Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was cold in Siberia, and every time they stopped for a rest, they had to light a bonfire to keep warm.
Although they had taken some solid fuel with them before the trip, it would not last long, and when they saw trees coming up, they stopped to collect some dry wood.
There was a lot of snow in the taiga, especially piled up around trees.
Hankway and the rest of the Nenets guides jumped out of their cars, smiled at the greenness of the snowy forest, picked up their guns and said, “If we’re lucky, we’ll have fresh meat to eat.”
It was a large coniferous forest, mainly of individual pine trees and boreal trees like birch and spruce, single variety but growing well.
Li Du got out to gather firewood. The forest was full of dead trees. This was just what they needed. They would have to cut down those trees and tie them above the car to use as firewood.
There were many animal tracks in the snow. After all, it was spring now. Many animals were waking up from hibernation. They had been hungry for the whole winter, and now they were in a hurry to find food as soon as the weather turned warmer.
As Li Du wandered into the woods, Hudi warned him, “Watch out, man. Bears wake up in the spring. They are very hungry and would be extremely fierce.”
Hearing this, Li Du acted more carefully. He said in surprise, “I did not any bear tracks. Would there really be bears at this time of the year?”
Hankway and the others laughed and said, “Don’t listen to Hudi, man. It’s all right now. You see the snow, don’t you? The animals whose footprints you see in the snow are the ones you can expect.”
Li Du did not recognize the tracks, so Brother Wolf introduced them: “These belong to a wild goat, these to a rabbit, and this should be a pheasant. Oh, you should really watch out, there are footprints of a manul!”
Manul was a Siberian wild cat, not very big, at most five or six kilograms of weight, but a very fierce hunter.
With Hankway and the others leading them, they trudged through the woods. The snow was so deep they could barely see their calves.
After walking for a short time, Hankway suddenly said in surprise, “Hey, Zimovye! There is a Zimovye here! We are lucky!”
Li Du was puzzled. “Zimovye? What do you mean? Is it another kind of rare animal?”
Unable to grasp his dry humor, Hankway pointed to a tree in front of him and said, “Zimovye is a warm winter house in the woods. It usually belongs to some hunters.”
There was a little red flag on the tree, and it stood out in a world of white and gray and green.
Hankway said it was a hallmark of the taiga hunters, who hung red flags near their homes to make it easier for people to spot them.
Taiga hunters were one of the communities of the wilderness who made a living by fur-trapping, bartering, gathering plants, and making handicrafts.
Sometimes they also acted as middlemen, selling necessities like fuel brought in from the outside to people who needed it. Of course, the price was very high.
Seeing the red flag, the guides cheered up.
The taiga hunters were able to provide not only goods, but often baths in the areas where they lived, and this was appealing to the travelers
Although they were wearing thick clothes to block dust, the fierce winds blew dust from time to time. The fine dust penetrated their clothes.
Because they wore many layers of clothes, sometimes when there was no wind and the weather did not cool down, they would feel hot and naturally start sweating. Even if they did, however, they did not dare to take off their clothes, because they were uncertain when the weather would get cold again. If the cold caught them thinly clad, they would easily catch a chill and have a fever.
In such an extreme environment, they would suffer once they caught a cold or fever. That was the reason why Li Du was cautious about going out to explore.
Led by Hankway and the others, they trekked in the snowy forest for more than half an hour and finally found a group of wooden houses in the jungle.
There were six wooden houses in sight, square and stacked. They were filled with neatly arranged dry wood. Dogs were tied to the sides of the houses, howling at anyone who approached.
For the past two and a half days, Ah Ow and the other little ones were very bored. They could only go out for a run when the party stopped to rest. The rest of the time they sat curled in the car with no entertainment or exercise.
Now that they saw the dogs, the little ones’ eyes lit up and they dashed forward. Each picked a dog as a target, making the animals howl in fright.
Out of one house came an old man with a white beard, brandishing a shotgun and shouting in Russian.
Hankway also shouted in Russian, and Li Du called back the little ones.
The old man looked at them warily, clutching his gun in his hand. He told them to stay outside and kept them waiting for about two minutes before he came out and waved.
Then a few more men appeared, their ages ranging from forty to sixty, big, strong men, with guns in their hands as well.
Hankway went forward to talk to them. One of them spoke English. He made hot coffee for the crowd and said, “Come and have a drink, friends. Father Savich’s house welcomes you.”
The old man who first came out was called Savich. Of course, his full name was much longer, so he would generally introduce himself as Savich to foreigners. It was simple and easy to remember.
The coffee was plain, but it was satisfying enough to have a hot drink in this environment.
Li Du sipped his hot, fragrant coffee, then took a deep breath and said, “Nice!”
Then Hankway came back and said, “What do we need? They have diesel, gasoline, kerosene, solid ethanol, coal, coke, and dried pork, mutton, and fish…”
“Can I have a bath?” Steve was more concerned about this.
Hankway smiled and nodded. “Yes, five hundred rubles each.”
Five hundred rubles was not a small sum. It could be converted to about fifty RMB. In Irkutsk, where they had stayed before, a donut cost about ten rubles. This was saying that one bath was equivalent to 50 donuts.
However, the price was within the acceptable range, and it was not very expensive. Ford nodded his head but said, “It’s too expensive. There are many of us, so we want a discount. For four hundred rubles each, we would all take a bath.”
There were about forty of them, and a bath would certainly make the hunters a fortune.
The fee was soon settled for four hundred rubles, and everyone could have a hot bath.
In addition, the forest hunters offered to prepare a lunch for a thousand rubles each, including vodka and meat, which would definitely fill them up.