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Find me in Siberia
-‘You are going to freeze!- that’s what people told me before my trip to Siberia and that’s probably because the idea we have about it is that there’s nothing there but snow.
I had the privilege to be one of the participants on ‘Follow Up Siberia’, a digital project sponsored by Nornickel and Euronews TV that is promoting this far, mostly unknown region of Russia prior to the 2019 Winter Univeriade in Krasnoyarsk.
Information about Siberia.
Before I go on about my experience, I will first explain a bit about Siberia so you can have a better understanding.
Siberia is not just the northern part of Russia, and is neither a state or a political división. It’s actually a huge part of the territory on its Asian side. To be exact, it’s 76% of the whole country but where only 26% of the total population lives.
Due to its size, Siberia has different types of climates. In some areas, they have cool summers with 14ºC and green landscapes with colorful flowers and then during the winter, it is totally different.
In order to get to my final destination, I traveled more than 29 hours from Oaxaca. I made stopovers in Mexico City, Paris, Moscow and Barnaul before driving 3 hours to get to Belokurikha in the Altai region.
I was part of this experience together with other bloggers: Joerg from Germany, Gemma from the UK, Stefanos from Greece, Stefano from Australia and Robson and Natalie from Brazil. All of them are great people and now new friends.
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On day one we had a lot of different activities, all of them quite fun. Once we checked into our hotel (Bussines-Hotel Rossya) we drove all the way to Tserkova mountain where we took the lift to reach the highest point (550 m). The views were fantastic and the hiking was awesome. I think that was my first hike in the snow, which was such a great new experience for me.
That night we still had more to do. We went to visit the only female blacksmith from Siberia, Anna Beletskaya who showed us some of her work and invited us to see her creative process and do some work with her, which seemed easy but it was not.
Where did we end up that day? At a local beer tasting at a Siberian brewery where the team was able to talk about the whole day’s experiences and we got to know each other better. For day two, there were more new adventures to come and new landscapes to explore. In order to do that, we drove 3 hours to the south in the direction of China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The views were stunning, all covered in white and the sunrise gave the clouds a warm tone, so we asked to stop so we could take some photos. While the tour guides didn’t think this was as beautiful as where we were heading, they agreed and let us jump out of the van for a few minutes for photos before we continued on our way.
When we finally reached our destination, we first needed to get well covered, as there was an epic hike ahead to do something I hadn’t done before; walk on a frozen river. We were at Chemal, a small town on a side of the Katun river that is popular during summer but not as much in winter. -What does it say there?’ someone asked, pointing at one of the many signs that were on the trees. -‘Danger! don’t walk on the ice’ replied Igor, our guide, ‘but you are with me and I’m a certified guide’. Igor stood for a couple of minutes watching the edge of the river before he gave us instructions to walk in a line and not step outside the path. Part of the lake looked light blue, that was thin ice, and we walked over the thicker white ice. Hearing the crunching of the ice as we walked, added to the dramatic effect of the experience. There was a moment that I got distracted looking around and wasn’t paying attention to the path, where there was a big piece of unlevel ice and I slipped and hit the ground. I was lucky though I guess because I had so many layers of clothes on I didn’t hurt myself.
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We walked another 500 meters more where we stood in front of another beauty, the Blue Lakes. These don’t freeze because there are some springs that gush a lot of water underneath. I was standing stunned, the scenario was so silent, all white and unpolluted; it was too much beauty to process in my head. Time flew by, and then it was time to go back to the van.
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Another amazing place was waiting for us, the Island of Patmos, yes, named the same as the one in Greece. A suspension bridge connects the island over the Katun river, and on the island, you can visit the small orthodox church with its golden crosses that make for a nice contrast with the blue sky.
We kept walking along the frozen river where we saw a beautiful sunset. It was an amazing view, just like a postcard.
That day ended with a very interesting activity. We visited a yurt, a traditional nomad tent of a Mongolian tribe settled in Siberia. There, was Alla, who welcomed us and told us more about her social background, traditions and some lessons with their traditional music instruments like the khomus, a mouth harp. It was quite informative and fun at the same time.
The third day started with adrenaline and adventure with a ride on snowmobiles. For that, we had to be really well-covered for the cold weather because the temperature was -12°C and the thermal sensation was as low as -21°C. When you added the speed and the wind, it was extremely cold.
Once we were ready, we started the ride surrounded with pine trees all covered in snow. Then we reached a high point where we paused to see the sunrise (at 9:30 am). Then a few minutes after we did a cool hike in the middle of the forest to see some impressive rock formations also covered in snow.
This ride led us to a nice park where we were received with music and the ‘Salt and Bread’, a traditional way of welcoming where the host wears their galas and offers a big piece of bread and salt, which symbolizes prosperity and wealth.
This trip was full of surprises and there was one more to come, a traditional Russian Banya, which is a type of sauna in a steam room where they use branches of different trees to rub you with. You must use a special type of hat to keep your head fresh and then after being inside a while, you go out in the cold, and either take a swim in a lake or like us, jump into the snow. You need to repeat this 3 to 4 times, as this improves your blood circulation and gets rid of toxins. This was such a different experience.
We ended this day by having dinner at Pyatoye Koleso in Belokurikha a cozy restaurant where we also had a master class of ice cream making using nitrogen. This was my first time doing it, and the result was pretty good and tasted delicious. It was fun to get a comment on my Instagram’s stories asking if wasn’t easier to just put it outdoors to get it frozen, that made me laugh.
The fourth and last day included action and snow. It was time for snow sports, and we all choose snowboarding. It seemed like they forgot to ask if we all knew how to snowboard because most of us did well, but for Gemma and I, it was our first time. Thankfully Lucy, one of the organizers offered to teach us, and while we didn’t do so well, at least we tried. I’m looking forward to keep practicing in the near future.
It was time to pack all of my new experiences and memories. It was hard to say goodbye to the new friends and the locals who let us see that although this is a cold land, it has people with warm hearts that will always welcome you with a big smile.
Thanks, Siberia for letting us explore you, you taught us a lot.
Now I dream about seeing you again soon.
Have you seen mi Video about Siberia?.
Where did I stayed?