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How Siberia's famous swamp could become the next big winter tourist draw

By Anna Liesowska
26 February 2015

Inaugural trek through 10,000 year old Vasyugan Mire paves way for visitors to savour the unique flora and fauna.

Six people on skis took part in the inaugural expedition on a 120km route despite snow and freezing conditions. Picture: Tomsk.ru

A group of intrepid trekkers walked across the heart of Siberia's world-famous Vasyugan Mire as part of a project to bring winter eco-tourism to the swamp.

Organised by the Tomsk branch of the Russian Geographical Society, six people on skis took part in the inaugural expedition on a 120km route despite snow and freezing conditions. The aim was to plough a way through the area for visitors to follow and conduct a comprehensive study of the swamp’s ecosystem along the way.

Located in western Siberia, and 53,000km sq in size, Vasyugan Mire is the largest swamp in the northern hemisphere and is home to a range of unique flora and fauna.

Afterwards the expedition was heralded a success, with the hope it can now become a new area of interest for tourists from Russia and overseas.

Danil Barashkov, a 25-year-old biologist from Tomsk who took part in the trip, said it had been a 'great adventure'. 'There were lots of interesting things,' he said. 'I remember a chance encounter with wood grouse that jumped in front of us on the path and flew away. It is a very large and very beautiful bird and meeting it was success.

'Most of all I remember the stunning sunsets. They were an indescribable sight: the play of light, clouds, the tops of miniature pine trees and snow expanses merged into a single breath-taking picture.'

Vasyugan swamp


Ioann Chechnev

Ioann Chechnev, 22 yo Tomsk based organizer of the expedition and his team. Pictures: Danil Barashkov

Formed 10,000 years ago, the swamp is a major reservoir of fresh water for the region and is home to a number of endangered species, including the white-tailed eagle and fish hawk. It is so large it occupies about two per cent of the whole area of the world's peat bogs.

The expedition was supported by the Professional Expeditions tourist centre and it is hoped the idea of winter treks will prove popular with people interested in wildlife.

As well as Mr Barashkov, the group comprised of organiser Ioann Chechnev, Svetlana Pakhomenko, cameraman Alexey Myakishev, tourism instructor Anton Ruchkin, and Yuriy Terekhin.

The trek started on February 14, from the village Orlovka, on the border of Novosibirsk and Tomsk regions. The team finished on February 22, when they arrived in Krutikha village.

Deep snow slowed the group down at times, and they were forced to cope with the elements – sleeping in tents at night as temperatures dropped to -40C. They also carried heavy backpacks weighing up to 30kg and allowing them to be completely self-sufficient.

Night at Vasyugan swamp


Night at Vasyugan swamp

'As a rule, in such circumstances you need to become laidback to some extent. And you can’t have a sense of fear in such an expeditions.' Pictures: Danil Barashkov

Mr Chechnev said: 'The first hours were the most difficult because when you wake up in -35C, it is necessary to make a fire and cook breakfast. We woke up mostly at 6 am.'

The only female participant, Svetlana Pakhomenko, was more enthusiastic, however. 'I felt a real sense of infinity,' she said. 'Everywhere we went there was a fantastic sun. Never have I seen such a beautiful setting sun. It gave us a cosmic feeling!'

A documentary shot during the week-long trip will be available later this year.

While one of the aims was to entice more visitors to the mire, Mr Barashkov said he took part for purely scientific reasons. An Associate in the Laboratory of biogeochemical and remote methods of environmental monitoring (BIO-GEO-CLIM) at Tomsk State University, he took samples along the route.

He said: 'There were various types of samples, to measure the content of methane, carbon, and other gases. This will be the starting point for further research. The content of the gas can say what the climate was before and how it can change later, but to make such a prediction we need to have more information. This is just one step on the long road.

Vasyugan Swamp


Vasyugan Swamp

'It was very hard psychologically to get out of the sleeping bag in the morning because of the cold.' Pictures: Danil Barashkov

'One of the most difficult tasks for me was taking the samples themselves. To take a probe of water for methane content it had to be filtered with a syringe, and at -35C it turned into ice almost instantly.'

And of the expedition itself he said: 'It was very hard psychologically to get out of the sleeping bag in the morning because of the cold. We had ordinary tents and the temperature inside them was almost equal to the temperature outside.'

He added: 'That said, even at a temperature of -35C it was warm [when walking] under the weight of the backpack. But after 10 minutes, during stops, we felt cold again. At such moments, you really understand the statement: 'While you are moving, you are alive.'

Sunset Vasyugany


Sunset Vasyugany


Sunset Vasyugany

'Never have I seen such a beautiful setting sun. It gave us a cosmic feeling!'. Pictures: Danil Barashkov

There are many ghostly stories about mythical happenings on the Vasyugan Swamp, but the team was philosophical about the possibility of meeting odd creatures.

'As a rule, in such circumstances you need to become laidback to some extent,' said Barashkov. 'And you can’t have a sense of fear in such an expeditions. The imagination loves to play with a person, and if you give it a reason to, you can see a lot of silhouettes of people or human-like creatures, especially in the evening at dusk.

'Still, we never saw anything supernatural – except the indescribable beauty of the sunsets.'

Comments (6)

"Wonderland"!
Jaker, Dundalk
26/06/2016 09:57
2
0
Winter Eco-Tourism is a great idea and back-country skiing/camping a fantastic adventure. -35C definitely qualifies as challenging to get out of the sleeping bag ....:-), but the magnificent winter landscapes, intrepid wildlife who are as curious about you as your are happy to see them, sunrises and sunsets are so worth it, I hope more people are fortuneate enough to be able to join an expedition like yours and that you and your team have many more.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
15/03/2016 06:42
2
0
Travel is always an adventure!
Danil Barashkov, Tomsk/Russia
21/01/2016 19:45
3
0
awsome pics
sj, lake mary
07/01/2016 22:52
3
0
My wife and I have done many 'real' ski expeditions like yours in Scandinavia and Greenland, carrying 30kgs and camping at -30. Siberia sounds fantastic. Well done.
Peter Lennon, English Lake District
26/03/2015 20:34
6
0
Beautiful photography. Touches my soul.
debstar, USA MI
02/03/2015 22:44
10
0
1

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