by K Spori - 2 years, 4 months ago
We rented a VW Tiguan 4x4 from Avis at Moscow Domodedovo Airport and drove on a slightly northern route 3.000 km towards the Ural, crossing from the European to the Asian continent, passing a large monument between Perm and Ivdel. The end of the road, Vizhay, is a ghost town since the apocalyptic wildfires that destroyed many Russian forests and villages in 2010. Only 3 houses have been rebuilt, without running water or permanent electricity. They now serve as a base camp for Ural expeditions. We started our snowmobile trip from Vizhay to Manpupuner with our Russian friend Misha (ex-paratrooper, North Pole pioneer, operator of www.roadtripsacrossrussia.com and our local guide Vadim. After 40 km on a snowy forest track, the next ghost town, Uxma appeared, a former Gulag. Uxma is still inhabited by 2 or 3 native Mansi people. The so-called northern tribes get good protection and support from Putin's central government. Nevertheless, Vadim dropped some supplies for them, as he requires their help from time to time. After a total of 80 km on the first day, we reached a lonely hut, that is occasionally frequented by the local Mansi - and travellers like us. Every passer-by cuts wood to feed the stove and takes water from the river (after hitting a hole in the ice). Winter 2015 was warm in Russia. We had -20°C on one night, but around 0°C during most of the days in late March. We were carrying all our supplies with us on 3 trailers, including 300 liters of petrol. Snowmobiling can be quite a strenuous activity. Our team slept well inside the hut. The next morning we were greeted by beautiful weather again. We soon reached a small Mansi outpost and were introduced to their traditional village life. Three generations of Mansi hunting, fur tanning, dog breeding and ski building. The track then led us onto a sacred Mansi lake where Russians nevertheless drive by truck and practice ice fishing with success: plenty of pike! Our only encounters en-route: two hunter-snowmobilers from Yekaterinburg and one brave musher from Tolyatti with his 8 beautiful malamut sled dogs.
Riding high-speed on the long icy rivers between the sacred lake and the mountains was the most joyful part of the trip. Conditions became more alpine and challenging towards the end of day 2 and another 120 km where we crossed the Asian-European border line (again). We were quite exhausted when we finally reached the lonely hut on top of Mount Otorten and thoroughly enjoyed the view next to the 7 giants of Manpupuner.
These rock formations of up to 42 m height have been elected by Russians as one of their 7 world wonders and are affectionately called "Pupy" (navel). This place is undoubtedly an energetic navel of the world. With my knowledge of Turkic languages I would translate it as Man (mankind) - Pupu (birth) - Nyer (place).
Since Stefan Glowacz climbed at least one of the rock formations in 2013 (the rocks are sacred to the Mansi people), there is a permanent 2-staff security guard in the hut. The guards are of the Komi tribe, but cannot easily be distinguished from ethnic Russians. Because no visitor permits are issued in winter, we had to fill out a big bureaucratic "straf" form and pay ca. US$ 50 per head for entering Komi Republic illegally (from Sverdlovsk Oblast via Khantiy-Mansiysk Okrug), however we were treated as friendly overnight guests anyway. A reasonable arrangement to appease the local Mansi feelings and still allow for visitors (in winter from the non-Komi, the Sverdlovsk side only). In summer, Manpupuner can be reached from the Komi side (Troitsko-Pechorsk) in a combination of truck (60 km), boat (200 km) and trekking (40 km). Our trip took 4 days and nights. For men of steel it can possibly be done in 3 days.
Story originally published here: http://gentlemanadventurer.travellerspoint.com/553/