from Krasnoyarsk [Красноярск]). This is
in the Republic of Khakassia [хакасия], and the terrain here is steppe, ie.
rolling grassland hills with a smattering of trees and ancient
gravestones. The population
is a mixture of native Khakas mongoloid people and Russians who
were sent here under Communism for some reason or other. Siberia in
August was a little too hot for our liking, so it was nice to get underground.
Being inside caves was also a good way of getting away from the mosquitos.
While we were underground, a sheep was bought from a local in Askiz and
summarily dispatched. Needless to say, our meals for the next few days consisted of
mainly of mutton.
After a couple of days caving and camping, we drove off to meet a guy in Askiz who
had a banya (sauna). We tried this out (see inset) and then chatted with the locals over vodka before
driving north, back into the taiga region
(Siberian forest). Here visited a number of caves including one still used by shamans
for arcane purposes. One of the most impressive caves was Oreshnaya Peshchera;
a 42km long cave in conglomorate limestone (geological term for natural concrete).
Without Igor our guide, we would have been lost underground for several days.
This is a small part of the survey.
Our last caving trip was also the most spectacular. Zhenevska Peshchera is situated
at the end of the Yenisey resovoir, some 20km by boat from the Krasnoyarsk dam.
The cave temperature was below freezing, so all the walls were covered in glittering frost,
and the ice formations were incredibly intricate crystals.
After two weeks of caving and culture, we went in search of true Siberian wilderness.
And we found it. We took the train to Severobaikalsk, a town at the northern end of
Lake Baikal. There we met some Czech guys who had similar aspirations to go somewhere
off the beaten track. A few days later we were several kilometres from the nearest
track of any sort whatsoever. We spent four days and nights walking, camping, and
eating wild mushrooms and berries along with our limited food supply. At the end of
the four days, we only had half a tube of mustard and a third of a pot of margarine left.
We got back to the village of Baikalskoe with enough time to get the bus back to
Severobaikalsk, and then a flight in a small turbo-prop aircraft down to
Ulan Ude (£20). From here we got the train back to Novosibirsk in time to
get our flights back to London via Moscow.