(Russia) How can I go up to the Arctic Circle in the winter? Should I give up and turn to the south?

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36,000 km

[14/10/27~11/07 (D+1164) to Kandalaksha]

The photo of 36,000 km (22,500mi).

The workers were working to make a new road, which was empty. So I had cycled for 10 km (6.25 mi) alone, which was really good. Today it was cloudy and slightly raining that the weather was warmer than last week.

 

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Just last week the road was covered by snow, but today thanks to the rain there was no snow. Only there was dirty water splashing to my face and all my clothes when the car passed.

 

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I got a contact from a local people through Couch Surfing, which is not easy to find in Russia. A host was a teacher that I was invited at a school.

There were closets. The temperature at the inside was quite warm that I saw some students wearing short shirt.

Most of Russian house in my experience is hot in the winter. I think Russian house is the only one place in the world which is hot in the winter all the time. Comparing to other countries in Europe, their salary is quite low, I heard. If someone works under government such as a doctor in the hospital or professional in the university, the salary could be around 200 to 400 Euros per month. If someone works under private company, the salary would be around 500 Euros to 700 Euros per month. My wonder was how come then their house is too hot in the winter. The heating system is very expensive all over the world. Actually European houses were cold in my experience in the winter.

The gas in Russia is also not cheap, I heard. The reason some local people told me that Russian do not like a cold house, which made uncomfortable. They did want to stay comfortably in the house with warm air.

 

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I talked in two classes. I just introduced my travel and got questions.

 

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I was so popular for 15 minutes and some of them asked me signature.

 

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They also asked me to write their name in Korean.

 

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There was a local broadcast’s camera at the back. Student’age in the first class was around 10 years old.
In the other class students were just before graduating. The old students didn’t ask me much. Maybe I guessed they were shy. One of them asked me “How do you think about our president, Putin?”. I got embarrassed. I told “In Korea, there were not many Russian news that I don’t have much information about Putin.”

Suddenly I was wondering, so I asked him “Then how do you think about Putin?”

The boy answered “He is the best president in the world. He is so powerful and he is doing so many good things for us.”

Later other students said the same thing to me about Putin. Actually many Russia I’ve met love Putin. Two times I asked “How is War between Russia and Ukraine going?” And the answer was the totally same. “We do not have official war.” After that I decided not to ask about Ukraine to them.

Russia broadcast is like Korea that they do not watch American or British channel, but they only watch Russian channel. It could mean three things. They are really good at running their own national broadcast, they do not speak English well, and it is very easy to be controlled if there is some kind of dictator president.

Frankly speaking I think Putin is close to a dictator. But I didn’t tell about it, because it is dangerous to tell the students idea which I cannot explain logically. I do not have enough information about Putin to tell my opinion. I know only one fact about a founder of vk.com which is a Facebook clone, but much popular than Facebook in Russia. The founder was fired as a result of refusing to hand over date of Ukrainian protesters to Russia’s security agencies. The founder then left Russia and stated he had “no plans to go back”

I think there would be so much facts to prove how Putin is a dictator, but I do not have time to research it. Our president in South Korea is a daughter of dictator now, so my concern about my country is much serious.

 

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Cafeteria

 

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When they saw my camera, they run to me. Such cute boys

 

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School lunch

 

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It was interesting to see how students have a lunch in a cafeteria. The did not wait a long line, because there was some shift differently and everything was already on the table when they come.

 

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The picture is not from my high school. It is from some other school.

In some school, students run like a monster for having lunch first.

Guess…I ran???

Secret……………

 

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Some students showed me around their town. I’ve seen the tree often, but I was afraid of having that red berry. Who knows there is a poison.

 

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They told me I can have it. So, I tried but it was too bitter. Actually I saw a local people selling it on the road.

 

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A statue of Lenin in the town

 

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In Russia all of flat I’ve seen are very old. I’ve never seen a modern apartment. Some flats changed interior to modern way. But always the apartment was really old. I was curious why it is. Some Russian said during communism the government rent a worker flat for free. At that time the government built all of apartment where people live now. It is said they don’t need to build a new apartment anymore because there is already enough.

Actually I could not understand about this fact because all over the world keep building new apartment.

 

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There was a small museum.

 

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I’ve seen this kitchen a few times in Russia. In many small village, they do not have running water and no toilet at the inside. But all of them has electronic, so all of them always watch Russian channel.

 

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Many small things

 

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I was invited at local English club. My host spoke English like a native speaker that she was helping other people for speaking English.

 

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At the next day, I cycled again in a cold temperature. The next city was quite big that people didn’t allow me to set up my tent at their garage. After being denied for a few times, I gave up and started finding a hotel. Luckily I found the hotel which has dormitory room for 15$ excluded shower. I unloaded all my bags and showed my passport. She asked me where a visa is. I told her South Korean does not need visa since this year. A receptionist doubted it which immigration never doubt and held me for a while. I started being tired and annoyed. Later she asked me to wait another 30 minutes until the boss arrives. I did believe that nothing would be changed even when the boss come. It was the second time I got annoyed in Europe. The first time to be annoyed in Europe was in Albania. I was annoyed many times when I was in Africa. But in Europe only two times (Albania and Russia). It means I felt peaceful in Europe at the most of time. I didn’t like to be treated as a spy that I just got out of the hotel. (Actually it had been happened often until I got out of Russia.)
I saw some fire station that I asked help to them . They didn’t ask me a visa, but gave me a space to sleep.

I’ve been over 40 countries and most of time I entered into countries very easily. In my experience, usually some kind of dictatorship country asked a complicating visa to block a foreigner not to tell a real story of their government.

 

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Some Finnish said to me the word of “Black Road”

It looked a normal asphalt road, but actually it was covered with ice. It was so slippery that I cycled at a gravel shoulder. In the morning there was slightly raining. But the temperature was so cold that it turned to ice soon.

 

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Familiar scene which I’ve seen often

 

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Today was around -2 c (28 f). For 100 km (62.5 mi), there was no any single house. It could be no problem if it was summer. But now it was very cold that I could not warm up my body for 10 hours, which was painful(It is not about coldness, but pain).

 

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After cycling in the coldness for 100 km (62.5 mi), I arrived in a junction. If I turned to the right and cycled 10 km (6.25 mi) more, I could have reached some small town. But it was getting dark and I felt too tired. There was a hotel that I asked. They said it is around 30$. I decided to set up my tent because the temperature was only -2 c (28 f) which was warmer than last week. But they didn’t allow me to set up tent. Just 1 m (39 inches) away from gas station, there was a car repair shop. I asked them and they said I can pitch my tent. haha.
At the next morning, I found some snow.

 

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There were many swamps beside the road.

 

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After 40 km (25mi) there was one gas station. I was really happy to see it so I could warm up my body. I wanted to order something, but because of the language barrier it was impossible. I wanted to order some meat, but nobody was having meat, so I could not point to it.
I just ordered some salad thatΒ was displayed at the front. While I was eating, one person was carrying meat. I ran to a cashier and asked for the same thing. I felt yeah I finally succeeded. But..but.. the taste was weird.. it was not meat.. what is this..what…Later after 10 minutes I realized that it was cow liver.

(Price- Salad 69Rubles ($1.80), Pancake 25 ($0.64), a liver of the cow 89($2.28) / at that moment 1$=39 Rubles)

 

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The day time was shorter and the road was hilly. But there was one good thing that I didn’t take the rest often. Compared to summer riding, I’ve spent much time on cycling. The coldness made me diligent.

 

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A distance between cities were very far that I had to cycle in the night for half a hour.

 

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The temperature was dropped in the night that there was ice on the bag. I found one hotel in a small village, but it was full. Actually it looked very expensive that I was not able to pay. Anyway I asked a receptionist for setting up my tent at some garage, and she kept asking me where a visa is. Again… tired…she was very strict that I gave up and went out. Thankfully one local people invited me at their house.

 

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It was the old apartment. Interesting thing was that there was a fire place at the washroom. After taking shower, I sweat a lot because of heating that I got out of the washroom as soon as possible.

 

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At the next day, it started snowing.

When I saw the snow at the first time in Russia, I was so happy and excited.

But now I started being nervous.

 

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There was heavy snowing.

 

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It seemed that here were lots of bears, because I’ve seen this warning sign often.

 

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Anyway I kept going.

 

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The snow was very light that it was blowing easily when the car passed. It was like sands blowing in the desert that it looked really beautiful.

 

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There were many brooks.

 

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There was really nothing on the road that it was hard to stay for 10 hours below zero. But actually I really loved this road. It was exactly the road I dreamed when I was in Latin America and Africa. I did want to cycle quietly. Although cars made huge noise, at least no any people were on the road.

 

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I usually saw a snowplow one time a day. I wish I could see them often a day.

 

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I appreciated to a snowplow.

 

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Crystal snowflakes on my bags. Beautiful!!

 

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Although my body was painful because of coldness for long hours a day, I was happy to see beautiful scenery.

 

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The snow tried to cover everything.

 

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Even my bicycle

 

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There was no town when it got dark that I cycled 10 km (6.25 mi) more after turning to the right from the highway. I saw a small village on offline map, but embarrassingly there were only a few apartments. How could I find a place to sleep here? Later luckily I was invited at a local people’s house. The picture is not about the house people live, but it is garage.

I realized that the apartments was for an army service. That’s the reason why there were only a few apartments and no any shop or other small houses.

 

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At the next day it started raining that again dirty water splashed to my face and body. But anyway it made the weather warmer that the snow melted. It was really interesting that always there were a few dogs on every gas station. The distance between gas stations is 50 km (31.25mi) to 100 km (62.6 mi). My wonder was how they moved from one gas station to next gas station. I do not believe that they cycle or take the bus. They survived with the food people throw from the car.

 

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There were so many ponds along the road.

 

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Frozen..

 

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Always there were full of water besides the road. I guessed there could so many mosquitoes in the summer, which could give me the hell. Luckily I was in the winter that I do not need worry about it.

Today was quite warmer than yesterday that there was no snow, so I could see what it is at the next road. If it is covered with snow and I step it, I could be in danger. This was the reason I tried not to walk at the next the highway if there is the snow, because I can never know there are pond or swamp.

 

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Today was quite challenging day that the next city was 150 km (93.75 mi) far and there would be no any single house. If it is summer, I can cycle in one day. But now I did not have choice that I had to set up my tent at the forest.
Yesterday the local people advised that it is bears and wolves area so I have to be careful. She said the bear was not in hibernation yet, so to make a fire could be helpful.
I thought that to make a fire all night is not possible and smart idea. I believed that the bear and other wild animal do not like car’s noise. So, I set up my tent close to a highway, but it was hidden place that cars could not see me.
It rained all night and there was water on my tent and everywhere. I did wish I could buy Hilleberg tent one day to enjoy camping.

 

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At the next day the snow almost melted. The temperature was below zero and everything was wet, which gave me hard morning. I used yellow plastic gloves I bought in Saint Petersburg to protect my hands from frostbite while packing up.

 

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Today scenery was the same as yesterday, but still I liked it. I enjoyed cycling between the forest.

 

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Another sun went down.

 

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Already it was time to find a place to sleep today after long cycling.

 

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I was really happy to see the light from far away. I saw that there was hotel on the offline map. I was wondering how much it would be.

 

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When I asked the price, a receptionist said 1400 Rubles ($35). I could not breathe well with shocking. I was too tired to set up tent, but it was too expensive for a night. When I tried to turn away, suddenly the other lady which looked like an owner said 700 Rubles ($17). The room was twin room, so maybe the price suddenly was changed half because I am alone? If they said 700 first, I could feel very expensive. But now the price looked so cheap.

From the night, it snowed a lot and I could not sleep well with being worried.

 

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Dogs are waiting all day in the gas station.

 

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Succeed!
Their fur is really thick that I believe they will not die with coldness.

 

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At the next morning, the road was covered by heavy snow and still it snowed a lot. I decided not to cycle today. When the sun rose, snowing stopped.

 

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I thought I was too weak. If I were strong, I could cycle today. Anyway already the sun was above horizon, so I decided just enjoying the snow.

 

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Behind the hotel, the forest was covered with snow that it was like in the film. It was really beautiful.

 

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I thought one thing while walking on the forest. My destination in Russia was to Kandalaksha. The reason I was cycling to the north was to see Aurora which I had seen when I lived in Canada. But I didn’t see it yet in Russia because of cloud weather.

What should I do? Should I stay for a few days in Kandalaksha to see Aurora? It is a big city, but I didn’t have a place to stay for a while.

 

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Unlikely staff’s saying, there was no snowing anymore at the next day. Before sun rising, I packed up everything. When sun went up, I was already on the road.

 

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Actually I had to accept that my plan was wrong and I had to stop. If I wanted to see Aurora, I should have started cycling on the middle of July and arrived on the end of August.

From the middle of Oct to the end of Nov it snows a lot. Most of snow which covered the north for the winter comes on this time. I didn’t research about it and I realized recently. I went north Canada just before Christmas and stayed until middle of August that I was not at this snowing season.

I realized that all of tourist companies for hunting Aurora in Yellowknife stop touring at this time because of bad weather.

 

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While cycling on hilly, I kept thinking what I should do.

‘Give up seeing Aurora and turn to the right, Finland?’

Actually I can go up to the north, but only the problem is going back to the South later.

 

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I learnt one thing when I failed to climb high mountain in Latin America that I should not see the top,but whole mountain to save energy for coming down safely.

It would be no problem to go to end of Artic Circle, but I was not sure how the weather would be later.

And actually it was so painful to cycle in the winter. Specially my fingers and toes were suffering. I tried to use plastic bag and plastic gloves, but nothing worked. Only I can do is to make a small moving under cover.

Maybe I should give up going to more to the north. In fact, my destination was to Kandalaksha which I would arrive in two days.

 

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Today the weather was really cold around -10 c (14f) that my face was covered with ice.

 

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Thanks that there was restaurant on the road. But the toilet was at the outside. It is winter that the hygiene could not be worse.

 

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(Soup 98 Rubles ($2.5), Meat 131 Rubles ($3.35), Bread 6)

They charged bread and asked me how many bread I want.
I guessed that Russian love mayonnaise. They put mayonnaise on the soup all the time. I could not use in the warm restaurant my big camera which is too cold, so I used iPhone’s camera.

 

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Another beautiful day.. the scenery was reward for hard cycling.

 

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The sun goes down?

Nope.. The moon goes up. Red moon..

 

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I saw some small village on the offline map. But it looked like a ghost village that there was no any light. Later I realized that the town was the electricity off. But anyway most of house was empty. I could not find a trace of shoes on the snow. There was many interesting house, but I could not take pictures of all of them because I was in hurry to find a place to sleep. Maybe this village is for holiday place.

 

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There were also old houses.

 

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While wandering, one local people invited me. But that person was really weird. Anyway at the next day I got out of house without any problem.

 

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Today was the coldest day. It was around -15c (5f) in the morning. It was so painful with my face. It made decision not any more to go to the north.

 

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In Russia people don’t drink tap water. They bought water or use filter. I have also bought water. But I found some mineral water finally.

 

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My water was totally frozen that I tried to break the ice as hitting the bottle on the cement to make bottle empty.

 

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Tragically when I filled up bottle, the water was leaking because I didn’t only break the ice, but also bottle together. The other big bottle had broken stopper that I could not use.

It was okay that I carried two bottle of 500 ml water for emergency.

 

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What is thing under cloud?

I arrived in my destination, Kandalaksha. I came here to see Aurora, but I didn’t see yet. My plan was totally wrong. I should come earlier or later.

 

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I have thought a lot for a week that I should stop or keep going.

 

Unbelievably I found myself at the next morning on the road and was heading to the north. I cannot go to south without making my dream real.

And actually I felt like Murmansk was pulling me.

 

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When I put my feet under the sea in the night, I feel like the sea is pulling me.

When the train is coming under subway in the dark tunnel, I feel like the light from the tunnel is pulling me.

It was like that. I felt like Murmansk in Arctic Circle was pulling me.

 

The hardest in the world is to give up what I want.

 

I am on the way to the North.


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