Just getting to the starting point for a journey to the Jombolok Volcano Field in The Eastern Sayan Mountains of Buryatia is an ordeal, particularly the last 60 or so kilometres, where the road turns into a rough track that snakes its way through forests, rivers and serious bogs. On the way out, our six-wheel Zil former military truck – built in 1975) got stuck twice in deep bogs and had to be winched out.
On our return, we were luckier, although the driver of the open-top truck (no seats!) had to stop and assess his chances at one particularly notorious place. It was here, as we were waiting for the truck to make its way through the boggy ground, that I spotted the unusual sight of two cyclists! As they drew nearer, we could see that they had heavy panniers and were equipped for travelling.
Soon we were in full discussion and realised that we had a great deal in common. Vladimir Chernikov and his colleague Sergei Izoupov had cycled from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia and both men were making their way to the Jombolok Volcano Field. Their reason? To put up plaques to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the famous Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s visit to the volcanoes. He made the trip 16 years after Thomas Atkinson, after reading an article in an Irkutsk newspaper about his journey. At the time he was working for the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, and had already completed a number of other important geological expeditions in the region. One of the main volcanic cones in the Jombolok Field is named after him.
For us, having just come from placing a plaque next to the Atkinson Volcano in Jombolok, this was quite an incredible coincidence. We wish Vladimir well and look forward to hearing more about his remarkable bike ride.