The Road of Bones – Churapcha, Khandyga & Kyubeme. Bears, washed away bridge & Ust-Nera instead.

Day 55-57. 181, 231 & 600 km.

The next day we went to the biker club and after a short  discussion we split up. Christian needed to get new tyres and wanted to stay an additional day. Kai wasn’t in a hurry either. Hand and I decided to continue onto the Road of Bones (RoB) and eventually meet the others on the way or in Magadan again…

After a fuel stop we made it to the ferry again and continued to the Road of Bones!

The Road of Bones starts in Nizhny Bestyakh on the eastern bank of the Lena river opposite Yakutsk and goes to Magadan at the east coast of Russia. Normally the road is called the Kolyma Highway or Kolymskaya trassa. It is known as the RoB, because the skeletons of the forced laborers who died during its construction were used in many of its foundations. The RoB was built during the Stalinist era. The construction started in 1932 and continued with the use of gulag labour until 1953. The road is considered as a memorial, as the bones of the people who died while constructing it were laid beneath or around the road. As the road is built on permafrost, interment into the fabric of the road was deemed more practical than digging new holes to bury the bodies of the dead. In 2008 the road was granted Federal Road status, and is now a frequently maintained all-weather gravel road. When the road was upgraded, the route was changed to bypass the section from Kyubeme to Kadykchan via Tomtor, and instead pass from Kyubeme to Kadykchan via the town of Ust-Nera. The old 420 km section via Tomtor was largely unmaintained; the 200 km section between Tomtor and Kadykchan was completely abandoned – this section is known as the Old Summer Road (source Wikipedia).

The first km’s on the RoB were challenging and reminded a little bit of the BAM with potholes, sand etc. We stayed in Churapcha at a nice B&B and had a whole house for us alone. The next day we had to cross the river Aldan to get to Khandyga. The ferries have no time-table – they continue when enough trucks/cars are loaded…  consequently you can wait several hours at the shore or on the boat. Our ferry was quite empty and departed after several hours of waiting time. The weather was sunny and while we were waiting we had many nice chats with locals and other travellers. In Khandyga a friendly Russian helped us to find one of the two guesthouses. In the village is small memorial for the forced laborers of the Rob/gulags.

 

The road condition got much better and easy the following kilometres. The landscape was fantastic and often dramatic. Large rivers, endless forests with bogs, mountains and sometimes ice. In one curve (I took slowly) I met 3 bears (mother with 2 kids). She had already raised herself at the wayside and the 2 kids started running away. I was shocked and pulled the throttle… I stopped after ca. 3 km to recover a little. In the afternoon we arrived at the famous fuel stop in Kyubeme and took a break at the cafe “Kyuba”.

 

We planned to go to Tomtor and when to check if the old summer road (OSR) is possible or not. The decision came much earlier… On our first km’s on the OSR – the maintained part… – we were stopped by a washed away bridge. The river was a little bit too deep and the current also way too strong (not visible on the picture – it was the second stream you can barely see in the background). A little bit frustrated we turned around, decided to eat more km’s  and to try to reach Ust-Nera instead… :o(  The landscape was fantastic again – despite my frustration about the OSR. Tired and a little bit exhausted we reached Ust-Nera in the evening.

 

 

 

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