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ExWeb interview with Dimitri Kieffer: Continuing his human power circumnavigation of the globe

Posted: Mar 10, 2010 04:58 pm EST

Dimitri Kieffer started his human power circumnavigation of the globe on February 26, 2005 at Knik Lake, near Anchorage, Alaska. Since then he has completed approximately 2440 miles (3926 km).

Dimitri is now on his way to continue from where he had stopped in June 2008; 15 km northeast of Vayegi, Chukotka province, in Russia. His planned route, which he wants to complete in 54 days, is 1060 km (660 miles).

Dimitri talked to ExplorersWeb from Anadyr where he was meeting up with his Russian teammate, Nyurgen Efremov, and organizing transport to their start point. He talked about taking a teammate but not a gun, and about his Russian visa and speaking Russian. Correne Coetzer caught up with him in Russia.

ExplorersWeb: What challenges will be in this section of your circumnavigation and what safety precautions have you taken?

Dimitri: First of all, I am taking a teammate with me to increase my personal safety while traveling through the remote 250 km between Vayegi and Slautnoye in Kamchatka. This section is deprived of any traffic.

I have decided to take Nyurgen Efremov with. Nyurgun is a lawyer for the post office in Anadyr. We met during my previous visit to Anadyr and have been communicating and planning this section for the past few months.

Nyurgen grew up in Yakutsk, a city in the far east of Russia and 4 degrees (450 km) south of the Arctic Circle. He is 34 years old and over the last few years has done kayaking and biking expeditions single-handed or with a partner. One of his most admirable accomplishments was the completion of the section Yakutsk-Anadyr over a few months switching back and forth between his mountain bike and his inflatable kayak which he carried both all the way.

He has not previously done long winter expeditions and is looking forward to winter sled-pulling and skiing. I shall learn from him some of his trapping and fishing skills, when they become needed.

Second, we have to protect ourselves against potential bear, moose and wolves attacks.

Nyurgun and I have talked a lot about this and we have both decided for multiple reasons (weight, cost, potential malfunction in colder temperatures) to not purchase any fire arms, even though Nyurgun is now allowed to acquire some, after having passed specific Russian examinations testifying that he is neither psychologically insane nor alcoholic.

Not a bad thing to find out, in any case, before we start trekking together for multiple months in the middle of the tundra.

ExplorersWeb: What logistics are you organizing in Russia?

Dimitri: The most difficulty logistics is to get from Anadyr to Vayegi.

Originally we were planning to traveled with a "military surplus" Wezdehod which belongs to a reindeer "brigade"/farm located near Vayegi and which was planning to return home after having completed its delivery of cargo meat in Anadyr. However, this wezdehod needs to be repaired at this stage and will not return to Vayegi for another 2 weeks.

The next flight to Vayegi is only on March 15. In the past I have experienced it could get delayed by days or weeks for multiple reasons.

We have now arranged to travel the 700 km by skidoo. It will be me, Nyurgun and a Chukchi rider needed to return the snowmobile to Anadyr. Our 250 kg equipment (two sleds, gear, food and white gas) will be carried on a trailer behind the skidoo.

I must admit that I am a bit wary to travel 700 km on one snowmobile with 3 passengers and so much cargo, but we have to get to Vayegi.

ExplorersWeb: How will your food supply work?

We have two planned resupply points, close to Kamenskoye and Evensk. These supplies are composed of dehydrated food, fuel, lithium batteries, first aid medicine and additional clothing.

We are planning to maximize the use of the few towns and villages along the route. The towns/villages may also give us the chance to rest, repair equipment, communicate by landline phones and potentially send emails.

ExplorersWeb: Was it easy to bring all the food, electronics, gear into Russia?

Dimitri: When I arrived in the country the Russian Federation Customs department took four hours to analyzing all my camping and electronic gear, sleds, food and fuel that I brought across the border. Consequently, in accordance with Russian laws, I had to pay an import tax of about 500$ for the 94 kg of dehydrated meals and white gas I brought in.

ExplorersWeb: Are their any regulations that restrict you from planning what you want to do?

Dimitri: I got a multi year visa for Russia, but may stay only 90 days. This means that I have to be finished with what I want to do in three months.

ExplorersWeb: Do you speak Russian?

Dimitri: I speak some Russian. Nyurgun speaks Russian and Yakut and only a few words of English.

Even though this might lead to potential frustration from time to time in our communication, I am actually welcoming this fact which is going to force me to make some serious progress in Russian.

Dimitri Kieffer was born in France and moved to the USA when he was 17. He runs ultra-marathons and participate in adventure races. Since 2005, Dimitri has continued to evolve, transferring from adventure racing to full blown expeditions, like this Circumnavigation around the Globe with only using human power.

The circumnavigation started on February 26, 2005 at Knik Lake, near Anchorage, Alaska. Dimitri plans complete the entire expedition by 2016.

Stages already completed in Dimitris Nexus Expeditions around the globe using human power:

First Section: Knik Lake (near Anchorage, Alaska) - Nome (Alaska)
Feb April 2005, 37 days, 1100 miles 1770 kilometers
Completed by foot (trekking & snowshoeing) the Iditarod Trail Invitational race

Second Section: Nome (Alaska) Wales (Alaska)
Feb 2006, 9 days, 115 miles 185 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing)
(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)

Third Section: Nome (Alaska) Uelen (Russia) Bering Strait Crossing
March 17-31 2006, 14 days, 5 days where swimming was required
200 miles 322 kilometers
Completed by foot (Trekking & Back Country Skiing) + Swimming
(with Goliath Expedition- Karl Bushby)

Fourth section: Uelen to Egvekinot (Chukotka, Russia)
April 12- May 16 2007, 34 days, 425 miles 684 kilometers
Completed by foot (Back Country Skiing and only trekking after Vastoshisno)
Uelen- Anguema(with Goliath Expedition - Karl Bushby)
Anguema- Uelen (solo)

Fifth section:
Egvekinot to Vayegi (Chukotka, Russia)
April 15- June 7, 2008
exact amount of trekking days still being tabulated
Approximatively 600 miles / 965 kms
exact amount of miles still being tabulated.

Completed by foot (Back Country Skiing, trekking with a backpack and pulling the sled simultaneously, swimming, using the sled as kayak while going down rivers).

Sixth section: Vayegi to Omsukchan (Russia)
March May 2010. Total expected mileage for the route: 660 miles (1060 km). Trekking and skiing.

He plans to cover this section by skis and on foot, while pulling a sled, considering the absence of roads in the Chukotkan tundra. Once upon reaching Omsukchan, he will switch to biking and continue Westbound towards Europe, connecting the European, Asian and American continents.

Dimitri Kieffer is blogging over Contact5.

#Polar #Trek #interview

Nyurgun Efremov and Dimitri Kieffer enjoying a cool (-37°C, -35°F) afternoon breeze in downtown Anadyr, Russia. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Dimitri transported 470 kg gear and 2 sleds from the USA to Russia. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
Image by Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Russian flares and bear spray made of cayenne pepper to protect Dimitri and Nyurgen from potential bear, Chukotkan moose and wolves attacks. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
Image by Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
The route from Vayegi to Omsukchan (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
A year ago Dimitri was wearing a turtle shell for a period of 3 months after injuring his back when falling from the roof of his house. His vertebral column required a Posterior Spinal Instrumental Fusion surgery in the L1 vertebrae. Thereafter he had a year of imposed recovery, but he is ready to continue his trek around the world again. Image sent over Contact5 (click to enlarge)
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE