Slippery Salutations!

While in Usinsk, I discovered there is an ‘ice road’ going north into the Arctic Circle, from Usinsk to the town of Naryan-Mar. The road is only open for travel in the winter, when the ground is frozen solid. At my request, the receptionist at the hotel in Usinsk called around and found me a ride from Usinsk to Naryan-Mar on this past Wednesday.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the reason they call it an ice road is not hyperbole. Mid-way in the 6-hour/300-mile drive, we stopped for a short break. When I got out of the car, I just about fell on my butt because the road surface was smooth hard ice. It was so highly polished and slick, I couldn’t walk on it without risk of falling down. Yet, we cruised along at a good clip in the car. Thankfully, my driver was experienced with ice and we arrived safely in Usinsk, with only a minimal amount of slipping and sliding along the way.

Now, after having checked out this town, I’m wondering what the heck comes next. The FSB agents who came to the hotel to question me on the morning after my arrival in Naryan-Mar are wondering the same thing, as are the FSB agents who came to the hotel in Usinsk to talk with me a few days ago. They all wanted to know why I came here, certainly not the tourist capital of Russia, especially in mid-winter. No one I’ve spoken with has ever met an American up here, not even in the summer. But those stories will come later, along with photos of these surprisingly nice towns way up here in the frozen north.

My route since entering Russia in early December now looks like this, with dotted lines for air travel and solid lines for train, bus or car:

This latest gallery is of the ride from the Altai, across Mongolia and then back north into Russia:

Since we were able to keep it on the slick, undulating and winding ice road, it seems that staying on the straight and narrow ought to be a piece of cake.

Sit back and enjoy the ride. Happy March!