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Gulags and Nomads in the Kodar Mountains - Summer


Difficulty

Comfort
15 days
Age 12+
May - November

Tour Overview

This trip takes people in Russian all-terrain vehicles to visit the well-preserved gulag concentration camps and nomadic Evenki reindeer herders in the region around Novaya Chara in Eastern Siberia.

Highlights

  • Living and migrating with nomadic Evenki people
  • Photographing their 3000-head reindeer herd
  • Trekking in the spectacular Kodar and Udokan Mountain Ranges
  • Visiting one of Russia’s best-preserved gulag camps
  • Relaxing in hot springs with 55°C water
  • Experiencing a traditional Russian bath house and shashlyk barbecue
  • Travelling by transport tank / vezdekhod all-terrain vehicle
  • Hiking the dunes of the Chara Sands
  • Potentially spotting bears, moose and other wild animals

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Novaya Chara by flight or by train

Arrival in Novaya Chara by flight from Chita or by train on the BAM Railway. Overnight in hotel.

Day 2: Drive 40km then trek through Kodar Mountains

Breakfast at 7am and leave at 8am. Group drives 35 – 40km north by Ural vehicle then treks 13 – 18km up into the Kodar Mountains. This will be a tough trek with up to 1000m elevation increase and a serious river crossing. The crossing may be ok to wade across if the water level is low or guides may need to construct a  zip-line crossing if the level is high.

Camp at Borskiy gulag camp or as far as the group managed to get on this day.

Day 3-4: Trek to Mramornoe Valley and Borskiy gulag camp

Finish our walk to Borskiy if we did not finish it the day before. Explore Mramornoe Valley and Borskiy gulag camp, the best preserved gulag in the area. We will see wooden buildings, tunnels, mines, watchtowers, barbed wire fences, electricity pylons, tools and much more.

We will also get views on Mount BAM, named after the Baikal-Amur-Mainline and the highest peak in the Kodar Mountains. Do hikes up to mine shafts and caves that were also part of the camp. Overnight in tents.

Day 5: Spare day in case bad weather has delayed our trek

Spare day in case bad weather has delayed our trek at any point.

Day 6: Return to Novaya Chara by trekking and by driving

Return to Novaya Chara by trekking and by driving

Day 7: Visit the Chara Sands desert and nearby hot springs

Take a vakhtovka all-terrain bus 30km to the old village of Chara. From there take a transport tank (vezdekhod) 25km to the Chara Sands, Russia’s biggest sandy desert. These tanks were built to provide transport in roadless parts of Siberia but to be easily convertible into military tanks in time of war.

If they want, group can have lunch on the edge of the sand dunes. If they want, they can also go for a hike in the dunes of anything from 500 metres to 15km.

After the Chara Sands we head to a nearby thermal hot spring where the water temperature is +55C. Spend a day bathing in the hot waters and, if desired, hiking in the surrounding nature. Overnight at a small hotel by the hot springs.

Day 8: Travel by ATV to a mine in the Udokan Mountains

Travel 80km in Kamaz or Ural east into the Udakan Mountains. Overnight at a mine in the miners’ wagons near Amudisa Lakes.

Day 9: Travel by transport tank to an encampment of Evenki nomads

Travel 70km in transport tank (vezdekhod) to reach a camp of Evenki reindeer herders near the Chitkanda River.

These tanks were constructed on caterpillar tracks to transport people in roadless areas but also to be easily convertible into military tanks in time of war.

Overnight at the Evenki camp.

Day 10-12: Live with nomadic Evenki reindeer herders near Chitkanda River

Live with the Evenki, observing and taking part in their daily lives. Fishing for those who so desire. Opportunity to spot wild reindeer, bears, moose and other animals nearby on hikes into surrounding mountains with armed guide.

Day 13: Return to the mine near Amudisa Lakes

Return to mine and overnight.

Day 14: Return to Novaya Chara

Return to Novaya Chara and overnight in hotel.

Day 15: Depart by train or by flight

Departure by flight to Chita or by train on the BAM Railway.

Price

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Price includes:

  • Three nights hotel accommodation in Novaya Chara
  • Two nights accommodation at the mine
  • One night accommodation at the hot springs
  • Fees to reindeer herders for hosting the group
  • Rental of all tents, first aid kit, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, camping equipment, awnings, axes, saws and raft-making equipment
  • Local guide and all their expenses
  • English-speaking interpreter and all their expenses
  • 4 porters for all equipment plus all their expenses
  • All food
  • Rental of all Ural / Kamaz and vezdekhod with drivers, drivers’ expenses and all petrol
  • Invitation for Russian tourist visa
  • Satellite phone for emergency use only

Price does not include:

  • Flights or train tickets
  • Personal expenses
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Tour leader from tour agencies

Payment:

A 35% deposit is required to reserve the dates of your trip. This is a very unusual itinerary and there are only a few guides who can run it, so they get booked up very far in advance. If your dates are not flexible, it is therefore recommended that you reserve dates as early as possible. The balance payment is required two months before the trip start date.

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