26-Jan-2002 -- Nomination for the furthest distance traveled from your house to a confluence. Total distance, ONE-WAY, was 13,932.1km or about 8657 miles! More than 12 time zones away. Straight-line distance going back around the other way, only 9,245km.
Breakdown of trip:
-Car from our house, just east of Toronto, Ontario, Canada to the Toronto airport was 61km.
-Airplane to Moscow was 7515km.
-Airplane to Khabarovsk in Far East Russia was 6161km.
-Car ride to city of Birobidzhan, Russia was 171km.
-From Birobidzhan to confluence was 24km.
My wife and I were going to be in the Far East of Russia in a city called Birobidzhan, which is a lot closer to Japan than Europe, and about two hours north of China. A day or two before our trip, I checked the Degree Confluence site to see if there was any confluences close to Birobidzhan. I had completed two confluences close to home at 46N 80W and 45N 79W in the past. Not having any map that showed Birobidzhan other than a "dot", I guessed that a confluence might be 20km north of the city, or so, maybe!? I tossed my GPS in my luggage and we headed out.
A few days after we arrived in Birobidzhan, I checked my GPS to discover that the confluence was 24.1km almost due north. There might be a chance.
If you ever thought that explaining what a confluence is and why you want to find one to friends was hard, try explaining one to your Russian driver with a translator. I first had to explain what a GPS was. I compared it to the first Russian satellite "Sputnik" which helped. After a few jokes about me being a "dumb-spy" (nothing in Birobidzhan to find) my translator, driver and my wife were ready to go.
I purchased a small city map [picture 2], which showed two roads leading north out of the city. Not much detail on how far the roads went, if you could travel on them in winter or if they turned before getting close to the confluence. Since it was all that I had, it had to do.
Saturday, January 26, 2002 was our day of adventure. My wife, Janet, our driver, Viktor Kushnir, and our translator, Tamara Semchuk, were ready.
We left our host family's apartment, which was also Viktor's place, after lunch about 1pm. It was a bright, sunny and a cold day, about -20°C.
After consulting the 1:200000 scale map, we picked the road heading north that was west of the city. We started out heading west on the Moscow-Chita-Vladivostok highway. Past the tractor factory, the mental hospital, through a small town called Razdolnoye, local farms and cottages. We had a great view of the mountain range to west of the city as we travelled over the Trans-Siberian Railway [picture 3].
We turned north onto a small road that passed through the village of Kirga, which was a farming community of wooden houses and where people got water from a central well in the middle of the village by bucket. Our small road turned into a one-lane road, which turned into a trail. The snow, and lack of road stopped our journey at a hydro line, about 15km to the confluence. We decide to try the other northern road, which was east of the city of Birobidzhan.
The car ride back along the highway east was very quiet as I tried to explain that our "failure" was no need to stop. There were still a few hours of daylight left (remember northern city in the winter) and still a chance to visit the confluence.
The second northern road was a long, straight, flat logging road over frozen marsh that headed directly towards the confluence and the distant city of Kukan, about 50km north [picture 9]. About halfway up the road we encountered a bunch of logging trucks trying to negotiate a broken down bridge [picture 4]. Since our vehicle was much smaller and lighter(!) we managed to get over.
As we approached the confluence, we pulled the car off the logging road, and came to a stop about 800 meters from our goal, which was due west from our position.
We tucked our pants into our hiking boats, grabbed our hats and mitts, packed up the camera, and dialed in the GPS for a walk in the Russia bush during the winter. Our translator, in her fashionable city boots and fur coat, decided to wait in the car for Viktor, my wife and I to return. She was more of a stroll-around-the-city, not hike-in-the-bush type of person.
Before heading out, our translator Tamara had a serious talk with Viktor. We were her responsibility and I guess she did not like the idea of us heading out in the Russian bush with only a GPS and the driver in the middle of the winter with the sun going down.
I was surprised to find only about 30cm of snow in the bush, due to a dry winter. The walk to the confluence was fairly easy, but had to navigate around trees, logs, frozen streams and small hills. My wife followed my steps as I followed the GPS. Once I pointed out the direction and distance to Viktor on the GPS, he knew where to go, and he was off by himself, ahead of us. I later found out that he was an avid hunter and knew how to get around in the Russian bush.
I selected a large stump about 2m from the confluence as the official spot, at 3pm in the afternoon. Like most confluences, it was just in the middle of a forest. A few pictures later [pictures 1, 5, 6, 8], and we were done.
We arrived back at the car, and were greeted by our nervous translator. After spending an hour in the car by herself, in the bush, with only the odd logging truck rumbling by, she was getting scared. One more picture of Tamara, Viktor and Janet back at the car [picture 7], and we headed home.
If this confluence were in Canada or the USA, it would have been found very easily. A 20km drive from the city, and an 800m easy walk in the bush. But, because of the remote Russian location, I think I will be the only one to visit it for a long time to come.
An interesting point, at the time of the confluence visit (January 2002) this was probably the first mainland Russia degree confluence visit. Also, Viktor might be the first Russian to visit a confluence in Russia. Too bad it took me over a year to post the story. Kids, work, moving, computer crash, etc...