Siberia: surviving in the wild taiga
You’ll no doubt have heard of the Trans-Siberian Railway, perhaps you’ve even thought about taking it someday. Most of the route is through the boundless Siberian taiga forest and its small, far-flung villages. Yes the view is amazing, but you can’t feel the real spirit of the taiga or see how people live there just by looking out the window. So, how about actually experiencing for yourself what life’s like in this distant Siberian wilderness? Come and immerse yourself in this place with its vast snowdrifts and virtually not another human soul for miles and miles around.
The plane leaves Moscow at night, then lands the next morning in the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk (UTC+7). You’ll be welcomed by NFR Travel team, then the next leg of the trip begins; we’ll go by a comfortable off-road SUV and head into the Siberian taiga. It’s an 80 km drive to the Ozerki recreation center for acclimatization and to prepare for the next stage of the journey. In the afternoon, you can either visit the Shor community to learn about and get acquainted with the local culture, or visit the Gulag Museum which is located on the site of a genuine camp from Stalin’s times.
We’ll start the day early at the recreation center, and by evening we’ll have reached a place where time stands still. First off it’s a train ride (the only quick, comfortable way to go) and once arrived, we’ll hop on snowmobiles to go deeper into the taiga through snowdrifts. We’ll make our way to the foot of the Kuznetsk Alatau range, which takes about 4 hours. The accommodation is rustic but comfortable — it’s cabins with the basic amenities.
Today, our expedition is just beginning: how long this takes, depends entirely on the weather conditions, and of course, how much snow there is. Nature rules in these parts, but we have experienced guides, so rest assured we won’t get lost!
Today is the right day to enjoy the tranquility and grandeur of nature in these snowy surroundings. There are miles and miles of pure white snow, great fir trees and total, utter silence. You can ski into the woods, try your hand at chopping wood and use it to keep the stove going. Your hard work will pay off and make the local ritual of drinking herbal teas with jelly (that’s jam for travelers from outside north America) all the cozier. Oh, and don’t forget to make a snow angel!
It’s up into the high mountain peaks today to reach the perfectly named Mount Dvuglavaya (the two-headed mountain) and also go along the ridge of Podnebesnye Zubya — named for its resemblance to teeth in the heavens! On snowmobiles we’ll zip through snow-filled valleys, making our way through the forest amongst the innumerable trees. We’ll ride over a landscape of rocks, cliffs and frozen lakes. The views are spectacular, especially in the frosty mountain air. This is going to be awesome, particularly if you’ve not driven a snowmobile before, what a place for your first time!
After yesterday’s exertions, we’ll take it easy today to recharge and reset. Enjoy your time away from it all. We might even catch a wintry, pink sunset.
Have you ever met a genuine traveler? Here in the taiga, lives Sergei Kozin with his wife Svetlana. Sergei is a true traveler — he’s been to the distant land of the Kamchatka peninsula, and he’s climbed virtually all the Siberian peaks. He is the epitome of hospitality and will happily share his stories of the Far North where he floated along rivers and filmed bird markets. Svetlana is Sergei’s ideal fellow traveler — she thrives here in the taiga.
The coolest thing, so to speak, in the taiga is that there is absolutely no need to go anywhere special. Just jump on a snowmobile or don your skis and head out to nowhere in particular. Dive into the nearest fluffy snowdrift, or even stay home all day. Why not?
Have I gone local enough? Now, it’s time to head back so get ready to hit the road, but as a renewed traveler.
It’s another snowmobile ride through the snowy forest. Then a train ride, then a car ride along the highway. Of course, as in real life, everything may not turn out to be straightforward. So, in bad weather, you may well end up staying put for a day or two. If the weather favors us, we’ll spend the night at the hotel in Novokuznetsk.
With a clear mind and vivid impressions of the taiga, we return to Moscow. See you later, Siberia! You’re going to miss the silence of the forest.
Why with us
Although I was born in Russia, I imagined that an expedition to the taiga would feel more like going to outer space rather than a train journey. Things are very, very different here: you don’t think about business or meetings anymore, because life revolves around figuring out how heat up water for a bath, building a fire to keep warm, even digging out a «door» into a meter-high snowdrift to get outside. This really presents a genuine adventure, if you’re up for the challenge… And it’s something you’re never going to forget. Ever.