A WINTER IN SIBERIA WITH THE ESKIMOS
Reindeer, icy winds and human warmth… This is the story of the ‘life-size' adventure experienced by Linda in the Siberian Peninsula, Kamchatka.
STEPPING BACK IN TIME
The helicopter flies in from the Bering Sea and quickly sets down on the ridges of Tilitchiki to meet us.
Colaï and I run towards it, shielding our faces from the icy particles whipped up by the propellers. I leap aboard, and Colaï hands me my bag, shouting "Davaï! Oudatchi! "(Good luck!) as the co-pilot closes the door. He motions for me to sit down and soon we take off towards Atchayvayam.
Looking out of the window, my eyes drink in the awesome natural landscape: the tundra, the mountains, the snow, and the icy river. So huge! So majestic! I remember these lands as if it were yesterday. It may have been two and a half years since my last visit... but I feel like I never left. Like I belong here.
UNDER THE SKY OF ATCHAYVAYAM
Winter is cold in Atchayvayam -30 ° C or -40 ° C… but it does not really matter. We are used to the cold and we adapt. For example, in such conditions, we only travel if it is absolutely essential.
The rest of the time we sit behind the frozen windows at home, near the stove, drinking tea and talking to each other. Village streets are empty except for me. Equipped with my technical Body Activ 4 underwear and my Climatyl fleece, I like to stroll in the open air, enjoying the way the lights and shadows dance across the sky.
Atchayvayam during winter with their welcoming faces, smiles and laughs makes you feel uplifted and at home.
THE DEPARTURE TO THE TUNDRA
"Linda, where are you? Grab your things quickly. The snowmobile is ready to go".
Three days after my arrival, I leave for the tundra, in the territory of the 4th Brigade of reindeer herds.
In order to protect me from the cold and the freezing wind during the journey, the Chukchi dress me up in "Tarbaza", reindeer skin shoes and a warm cloak of reindeer skin, which I put over my Thermolactyl underwear.
For more than four hours, we race at breakneck speed on a white blanket of snow that seems to stretch to infinity. Then suddenly, the camp appears at a bend in the hill. We have arrived. The herds staying in there come out and greet us with a big smile... each new visit means a feast for them.
REINDEER: THEIR UNIQUE RESOURCE
The Chukchi people depend on the reindeer to survive. Reindeer provide them with meat, clothing and shelter.
But even reindeer struggle with the hardships of winter... in order to feed, they have to scrape through the hard snow, to find the lichen beneath. This can take time, so their herders wait patiently by their side, day and night, to ensure they are properly nourished. And of course, they are always looking out for grazing areas that are rich in lichen, but thin of snow.
It is a skill that is passed down through generations of herdsmen. It is also their job to protect the herds from predators, especially wolves. Under the tent, at night, we regularly hear the howls of the hungry hounds breaking the silence. And sometimes, those wolves attack and there is nothing that can be done about it... it is the law of nature.
THE BIRTH OF FAWNS
One afternoon in May, joy spread across the tundra, as a newborn fawn took its first steps in the cold and snow. It is so funny to see a baby reindeer awkwardly discover the use of its long legs! I am so happy to live these moments alongside the reindeers and the Chukchi... it is an emotional experience that will live within me forever.
I return to the herd with a smile in my heart... but then I see the snowmobile parked in front of our tent. My stay is over. Suddenly I have tears in my eyes. "It's time to leave, so soon?"
Two hundred more reindeer fawns are expected and I would like to see them all born ... to welcome them all into the world! But I have to go. The Chukchi know it too. After a last tea, they all shake my hand firmly and say, "See you next time, Linda!" The visit is already booked: autumn 2015.
A BIG THANK-YOU
…To the Chukchi people who welcomed me as if I had never left, to Mother Nature for letting me enjoy all its marvels and to Damart Sport for your support... your technical Thermolactyl underwear and your Climatyl fleece performed exceptionally, keeping me warm and well, even in Siberia!