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10 Essential tips to Improve Your Hitchhiking Game

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First Aid: Bandages

6

Space–Saving Folding Techniques for Clothes

34

For the Next Journey: Packing List

10

Hitchhiking in Siberia

35

Thank You Notes

22

Everybody Needs Toilet Paper Once in a While...

37

Scented Paper

24

So Here’s How You Can Make Paper Planes

40

29

Gear Guide

45

Notebook

What I learned about freedom from hitchhiking around America

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#1: CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS Clean shaven, clean clothes, and no traces of blood (yes, really) or sweat on your skin. I suppose lack of facial hair is open to debate, but I have a suspicion drivers are more likely to pick up men who look like they’re on their way to officer training school rather than those who emulate ZZ Top.

#5: HAVE A CREATIVE APPROACH I have seen all kinds here—people wearing fake casts on their arms and legs; dressing up in costume; girls showing off their legs (classic); some physical gimmick like chasing after cars that hesitate or performing some gymnastic stunts. If you think anything will help you to stand out, even the absurd, then go for it.

#2: LOSE THE SUNGLASSES Whether you’re sporting a cheap pair of frames you purchased an hour ago from a shady character downtown or a trendy set of Oakleys, it’s best to set them aside and let motorists see your face.

#6: CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION WISELY If you need to start your journey from a major metropolitan area, consider walking or arranging transportation for the first 20–30 kilometers, ensuring you’re delivered in a rural area and less likely to catch people running errands and going to work. Motorists need room to pull over; don’t assume they’ll just stop in their lane and halt incoming traffic to pick you up. Check local hitchhiking laws. For instance, it’s illegal to hitchhike on the motorways of New Zealand (though not highly enforced).

#3: BE NEIGHBORLY This tip depends on the living situation, of course, but if you happen to be residing and hitchhiking in the same area, take heed of your presence in the community. Do you ever go for walks or runs in the morning or evening? Wave at motorists as they pass; perhaps they’ll remember you if you need a ride to the bus station later on. #4: LIMIT ONE BAG PER PERSON Try not to carry more than a piece of luggage. If you can’t travel without a full 60L ackpack so be it, but the ideal tramp is supporting a simple day pack, or none at all. Saves the driver the hassle of clearing out the back seat or popping the trunk— you can just rest it on your knees.

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#7: MAKE A SIGN Fifty–fifty shot. Carrying cardboard sign with your destination written in sharp bold letters might make it easier to find one driver willing to take you the full distance, but could also discourage those going only a few kilometers from making the effort to stop for you. If you’re traveling in a foreign country where English is not the native language, it would definitely


be a good idea to write “I can speak __” in the local tongue. Drivers might want more than simply “Roma? Ok, ok … (3 hours later) here … bye bye.” #8: CONSIDER THE TIME OF DAY Rush hour traffic (7–9 AM, 4–6 PM) can leave you aggravated even if you’re not stuck behind two hundred cars and a construction zone. A parent who might enjoy conversation with a traveler in the middle of the day is less likely to let a stranger enter her car with her 10–year–old son, fresh from school. Blue and white collar workers usually want to get home and chill immediately following a long day of stress. #9: LOOKING PATHETIC HELPS Pity rides are all too common in the world of hitchhiking. An exception to the luggage and cleanliness rules is playing the proper role of a hitchhiker—a traveler displaced and alone in this uncertain world of ours. Now imagine the same a character in the pouring rain. Along a rural highway in the dead of night. Wearing a t–shirt and shorts when the outside temperature reaches zero degrees Celsius. Combo of the three would be ideal. Pity rides are all too common in the world of hitchhiking. #10: YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL Finally—never, never assume you are entitled to a ride. It can be frustrating to sit outside for hours in the rain or glaring sun watching car after car after truck after horse-drawn carriage pass you by. However, if you start thinking “Why didn’t she pick me up? She’s going the same direction, and her passenger seat was empty,” then that resentment will simply build until you lose hope of making it to your destination, stop wearing a smile, and only stick out your thumb at every fifth vehicle. Strangers grant you a privilege by taking the time out of their busy day and escorting you further down the open road. Don’t forget it.

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8—No—Mad

1. Grab 2 socks and lay them down on the bed. Socks have a natural crease in them especially crew shaped socks. Fold them out the other way and lay them with the heals pointed up. Do this with both socks. 2. Stack one sock on top of the other, with the heels pointed up. 3. Fold in half so that the open end of the sock is laying against the surface, the foot part up. 4. Grab one end of sock as an anchor and pull tight Roll towards the open end of sock. With a beer can grip pick up the roll of socks with your dominate hand. Insert thumb of dominate hand into the sock opening. 5. Pull elastic backwards on itself and around roll of sock. Adjust if necessary.

Step 2: Socks

It’s a good idea to wash your cloths. Dump the cloths onto a bed or something. We will need some space work.

Step 1: Wash and sort cloths


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1. Grab the shirt by the upper seam that runs atop the shoulder on each side of the neck. Gently shake and lay it flat on a flat surface. 2. Smooth out any wrinkles and straighten the bottom seam (the part you tuck in the pants). 3. Fold the bottom seam up and line up with the bottom of the armpits. 4. Fold the seam back down to the new bottom line. 5. Unfold this 1 time. You should end up with the bottom hem folded underneath the shirt about 2 inches. 6. Grasp the top corner of the shirt and the bottom corner and lift and fold toward the center. The top corner will be touching the tag. The Sleeve should fold on the OUTSIDE of the shirt.

Step 4: T–Shirts 7. Repeat for the other side. 8. Fold each side in half again. 9. Grab the top of the shirt and grab the bottom. Rotate the shirt 180 degrees, so that the neck hole is pointing towards you. 10. Grab the new top and pull tightly as you roll from bottom up. Like with the underwear grasp the roll with a beer can grip but with your 4 fingers inside the hem. 11. Hold tightly and with the other hand flip the hem backwards while pushing the roll inside the fold with your thumb. 12. Work the roll inside the hem and adjust as necessary.

1. Lay the underwear flat. 2. Fold the underwear band about 2 inches under. If your underwear is so big it can double as a parachute in wartime, then adjust measurments as needed. 3. Fold the left side, so it lines up with the seam on front. 4. Fold the right side so that it lines up with the left edge.

Step 3: Underwear 5. Like with the socks hold the top tight and roll from bottom up pulling tight as you go up. 6. Grasp the roll with a beer can grip with your thumb inside the elastic. 7. Roll the elastic backwards over the roll, moving your hand as you go. Adjust if necessary to achieve a tight roll.


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12—No—Mad


January 12th of 2009. John Lennon’s “Whatever gets you through the night” woke me up at 8 o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t that easy to leave the warm and cozy bed, but I had to.

T

ook me about fifteen minutes. I washed my face, had a breakfast, said goodbye to my brother Sasha and walked to the subway. By around 10 AM I was already in the bus going to Nogisnk, a small town 70 km east of Moscow. I was sleepy, but happy to start my second hitchhiking trip to Siberia. And a little bit scared, since for the first time in my life I had to hitch over 6000 km alone. Fifty minutes later I got off at the Noginsk intersection and walked to a good hitchhiking spot I knew from my previous trip a year earlier. It was snowing, but the weather was warm. In 5 minutes I got my first ride. Gosha, the truck driver, said always picks up hitchhikers. “How old are you?” he asked, when we drove off. “Twenty–three,” I answered. “Wish I could be that young now. It’s been 25 years now since I live on the road, just changing trucks. And you know what? I don’t want to quit this job, even though it’s a hard one. I just can’t imagine myself living off the road.” “Yes, me too”.

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By noon we were passing the city of Pokrov. I’ve noticed a sign on one of the old buildings that said “Russian Government for Russia”. Was it a different interpretation of the neo–nazi slogan “Russia for the Russians”? Perhaps. About an hour later we turned onto the Vladimir (one of the medieval capitals of Russia) bypass. Around 4 PM Gosha received a phone call from a woman. They had a sweet and romantic conversation, but when the call was ended, the driver said: “Gosh! I don’t want to visit her now.” “Who was calling?” “Just a woman. She works in a roadside café not far from here. I visit her sometimes, we drink “niegrousteenochka” (his own word for vodka) and then… you know, make love and so. But I have no wish to see her now. I better go home, hug my wife, we’ll drink vodka and everything will be fine.” The weather was ver y war m for January in Russia, and perhaps that was the reason why there were so many prostitutes on the road, who did their best trying to attract truck drivers just as sirens hunting sailors. “Look at them, they are like mushrooms after the rain. Usually, they take 500 rubles (less than $20). You can’t find a cheaper one here,” Gosha said. It was around 6 PM when I got off the truck near a parking lot with few kilometers left to the Nizhniy Novgorod. I thanked Gosha and left him in his preparations for a sleep, since he was tired and had no wish to continue his trip. I was hungry. The vegetarian sandwich I had with me and the cup of hot tea made another simple dinner on the road. For about an hour I wasn’t able to hitch a ride.

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A small dog came to me. I fed her with cookies I got back in Moscow before taking the bus. Finally, around 8 PM a cargo van picked me up. The driver was not that talkative, so we were just listening to some music, until the road police officer stopped us. He checked driver’s documents, then came to me. “Do you have your documents with you?” policeman asked. “Sure! Here is my passport, my registration in Moscow and my student ID,” I gave him all the papers. “You are not a citizen of Russia?” “No, I’m not. I study in Moscow, I’m a journalist.” He looked at me surprised, then smiled and returned my documents. Then he went back to the driver who was waiting for him by the police car. Policeman checked the van via computer, trying to find something wrong with it to be able to get some money from the driver, but everything was fine, so 30 minutes later he just gave up. 13 January 2009. It was past midnight when we drove in Chuvashia, and an hour later I had to say goodbye to the driver, because he was going to Cheboksary. It was –10 –13 degrees outside, and after zero degrees near Nizhniy Novgorod it felt very cold. But I was lucky to get another ride just in 5 minutes. Another cargo van. The driver named Fyodor was a funny one! He was telling me stories about fishing and I was happy to be a listener, not a storyteller. We were in Tatarstan already, when Fyodor decided to take a little rest. The clock on my phone showed 5 AM. We stopped near the gas station. Two minutes later both of us fell asleep.

Ganesha, The Cop Story and The Shivering Girl January 13, 2009. My second day on the road from Moscow to Irkutsk. Around 7.30 AM I was woken up by some strange screams in the cabin of the van. It took me few minutes to realize that it was just an audio version of the first part of “The Pirates of the Caribbean”. Fyodor, the driver, said since he can’t watch the movie while driving, he just listens to the movie. And early morning was just a perfect time for it, I guess. Unlike yesterday, the weather cold, snowy and windy. Fyodor offered me a hot cup of coffee. Suddenly, I’ve noticed a small statue of Ganesha, the Hindu god, placed on the dashboard. “Where did you get this?” I asked. “Oh, I bought it in a shop, this is Ganesha, the God of businessmen. I’m doing business, so he’s helping me,” said Fyodor and laughed. Half an hour later he dropped me off near the parking lot. Failing to get a ride, I went straight to a tank trunk that parked nearby and talked to the driver about weather and road conditions. Then went back to the spot, and still not a single car stopped for me! Tired and cold, I took out the thermos to drink tea, but at that exact moment another cargo van stopped. The driver, a young guy aged 20–22, said he’s going to Yelabuga first, a 1000 and something years old small t own in Tatarstan, but then, if I don’t mind waiting for him until he’s done with unloading the cargo, he’ll drive to the city of Naberezhnye Chelny. It was cold outside, and I had no wish to freeze


on the road, so I accepted his offer. In Yelabuga, while he was doing his job, I wandered around the town. It was a nice and quiet town. At 11.20 AM I got off the van in Naberezhnye Chelny, got to the road to Ufa, and 15 min’s later I was already in a Lada car, listening to the driver Volodya’s story about a policeman. “Once I took my father’s motorcycleike to go to a nearby town. But a policeman stopped me on the road to check my documents.I gave him my driver’s license and the POA, because the motorcycle was registered under my dad’s name. The cop took

a long look at the documents, and then began to shine like the sun. ‘Hey, this is not your motorcycle,’ he said. And I said ‘Yes, you’re right, it’s not mine, it belongs to my father, it’s written in the POA.’ The policeman turned pensive and examined my papers again, and then suddenly smiled. ‘Your father’s, you say? Really? Then how come if he’s your father, you have different patronymic?’ said he. Can you believe that?” I left Volodya near Menzelinsk, not far from a roadside café. In just 5 minutes I was already freezing. So I went in the café to get hot water, for which I

had to pay 10 rubles, realizing that that was my first rubles I have spent on the road from Moscow. Then I noticed a driver having dinner in the café. I asked if he could give me a lift towards Ufa. He agreed. By 3 PM we were already driving through Bashkortostan. With 70 km left to Ufa, capital of Bashkortostan, the driver decided to make a stop for an hour. I thanked him, left the truck, and in 10 minutes I got a ride from another cargo van. The driver named Alexey was telling jokes all the way to Ufa. We crossed the city to the other end, where I was dropped off at the bus stop. Alexey explained me

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16—No—Mad


how to get to the Chelyabinsk highway, wished me good luck and left. While waiting for the bus, I decided to drink a cup of tea. I took out the thermos from my backpack, poured some tea into the cup and was about to take sip when suddenly heard a voice: “Lucky one! You have tea.” I turned back and saw a skinny girl who shivered with cold. It was –20 degrees outside. “Here, drink a little, this is green tea,” I handed her the cup, she took it and took a few sips. “Where are you going?” she asked. “I’m hitchhiking to Irkutsk.” “What? Are you crazy?” “Here, drink some more tea, you’ll get warm now.” “And here’s your bus,” she said, handing me the cup. “Thank you. Goodbye.” “Have a nice trip,” said the girl. I jumped into the bus number 71 and soon got out of Ufa to the Chelyabinsk highway. A small spot lightened with the light of the only working lamppost around. At 9.50 PM a Volvo truck picked me up. The driver’s name was Mars. He happily shared stories of all women he made love to. By midnight we passed the town of Sim and got to the parking lot near Korpachyovo. Mars said that he’ll drive to Yekaterinburg in the morning, and since that was a different direction, I thanked him and left walking along the road.

The Urals, Chelyabinsk and The Accident January 14, 2009. After saying goodbye to Mars I walked slowly along the road. I was now in the Ural mountains—a

border between Europe and Asia. It was past midnight, and there were no cars passing by, so after 10–15 minutes I sat on the snow and drank a cup of hot tea. Far ahead I could hear dogs barking. Snow was falling down from the dark sky. And there was this strange feeling that I was the only one on the Earth now. It didn’t last long though. Few minutes later I saw a car coming my way. I put the thermos back in the backpack, stretched out my hand. The car stopped. “Where are off to?” asked the driver. “Well, now to Irkutsk and then to Buryatia. Wanna visit some Buddhist monasteries,” I answered. “Oh, nice! Then I have a good news for you. I’m going all the way to Tomsk, so you have a ride for the next 2000 km. My name is Andrey.” “Awesome, and I am Artyom, glad to meet you,” I introduced myself and got in the car. Turned out, a week earlier Andrey drove his Hare Krishna friends, who had a flight to India, from Tomsk to Moscow and now he was returning back home. Around 4 o’clock in the morning we arrived in the city of Chelyabinsk and drove to the train station, where Andrey wanted to spend the night and take a rest. We agreed to meet in the morning when he’ll be ready to leave. I went to the common waiting hall and sat on the bench to rest for a while. In was cold in the train station. I had no tea left, so I went to the nearest grocery store and asked a lady to boil water for me, which she did, and now I could drink tea as much as I wanted. We talked a little bit, and upon hearing that I am hitchhiking to Irkutsk she

offered me a pack of chocolate. I felt I was now on the Asian part of Russia. I had a close friend, who was living in Chelyabinsk, we were going to meet around 9 AM, and since I had nothing else to do, I decided to sleep on the bench. I fell asleep immediately and was only woken up around 8 AM by little girl with curly hair who was laughing out loud. Soon my friend arrived and we went to walk in the city center. But before that we had breakfast in a Soviet style café where the most expensive dishes costed about $1. This happened to be my first time in Chelyabinsk, and although it’s an industrial city, I found the city center very nice, especially the old 2–storey buildings located on the old street of Kirovka. We walked around for some time, and since none of us wanted to freeze to death, we visited an esoteric café and had a delicious Chinese white tea. Soon, I received a call from Andrey, who said that he’ll be ready to leave for Tomsk in half an hour. We took a bus to the train station and met the driver. I said goodbye to my friend, and we left. The cities of Kurgan and Omsk were ahead. Due to a hard snowfall the visibility on the road was poor, so Andrey had to drive carefully. We were talking about religion and philosophy when around 9 PM we passed Kurgan. 15 January 2009. Past midnight we stopped at a restaurant called “Stranger” in the town called Berdyuzhie to eat. “Oh, look, this is right about you, my friend,” said Andrey to me. We laughed. For our late supper we had vegetarian soup with beans and potato pies and lemonade. I said I will pay this time, since Andrey was paying for

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everything. He refused, but I insisted. He eventually agreed, but warned me that if I do it again he’ll drop me off right away. I agreed. At 2.20 AM (I remembered it very well, because I checked the time right before the accident) the rear-wheel drive of the car unexpectedly refused to act, the vehicle skidded on ice, the driver lost the control, and on the speed of 100 km/h we flew off the road straight into the bushes in the ditch.

The Pregnant Woman, The Names and The Bye January 15, 2009. We woke up around noon. Andrey, the driver, said I have t i me to t a ke shower, wh i le he’l l go and check the car. In fact, I’ve had enough time not only to take shower, but also to read Edvard Radzinskiy’s “Mysteries of History”. Andrey came back at 2 PM only. “It seems that everything’s fine with the car now, so we can leave, but let’s go to eat something

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before. I’m starving,” said he. Rice porridge, few pieces of bread and lemon tea—that was the only vegetarian food we were able to find in the hotel’s simple café. Both of us were silent during the lunch. Leaving the hotel, I was thinking about its rooms—how many strangers they have seen? And how many strangers will pass by here and rest their heads on those pillows? It was around 6.30 PM when we passed t he cit y of Omsk. A ndrey decided to make a stop for dinner. We found a restaurant on the road and ate as much as we could. While eating, we watched local news on TV. One of the reports told a story of a bus conductor, a middle-aged woman, who forced a pregnant young lady to get off the bus out in the cold, and the reason was that she didn’t show a document that certified her pregnancy, which gave her a right of free pass in public transportation. And she was on her 6th month. How blind and heartless one has to be not to see that the lady was pregnant


and wasn’t lying. I was speechless, so were all the people in that restaurant. “What a bitch,” said then one of the waitresses. The rest agreed with her. We… well, Andrey paid, and we left. At a speed of 120 –140 km/h I was observing the night sky, and the Orion was one pure beauty. I looked at the driver, wondering what was he thinking about. He turned to me and said: “So your name is Artyom. How interesting. Do you know what it means?” I knew only that translated from Greek my name meant “unharmed, of pure health”, so I told him about it. “Yes, yes, yes. That is true,” said Andrey. “But not only this. If you divide your name into two parts—‘ar’ and ‘tyom’, AR is the RA—the sun, the light. And the TYOM comes from the Russian word “t’ma”— darkness. So, Artyom is Light and Darkness.” “And if you divide it into ‘Art’ and the Hindu ‘Om’ sound, you get something like transcendental art,” I added. Andrey suggested two more interpretations of my name: “Artyom

was a social status in ancient times. Say, there were centurions and others, and the highest rank was artyom, i.e. his spiritual level is very high. Also the word “t’ma” (darkness) can have another meaning—ten thousand. In Cyrillic numerals “t’ma” stands for 10K, or 100K. So then ‘artyom’ means someone who gives light to tens of thousands of people.” I think Andrey was the most interesting driver I have ever met in all these years of hitchhiking. He considered himself a Slavo–Aryan, a pagan, and believed that the life on Earth is of extraterrestrial origins. As he said, many of centuries ago the gods from the other planets settled the f irst earthlings at the North Pole and left for 10 thousand years to come back in 2012 to take them back home. These 10,000 years he called Kali Yuga. He also believed Earth is the only planet that has a portal to the spiritual world, and the only place on Earth where the ‘keys’ from that spiritual portal are still

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preserved is India. “We have to go to India and learn from them how to come back to our true origins,” he would say. 16 January 2009. At 2 o’clock in the morning we arrived in Novosibirsk. Andrey drove me through the city and dropped off at the parking lot out of Novosibirsk on the Kemerovo direction. He decided to take a little rest in Novosibirsk. By now I have crossed about 3500 km, and there was no reason for me to wait him until morning for another 270 km left to the city of Tomsk. So we said goodbye to each other. I felt sad. After 2 days and 3 nights spent on the road together we were like good old friends.

The Taiga, The Crows and The Traveler’s Fate January 16, 2009. Our goodbyes were short. We shook hands, and Andrey walked to his car. He had barely started the engine when I got my next lift from a truck driver heading for Tomsk. Vova, the new driver, was very interested in hitchhiking, so he kept asking questions, and I shared my hitchhiking experience with him. What always makes me smile is when the driver, who just picked you up from the road, asks: “So what? Do people stop for hitchhikers?” And shortly before that you told him that you are hitchhiking, say, from Moscow to Irkutsk, and by now you’ve made 3500km. “Well, you see? I left Moscow and now I am here. I guess that means people do stop,” I answered to that question of Vova. He smiled, saying, “Yeah, true. I didn’t think of it.” Vova dropped me off at the parking lot a few kilometers before the road

turned left towards the city of Tomsk. In the café I ordered two cups of tea and few pies with potatoes and mushrooms. Around 5.30 AM a cargo van stopped for me. Two hours later we were passing through the city of Kemerovo. The driver decided to help me a little more and drove me out of the city. He left me on the road to Krasnoyarsk on a perfect spot for hitchhiking, not far from where the Church of St. Nicholas was located. “If I don’t get a ride, at least I can find shelter in the church to warm up,” I was thinking. But the luck was on my side that morning. In 10 minutes I got a lift from another cargo van. The driver’s name was Kostya. We were now on the M53 highway, and the Road was stunningly beautiful! It ran through taiga, and Kostya was all fervent ardour to tell me little stories about his life here, about the forests, about the great variety of mushrooms and f lowers, about rivers and lakes, and beavers of taiga, which he did not stopping for even a single second. And I kept looking far into the horizon where the sun seemed to be reflected in the woods and the mountains. At 10.50 AM, between the 407th and 408th kilometers of the highway on the top of the hill I saw about 50 black crows sitting on the snow. Kostya said the crows appeared here a month ago: “There was a terrible accident on this spot. Two huge trucks. Head-on collision. And a car between them. All the passengers in that car and one of the truck drivers died instantly. And since then crows are here all days and all nights long.” I got goose pimples. Ko st y a d ropp ed me of f on t he Mar iinsk bypass and drove to the

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city. Since all the trucks were taking the bypass, I was hoping to get a ride all the way to Irkutsk from here, but I got stuck for an hour and a half, or maybe more. Two locals and one bus driver helped me to leave the Mariinsk city limits. Then an old man offered a ride for the next 20 km. He said he’ll drive me to the nearest rest area where there are many trucks. “It’ll be easier to get a ride for a longer distance from there,” he said. And the old man was absolutely right. Five minutes after he dropped me off, a red “Freightliner” tr uck stopped for me. “I’m going to Irkutsk,” said the driver when I opened the door. “Oh, great! Me, too,” I said. “Then what the hell are you waiting for? Get in.” I got in. We introduced ourselves and talked a little. Now when I was sitting in a warm cabin, I felt sleepy. The driver noticed it and said I can sleep for a while, which I did and slept for 3 hours. Around 10 PM by local time I noticed a road sign that said we had about 90 0 km left to Irkutst. “You almost made it,” I said to myself. By 11.40 PM we were passing the city of Kansk, when I received a text message from my mother, in which she wrote that my brother and his wife are going to have a son! It was great news, and I was happy for my brother and my parents, but I was sad, too. I realized that while I’m out in the world, roaming around towns, walking along the roads, meeting new people and exploring new cultures, back at home my parents grow older, my younger brother becomes father, many a things happen

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and many a changes take place, and I am to miss it all. And this is probably the biggest sacrifice to be made when one chooses the path of the Wanderer. Call it Traveler’s Fate.

The Café, The $20 Girls and The Arrival January 17, 2009. At 3 in the morning we stopped at the parking lot by the police station to sleep. Irkutsk now was a matter of another day on the road, and there was no need for us to hurry. We slept for more than six hours, and when we woke up it was snowing. Everything around us was white: the road, the vehicles parked along the road, the trees, and even the policemen. Volodya, the driver, boiled some water, and we drank tea and ate cookies watching this white road movie running on the windshield. “About 700 km left. By evening we will be in Irkutsk already. I know a good café 2 hours driving from here, we’ll have our real breakfast there. Cookies are just not enough when you’re in Siberia,” said the driver. He started the engine, and the red “Freightliner” slowly moved. Two hours later Volodya parked the truck by the café he was talking about. It was a beautiful Russian–styled wooden house, and with the snowy forest as its background the café looked like a house of wonders from some fairy tale. “This place is great, and the food here is delicious,” said Volodya. We went in. Turned out almost all the dishes they served contained meat. It was getting harder to find vegetarian food in Siberian café. The ladies who worked here were stunned when I told them I don’t eat meat.

“What? You don’t eat meat at all? How are you still alive?” asked one of them. “I don’t even know what to give you to eat,” said the other woman. “Well, what about that veggie soup you have?” Volodya was trying to help, since I stood there not knowing what to say. “Ah, yes, but still… how is it possible that someone can live without meat?” said the third woman. And this made the driver angry. “Enough!!! Everybody. Follows. His. Own. Way!” He was short and clear! The ladies disappeared in the kitchen. “You know, usually the drivers are trying to convince me to eat meat, blaming me for being vegetar ian. Thank you!” I said to Volodya when we sat around the wooden table. He didn’t say a word, but just smiled. Later t hat af ter noon we passed Nizhneudinsk with its dense forests, and the small town of Tulun with its ghost– like countrymen. “There’s a chance for us to be in Irkutsk by midnight if the weather will not get worse,” said Volodya. And now I had to think of a way to get to my friends’ place when we arrive, since I only had the address, but had no idea in which part of the city they are. In the evening, on the road between the 1675th and 1676th kilometers of the Novosibirsk–Irkutsk highway we almost crashed into a horse herd. About 20 horses crossed the road and disappeared in the darkness of the night. Me and the driver looked at each other surprised. Then we passed Malta, a small village in Irkutsk region of Russia, founded in 1675. 15 minutes later we were driving through the city of Usolye–Sibirskoe. “Oh babies, you got frozen? But that’s your job, oh poor

you. You all depend on weather conditions,” suddenly said the driver. I realized he was taking about the prostitutes on the road. What I saw was hard to believe in. Ten girls per each kilometer of the road through the city. “They cost $20. But you have to be careful. Most of them are HIV–positive. No jobs, husbands are drinking all the time, so these girls are forced to freeze here to earn a little money for living,” said Volodya. A round 11.50 PM we ar r ived in Irkutsk. Volodya dropped me off at the beginning of the city and drove to the nearby rest area. I thanked him, we shook hands, and I walked away to find a suitable spot for hitchhiking. It was snowing, but the weather was warm. 18 January 2009. There weren’t many cars on the road, so I was just observing the surroundings when suddenly a taxi stopped for me. I opened the door and said I am hitchhiking. “Yes, I know. Get in. Where do you need to go?” said the driver. I was surprised. I think it was my first experience in hitchhiking a taxi. I showed him the address. He turned on the GPS. The street I needed was on the other side of the side. Nevertheless, the driver took all the way to my friends’ place and dropped me off at the lobby. At 1 AM I was already drinking tea and sharing stories with friends. 6 days on the road. More than 5200 km. The part of my trip from Moscow to Irkutsk was over. But there was Ulan–Ude, Lake Baikal, Buddhist monasteries, Chita and many other adventures ahead. I stayed in Irkutsk for the whole day of January 18th, and the next day together with my hippie sister Sin we hitchhiked to Ulan– Ude. But this one is another story.

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1/

UP

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Position the template with the “UP” arrow at the top of the page. Then, flip the paper over onto its backside, so that you cannot see any of the fold lines.

Fold the top right corner down towards you until fold line 1 is visible and crease along the dotted line. Repeat with the top left corner.

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Fold the tip down toward you and crease along fold line 3.

Fold the right side over again and crease along fold line 2. Repeat with the left side.

5/ Flip the paper over. Then fold the left side over onto the right side and crease along fold line 4 so that the outside edges of the wings line up.

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6/ Fold the wings down along lines 5. Partially open these folds so the wings stick out straight. Cut two slits, an inch apart, along the back edge of the wing for elevator adjustments. Now you are ready to fly!


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Kelty Cosmic Down 20 The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 has a few frills tucked into its no-frills price. A full–length tube of down behind the zipper to guard against drafts, an insulated hood with elastic to cinch it tight, and a down collar. Also, a full–length zipper and European standard comfort rating of 32 degrees. Negatives: The 550–down fill doesn’t loft as well as spendier 800 fills. And the size regular claims to fit someone up to 6’0” comfortably, but 5’10” is more like it. ($110)

MSR Carbon Reflex2

The North Face’s Verto

This featherweight backpacking tent is mostly see–through mesh, so light it’s hardly there. This is one of the lightest two–person backpacking tents you can buy; MSR pared down the Carbon Reflex to the bare essentials—a body, two poles, and a fly. Trail weight hovers around three pounds. Negatives: it’s not freestanding, interior space is a cozy 29 square feet, and it ain’t cheap. ($500)

It isn’t just that The North Face’s Verto jacket is a scant 3.2 ounces. There are lots of three-ounce shells. It’s that the Verto is fully featured, with an elastic hood, storm flap behind the zipper, and hip length that keeps wind blasts off your lower back—plus it doesn’t feel clammy against the skin. Made of Pertex Quantum, it is water and wind resistant and compresses to the size of a baseball. ($99)

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The North Face Double–Track

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper

The Double–Track is a straight–down–the– middle trail runner, not too heavy, not too stiff. It’s ideal for both running and light hiking. There’s mild pronation control, but otherwise the shoe molds to your foot and provides excellent trail feel. The tread is stickier than typical trail runners, so you can head straight for the Yosemite granite—and up. ($110)

There’s something just plain cool about modern cooksets such as the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper. Tucked inside its tidy nest are settings for four, including mugs, bowls, and plates. Its three–liter pot, two–liter pot, and nine–inch frying pan are coated with three–layer Teflon. The lids are strainers and everything is color coded so you won’t mix up your pasta primavera with your pals. And the weight? While it’s designed for car camping, not backpacking, it tips the scales at a respectable four pounds. ($120)

Gregory Z 30 Jet Boil Sol Ti Premium A whole cooking Jetboil package, and with a titanium Sol Ti Premium version. This all–in–one system is so light you’ll hardly notice it in your pack. Just 8.5 ounces (half the standard model) and you get stove, bowl, and cooking vessel—all of which gets water bubbling in a little over two minutes, thanks to a heat exchanger that dramatically improves efficiency. ($150)

Many so-called daypacks are little more than book bags, but Gregory’s Z 30 is day–plus pack with a can-do attitude. The Cross–Flo DTS suspension uses crossed aluminum stays to stabilize loads north of 30 pounds and a mesh trapeze to help air circulate behind your back. The 30-liter top loader easily handles gear for a day’s summit push or, if you’re a minimalist, a summer overnight. The only downside? With all that space and the ultra–capable suspension, you’ll likely take more than you need. ($129)

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“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.” —Edgar Allen Poe

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Just kidding. The paper is scented nicely in case you find yourself in the middle of the road, waiting for a car to take you and you want to get slightly refreshed. No—Mad—39


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No—Mad Magazine