Karelia is a section of land that divides Finland and Russia. With some of the richest history in all of Europe, wars going back to the 13th century, massive urban decay, and a full economic collapse after the fall of the Soviet Union. You should really read about it’s history if you get a chance. Karelia is nestled between the White Sea and the Gulf of Finland. With some of the most extreme winter weather conditions, Andrey Serdyuk and Alexander bochkov decided to tour this area around New Years. So honored to be able to share their story over the next few weeks.
This was Day 1.
Text edited and translated by Dasha Kotenko.
Karelia was a convenient location for both friends to get to from their cities. Andrey and Alexander decided to start from there and then go wherever they would be able to — say, Vottovaara mountain, the highest spot of the west Karelia hills. It is said to be of a spiritual, somehow magical value, and different shamans or television people tend to come there a lot. They pray, dance, hug each other and seem to have a great time. But for the guys the definition of a great time is different — they were planning to get an unforgettable travelling experience and take a look at the wonderful Karelian nature in winter. And that was quite a challenge!
Alexander says he doesn’t like long preparations and looking up all the information beforehand — it’s boring. He brought to Karelia all the things he usually takes in a trip, including fun stuff like a slingshot. The guys were planning to spend their evenings shooting bottles, as it gets dark at 4PM and they wouldn’t be able to cycle anymore. But they never got a chance to use it, because all the stones were buried deep under the snow.
As for equipment and munitions, the guys did acquire some useful items. If you travel to the place where the temperature gets as low as -20 degrees, you have to think of extra warm cloths and winter sleeping bags. Alexander even got a Kona Hahanna bike from a Polish guy on eBay specially for this trip, and was very content with this choice. Andrey took care of cooking supplies and capacious bicycle bags. His bike he had assembled before, when he was preparing for a Norway tour he undertook last summer.
On the morning of December 27 Andrey and Alexander separately arrived to Petrozavodsk and spent a night at a friend’s place. The following morning at 8 they hopped on their bikes and the journey began.
They were following the so-called ‘old’ road, it’s a bit on the left from the main route Kola and has less busy traffic. Most of the time the guys were occupying the whole passage. It would be impossible to go on this road in summer — there is crushed stone as road surfacing and way more cars then, so the guys would have to breath dust all the time. However in winter the road is not perfect either. There were a lot of bumps like on a washing board, so you are jolted like crazy and after a few kilometres your shoulders are in pain. But the road was being cleaned regularly, so the guys at lease didn’t get stuck in snow hills.
The first two nights were memorable for the most severe weather conditions in the whole trip — it was -25 degrees. The guys had to spend them in their tents as there was nowhere else to go. Andrey was more lucky, because he took care of a special winter time sleeping bag, while Alexander had to get by with his 2 thin ones. He would put on his wool socks, wrap himself up in sweaters and other cloths and use a small portable heater, which was supposed to work for 7 hours but in fact was useful only for the half of that time — just enough to take a nap. But even then Alexander would have problems — with Andrey’s snoring or scary noises outside.