XD REPORT in ENGLISH
A Bicycle Odyssey across Winter Siberia
A 33-year old
Japanese cyclist Hiromasa Andow has completed a solo winter crossing of
Siberia by bicycle,
began September 1, 2002 from
Murmansk, a city on the Barents Sea which borders
on Norway, arrived in
Magadan, the Western coast of the
Sea -- chalking up
14,927km on his odometer in 248 days. He reached his destination on May 6, 2003.
Wonderland for extreme travelers
Think Siberia and think cold, the
taiga forests and the icy wastelands of the tundra in its inhospitable
snowbound vastness - it takes up nearly one third of the northern hemisphere -
and the uninhabitability makes it a rewarding challenge.
Consult a map of Siberia, which is close to our
country geographically but little known, there is only 40km from north-tip of
Hokkaido (Japan) and south-tip of Sakhalin (Russia). However, Siberia was closed to gwestern
countriesh during Soviet times. It is possible to travel Siberia individually now, but we
cannot get enough information about the deep area of taiga because of the
inadequate infrastructure after the collapse of its social economic system.
Siberia by Japanese
The Russian Emperors and
Science sent several expeditions
to the Far East Siberia, including V.J.Bering, for their advance into East. Russia arrived in
Sea in 1639. Shogunate Japan was a closed country at
that time. But many Japanese wrecked ships floated on current and washed up on
Siberia. Drifter Tatekawa Denbei
was sent to
Europe in 1702, probably he was the first Japanese crossed Siberia. Another drifter Captain Daikokuya Kodayu and his sixteen sailors washed on Aleutian in 1782, then traversed Siberia to St.Petersburg in
1791. He was granted an audience by the Empress Ekaterina II, and asked her to
arrange a ship to go back to Japan.
She granted his request. However, most of members were already dead because of
severe winter journey. Only two of them could return to Japan
After Meiji Modernization
Restoration in 1867, new Japanese governments sent the first ambassador Enomoto
Takeaki to Russian capital. He traversed Siberia in 1878. Kuroda Kiyotaka, who became Japanese prime-minister
later, also crossed
Siberia in 1886. Colonel Fukushima Yasumasa traversed Siberia in solo on horseback in
1891-92. Tamai Kisaku traversed with tea caravan in 1892. After Trans-Siberian
Railway completion in 1903, no Japanese have traversed whole Siberia without motorized
vehicles. However some adventurers traveled partially in Siberia by dog-sled, kayak,
horse-back or bicycle.
It is not clear that who
was the first cyclist to cross Siberia. The first cyclists from
gwestern countriesh were American Mark Jenkins and his teammates. They crossed Siberia in 1989 summer.
Winter Cyclists, a kind
of extreme traveler, love severe and chilly weather, heavy snow, frozen trace
and beautiful sceneries. Winter biking is more difficult but interesting than
summer for us same as winter climbing. Already@some cyclists had challenged winter biking partially
in Siberia. For adventure cyclists, it is one of the ultimate target to
Siberia in chilly winter. It was important
for me to travel alone without any escorted assistance. And also all the route
had to be traversed only by myself. It was not allowed to use any other vehicle
even for 1 millimeter on the way.
The Purposes of My Journey;
Complete a bike touring
Siberia in solo.
grass rooted friendship between Japan and Russian people.
Promote for Bicology
(Bike & Ecology). Research grovel warming effects in Siberia.
Research the nature,
animals, plants, climates etc. Record and introduce those results on magazines
Improve winter bicycling
technique under the extremely chilly condition.
As well as before
Siberia, I have crossed chilly Tibetan
Plateau alone by bicycle in 1995 winter when I was a student of Yunnan
University of China. First Tibet touring was from
Kunming. Next touring was from
Kashgar – Mt.Kailash –
Katmandu. Total distance was
6500km. I have also run
Hokkaido for several times and
Alaska for training and testing the
Crossing From West to East
Calling my trans-Siberian
journey, the last challenge on the Eurasian continent, I headed east from Europe. I started
Murmansk in the Arctic Circle on September 1, and
continued my touring with 15 kilograms of baggage on bicycle, camping out along
the way. I pedaled across European Russia via St.Petersburg and
Moscow then crossed Ural Mountains, the border of Europe and Asia, in the middle of
October. The road was already covered with packed snow.
It began to snow thick
and fast. I pedaled across taiga forests covered with hoar frost that took me
through the depths of winter. The leaves of ice were glittered in the morning
sun, and the air was shining itself by the diamond-dust phenomenon.
The daytime was getting
shorter and shorter. Since a high latitude location, the sun rose from forests
late in the morning, and did not rise so high, then drifted lower above taiga,
finally the forests were covered with the sunset red. I had to run at night
also to earn the distance. The Polaris was sparkling higher in the sky than
Chilly Minus 42 degrees Centigrade
I intentionally chose
severe wintertime for traveling. I was undaunted by freezing temperatures,
preferring to see my exhaling breath wax crystalline. But it was too cold for
me at that time.
It was happened near
Tomsk of Central Siberian Plateau in early December. Cold air mass hit me. It
was -42C which was the first time in my life. I knew -30C to -35C in Tibet and
Alaska. It was 10 degree lower
than my experience, but I was so surprised how different it was! When I was
running on bike, chilly -40C was not so serious problem because my body was
always generating the heats. The problem was at night when I was not in
physically active. I had to stay awake for several nights while camping out in
a cold snap that drove temperatures down to -40C. The problem was the vapor
from my body. It made my sleeping bag and tent like a rock of ice. I sometimes
woke up in the middle of the night from the cold, and wondered if I might be
Fortunately, this -42C
was the coldest on this journey. I was near
Baikal in January and February.
It was not so cold there because the huge amount of lake water prevented the
air from becoming extremely chilly.
Irkutsk was the halfway point of
this journey. From
Irkutsk, there was a good road
beside the Trans-Siberian Railway, so there was nothing special to mention,
because the route was already in a driving map. However, my grealh challenge
would start from here to Far East Siberia.
Baikal -the clearest ice in the world-
The Baikal – it has the
clearest water, the oldest history, the deepest and the biggest volume of pure
water in the world. The local people call this lake gSeah. The lake will be
frozen in winter and passable by bicycle. I started to cross frozen Baikal with
studded tires from south to north tip in the middle of January.
Ice cycling was very
comfortable. I ran anywhere freely as I wanted. But the Lake was not yet completely
frozen, so I had to be careful for the crack and thin ice. If I fall into the
chilly water, I would sink to the bottom of the lake, 1637m under the water of
the deepest in the world. I actually got my front tire trapped in a crack two
times. When there was a lot of snow or heaps of ice debris, I pushed my bike or
carried it on my shoulder. If lucky, I could use trace of truck on the snow.
I sometime stayed in
local houses when there was a village. The local people Buryat believes Tibetan
Buddhism same as Mongolian. I had a chance to stay in Buddhism temple. However,
most of the nights, I slept in a tent on the ice. I was fearful to hear the ice
cracking sound. The ice was always cracking to diffuse the stress of icing. But
I got used to it, and then started to think that this sound is ga breath of
I arrived in
Nizini-Angarsk, the north tip of the lake in the end of February. I had run
almost 1000km on the lake for one month.
River Cruise on Winter Roads -ZIMNIK-
Far East region of Siberia is almost permafrost
land. In a short summer, these frozen soils change to muddy wetland, and become
almost impassable by vehicles. It is quite difficult to make a road on such a
wetland. But the road comes into existence in winter on frozen river or trace
after some trucks run on the ice or snow. These winter roads are called
gZIMNIKh in Russian.
From Baikal Lake to
Yakutsk, I had run 3000km on
such ZIMNIK on
River and taiga forests.
River will be frozen from
October and most part of
Lena have ZIMNIK. If some part of Lena do not have ZIMNIK, I
have to take another ZIMNIK in the forest. These ZIMNIK are not mentioned on
the map. Of course, there are no traffic signs on ZIMNIK. I could get detailed
information only from local drivers.
There was no village for
hundreds kilometers in some part of taiga. Only ZIMNIK and frozen forests
continued as boundless. So I carried a lot of foods. There are rare traffics on
such ZIMNIK, but I met helpful local drivers –some of them gave me food and
vodka. I did not have to worry about starvation. Mutual cooperation is
essential to survive in this severe nature. Almost all the drivers could not
pass without helping me. It was regulations of the wilds!
Minority Nationalities in
I arrived in
Yakutsk, the capital of
Republic, in early April. Local
Yakut people have very similar faces to Japanese. Many cars stopped to greet me
on the way. The rumor spread like a wildfire. Everybody knew who I was and
asked my autograph.
In many villages, people
welcomed me because I was the first Japanese to visit. They let me stay in
their houses. I was invited to schools then I talked about my travel and Japan to children. They
listened to my story with shining their eyes.
Yakutsk in early April for the
Sea. There was a road called
Kolima. Sometime I had to run at chilly night to avoid muddy road or ice melted
river in warm daytime temperatures. I had to hurry to complete my travel before
I visited Oymyakon
village, the coldest place in the northern hemisphere. They have the coldest
record -71.2C in 1933. Even it was already in the middle of April, I could
enjoy -30C at night. In mountain region, it was snowing every night and the
road was covered with heavy snow. So I had to push my bike. It was the last
Finally, I reached my
destination Magadan on May 6. The
Sea was still frozen. I made
final camp on the ice of the sea and spent silent night.
Two days later of my
arrival, the first rain began to fall and the snow on the ground started to
thaw. Local people said greal spring has come!h ZIMNIK on the lake, river and
taiga would also disappear like an illusion. My winter journey was also
destined to finish.
The Siberian winter
climate was more severe than I had imagined, but I had met many people who
encouraged me, and that had made my journey enjoyable. I was treated with a
kindness that is unique to those who live in a severe environment – and that
enabled me to realize my dream. With my mission now a reality, I felt a little
bit sad as if I had completed "a small life journeyh.
Murmansk to Magadan
Aug.20: Flight from
Moscow. Visit Russian Cycle
Murmansk by train.
Murmansk, the city on Barents Sea near border with Finland.
World Heritage KIJI island
Mid-Oct: Ural Mountains, Entered to Asia
End-Nov: Central Siberian
Tomsk. The coldest day on this
journey. Minus 42 Celsius.
Early-Jan: Arrived in
Irkutsk. Repair bike for good
Irkutsk, start traverse on
Middle part of Lake did not freeze. So
landed and wait till complete frozen.
End-Jan: Visit the head
Tibetan Buddhism at
Baikal completely frozen,
Re-start across Baikal touring.
End-Feb: Completion of
across Baikal from south to north tip.
Zabaikalsk mountains. Winter road on frozen
Early- Apr: Arrived at
Yakutsk and start on Kolima road
Mid-Apr: Far-East Siberia mountainous region
Oymyakon, the coldest place in the
Sea at Magadan Total
distance 14927km, 248days
Mid-May: Flight to
Khabarovsk. Biking to
Vladivostok on Sea of Japan. Extra 900km
Early-Jun: Return to
Tokyo Japan via
Clothes: T-shirt, Underwear, Arm
warmer, Thin Fleece Shirt, Thin Fleece Jacket, Down Vest, Outer Jacket
(Gore-Tex), Down Jacket, Under shorts 2, Under Tights, Sweat Pants, Bicycle
Pants, Fleece Pants, Inner Pants, Knee Supporter, Mittens (Thin Fleece, Thick
Wool), Down Mittens, Over Mittens, Head Band, Muffler, Handle cover, Heavy
Winter Hat, Face Mask, Ear Band, Muffler, Bandanna, Sunglasses, Goggles, Socks
(thin 3pcs, thick 2pcs), Vapor Barrier Liner Socks, Double Arctic-boots, Long
spats, Over Boots
Camping: Tent, Tent sheet, Roll
Mat, Air Mat, Sleeping bag (dawn), Tent shoes, Bottle for urine, lighter, LED
Head lamp, Aluminum bottle 1L, Thermos500ml, Pot 1L, Cup, Spoon, MSR gasoline
stove, Gasoline bottle, Gasoline maximum 4L, Emergency methanol, Axe, Knife
Photo Equipment: Camera 2 (single lens
reflex camera Pentax MZ-3, compact camera), Lens 28-200mm, filters, film (Kodak
Ektachrome 100pcs), Small tripod,
Instrument: Map various kinds, GPS,
compass, shortwave radio, thermometer 2, Wrist Watch with altimeter, Batteries,
Palm Top Computer, the bicycle computer 2, Russian guide book, Sets of
documents, passport, Tooth Brush, Some medicine, Pepper spray, Harmonica
Bicycle: Mountain bike (SPECIALIZED
ROCKHOPPER) modified a lot for winter cycling, Spare parts, Repair tool,
touring bag 6pcs, Sled