Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No man's land in Russia

Last night, I braved the downpour to keep a dinner appointment with two diplomat couples from Russia who invited me out for a meal in the Fort to talk about travel and culture. Both couples are very adventurous and interested in the world at large, so it was very enjoyable to meet up with them and exchange notes on cities, countries and experiences.


People who truly love to travel also naturally love life. Travel and Life go hand in hand, and not just in Travelife Magazine. If you’re crazy about exploring new places and trying different things, then you’re probably also trying to live your life as happily and as well as possible.

The circumstances of each person’s life are different, but what counts is the philosophy by which life is lived. And tonight I found that this similarity in terms of loving Travel and Life -- and of wanting to live each day to the fullest -- made me more similar to four Russians than I ever realized.


The four of them love exploring the Philippines at any chance they get. They’ve been to many places already but their favorite island is Siquijor, and they say that Sagada is one of the most fascinating places they’ve been to.

They’d driven up to Sagada after an overnight stay in Baguio, and they’d done three hours of trekking inside one of the caves. One of the guys has even been to Sagada several times.

On one of his trips, he decided to do a different kind of cave trek by going into the Crystal Caves, which is apparently normally closed to tourists, and exploring it for three hours with a guide and a flashlight. At some point, he was wading in mud that was at least waist-high.


One of the couples loves strenuous driving trips – literally the kinds that leave you breathless because you’re doing thousands of kilometers in a matter of days. I'd just finished arranging a ten-hour roundtrip to Petra from Amman, Jordan over land at the end of the month, and that for me is already a marathon trip. But as I am already in Jordan for a few days, I simply could not miss going to Petra.

But the trips this couple do are in a different league altogether -- they're the 700 or 800 kilometers per day driving trips.

So of course they smiled indulgently at me, when I told them about my version of a marathon driving trip to Petra, in a chauffered car.

They recently drove from Moscow to St. Petersburg and way beyond that to a literal No Man’s Land near the Finnish border and even way past the area of Murmansk where a Russian submarine accident happened a few years ago. That's thousands and thousands of kilometers in a matter of days.


It’s incredibly cold in the area of Murmansk, and a few hours’ drive from here is the place completely uninhabited by man since World War II. All that’s left of the place are some war bunkers and apparently there's not a single sign of human life here. The nearest town is something like several hours’ of fast driving from here.

I was completely fascinated by this driving trip story so I asked him to write an article about it for Travelife Magazine, when he’d first told me about it sometime in June. Then he and his wife had gone on holiday – on another driving trip, actually – and they’d just returned. And today he’d handed me the precious CD containing his article and photographs.

He’s probably one of the handful of people who’ve ever been to this area of Russia -- even the most adventurous Russians never really make it this far -- simply because it’s so difficult to get to, if not almost impossible.

So please read about a trip to this intriguing and yet completely deserted area of Russia in the October-November issue of Travelife Magazine.

TRAVELIFE Magazine. Real travelers. Great stories and experiences. That’s why we’re #1.


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