Russia’s River Villages: The Rough, the Gruff and the Friendly

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Our journey from the staging area of Zhigansk out to the Sakha Republic communities of Yaktuia, Siberia would not be a routine venture. After all, the Lena River was the only “highway” for us to travel down, and it wasn’t exactly common to see tour boats and cruise liners on its remote, wild waters.

On our first trip out of Zhigansk, we caught a 12-hour ride downriver with a large fuel tanker, which anchored just offshore and waited for us to be ferried out. The captain was gruff at first, but with Kate translating our sincere appreciation, and Mary and Jody so obviously interested in learning all about his cool ship, he warmed up to us quickly.

Before long he was sharing his black caviar and pushing a delicious dinner on us. He even set us up with bunks and hot showers in crew cabins. We presumed the ship was built in the 50’s or 60’s but learned that the tanker was actually built in the early 80’s. It looked a lot older but only because of styling, not wear. It was in beautiful original condition and its style gave it what could be described today as a “cool retro” look.

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