From Geneva, July 5th 2009.
My 4 months sustainability project through Russia has been sponsored by the Academy of Sciences of Saint-Petersbourg and organized in collaboration with 3 socio-ecological non-governmental organizations:
1. WWF (World Wide Fund for nature): www.wwf.org,
2. IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature): www.iucn.org,
3. GBT (Great Baikal Trail): www.greatbaikaltrail.org,
It has clearly exceeded all expectations, in term of:
- Itinerary: added Caucasus mountains, Black Sea and Murmansk, and approached key borders with Mongolia, China and Georgia,
- Contacts with nature: experienced alpinism in remote mountain ranges such as Altai, Caucasus and Ural,
- Learning of Russian culture and language: shared lives of many different Russians, in each city but also during the trek in Altai, the boat trip on the Volga, and our school camps in Siberia.
The below map, figures and top3 moments will give you a better feel of the trip.
Final itinerary, where dots are main stations and lines show trips by foot, boat, bus or train
# km: 24,016
# nights in trains, buses and boats: 29
# local hosts: 34
# people met: 138
# animal species studied: 13
# hours at post office on internet to maintain the blog: 52
Top3 one hour moments
1. Kids from Rehabilitation Center take my hands to walk back home: Irkutsk, April.
2. I reach Irbistu summit at 3,967m with category 1B: Altai, May.
3. We enjoy outdoors hot springs after crossing Lake Baikal on skis (42km): March, Severobaikalsk.
Top3 one week moments
1. Alpinism in Altai mountain range at the border with Mongolia and China.
2. Winter school camp in Siberian village Novii Uoyan with 80 children.
3. Spring boat cruise on Volga river, from Kazan to Astrakhan.
Top3 project meetings
1. I meet Ministery of Environment of Tatarstan Republic: Kazan, May.
2. I meet WWF office director for Altai-Sayan range: Krasnoiarsk, April.
3. We discover and examine leopard's footprints in the snow, defined to be the ones of adult and child: Altai, May.
Top3 scary moments
1. I take out a tick attached in my neck the evening following the trek in Oural mountains: Ekaterinburg, May.
2. I spend 2 days in the train with 53 Russian workers, drinking vodka and hostile against foreigners: between Komsomolsk and Tinda, March.
3. We wait 2 hours at military checkpoint to access Caucasus mountains at the border with Georgia: Elbruz region, June.
After this rich experience, i can confirm how beautiful and interesting Russian Federation is, through its nature and people, through its ecological and cultural heritages. And paraphrasing poet Ivan Nikitine, i can cry:
Je le sais pourquoi
On peut te cherir
Et t'appeller "Mere",
Tout en se dressant
Et s'il est besoin,
T'offrir notre vie.
Ivan Nikitine, 1824-1861