We catch up to Autumn in Tynda. The train had kept us warm for 36 hours due to a combination of the heater, our body temperatures and constant farting but stepping outside we smack into the bracing Siberian air. Our extremities are numb. A man wearing Cuban heels comes rushing towards us from behind, long strides like that of a stilt walker. He asks us a question that doesn't need to be asked. 'Are you the Australians?'
This man called Alexi is our guide to Tynda. Cut from the same cloth as Mihail, Alexi is an extreme sportsman. It comes as no surprise that the two are good friends. 'We have an envelope for you. From Mihail,' says Chris, words becoming icicles and falling to the ground.
'Mihail?' asks Alexi.
'Mihail. From Komsomolsk.'
'Oh Misha! Misha is my friend.' We hand him the letter.
Perhaps the letter contains sentiments along the lines of:
Hope you are well. It has been too long since last we spoke. My wife sends her best. To the matters at hand. In front of you are three of the most unfit individuals I have met for quite some time. (Alexi looks up from reading. Nods to himself) I notice them sweating profusely and catching their breaths even when they are virtually immobile. Their motives for being in Siberia are obscure. Unlike the other Australians who have come our way (Remember the guys from Adelaide last winter? Boy those guys were fun! I wonder how they are?) these three seem happy to just look at things. Ordinary things. One of them just took pictures of his own leather jacket. Why would anyone do this?
This town has the same feel as other decaying, desolate towns. Although it is the closest crossroad town where you can join the Trans-Siberian railway, or head north to the mines (such as the Neryungri coal mines), there doesn't seem to be too much to do- unless you like looking at logs. It seems to be a good enough place for guys like Alexi who derive enjoyment out of climbing vicious mountains where you can plummet to your death but for the non-adventurous it might feel like a life sentence. We see some grubby-nosed kids on the street throw pebbles at cyclists and pick up pigeons with their bare hands and throw them at other pigeons. The trains come to town. The trains leave. Not too many locals seem to leave with them.
We spend most of the day trying not to starve and having a brief conversation with a drunk guy who resembles Robert Patrick. That night we return to Alexi's house and he shows us pictures of his adventures while his wife tucks their kids in. There is a photo of him kayaking down dangerous waterfalls with jagged rocks at the bottom. 'Look, look!' he points excitedly at one photo where his head is submerged in water, 'I'm dying! Ha ha!'