Monday, August 22, 2011

My Siberian Adventure - Day 9 - July 5, 2011

Begin: Ephremkino
Drive to: Shira
Ride the train toward: Novosibirsk

I wake up about 8:00 am as Dan snores and Alexey continues snoozing.  I walk outside to take some pictures.  The little kitten is always near the people.  He is very tiny and orange - and fearless.  He slept on top of Dan last night.

I'm called to breakfast by Father Dmetri.  We have sweet rice, tea, and there are some other options - including цикорий for tea, a kind of berry powder used as an additive.  I ask Dmetri what it is, and he can only explain in his limited English that it makes the tea taste good.  In sounding out the Russian name, I realize that it is "chicory."  This is amusing because chicory is closely associated with New Orleans.  Our famous Cafe du Monde coffee is half coffee and half chicory.

There is also bread and a bee by-product - the stuff that the bees themselves feed on.  I believe it is royal jelly.  A local beekeeper harvested it.  It tastes like honey but has a more solid consistency.  There is also a traditional Khakassian sweet called halva - which is made from sunflower seeds.  I later learn that halva is enjoyed across Russia and the Mediterranean world and comes in different varieties.

Breakfast is informal, with people coming and going, seated outside in the cool air on a rustic bench under what appears to be a new wooden gazebo.

Father Pavel is going to take us for a hike.  So, I quickly change my clothing configuration and get ready to go.  He has a minivan to carry Dan, myself, Alexey, and an older guy named Victor.  As we prepare to go, our younger friends are in a  group snapping pictures. Ira takes the opportunity for some more English practice with us.

We head down the road, such as it is.  We wind down the streets of the village (Ефремкино - Ephremkino).  We pass a school.  In a few minutes, we are at the base of the mountains.  We walk down a small trail and pass recreations of the native teepee-like yurts.

Pavel is dressed impeccably in light blue fatigues, military cap, backpack, and a modern aluminum walking stick.  He is pleasant and sports a closely-cropped full beard.  Father Alexey serves again as our translator.  We start climbing the trail, and the view of the river, winding its way around the mountains, is spectacular.

We walk a little ways along the path, and Father Pavel tells us that we have a choice to make.  Either we go the way he takes the teenagers, or we go the way he takes the babushkas (old ladies).  We laugh and let Victor decide.  He is experienced with this climb, and opts for the more treacherous option.  Off the bat, we start climbing straight up the rocks on the side of the sheer cliff.  It is a long, long way down!  We continue up this steep include for quite a ways - no safety helmet, no ropes, no buckles and videos about how to use them, no explanation, and no liability release forms.  I have to feel around for a place to grab a rock with my hands, and I pull myself up one step at a time - trying to keep up with the fleet-footed Pavel.  Sometimes, the rocks give way under my feet.  Did I mention that it is a long way down?  I'm wearing black dress shoes - but being rubber-soled, they actually perform well.

We make it to a little rock cavern where the next step was to climb the narrow channel of rock to emerge through the small hole at the top.  The local legend describes this as a kind of rebirth.  It was not an easy climb, but we all make it just fine.  There are caves that have ancient cave drawings on the walls.  They are still making archaeological discoveries here.

We continue walking, climbing, chatting, snapping pictures, and we make a good pace.  There is a long path along the side of the mountain that winds up and down with occasional detours to rock outposts to see the views.  I believe this is the Shaman's Trail that Father Dan had spoke of earlier.  Father Alexey lugs his Nikon D30 everywhere, and stands like a mountain goat on narrow piles of rocks on the precarious edge of the cliffs as he snaps away on the camera.  It is unnerving.

Father Pavel explains many interesting events of local history that happened here, including a cave blown up by the Bolsheviks as they sought to capture a local tribal leader, a Cossack, who opposed them.  He had become a kind of folk hero and guerrilla leader.  The Bolsheviks ended up killing him with mortar fire.

Many trees were marked by ribbons - an old Pagan (Shamanistic) Khakassian custom.  There are large stones that Pagans claim represent the organs of the body, and some try to use these stones to cure their ailments.  Pavel also shows us the remains of an ancient copper mine - and pieces of ore are lying all around.

We turn around and retrace most of the way back - although we don't climb down the sheer cliff face.  Fathers Alexey and Dmetri go off on their own for more hiking, while Dan, Victor, Pavel, and I head back.  We walk past the yurts and are able to visit them briefly, even to go inside.  They are wooden structures and are lined with wool.  There is a hole in the top to accommodate a fire.  These yurts are furnished with tables and chairs.  We make our way back to Pavel's minivan, and drive back to the camp.

There, I was able to work on my sermon while Dan headed to the main gazebo to read.

I was offered lunch by Victor and his daughter Masha (Maria) - who works at the camp with Father Pavel.  They made some пельмени (pelmeni) - small dumplings that are boiled.  I put butter on mine.  Victor used ketchup.  I was also offered milk - which may have been fresh milk from the cattle outside.  I was also offered hot water and green tea to add to the milk - which was refreshing.  There is also bread and halva on the table.

I spent time resting and looking over my sermon.  Lacking Internet, I borrowed Dan's cellphone and sent Grace a text message.

Dan and I took a walk to the village.  We stopped at a small "magazin" (store) called "Magazin Elena."  I bought us a couple of ice cream bars at 25 rubles each (just under a dollar apiece).  The lady clerk (Elena?) tallied up our total on an abacus.  There is a wandering herd of cattle in no particular hurry also out for a stroll.

Back at the camp, I converse with Nikita, who is preparing to start college and is still trying to figure out what to study.  His English is good.  I then took another nap, and was joined by the kitten, who was quite content to snuggle up under the blanket.

For dinner, we are offered a choice of potatoes or a summer cold soup, окрошка (okroshka), which is made from a drink that is basically fermented bread: квас (kvas).  The mosquitoes are starting to get bad.

After a little more rest, we are ready to go.  Father Pavel has already left, and Masha is driving us to the train station in Shira.  He car is not in good shape.  The windshield is badly cracked, the back is dented, the back passenger window was broken and replaced with plastic.  It turns out that she had been in a wreck a week ago.  He car flipped and she suffered a banged up arm.  Other than some scrapes, she is fine.

Her father Victor is riding along with us.

We arrive in time to wait for the train.  It will be about a ten hour trip.  Fortunately, the ride begins at about 11:00 pm - which means we can sleep during the ride.  I get one of the top bunks tonight.

Here is a link to all of my pictures from Day Nine.

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