30 August 2011

Road of Bones, City of Ghosts

AUGUST 19, 2011

After our relatively restful night in Ust Nera, we packed up our bikes and went to fill up.  Here is our hotel, and the gas station there:

We didn't have much of a plan today, and didn't really know where we would spend the night.  We did figure that we would spend some out Kadykchan, which was along our route and which is described in full below.  But first we had some riding to do, including a couple of water-crossings.  Here is the first one, really the only significant water-crossing of the whole trip, as it turned out:

Here is the second one.  As you can see from the water level on the truck in the river, this one was kinda deep, probably a bit too deep for the bikes.

While Doug and I were futzing around looking for a shallower part of the stream, Max took the initiative, found an old bridge nearby, and got some pix from the other side:

Finally Doug and I got our acts together and also crossed the old bridge, which was actually in pretty good shape, here is a pic from the bridge, and then me crossing, then Doug:

A little later we came across another old bridge; I guess the winters, ice, flooding, etc. out here are pretty damn tough on bridges!

So we kept going a bit and came across another old town, of which there were quite a few out here.  We rode right by many of them, but this was bigger than most, and we decided to check it out.  The view from the road is shown below.  Doug memorably describes this look as "Post-Soviet Apocalypse," which really nails it.  There were actually a few people which seemed to be living in this place, but overall the place was derelict:

The only entry to the town was over these bowed concrete slabs, beneath which was a narrow, deep gash and then a stream. In general, seems like it would have been easier just to put the stream through a pipe and then cover the gash with dirt, but I guess they had their reasons:

Here is a view of one of the buildings in the town:

Doug and Max went rummaging around in some of the buildings, but I got a bit bored and rode ahead to the turn off for Kadykchan.  On the way, I stopped at this memorial to three Soviet pilots that died during WWII while they were ferrying a plane from the Far East to the front.  The text on the front reads "No one will be forgotten.  Nothing will be forgotten":

Finally I saw Kadykchan, a couple of kilometers off to the left of the road.  Kadykchan is a "ghost city", a city of some 20,000 abandoned after an explosion in the coal mine which was the sole reason for the town's existence.  Apparently after the explosion, people were given little warning to abandon the town and little ability to take stuff with them, so the place is full of junk.  I waited for Doug and Max on the road, and they showed up in twenty minutes or so.  We had briefly discussed spending the night in Kadychan, but decided we would check it out first.

I won't bore you all with more info about Kadykchan, if you are interested, here are a few links:



If you don't want to read anything about it, by all means proceed to the pictures:

I guess you get the idea…  Actually it was a very creepy place, very post-apocalyptic.  I you know your Soviet-style cities, you can pick out the various municipal buildings in the pictures above:  apartments, power station, theater, city hall (complete with crumbling Lenin bust, etc.).  All the buildings had been reduced to a derelict state by the elements and by looters, and there is all kinds of debris scattered all over the city.  Doug picked up an old hammer and some kind of fur thing to use as a seat cushion. 

While I didn't exactly expect to see any zombies per se, I would not have been surprised at all to see some kind of cannibalistic mutant/freaks, and in fact Max and I encountered a zombies/cannibal/mutant shortly after we arrived:  I had lost Doug and Max and was waiting at a crossroads looking for Max and Doug.  After a few minutes Max saw me and rode up.  While were were waiting there, off in the distance we saw a figure dressed in black walking toward us along the main drag, a couple hundred meters away.  Since Doug was also dressed in black, I thought it was him, so we waited.  As the figure approached, we realized it was not Doug, but figured we wait to see who the hell other than us was wondering around this God-forsaken place.  The figure in black finally got within a couple of dozen paces when Max and I realized that there was something wrong—the person was kind of stumbling and had some kind of open sores all of his face—yikes, a ZOMBIE.  Max immediately got the hell out of there, but I had to do something with my helmet and gloves, which I'd removed, so by the time I'd started my bike the zombie had approached with a couple of paces and said something to me, although I couldn't understand what he said, and couldn't even tell if he was speaking Russian.  Whatever, I zoomed off. 

After losing the zombie, we found Doug again and explored the town for awhile.  It was kinda spooky poking around the buildings by myself (Doug and Max disappeared into some buildings, and I didn't see them for a while), and mosquitoes here were just brutal. Between the zombies and the mosquitoes, we decided it wouldn't be a great idea to spend the night in Kadykchan, so we left for Susuman, maybe 80 km up ahead, here is what the road looked like: 

Along the way we passed through Artyk, where there is a gas station that works sometimes, and sometimes does not.  When we came through, it was defiintely not working, and looked completely derelict, but it is hard to tell sometimes out here:

Just past the non-gas-station, there was a police checkpoint where there was a gate-thingy blocking the road, and a policeman checked everyone's documents.  Well, everyone but ours, anyway; invited us in for tea and cookies and a chat, all the while ignoring any vehicles that pulled up, forcing them to wait.  Nice guy, he said that there had been a heavy snow two days before, and showed us his collection of skins from duckheads he'd tacked to the back of the door to his living quarters.  We later wondered what on earth had done to be banished to this place…

We set off again for Susuman.  Here is Max's bike parked somewhere along the road, and then Doug and I taking a little pitstop:

Finally we pulled into Susuman.  There were spraying some kind of crap on the roads in town that made them really slick.  The first hotel we went to was full, with construction workers.  The second hotel had space, but no secure parking, so they called some guy with a garage who came by and led us to his place. Here is my bike parked in the garage:

After dropping off the bikes, we asked Igor (the garage owner's name) if he could take us to a cafe where we could have dinner, because we hadn't had a hot meal since Cafe Kuba in Kyubeme.  Susuman apparently has three cafes, and Igor took us to all of them, but all of them were booked for weddings.  Susuman looked like the kind of place suffering from a mass population exodus, so I was surprised by the number of weddings on the same night, and not very happy, because it meant Ramen noodles again for us…

No comments: