Transfer 120km to the village of Bulgunnyakhtakh on the banks of the Lena, Russia's largest river. Here we will meet our dogs and receive training at sledge driving.
Please note that there are only enough trained dogs in Yakutia to pull 4 sledges. This means that if there are 5 trip participants we will take snowmobiles as well as sledges. The participants will have to take it in turns to drive snowmobiles and sledges.
Overnight in a local home.
This is the last village you can reach by road. All the villages further down the Lena, where we will be heading tomorrow, are accessible only by boat in summer or by driving on the ice in winter.
The people in these timeless villages of log cabins, nestling amid the taiga forest on the river banks, are mostly Yakuts, but there are also Evenki and Russian. While most northern indigenous people in Russia are traditionally reindeer herders, the Yakuts are horse herders. The horse herders live in log cabins out in the forest with their horse herds, moving the herd from one area to another throughout the year. Their horses are a special breed of horse, which is very short, fat and hairy and can spend all winter outdoors in -50 centigrade with no problem.
The predominant language in the region is Yakut, which is a very interesting language. Whereas in some parts of Siberia the indigenous forgot their own language and began speaking Russian after the Russian conquest of Siberia, Yakut was actually the only language that spread to the Russians. In the 18th century you could go to Russian dinner parties in Yakutsk and hear upper class merchants speaking to one another in Yakut. Even these days all Yakuts in the Lena River villages speak Yakut as a first language, and many Russians do too.
The villages here are very picturesque and are built almost entirely of traditional log cabins with moss stuffed between the logs for insulating. There is no central heating or running water. Toilets are outdoors, and each home has its own traditional bath house next door for washing. Every home has a stack of firewood around 50 metres long outside it to keep the home warm during the long winter. Many houses have ice cellars hacked into the permafrost below them where they store meat and fish in the summer. Many also have traditional khotons, trapezium-shaped, dung-covered stables for cows (which also wear bras in winter to protect their udders from the cold!)
The main mode of transport for hunters, fishermen and horse herders is horseback in summer and horse-sledge in winter.
The main delicacies among the Yakut are raw fish and horse meat, though you will not be forced to try any if you don't want to!