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FTF - Expedition Severny

I love to dig in maps and databases and look up interesting and extraordinary caches since I started geocaching. When I say extraordinary I’m not really talking about the design of the container itself it’s more about the remoteness and inaccessibility on interesting places in the wilderness. As I love to travel to the East it’s not surprising that caches hidden in endless Russian area attracted my attention. My attention was caught by two of them in particular, one of them is First in Lake Baikal, which I defeated after seven years of publishing and where I logged STF – More about that in separate article. Another highlight is the Severny cache, there is still no FTF in 10 years after publishing. This cache haunted me and I slowly began to plan an expedition to conquer it.

The very first step was to verify if it’s still in place. Therefore I contacted its owner Dmitry, who for sure can’t be blamed to be too competitive. He was paying premium membership for ten years and hadn’t found a single cache during that period – only placed one which had not been found by anyone in 10 years. Dmitry ensured me that cache is there for sure because the place is such a distant wasteland that there’s no way anyone could muggle the container. He has also shared the story of this cache with me. He comes from the town Severny (he lives in Moscow now) and that’s why he placed the cache here for a keepsake. Anyway, the town itself is abandon for years now and there’s just empty space, nothing far and wide. It does not look that dramatic if we check satellite maps as there are still roads, villages and even the railroad to Severny. The reality is the roads are damaged with bridges fallen down, nearby villages are expelled and the railroad is abolished with plucked track. The whole area is completely void, inaccessible, uninhabited and covered with endless forests in all directions from Severny.

That made it more tempting, so I decided I simply needed to do it. Soon I encountered another problem, I couldn’t find other lunatics who’d be willing and able to join me and I didn’t want to go alone of course. Till Viktor (Czech number one T5 hunter) and his mate Tomas (who’s not any couch potato either) got in touch with me. I knew immediately they are the right ones so we started to plan specific details of our expedition. First issue was the timing. Dmitry told me that the area is abandoned also due to swarms of mosquitoes enormous even for Russian conditions. Therefore it was necessary to go before the mosquitoes hatch in early springtime but also late enough so the snow is gone. So we set the departure time to beginning of spring – end of April. The time moved quickly, soon the visas arrived then the air tickets booked and before we knew it all three of us were packing and on our way to Moscow.

Go to FTF by car? Bah, boring – I started in style, train from Smichov to the main station and from there again by train to my native town Brno. We didn’t want to fly from Prague as it’s considerably cheaper from Brno to Moscow and also Viktor and Tomas come from there so from a strategic point of view it made more sense. We met in Brno train station and hit the road to the airport without hesitation. The aircraft flying from Moscow was landing while we approached the airport. The plane is more like the shuttle bus, everyday travelling from Moscow to Brno over and over as the months roll on. We were a little bit surprised that the plane is operated by the same airline whose other plane full of the world´s best hockey players had recently crashed resulting in the unfortunate death of several top Czech national team players. To my surprise, my friend Eldar from Azerbaijan who was returning from a trip to Uzbekistan back to study in the Czech Republic got off the plane. That’s what I call a chance meeting – had we planned it we wouldn’t met. Such a small world ....

My ticket to Trans-Siberian Railway Moscow – NeyaMy ticket to Trans-Siberian Railway Moscow – Neya

Then it all went very quickly, after a relaxed flight we arrived at Moscow´s Vnukovo airport (one of the five international airports in the Russian capital), where we hastily found local TB hotel (unfortunately archived by now) and we went by train to the city. We ran through the city to straight to the Yaroslavsky railway station by metro and there we jumped in the Trans-Siberian Railway train heading to the town of Neya, which should have been our starting point. The train was literally exquisite – nice and clead beds, equipped with the electricity sockets for charging the batteries and also the service who was offering the tea for a decent price right next to the bed. First we had a nice chat with the old lady lying opposite of me and then with one guy who’s origin is in the now abandoned town of Severny, incredible coincidence. He shared a lot of precious advice and also recommended to chose Nikolo-Poloma as a better starting point. We had a little sleep and in the morning got out of the train in Nikolo-Poloma where we found Lenin’s statue right on the platform. Boys were excited as it was their first Lenin. :-) There was a shop near the railway station so we bought some supplies and we enjoyed a breakfast before boarding the marshrutka (a kind of a small bus) to Parfenyevo as it unfortunately didn’t go any further. We begun to lose our confidence on the way because we noticed slow melting heaps of snow in the forests, there was water everywhere in the open landscape, everything was waterlogged and the rivers were flooded. We found a local cab driver named Ivan in Parfenyevo, he told us that they had the most amount of snow he could remember for years and that we are lunatics to decide to go to such no man’s land where there is still either enormous amount of snow and flooded landscapes and rivers.

View on the flooded landscape near Parfenyevo:

In the end we reached the village Ilinskoye which we planned to be our starting point from the beginning. We thought it’s populated but as we entered the town you could see it had not been for a long time. On a small hill stood a large, gorgeous but unfortunately neglected Orthodox Church and dotted around the church were a few dozen wooden houses each more neglected than the last. The vast majority of them looked like you could just push them with your finger and they would fall to the ground. It was quite depressive scenery to be honest. Right after that impression we started to laugh loudly when we found a public telephone on the wooden pole next to the church. It was modern, pushbutton telephone with LCD display and most important – it worked! There was a sign on the display saying it operates on pre-paid cards which can be bought at the post office. That made us laugh again as the view all around us was nothing but forest so we had no idea where the next post office could be if indeed there was one at all still operating in the area.

After short sightseeing tour through the village and visit to the church we packed an emergency supply of drinking water and headed to Severny. In the beginning it went well, the path was very overgrown and waterlogged but it was possible to walk on it. But once we reached the forest it got worse as there were piles of wet and heavy snow into which we sank above our knees. So we struggled for a few kilometers until we hit the stream. Well, it was meant to be the stream but due to melting snow it had swollen to a river. I was sure this is going to stop us but tough guy Viktor didn’t give me any time to think about it. While standing in the snow he preceded to take off his clothes and said (while bare naked and holding his backpack above his head) something about wading through. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I stood watching him bravely marching into the wild stream. Anyway, even he had to finally admit that this was not way to cross in the end. We tried to explore the sections up and down the stream but it was either the same everywhere or on a few occasions even worse. We tried to walk around it in a wide curve up the stream with no success. Finally it was clear to us that we simply won’t pass this way. While the guys tried to find out another through or around I set out back to Ilinskoye to find some solid house to make camp for the evening.
I experienced literally horror scene in Ilinskoye. It grew dark when I was on my way back to the village, there were only ruined houses everywhere and the fog crawling out of the forest. The destroyed church was even spookier than it had been during the day and the silence was so uneasy, I admit I started to freak out a little. I checked house by house trying to find one suitable for sleeping in which wasn’t as easy as it seemed because everyone was about to fall down and we couldn’t sleep in the church as the doors were blocked with heavy bars. Then I found a log cabin which seemed to be solid. To my surprise there was a sign “medical center” and it probably really used to be there because the only thing I found inside was a gynecology chair. I burst in laughter and felt like I was in a sitcom. After a while Viktor and Tom arrived confirming that we can’t reach Severny from this side. So we settled down and got as much sleep as possible, waking early morning and headed back to Matveevo where we arrived around noon. We met a local bloke who confirmed there’s simply no chance to reach Severny from here now. He guessed the only way now would be from south, walking on the body of the former narrow-gauge railway from the city Neya. Neya would be almost 50km away so he advised we contact local hunters to seek advice. So traveling by foot and hitchhiking we went back to Nikolo-Poloma and from there by train to Neya.

That’s how long the trains on Trans-Siberian Railway are:

We arrived in Neya early evening and immediately started to investigate how to get to Severny. Unfortunately this was the moment when our FTF hunt definitely ended. We have learned that the floods progressed and a state of emergency was declared so there’s absolutely no way to get to abandoned Severny. We were sad for a while but then we agreed that there’s no point of mourning and that we’ll enjoy the rest of our vacation and will use the time to visit the most interesting places north from Moscow. So we spent the night in Neya at the local boarding school and went to enjoy Russia. Gradually we visited Yaroslavl, where we found a single local cache within a radius of many kilometers - Volga View, then we move to Rostov where we placed the cache (SPORE 104 - Rostov Veliký), then we moved to Sergiev Posad, where we paid tribute to Sergey Radonezhsky and logged ancient local virtual cache The Vatican of Russia. Finally we spent few days in Moscow where we played the only Russian wherigo Moscow Kremlin and even got to FTF hunt where we missed the first place in favor of our german colleague. But that’s a different story.

Although we hadn’t succeed this was a totally awesome expedition, full of amazing experiences, wonderful places and meeting interesting people and that’s what geocaching is about after all, despite one fair DNF. After landing on the airport we were welcomed by the group of cachers from Brno holding a banner as a cherry on the top. There was even a beautiful lady-cacher who welcomed us in a stylish way presenting us with the bread and salt. All of this despite the fact they knew already that our Expedition Severny failed. I would like to use this way to express big thanks to them; it was an amazing end of this quest. I also would like to thank to Viktor and Tomas again for keeping me an excellent company and also for having the backbone to join me – I would never make it without them.

P.S. – FTF was conquered by German cacher krümelmonsters in not even two month after our visit – my sincere congratulation. The paradox is that for him it was drive-in when he was passing by accident in a car that was strong enough and which helped him to reach the cache. He was very lucky as he used the body of the former narrow-gauge railway which was re-built into a relatively passable road. He also confirmed my concerns when he wrote to me that by that time there were so many mosquitoes that it was almost impossible to get out of the car.

Following pictures are the mix of my and Tomas’s photos (thanks for allowing me to post).

Galerie k článku FTF - Expedition Severny

Stylish start | fotografie
Stylish start
UT – Air ?? | fotografie
UT – Air ??
Moscow airport train | fotografie
Moscow airport train
In the train .... | fotografie
In the train ....
A chat with elderly lady | fotografie
A chat with elderly lady
Russian trains | fotografie
Russian trains
Nikolo – Poloma | fotografie
Nikolo – Poloma
In marshrutka .... | fotografie
In marshrutka ....
In Parfenyevo | fotografie
In Parfenyevo
Matveevo | fotografie
Matveevo
Ilinskoye on the horizon | fotografie
Ilinskoye on the horizon
You lunatics ! | fotografie
You lunatics !
Road to Ilinskoye | fotografie
Road to Ilinskoye
Ilinskoye | fotografie
Ilinskoye
Abandoned houses | fotografie
Abandoned houses
The prophet Ilya church | fotografie
The prophet Ilya church
This is only possible in Russia | fotografie
This is only possible in Russia
We’re leaving the village | fotografie
We’re leaving the village
Black adder | fotografie
Black adder
Significant obstacle | fotografie
Significant obstacle
Tough guy Viktor | fotografie
Tough guy Viktor
Not this way either | fotografie
Not this way either
Back to Ilinskoye | fotografie
Back to Ilinskoye
We’re looking for the place to sleep | fotografie
We’re looking for the place to sleep
Horror house | fotografie
Horror house
Not possible to sleep in the chair either | fotografie
Not possible to sleep in the chair either
Maybe here ? | fotografie
Maybe here ?
Medical center | fotografie
Medical center
Gynecology chair | fotografie
Gynecology chair
Dry room ! | fotografie
Dry room !
On our way back | fotografie
On our way back
Floods | fotografie
Floods
Again in Matveevo | fotografie
Again in Matveevo
The last look back .... | fotografie
The last look back ....
In the train again .... | fotografie
In the train again ....
Passenger train Buj – Sarja | fotografie
Passenger train Buj – Sarja
Neya | fotografie
Neya
It’s pouring and pouring | fotografie
It’s pouring and pouring
Spyridion Church | fotografie
Spyridion Church
We have a place to sleep | fotografie
We have a place to sleep
Sunset | fotografie
Sunset
A morning in the dormitory | fotografie
A morning in the dormitory
Yaroslavl | fotografie
Yaroslavl
Prophet Ilya Church in Yaroslavl | fotografie
Prophet Ilya Church in Yaroslavl
We head to Rostov Veliky | fotografie
We head to Rostov Veliky
Rostov Veliky | fotografie
Rostov Veliky
Let’s get inside the bell !!! | fotografie
Let’s get inside the bell !!!
Tomas in the belfry | fotografie
Tomas in the belfry
Sergiyev Posad | fotografie
Sergiyev Posad
Moscow | fotografie
Moscow
Moscow - The Red Square | fotografie
Moscow - The Red Square
Red Square cache | fotografie
Red Square cache
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour | fotografie
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Museum of Astronautics | fotografie
Museum of Astronautics
I’m kissing my native land | fotografie
I’m kissing my native land
Amazing cachers from Brno | fotografie
Amazing cachers from Brno
Bread and salt | fotografie
Bread and salt
Real Russian vodka | fotografie
Real Russian vodka
Final souvenir photo | fotografie
Final souvenir photo
My Garmin’s printscreen | fotografie
My Garmin’s printscreen


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