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Another Dam Dead End

We woke up the next morning in Krasnoyarsk, wondering if we should have gone to Koloradski Papa’s the night before, and climbed on the cycles to wheel out in search of breakfast.

This morning we ended up finding it not far from the market where we had purchased our jackets, at very cheap people’s cafeteria-type restaurant.

I loaded up my tray with a few salads and some stuffed meat pies, Scott loaded his with a giant flaky Somsa, a plate of Gretchka and a cheese covered pork chop, and we headed to the register.

A few rubles later we were digging in to some real down home Siberian fare, eating hungrily under the watchful eye of none of other than Lenin himself.

Finished with our meal, we headed out, and it was only about a block away that I realized I’d left my backpack in the restaurant. I sprinted back to grab it, considering it contained my computer, camera and the like, and finding that, once again, my enchanted backpack refused to disappear. The owner of the restaurant was waiting with it in his arms, smiling at me. “I thought you would return soon,” he said handing the thing to me and grinning.

I hustled to catch up with Scott who was busy photographing more fantastic Russian graffiti, this one no doubt talking about the massive privatization of previously public assets that took place during Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union.

We headed back to the 31B-Baker-street-style traveler’s coffee, and worked furiously on correspondence for the next few hours before the call of the open road started calling our names and we returned to street level.

Our plan, if we could harness enough daylight still, was to ride all the way out to the Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Station.  It was a particularly famous power station in Russia, playing a starring role on the 10 Ruble note.

So we headed back onto that river-side path, figuring that if we followed it far enough up river, we would undoubtedly eventually reach the dam. And so we rode on, past some magnificent railway bridges, eventually rejoining traffic on a smaller side road, which seemed to be leading us into a heavy industrial sector of town.

Try as we might, we couldn’t seem to keep near the river. The road just kept turning away and heading up hill. If we took the road which kept us closest to the water, we continually ended up in this rotting wooden village filled with barking dogs and very hard to traverse steep gravel roads. We tried once to find a passage through that village, and giving up when the road that we were on petered out into garden plots and guard dogs, we headed back down, teeth rattling in our skulls as we went over giant stones and potholes.

We tried another road which led us into a giant freight rail yard. This seemed promising, but soon that road too petered out. We spotted a group of pedestrians heading up a set of rusting metal stairs and decided to follow suit.

The view from the stairs was magnificent, showing that Krasnoyask was no small rail hub itself, but unfortunately, the path that lead from the top of the stairs, through the children’s playground and a small hospital, dumped us back out into that rotting village.

So we tried again to make it through the village, with similarly rotten results. Just as we were turning back, we spotted a local gentleman walking up the other way, and we took out a 10 ruble note to use as an illustration in our request for directions.

He laughed. He knew exactly what we were looking for. “but it’s too far!” he said. We’d heard that before, and laughed it off, pushing him for the directions.

So he shrugged and explained to us how to get there. Turns out we needed to go back into the city, and catch a bridge across the river, then proceed along the other side in search of the dam. It’s a 30 or 40 km ride there, he said in a far away and skeptical tone. Fair enough, we thought, and with it already being nearly, four PM, set off at a new fierce pace.

You may think us mad, dear reader, but you must remember that up here in Siberia, during the summer the sun does not set until 10:30 or so, so despite the fact that it was nearly 4pm, we could count on another 6 hours of good light. This just might be doable, if his estimates were a bit high, and if we hustled.

So off we went, pounding back down the hill, across the access road to the village and back onto the riverside bike path. We were flying.

We pulled off the bike path when we spotted the first bridge that was not for rail only, and tore across it too.

Not far into the communities on the other side of the river, we realized we were starving and pulled over at a small Produkti to purchase a couple of creamy pastries, and some very salty smoked string cheese.

We then we laid back into it and wheeled on hard, sticking to the riverside. This was our mistake again… not the wheeling hard, but the sticking to the riverside. We should have stuck to the big roads. For once again, we found our journey petering out into a dead end. I headed over to a kiosk to consult the women who were standing and sitting around it, discussing matters to complex for me to effectively evesdrop on.

They explained that we needed to go back, almost all the way to the bridge and get on the main highway. Shucks.

So we did, taking a few shortcuts through Siberian villages, and sprinting across a set of train tracks, holding the Speed TRs over our shoulders.

Then we were on the road, and everything felt right.  Unfortunately, the road was quite busy and had absolutely no shoulder. We tried riding on the sidewalk, but the sidewalk was so degraded that it was hard to ride fast.

So we eventually just got onto the highway and stated riding as fast as we could.

We rode hard and fast, but it was harrowing. Cars and trucks would whip by way too close to us, and all the while the sun was falling and the temperature was dropping.  After riding for an hour or so more, when we reached the top of a hill, we decided to question an Azerbaijani watermelon merchant there as to how much farther it would be to get to the dam. At first he told us it was hundreds of kilometers, which was obviously hogwash, but when we were not buying it, he took out his mobile phone and called his wife.

“15 kilometers more.” He said, apologizing for his misrepresentation. We looked at our watches, and up at the sun, and, perhaps in a moment of weakness, decided to head back empty handed.

As so we did, continuing to pound through the Taiga on our Speed TRs, doing our best to keep from eating bugs, and now free of our time constraints, calling waypoints whenever we spotted something amazing.

Take this Giant hidden Krasnoyarsk sign, so overgrown it was almost invisible from the road.

From there we wheeled back into the city, and being rich with time, we decided to wheel past the bridge we’d taken across to explore this side of the river more fully.

The sun was getting closer to setting, it being about 9pm as we passed by this hydrofoil boat turned restaurant.

Not long after the hydrofoil, we found the road coming to an abrupt end at a tattered wire fence. The fence was mostly broken and people seemed to obviously be using the space behind it as a thoroughfare, so we headed in, wandering up a large concrete slab to find ourselves on a new path, leading out onto a peninsula which jutted into a lake surrounded by new and futuristic apartment buildings.

As we rode along this path, we stumbled upon an outdoor fashion photo shoot, where a young model was posing in a very short black dress, next to a tree, with these amazing orange buildings in the background.

And then we were back at the Hotel Sibir. What a wheel it had been. Dam or no Dam.

We decided to celebrate that night by heading to our Siberian Bureau’s favorite restaurant in Krasnoyarsk, a Ukrainian in the center of town.

The waitress of the place spoke a bit of English, brought us some free sticky sweet medicinal liquor as gift from the house, and even told us what night club she was planning on visiting after work, inviting us to join her there. These ladies in Kransoyarsk…

The specialty of the place was cold porkfat. And it was delicious. We had ordered a large plate which came out with mustard and horseradish.  The pig fat was eaten with slices of tangy deep black bread, and often played the roll as a chaser for a shot of vodka.

In addition to the pork fat, we got a large beef salad, which contained the first lettuce we’d had in some time.

Our final dish was a kind of puff pasty soup: a savory beef stew with essentially a pie crust baked over the top of the stone pot it was served in.

All the food was delicious… AsiaWheeling 3.0 will have to include the Ukraine.


  1. laura | December 31st, 2010 | 3:23 pm

    i love the cow hanging out by the side of the highway!

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