Driven to Extremes - Siberia Five. Pole of Cold

The road from Tomtor to Oymyakon is the most extreme yet. We’re on a plateau surrounded by mountains. The cold air pours in from all around and has nowhere to go. The road is nothing more than a snow covered frozen dirt track. Our driver is heading home.

We have long since stopped talking to him. Although still he shouts at us occasionally. He plays his music loud and we all sit rocking with the road with our ipods competing with his in-car stereo.

It’s a short drive. One hour thirty. Oymyakon fades in rather than starts. Before we know it we are at the Pole of Cold.

Oymyakon is a small village. No real roads. It is a very isolated place. It is not en route to anywhere. For a brief moment we stopped travelling east to get here. We headed north with a slight westwards lean.

The monument brings out cameras we all take photos of each other. We film a set piece arrival for the programme end.

We take set piece photo shots of the cars in situ.

The fixer disappears to get the cold props. The actor throws boiling water in the air, it turns to snow, a child’s bubble blower produces solid marble balls. We throw horse liver shards at a metal bucket which freeze into darts.

We take more photos.

It is unbelievably cold.

The actor jokes about not being able to drive home. Why would he when the driver can drive.

We jump back into the cars and go to a ceremonial hall. We are greeted by an elderly woman who is making a burning offering to the spirits at a traditional Yakutian pole. We then are ushered into the hall.

She lights a fire and chants. A beautiful girl in a dazzling bright yellow dress and her teenage boy accomplice entertain us on the traditional nose harp, then two local boys in Sunday best and leather jackets sing pop with a synthesiser.

A small boy sits in front of the fire and tells a story.

We are then beckoned to form a circle. We hold hands and are encouraged to dance and repeat the chants of a shaman. Who is dressed in the traditional style.

After the singing we ask each other questions. This is travellers from afar stuff. There are lots of questions to the actor. They know his movies. He signs photos.

We are then given certificates with the official temperature of that day. -40. We’re all a bit disappointed, or a bit blasse. We’ve come to the coldest place but we’ve experienced colder en route. Minus 40 would still kill you in minutes.  Each certificate is numbered. I am the 148th person to receive one. They’ve been being issued since 2008.

We then head to a family home. We are greeted like long lost friends. The old lady of the house has cooked for us. She is joined by three beautiful daughters who serve us dinner. The food is the best yet. The soup is the richest, the meat burger the tastiest. There is tea, biscuits and bread.

The Ruperts all bed down together on mats in someone’s bedroom, I am tired. The toilet is a cold 50 metre dash in the dark to a hole housed in a shed.

It’s a very early start. We have to be up before dawn to film an oil change and show how oil reacts in the cold. The logistics take time.

Breakfast is salty rice porridge to which we add jam and sugar, tea, and bread with more jam.

It is always coldest at dawn. -50 now. We feel even more cheated by the minus 40 on our official visitors’ records.

After filming we head back to the old lady’s house to get into the right vehicles.

We are not going to drive east any more only west.

Our driver points out his house. The place where he was born, the house his family live in.

He’s from the coldest inhabited place on earth.

We are now heading home, travelling west. Soon we will be sleeping in beds and using toilets. Soon we will not be wearing duvets.

The actor and the driver have not stopped laughing. I feel very privileged to have worked with this brilliant crew, to have worked with the actor and the driver.

I feel very lucky to have visited this place. I want to come back.