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ExWeb interview with Dimitri Kieffer (part 3/4): generous people, magic moments, low points, and The Missing Link

Posted: Jul 01, 2011 05:32 pm EDT

Losing 2 tents in 2 seconds while dismantling them in the wind and then had to endure cooking in windy minus 35째C without a tent, was one of the low points in Dimitris trek in Far Eastern Russia. He tells ExplorersWeb also about his high points, magic moments, life changing moments, and The Missing Link.

ExplorersWeb: The people seem to be poor, but they share what they have

Dimitri: Definitely so, a Koryak friend told me once that Koryaks strongly believe in a supporting system where A helps B, B helps C, C helps D, etc therefore giving without expecting anything back directly.

Having said that though, of course I try to share whatever I can with the people that have welcomed me into their home, whether it is extra dehydrated food, Nuun electrolytes, highly prized ESS turbofan goggles, music, pictures, stories, etc

This time actually I am bringing a few items for my isolated Parenski family (Yura & Olesia Chansev as well as for their daughter Carina) whom hosted me for more than 2 weeks last May: a critical part for their Russian snowmobile, an iPod, a cell phone, Toys, kielbasas, etc

I have also experienced in the past that amongst the people I came across, the least they had and the more generous they were!

For example, the modest families I met in the brigade were so kind, feeding me ample amount of reindeer and fish, helping me to transport with the help of their reindeers, some of my extra gear through drier snowless sections, giving me warm sheepskin sleepers, salmon slabs and even a pair of binoculars which they insisted I was surely missing!!!

ExplorersWeb: What were magic moments?

Dimitri: The time spent and experience gained in the two brigades I came across: the Chukchi reindeer brigade in southern Chukotka and the Koryak brigade which I came across in Kamchatka Koryak Okrug region.

Being amazed by the hospitality I first received by several of my kind hosts welcoming me with a 2am reindeer plof in Paren or an 8am borsch in Slautnoye!

Some of the moments shared with my hosts as well such as the young and curious Koryak couple Yura and Olesia in Paren, the resourceful couple Vova and Aksana in Manily and the recently widowed Andrei in Slautnoye who was definitely looking forward to a bit of human company during this very hurtful stage of his life.

Some of the satellite phone calls shared with my girlfriend Gulnara, family and a few close friends when facing hard times. Suddenly, I was able to feel all of their support by my side, when it was so dearly needed!

Trekking and skiing on the Penzhina River, accompanied by 3 beautiful roaming dogs for a week, covering 140kms in 8 days!

Some of the warmer evenings and beautiful sunsets experienced while longing the coast, on my way to Paren in the beginning of May. It felt great to be near the sea, finding intriguing seashells, sponges, Japanese fishing nets, glass floaters, etc It felt great to be floating/trekking on ice surges once again! Looking at the months/years to come spent inland Russia, I know that I am going to definitely be missing the sea!

Watching two bears wrestling in the distance, and progressively vanishing while climbing steep cliffs!

Listening to the distinctive and intriguing sound made by singing white beautiful partridges.

Enjoyed some of the free and safe time spent alone on the trail where I could stop to camp wherever and whenever I pleased! Something that I will probably miss as well when I will be cycling along Russian highways

Colin Angus, a Canadian friend who has accomplished a human powered circumnavigation of the globe once wrote to me: Enjoy the peacefulness of Chukotka despite its bureaucratic hurdles which are some of the most challenging in the world. You will definitely miss it further on, when you will be going through crowded parts of the world.

Sharing my story while making a slide and video presentation to enthused Koryak and Russian school children.

ExplorersWeb: What were the high points of this section?

Dimitri: Departing Anadyr after having waited 16 days for air transport to Vayegi. Landing in Slautnoye after having 29 days on a trail since Vayegi, and having sadly lost 2 tents 3 days earlier Landing in Paren by foot and being able to close the 2010 chapter of the expedition!

Departing Paren by boat after having waited 18 days for the remaining ice to melt and therefore being able to go down the Paren River and along the coastline back to Manily.

ExplorersWeb: And the low points?

Dimitri: Having to deal with painful, badly battered feet for the first few weeks.

Losing two tents in a matter of 2 seconds while dismantling them in a windy morning Consequently, having to deal with three windy 35째C days spent tentless, making cooking more challenging

Partnering with a challenging teammate (Nyurgun) that I did not know sufficiently well enough ahead of the start. We met through a common friend, but I did not realize ahead of time how much we differed in our tactics, vision and goals.

Losing this risk-taking partner twice for 24 hours and having to anxiously wait for him upon landing in the next brigade and village.

ExplorersWeb: You had incredible experiences, how did it change you?

Dimitri: As I mentioned above, I have changed in quite a few ways, becoming more and more patient.
I have learned to better appreciate a more philosophical approach to life: we will get there when we get there! and deeply learn to appreciate the journey along the way.

Learned to better respect and listen to a wide spectrum of persons and personalities.

After having spent a week on trail with three roaming dogs, I feel that I have also changed quite a bit in relationship to dogs. Indeed, I strangely feel now much closer to them, much more attentive and forever wondering what are their deep philosophical thoughts.

And since you ask, I still wonder if a Russian husky communicate better with a Russian poodle or a Canadian husky? In other words, do dogs communicate according to their geographic location or their creed? But, thats a whole different question, way beyond the scope of Nexus Expedition

ExplorersWeb: What planning lies ahead and when will you resume your circumnavigation from Paren?

Dimitri: Currently in Evensk, waiting to depart within the next few days with the mayor of Verhniy Paren who is on his way home; we are planning to travel by either truck (Ural, Kamaz) wezdehod and/or tractor 280 km from Evensk to Verhniy Paren. This trip might take an unknown number of dayswhile we will be following an almost non-existent trail.

Once, in Verhniy Paren, I will proceed down the river to Paren (aka Urs Paren), 50 km away with the help of Yura Chansevs snowmobile. There, I will finally be able to turn around and start my trek: Approximately ~680 km Paren (Kamchatka Koryak Okrug) to Omsukchan (Magadanskaya Oblast), via Chaibura, Ghiziga, Evensk, Tavatum and Merenga.

This would allow me in deed to complete what I call the "missing link" between Anchorage and Omsukchan.

ExplorersWeb: Why the missing link?

Dimitri: Because, one can drive year around from South America to South Africa on permanent roads except through the Darien gap and between Anchorage and Omsukchan

[Click here for more about the last section of The Missing Link.]

Dimitri Kieffer was born in France and moved to the USA when he was 17. He runs ultra-marathons and participates 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 to complete the entire Nexus Expedition by 2016.

Stages already completed:

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
Approximately 600 miles / 965 km
exact number of miles still being tabulated.

Completed on foot (back country skiing, trekking with a backpack and pulling the sled simultaneously, swimming and using the sled as kayak while going down rivers).

Sixth section:
Vayegi (Chukotka, Russia) - Paren (Kamchatka, Russia)
March 11 - May 13 2010
707 km completed, 63 days.

Location May 17, 2010:
N 62째 25.040'; E 163째 05.160'
Paren, Northwestern Kamchatka
Total kilometers covered Spring 2010: 707.2 km
Manily to Paren 199.4 km

In March 2010, Dimitri return to the village of Vayegi and continued by foot and skis while pulling a sled moving Southwest towards Kamchatka. He completed the first month in company of Yakut trekker Nyurgun Efremov who stopped in the village of Slautnoye, Kamchatka.

From there on, Dimitri completed the next 200 km in company of three beautiful erring dogs and reached Kamenskoye. After having left the 3 canines in good company, he continued solo, mostly following the coastline where he could still find barely enough ice to slide his sled on, swimming and backpacking along the way and was finally able to reach the remote Koryak fishing village of Paren.

Dimitri was also enthused to be able to meet and stay for a few days along the way with two different "brigades" of reindeer herders, a Chukchi one and a Koryak one, where he was able to learn and appreciate their nomadic culture.

Seventh section:
Paren (Kamchatka, Russia) - Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast.
Dimitri is returning in Kamchatka in February 2011 to continue trekking and skiing 423 miles (680 km) from Paren in Kamchtaka Koryak Okrug to Omsukchan in Magadanskaya Oblast. He plans to cover this section by skis and snowshoes, while pulling a sled on tundra, considering the absence of roads in this remote part of the world. His route should take him from Paren to Omsukchan via Verniy Paren, Chaibura, Ghiziga, Evensk, Tavatum and Merenga.

Position: April 25, 2011:
N62째 30.987, E155째 46.342 Omsukchan
595 km travelled

Dimitri plans to have completed the entire expedition by 2016, upon reaching Knik Lake, after having circumnavigated the globe via human power.

Dimitri Kieffers expedition videos.

Dimitri Kieffer is blogging over CONTACT 5

British Karl Bushby, an ex-paratrooper, born in 1969, has already walked through South, Central and North America, Alaska, across the Bearing Strait (with Kieffer) and through a part of North-eastern Russia where he stopped on May 18, 2008 at Bilibino, Chukotka, and continued in 2011.

#Polar #interview

Magic moments: "Watching two bears wrestling in the distance, and progressively vanishing while climbing steep cliffs!"
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5)
Magic moments: The time spent and experience gained in the Chukchi and Koryak reindeer brigades I came across.
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE
"Trekking and skiing on the Penzhina River, accompanied by 3 beautiful roaming dogs for a week, covering 140kms in 8 days!"
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
Dimitri enjoying "some of the free and safe time spent alone on the trail where I could stop to camp wherever and whenever I pleased."
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer, SOURCE
"It felt great to be near the sea, finding intriguing seashells, sponges, Japanese fishing nets, glass floaters, etc It felt great to be floating/trekking on ice surges once again!"
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (live over Contact5), SOURCE
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE
Kamchatka Alaska map.
courtesy Dimitri Kieffer (over Contact5), SOURCE