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7Jun/180

Life in Tundra. Numto Nature Park. Part III

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Valya, Nents and Lyudmila, Khanty

In the previous posts I wrote about my experience of getting to tundra and living with reindeer herders. After that a Nenets family took me to the village of Numto, in the center of Numto Nature Park. Again I sat on the narty (sledges) with Valya. Traditionally, a man is riding a snowmobile and women travel in a narty behind. There was a blizzard starting and we had to hurry but in the middle of the road the snowmobile got broken. While Kostya, Valya’s husband was fixing it, Valya said philosophically – reindeer are slower than a snowmobile but they don’t break in the middle of the road.

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Valya, a nents woman in her husband's malitsa (winter coat of reindeer skin)

Valya and Kostya don’t have reindeer. They live in the village of Numto and work for the construction company from Yekaterinburg. This company is building wooden houses in Numto for the natives. Most of the natives live in tundra at their pastures but don’t mind getting a house for free from the government. The population of Numto is about 60 people. Officially 120 but that’s including children and adults who study and work in the mainland.

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The village of Numto is a cultural and social center of the nature park: it has a clinic, one shop and a helicopter parking. The helicopter comes twice a week bringing goods, food, salaries and pensions for the locals. The citizens of Numto are Khanty and Nenets. One Mansi man, the husband of the doctor is a new comer. He told me that life is much harder here and more primitive than in other districts of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Republic. So this man hopes to leave the place soon. Since not long ago one Russian man came to live here permanently. Anton, a worker of the Yekaterinburg construction company married a local girl and stayed in Numto. He’s probably the only one Russian who has ever done it in tundra. Another builder Aleksey married a native woman from Numto but took her and her kids to Yekaterinburg.

Russian workers in Numto. Aleksey (left), Anton (right)

Russian workers in Numto. Aleksey (left), Anton (right)

I stayed in Numto at Granny Tanya, a Khanty woman. Her family lives in tundra and she came to the village for a couple of weeks for medical treatment. In April there’s not much work at the pasture so her husband stayed alone but Tanya always has something to do. First of all we drank tee with sweets and home-baked bread in her kitchen - a usual ritual of the natives when a guest arrives. Then Tanya showed me the malitsas (fur coats) that she was making for her family members. For a malitsa Khanty and Nenets people use various furs: silver fox, swan feathers. The fur is worn inwards. Deer skin malitsas are used only for severe winter days when the temperature drops below -50C because the reindeer fur and skin is very warm. As Tanya said,  you can sleep in it on the snow in winter. Threads are made of reindeer veins, ordinary threads from a shop are not so reliable.

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Tanya, a Khanty woman in a traditional malitsa

Tanya, a Khanty woman in a traditional malitsa

Tanya showed me how she was making kisy (boots). They are made of reindeer kamusy (skin from animals’ legs. For a pair of boots you need about 18 kamusy (legs) but they will wear for 20 years, Tanya promises. Kisy have two layers: with fur inwards and the other one outwards.

Kisy (reindeer skin boots)

Kisy (reindeer skin boots)

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Tanya is often invited to the towns in the mainland to hold workshops for native women. She teaches them various techniques on how to make traditional clothes, boots and other things.

Tanya and an article about her in a local newspaper

Tanya and an article about her in a local newspaper

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Tanya is lucky – two of her sons chose to stay in tundra. The daughters got married and left for bigger towns. The problem is that at the age of 7 native kids are taken to the mainland. They study at boarding schools and visit the parents only during school holidays. Of course, the majority don’t return to tundra later - to work hard getting only reindeer meet in return and some money from selling berries and mushrooms in August-September.

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After having lunch of reindeer meet, Tanya collected all the bones and we went for a walk. At first I didn’t understand why she took a bucket with deer bones with her. But then I realized that it was a part of a shamanistic ritual. She disposed the bones in the river that flows into sacred Lake Numto. Despite the fact that some natives were converted into Orthodoxy and the village even has a small church, most of the people remain shamanists and animists.

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Skulls of reindeer on a tree - is a sign of a shamanic shrine. People are not allowed to toch them

An island in the middle of Numto lake is a place of shamans gatherings in summer time. In the past the natives didn’t even fish in the ‘sky-lake’ (num – sky, to – lake). Now they do fishing and swimming but it’s still forbidden for women to swim there. Tanya said that women go swimming to another lake in summer time far away from the eyes of the people. A life of a woman in Numto is very conservative. Females wear scarves and hide their hair all year long. And they wear dresses all the time. Tanya said that she can’t understand Russians in the city – wearing pants they all look the same men and women.

Fishing boats under snow

Fishing boats under snow

 

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wooden container for fishing

In the evening our neighbors heated a banya (steam-bath) and I enjoyed having a hot wash. At the end of April it was -20 in Numto and about -30 at night time. But the wooden houses are well heated with ovens and it’s very warm indoors. Fortunately, Khanty and Nenets live in forest-tundra here, so wood is not a problem.

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Next morning I had to leave Numto. Again getting to narty, this time 40km to the car road seemed ok, even great. The red sun was rising at 4am above the white solemn frosty tundra. I wrapped my face with a woolen scarf, so that only eyes were seen and was thinking that tonight I’ll be in Yekaterinburg where it’s +15. Unbelievable!

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Before going to Numto I had been told that after visiting the tundra you will want to come back again and again. And it’s true. I know that I should bring beads for Lyudmila’s needlework, ointment for Tanya, as her hands are in constant pain of hard work, bullets for Grigoriy as they are cheaper home than in the North. It means that, next visit is inevitable now and by the way, you are welcome to join!

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29May/180

Life in Tundra. Numto Nature Park. Part II

In the first post I wrote about Lake Numto, Numto Nature Park and how to get there on zimnik – winter road. This is a story about living with the native Uralic people.

My hostess Lyudmila, Khnty woman

My hostess Lyudmila, Khnty woman

I stayed with the family of Grigoriy, a Nenets reindeer herder and a worker at the Numto Nature Park. His wife Lyudmila is a Khanty woman. The languages of Khanty and Nents people are different though they are distantly related. So at home Grigoriy and his wife speak mostly Russian but with the time Lyudmila learned the Nenets language to be able to speak to her huband’s relatives. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the natives managed to preserve their culture and traditions there despite speaking Russian, using mobile phones and driving snowmobiles instead of riding reindeer.

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The women make a lot of clothes themselves in a traditional way. They decorate everything with traditional ornaments. Men wear belts with plates made of reindeer bones with carvings of sacred northern animals: elk, bear, rein deer, duck etc.

Lyudmila posing in her hand made dresses

Lyudmila posing in her hand made dresses

Lyudmila posing in her hand made dresses and kisy (deer skin boots)

Lyudmila posing in her hand made dresses and kisy (deer skin boots)

The indigenous people are very hospitable. They don’t ask many questions - who you are or why you are here. If you are here they will share their food, will boil tea quickly and offer you a place to sleep with many warm blankets for as long as you need. When I arrived Lyudmila offered me hot tea with lots of sweets and grouse meat that Grigoriy had brought from a hunt. Two things the natives got used to and now can’t live without are wheat bread and sweets, so it’s always a good idea to bring something with. Later we ate reindeer meat in various dishes. Every time it was so delicious.

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reindeer meat

reindeer meat

Eating reindeer tendons

Eating reindeer tendons

A day of a Khanty or Nenets woman begins at 6 in the morning. She gets up, goes to the water well to fill in heavy buckets. To get water she has to break the ice first. Then she hacks wood outside to heat the oven, boils tea and cooks breakfast. At 8am her husband gets up. They have breakfast and he leaves for hunting or checking reindeer or fixing something in the yard. Lyudmila stays at home alone for a whole day now with her companion – Kisa, the cat. She cooks, knits, hacks wood again and brings more water. In the evening as her husband comes home he switches on the generator. Then the family can have electric light in house, charge their mobiles and watch TV.

Lyudmila and her cat are going to bring water from the well

Lyudmila and her cat are going to bring water from the well

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She has to break a layer of ice first

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On the second day Grigoriy took me to the pasture. In winter time reindeer graze far from home because they can’t walk in the deep snow in the forest. Again I sat on narty (sledge) holding them tight with both hands. This time I wasn’t as stressed as on my first day travelling in narty. I was getting used to this way of transportation

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 Meeting reindeer was one of the greatest moments of my journey. The animals were solemnly walking in the sunlit white tundra. Some of them were grazing, digging out yagel (moss) from snow. Others were lying, resting in peace. Tundra was completely silent. Grigoriy brought a sack of frozen fish – a special treat for the reindeer. Obviously, the animals knew that trick and came closer. No matter how hard I tried to lure them with a frozen fish, they wouldn’t come to close to me. Reindeer are wild animals, to use them for riding a man has to catch them first with a lasso. Then it takes time and special knowledge how to tame them.

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In winter (which in Tundra is a season from October till early May) reindeer are quite self-sufficient. May is a difficult month for a reindeer herder – this is when bears wake up. Still hungry a bear can kill all the calves in one day. A rein herder should watch his animals for 24 hours. By the way, bears are still sacred for the native Uralic people. They kill bears only as a big necessity, never for fun. After killing a bear there were long rituals of asking for mercy from a bear because the brown bear is a fore-father of humans according to Khanty’s and Mansi’s beliefs. As Grigoriy said – it’s useless to search and hunt for bears. If a bear is ready to leave this world he will come to you himself. Besides, you have to be a very skillful shooter to shoot a bear.

Grigoriy, Nenets, a reindeer hereder and a worker of the Numto Nature Park

Grigoriy, Nenets, a reindeer herder and a worker of the Numto Nature Park

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Having spent two days in the forest with the reindeer herders I was taken to the village of Numto on the shore of the sacred sky-lake. To be continued…

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23May/180

Life in Tundra. Numto Nature Park. Part I

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At the end of April 2018 my dream came true – I managed to get to the Tundra and to meet native Uralic people of the North of the Urals Khantys and Nenets living in their natural environment.

I visited the territory of Numto Nature Park on the border of Kanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous areas. Numto means a sky lake. Large Numto lake is a sacred place for the natives. It has an island in a shape of a heart that attracts shamans. In the past people didn’t fish there. These days they do fishing but it’s still forbidden for women to swim in the lake.

Numto Nature park is located 450 km north of Surgut city. Surgut is easy to reach by train or plane. Then a 4-hour drive through a vast sandy terrain of tundra. After that the road ends and the last 40km to the village of Numto and the lake are only accessible on zimnik.

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Narty - wooden sledge that native people use

Zimnik - winter road for trucks and off-road geeps

Zimnik - winter road for trucks and off-road geeps

Zimnik  - means a winter road. It’s a snowy road made by tractors when the soil is frozen. Without that road Numto is only reachable by a helicopter that comes to the village 1-2 times a week bringing pensions and salaries to the villagers, food and other products that the natives have ordered from the main land. Fortunately, winters are long in tundra. At the end of April it was still -20 and the snow was solid. However, the natives also use snowmobiles a lot - even in summer time a light snowmobile can easily go through sands and swamps.

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The journey starts from the territory of the oil and gas company. In fact, the nature park is surrounded by drilling rigs that made Green Peace take some actions at Lake Numto. At the same time the workers of the oil and gas company are the source of income for the natives as they can trade with the Russian workers selling them reindeer meat, wild berries and mushrooms in autumn. Otherwise nobody buys those things as generally speaking there are no humans for many kilometers away. The only thing that is strictly forbidden to bring through the check points of the oil company is alcohol. Then again, they are not allowed to check the natives so tundra is not quite a sober land.

My friends arranged my accommodation at the family of Grigoriy, a Nenets reindeer herder who lives with his Khanty wife Lyudmila at the winter pasture. To get there I had to sit on narty – wooden sledges covered with warm reindeer skins, and off we go through the forest and tundra.

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My guest family lives in a small wooden cabin and they have many other wooden shelters around to store goods and snowmobiles. These days native people in that area are not nomads and they don’t live in a chum(yurt made of deer skins). The families migrate several times a year changing their winter home for the summer wooden residence. Some families move around 4 times a year changing pastures every season. As Numto located in the forest-tundra, the natives prefer living in the woods while their reindeer graze in an open space in tundra. There the snow is not so deep and the animals can easily find yagel (moss).

 

Lyudmila in her winter house

Lyudmila in her winter house

Lobaz - Khanty storage of food on tall legs - to prevent from animals, especially bears

Lobaz - Khanty storage of food on tall legs - to prevent from animals, especially bears

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Reindeer are everything for the natives – food, clothes, necessary equipment (they make threads and ropes of skin and veins) and transportation. When our snowmobile got broken in the middle of tundra and in the middle of a blizzard, Valya, a Nenets woman said that reindeer are slower of course but they don’t break and don’t need expensive fuel. Yet, these days even natives prefer to go faster. To be continued…

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20Mar/180

Kachkanar Mt. and Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist Center

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This winter I finally managed to return to the only one in the Urals Buddhist Center Shad Tchup Ling on Mt. Kachkanar.

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In the recent years the local Media has been writing about the inevitable shutdown of the monastery because it was built illegally and because the nearby area is going to be used by Kachkanar Iron Mining Plant. But despite all the articles in the newspapers, the dwellers of Mt. Kachkanar stay calm and happy and continue building.

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The construction of the monastery takes a lot of time and incredible efforts – to lift the materials up the mountains is quite a challenge. Now the Buddhists have a crane device but mostly they deliver everything manually or with the help of the dogs. They say it will take another hundred years to build everything as planned but even now the territory looks impressive.

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As usual at weekends the monastery is full of visitors. Tourists, hikers, curious people come for a day or two. It’s always a good idea to leave donations (to bring something useful or share food). Some people stay longer – for a week or for several months. That’s why it’s hard to tell how many people currently live on top of Kachkanar.

WC on the edge of the cliff

WC on the edge of the cliff

And the view from WC

And the view from WC

Technically Shad Tchup Ling can’t be called a monastery. The first educated monks will arrive in a year (right now two people study at Buddhist school abroad). The others are those who chose a rather solitary way of life of tough labour and mantra reading.

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Open pit of Kachkanar Iron Ore Mining Plant 7km away from the monastery

Open pit of Kachkanar Iron Ore Mining Plant 7km away from the monastery

For hikers Shad Tchup Ling is a good place to stay for lunch and to store personal belongings before going out to explore the nearby rocks. And the rocks are amazing there.

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It’s possible to see Mt Kachkanar in one day from Yekaterinburg if you start very early: distance Yekaterinburg – Kachkanar 250km. There’s a parking place outside the plant. Then walk 8km up the mountain to the Buddhist Monastery.

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17Aug/170

Watch how foreign tourists experience wild life in Ural Mountains

Watch a short film about two tourists from Hong Kong Kong Wai Po and Ball who came to the Urals for trekking and hiking in Taganai National Park.

Sometimes they weren't sure if they could climb the highest peaks but finally they did it thanks to their professional guide Ilia Gerasimov.

You can book the Taganai Tour here http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

And you can watch more videos about the Urals (only in Russian though) made by our friends, amateur hikers from the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB798X6rDO9mry3uO1f8Ohg

5Jul/170

Hiking in Konzhak Mt in Northern Urals

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In June of 2017km I climbed the highest peak of Sverdlovsk Region Konzhak Stone (1569m) for the third time.

This time we were with the Uraloved club - club of amateur hikers from Yekaterinburg. Uraloved was organizing a 4 day tour to the Northern Urals. It was a perfect schedule because a standard 3-day Konzhak trip implies that you climb it in one day. It means 42km or 12 hours of trekking and the following day you can’t feel your legs. The other two days you spend on driving to Konzhak and back (450km one way, takes about 6 hours from Yekaterinburg). The area of Konzhak stone has many other interesting mounts to climb so we had plenty of time to see everything around.

Road to Konzhak

Road to Konzhak

The trail to Konzhak Mt is very picturesque and it’s famous for the annual Konzhak Mountain Marathon held on the first Saturday of July. In 2017 the winner of the marathon, Yevgeniy Markov (31 years old) finished the trail (42km) with the time 3.00.16. Well, we weren’t in a hurry and had heavy rucksacks, so we did first 14km in 5 hours on the first day.

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At first the trail goes through a magnificent almost magic-like Taiga forest with huge cedar trees, crooked spruces and a carpet of thick green moss. Because we arrived on Friday, there wasn’t a single soul in the forest. Taiga was silent only making squeaking sounds of the old trees in the wind every now and then.

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The 14th km of the trail is called the valley of painters, probably because it has a nice view of the Ural Mountains. That’s where tourists pitch their tents. On weekends the valley is overcrowded and those who come late have to put tents in the middle of swamps. Since we came on the working day, we could afford choosing the most convenient and driest spot for our camp. The great thing about Konzhak is that it never gets dark in summer time here. At midnight we could still chatting at the campfire enjoying the views around us.

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The second day was dedicated to the peak of Konzhak and Yov’s Plateau. In June the top of the mount is still partly covered with snow which was actually great. Instead of jumping up and down the huge stones making sure that your feet doesn’t slide in the holes between them and the stones are moving to make it even much worse, in June we could easily walk on snow. We didn’t stay long at the top because the wind there is always beastly strong and the raindrops hit your face like thousands of sharp icy daggers.

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Descending was very easy we could just slide down the snow.

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Yov’s plateau was still swampy in earlier June. Later in summer time the plateau is covered with colorful flowers.

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On our third day we went to climb Serebryanka Mt (1305m). It’s the second place of attraction in the area. This peak is easier to climb that’s why you meet more tourists there and families with children.

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Unfortunately, in the recent past there was a mine made in that area and the road for heavy trucks was build that goes past Serebryanka Mt. and Yov’s Plateau. A lot of lazy tourists from Yekaterinburg and Perm come the plateau by offroad jeeps. We even met a tourist bus that brought 30 people from Perm for a weekend. From the road it takes about 20 minutes to get to the top of Serebryanka. But for us it felt that we are walking alone a busy road in the middle of town. It wasn’t quite what we wanted to see after driving 450km north getting away from the civilization…

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The wind on Serebryanka Mt is not so harsh and we could stay there longer taking a lot of great photos.

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As you can see in the pictures we were really lucky with the weather. It’s not always like this and very often people hike in fog there. Of course, we were ready for the worst, took a lot of winter clothes, raincoats, so the last thing I could think of was a sun protective lotion. Eventually, trekking for four days in the Northern Urals I returned to Yekaterinburg with a burnt face so everyone thought I spent a weekend in Sochi or somewhere else in the South.

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Needless to say, on the fourth day nobody in our group wanted to go back to the city. We promised to each other to come back to Konzhak. May be in August - September next time when the forest is full of berries and mushrooms.

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6May/160

Rafting competitions on the Iset river

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On the 1st of May we celebrated Labour Day on the Iset river observing the riffle called Revun. The place 90 km South of Yekaterinburg attracts many tourists, hikers, professional rafters and rock climbers on May holidays.

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The name of the riffle Revun means Howler. The Ural rivers become especially fast and turbulent in early May. The Iset river that flows through Yekaterinburg is considered one of the quietest however a 300 meters long riffle is located in a rocky canyon. The track is difficult due to many stones and rocks lying in the water.

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Rafting competitions are held here during May holidays and in mid. June when Russians celebrate the Day of Constitution (June 12th). The eastern bank of the river is also ideal for rock climbing.

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The Iset river carved its way through solid porphyritic rocks of volcanic origin here. Behind the rocks the river bed gets wider again.

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The area has another place of interest – Smolinskaya limestone cave only 1 km away from the riffle. The cave is 500m long. It’s one of the longest caves in Sverdlovsk region. Old believers who refused to accept the reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church and ran away to the Urals from Moscovia used to come and pray in the cave in the 18th – 19th centuries.

The cross of Old Believers near the cave

The cross of Old Believers near the cave

One grotto is a vertical lime hole called ‘Road to hell’. Tourists need a rope to get there.

Road to Hell. Photo from nashural.ru

Road to Hell. Photo from nashural.ru

We didn’t go to hell but visited other grottos instead and got out totally dirty. So make sure you take extra clothes for visiting the Smolinskaya cave.

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Getting there from Yekaterinburg:

By car: The riffle Revun is located 20km away from Kamensk Uralskiy. Go in the direction of Kamensk Uralskiy till the village Pokrovskoye. Turn right there and go to the village Beklenischevo. The riffle is at the end of the village.

By bus: take a bus that goes to Kamensk Uralskiy, Kurgan or Shadrinsk. Get off at Pokrovskoye village and walk 5km to the village Beklenischevo.

By local train. Take a train to Kamensk Uralskiy. Get off at the station Perebor or ‘78km’ walk to Pokrovskoye village then to Beklenischevo.

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6Jul/150

Emerald deposit of the Urals

On May 31, 2015 we made a trip to the Emerald deposit in the village of Malysheva near the town of Asbest (100km of Yekaterinburg). Some of the tourists were lucky to find beryls and even emeralds!

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The first Ural emeralds were found in 1831. The oldest emerald mine is flooded now but it's possible to find emeralds here once the mine gets dry again

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Emerald quarry - a restricted area

Emerald quarry - a restricted area

In the village we also stopped at the stone cutting workshop and made serpentine fridge magnets - a popular souvenir from the Urals.

a chunk of marble at the stone cutting work shop

a chunk of marble at the stone cutting work shop

Most of the citizens of the Malysheva village know how to cut and polish Ural gems

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Ural serpentine - a popular decorative stone

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Making fridge magnets

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And this is where everyone can find beryls and emeralds - at refuse heaps of the quarry

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In such minerals (mica) you can find a beryl or an emerald. Emeralds are a greener and more transparent type of a beryl:

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Here's what I found: the emerald of the 5th category - a light green stone. Jewelers use emeralds of the 1st category - deep green transparent stones.

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2Feb/150

National Park Taganai

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National Park Taganai in the Southern Urals, Chelyabinsk region is a popular place with hikers from all over the Urals. It’s easy to access, the tracks are not difficult and the highest point is 1178 m. above sea level, so you don’t have to be a professional climber to ascend the mountains of the Southern Ural ridge.

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Taganai means a’ holder of the moon’ in the Bashkir language and there’s a romantic Moon river (the river Ai) flowing near the park. Total area of the park is about 568 square kilometres (219 sq mi), it stretches for 52 km (32 mi) from north to south and about 10–15 km (6.2–9.3 mi) from east to west.

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I joined a weekend tour to Taganai organized by my colleague Ilia Gerasimov in December 2014. We left Yekaterinburg on Saturday at 7am and arrived in the park by noon. The distance from Yekaterinburg is about 270km, from Chelyabinsk 150km. The cars were parked at the entrance to the park, now we had to carry our rucksacks and sleeping bags to the nearest tourist shelter which was 10km away.

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On the way we stopped at the foot of Perya Mt. That mountain was difficult to ascend in winter because the path leading to the top is very slippery. It took us over one hour to get up there. However, getting down is easier, faster and more fun in winter time as you simply slide down on your bottom – 10 minutes and we were back on the track where we’d left our luggage.

Finally at the top

Finally at the top

Our tourist shelter that should be booked beforehand was a simple room for 10 people in a wooden house with 5 wide berths, an oven in the middle for heating and cooking and a big table. We cooked pasta and after a very late dinner (because it takes hours to boil water on the oven) went to sleep. The next day there was another mountain to climb.

our tourist shelter

our tourist shelter

after a Russian banya one can walk naked

after a Russian banya one can walk naked

Otkliknoy greben is 1155m high but it turned out to be hard to climb mainly because we didn’t find the trail under the sick snow  and had to make our own path. The weather was splendid on that weekend -10C, sunny and no wind at all.

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 From there we could see the highest peak of the National Park Kruglitsa Mt. But for climbing the peak one should plan a 3-day trip in Taganai.

The white cap at a distance of Kruglitsa Mt  1178m above the sea level

The white cap at a distance of Kruglitsa Mt 1178m above the sea level

My friends say that in summer time Taganai is also beautiful, so we are planning to go there again although sliding down on the bottom won’t be an option anymore.

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Getting there from Yekaterinburg by car: go to the south down Chelyabinsk road and then turn to M5 highway towards Zlatoust. Use the main road in the town of Zlatoust in the direction of Magnitka village. As you leave Zlatoust there is a road sign Lesnichstvo (Forest area) and the road turns right to the park entrance.

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10Sep/140

Kachkanar Mt. How to become a Buddhist in the Urals?

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Did you know that the Ural region has a Buddhist Center, the only one in Russia outside the Republics of Buryatia and Kalmykia? Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery is located on Kachkanar Mount. The latter is a worthy place of attraction itself. Being the highest mountain in the Middle Urals (887.6m) with stunning views and peculiar rocks at the top, Kachkanar Mt has even got its own website:  www.kachkanar.org

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To get to that in many senses incredible place you need to drive 260km north of Yekaterinburg to the town of Kachkanar and from there about 50km more to the village Kosya. Here on the Is river people mined gold and platinum in the 19th century. A stone on the side of the road reminds you about it and also about the fact that you are crossing two borders here: the border of Europa and Asia and the border of the Middle and Northern Urals.

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You don’t have to be a skillful mountain climber to get to the Buddhist Monastery at the top. It took our group of amateur hikers 2 hours to climb Kachkanar by the shortest and the steepest trail. By the way, our local guide Ivan Mikhailovich was 80 years old! Another longer and wider road (about 9km) can be very muddy after rains as it’s often used by off-road jeep drivers. So we were sweating but at least our feet were dry and clean.

Kosya village

Kosya village

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It was very windy and cold at the top. That is why I was shocked to see ducks and a cow grazing amid the rocks. But you will be shocked even more when thinking how on Earth the monks managed to lift all the stuff up here to build their monastery with a white stupa!

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The monastery is still in the process of construction but the monks always find time to leave their duties in order to show tourists around and to answer their questions. On Saturday as we got there the monastery was crowded with hikers, as usual on weekends. The monks offered us a spare room and tea and also the kitchen as we had a plan to cook pasta in there. It’s always a good idea to bring food or necessary building materials for the monks.

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Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

Every Buddhist in Russia should have a banya!

Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery was founded by a veteran of Afganistan War Lama Sanye Tenzin Dokchit aka Mikhail Sannikov. After the war he studied Buddhism in Buryatia and Mongolia. In 1995 he started building a monastery on Kachaknar Mt., the place that had been chosen by his teacher. Technically, it can’t be called a monastery as there are no monks, except for the Lama, who have received a proper education. But the place can surely be called a rehab as most of the young men who come to Lama are trying to get rid of drug and alcohol addiction. Many run away after a month or two but they usually return back. Probably because there’s something unbearably beautiful in the severe landscape of the Northern Urals. Have a look yourself…

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Camel rock

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However, there’s a possibility that Kachkanar Mt and the monastery will no longer be here. The mountain is a rich bed of iron ore and the Ore Mining Enterprise of Kachkanar is planning to turn it into a deep quarry. The company belongs to EVRAZ holding headquartered in London and led by Russian tycoon Abramovitch. The activists keep on writing letters to President Putin but chances are the owner of FC Chelsea will win the battle against one solitary Lama.

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