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Baikal

At the turn off for Ust Barguzin, there is a giant burning pile of trash. I mean truly big. The first thing you see is a Soviet-era – and style – rusted metal obelisk with the letters ‘Ust – Barguzin’ ( in Cyrillic ) over a cracked turquoise wave. Then, as you turn the corner,…
  • July 18, 2013
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Buryatia

A warm breeze ruffles sun dresses and flips the corners of cloth chess boards on benches and tables scattered around the fountain. Tchaikovsky blares on battered loud speakers above, while the afternoon shadow of the State Ballet creeps over the square. Lenin’s head glowers across the way, his 5,000 pound steel mustache jutting and razor…
  • July 12, 2013
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The Last Camp

There is cleaning to be done. The bags have to emptied out and packed anew, breaking set habits; calls need to be made and arrangements confirmed. A bag of trash consolidated and fuel shuttled off, and all things separated and divorced from their expedition-spun meanings. The goal needs to be put to bed, silenced, zip-tied…
  • March 18, 2013
Our egos were tempered just as we gained the top of our first 3000+ meter pass.  There we met the family that lives at the very top of the pass in humble buildings buried in 15 foot snowdrifts.  The father of the family's job is to drive the bucket-loader and clear the wind-loaded snow from the road as it is deposited.  Even on a gorgeous sunny day, we hurried off the pass as the wind howled.

Cycling the Celestial Mountains, in Winter

Kyrgyzstan has been good to us. Our first pass over 3000m was bright and sunny, making sunburn a new and oddly welcome hazard. The good weather followed us almost all the way to Bishkek, giving out in a fit of cold and snow as we skated out of Kara Balta. Thankfully, friends were awaiting our…
  • March 12, 2013
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From the Sea to the Mountains

After a rushed week of visa hassles, decrepit Soviet cargo ships, and a series of overnight trains across Turkmenistan (our visa only gave us 5 days to cross the country), we crossed into Uzbekistan and rattled northeast to Bukhara, a beautiful and gritty Silk Road waypoint. The Caspian was our last tenuous connection to obvious…
  • February 21, 2013
While the mountains were ever present on the horizon, it was not often that we ventured into them.  The Greater and Lesser Caucasus ranges sandwich the fertile valleys of Georgia and Azerbaijan, giving us fresh produce and good wine, and (mostly) snow-free roads.

In the Shadow of the Greater Caucasus

Celebrating your birthday in a foreign capital is a special experience. The strange displays of wealth and the contrasts of Turkic history overlaid with inept Soviet industrial management and modern oil booms make Baku an odd and occasionally frustrating place to explore. Still, on my birthday, everything seems to be falling into place: we found…
  • February 14, 2013