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In progress.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I had intended to travel light. This post will demonstrate how that intention is crumbling to bits.

These are the novels I currently plan to take with me. (I will be a dostoyevsky EXPERT when I return.) But they're way too heavy, and I'm also taking a similar amount of weight in sketchpads & photocopied sheets from various historical & anarchist books.
The one good thing about the novels is they're all expendable - as I read war & peace, for example, I'll rip out the chapters I've read to lose weight. But i won't get round to reading them till I'm in Russia, so that's still a week of carrying a LOT of ballast around...

Absolute friendly essentials (the things that I bond with through intimate constant use).
(a) My trusty 35litre backpack. (b) Light coat. (c) Cheap fake converse which will probably stink by the time I make the trans-siberian. Sorry carriage-mates.

As instructed to bring for the conservation project on Lake Baikal.

Their list No.1 is what they say is essential (compulsory)

(yes, but they say it should be minimum 60 litres, and mine is defiantly 35)
(b) Sleeping pad (to buy)

They explain why: "A sleeping pad is an indispensable item in Siberia. Because of nearby permafrost, even during the hottest time of the year the surface layers of soil around Baikal do not warm up sufficiently. If you sleep without a sleeping pad on bare soil, you will not only get a cold but also risk getting hypothermia, which has severe health consequences."
(c) Sleeping bag (ok, I had meant to leave it, but I will bring it - it is still nowhere near as suitable as the one they recommend, for the extreme night-time drops in temperature you get in Siberia. I might buy an extra blanket in Siberia to compensate.)
(d) Footwear - at least two pairs of shoes, such as hiking boots and sneakers (buy boots in Siberia? No, or I'll get blisters, I guess I do need to buy & carry a pair, grumble...)
(e) Personal set of light, sturdy dishware - cup, bowl, spoon, knife (was gonna buy in Siberia but actually I'll need for the train, so I'll try get a light handy travel-set)
Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, towel (yep)
(g) Waterproof jacket or coat (light cagoule from amble [see 'beach zine'], gonna leave waterproof trousers behind this time)
(h) Warm sweater, pants, hat (my anarchist uniform of black hoody, leftover black troosers bought for school, and a hat I'll get in Siberia)
(i) Personal first aid kit (yep, got - a happy reminder that I do at least know the outdoors)
(j) Sunscreen (get in Siberia or 'forget' as I usually do)
(k) Wide-brimmed sun hat (to buy)
(l) Sunglasses (somewhere I've got some prescription ones to dig out)
(m) Mosquito net for head (to buy)

Their list no.2 is optional, & I ain't gonna bring hardly any of it:

(a) Work gloves
(b) Safety glasses (nope)

(c) Tent - if you are over 6 feet tall or want to sleep alone (nope, although both those things are true)
Flashlight (well, I'll take a mini headtorch)
Multifunctional pocket knife (I intend to buy one en route in Switzerland as a souvenir and, not flying, I hope to actually keep this one - I've lost 2 good knives at airports on previous trips)
Sewing kit (yes, cos I need to fix my backpack for starters!)
Biodegradable soap (good idea, but is it worth carrying for 2000 miles?)
They say: "Biodegradable soap and shampoo are not available in Siberia, unfortunately, and we don't usually have them on our projects. Therefore, if it's possible to buy such soap in your home country, definitely do so. By bringing it to the camp you will help preserve pristine waters of Baikal!"
(h) Rubber boots (er, nope)
(i) Insect repellant (nope)

"The group first aid kit includes mosquito and tick repellent sprays that can be applied to clothes ONLY. If you prefer repellents that can be sprayed directly on the skin, you should bring them yourself. "
(j) Water filter (nope)
"It is said that the water of Lake Baikal and its tributaries is among the cleanest in the world. It is definitely suitable for drinking. All that aside, you should be aware that bacteria in Baikal water may be different from the ones your body is used to. First, each person has his own internal microflora and different immunities against foreign bacteria. Second, everyone's immunity depends on their daily living conditions and their environment, which can differ from one continent to another. Local Siberians can easily drink untreated water from open bodies of water. However, our experiences from the previous summer camps show that participants from North America and Australia tend to have the most intense reaction to untreated Siberian water. Most Europeans, on the other hand, drink the water straight from the rivers and streams without experiencing any problems. If you want to drink untreated water, we recommend bringing a water filter to the camp. However, it is not necessary to filter water if you will be boiling it for tea, coffee or soup." I'll risk it.
(k) Swimsuit (shorts, yep)

My other sundries list - entertainment, documentation, hygiene
(a) mp3 player (to buy, along with two-plug charger).
(b) Digital camera (again, plug adapter to find & buy). I might photograph some book pages to avoid carrying the photocopies too.
(c) Lots of pens.
(d) Passport & tickets & suchlike pouch.
(e) Wetwipes (& shoe unstinkifiers?).
(f) Travelwash to wash clothes.
(g) Universal plug for train sink (to buy/borrow).
(h) Food (this is gonna be the second most constant concern, getting enough veggie stuff before each journey. Happily the camp has food provided so I should get my health back then if I've been surviving on processed carbohydrates for a fortnight. The exiles used to get scurvy in Siberia, hopefully I won't.)
(i) Clothes (5 sets of pants & socks enough? same number of (t)shirts? 2 trousers?)

So will I physically be able to carry all this stuff? I don't know, but I REALLY don't want to get a huge backpack. I might prefer a second hold-all/bag to stick food & other temporaries in.

I intend to update the blog/pick up info at certain key moments, and likewise post back any finished sketchpads/letters/finished-with info. So I need to plan which post offices/internet cafes I am gonna use.
(a) Switzerland or Germany before the 2 day journey into eastern europe.
(b) St Petersburg before the trans siberian
(c) Ulan Ude or similar before & after the conservation camp.
(d) probably St Petersburg again on the way out, but if my plans change, this could be Beijing or anything.

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