Why time doesn’t matter in Chukotka!

A frozen car in Anadyr.

A frozen car in Anadyr.

Legion Media
Of course, time exists there – it’s 9 hours ahead of Moscow. However, you shouldn’t be guided by it when you make plans for moving around in the region. Because, the weather can be literally life or death there.

Chukotka is the most remote region of Russia, where a new day begins, as writers often speak about it poetically. The International Date Line passes through it and it’s ahead of Moscow by 9 hours. But, time flows completely differently there, especially for those who’ve come from big cities and are used to making plans.

Distance doesn’t depend on time

Anadyr in winter.

We’ve already shown you how people live in Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka and the most expensive town in Russia and also the indigenous peoples in their villages. If you take a look at the map, it seems that settlements are placed not too far away from each other in the region: for example, it’s just 230 kilometers from Anadyr to Egvekinot, a large settlement. It’s 240 kilometers between two other cities, Pevek and Bilibino. Can you imagine that you would need a week or two to cover these kilometers? Although, it could be two hours… or up to three days! It’s out of your control.

Anadyr in January.

The Chukotka Peninsula is a giant territory the size of several European countries where only 50,000 people live. The majority of it is covered by boundless tundra, marked with tall sopkas (hills and low mountains). Only settlements have roads and you can only travel from one to another either by a helicopter or an ATV (here’s a small review of the local transport). The weather, not you, decides how much time the journey will take.

A trip to sopkas outside Anadyr in August. Yes, this ATV stuck in the mud.

Weather in Chukotka is very moody and very different. For example, your departure point and your destination may be sunny and windless, but you won’t fly anyway, because in between them, there’s a r

aging blizzard and dense fog. You look at the weather, browse the airports’ websites and can’t understand why there are no flights. You could be waiting for a flight for not one or two days, but several weeks!

“Every time we come to an airport it’s a quest, as in: ‘Will you depart or not’,” Anna from Anadyr explains. “You can’t book a flight over the phone, you have to be there in person! So, people line up near the ticket office throughout the entire workday in the hope of maybe getting lucky that day! And that can last for a week or more.”

This is a screen taken from the airports of Chukotka website. The flights are postponed for several days because of the weather.

Here’s the reviews inhabitants leave for Pevek, the northernmost city of Russia: “Flight delays are a common thing. Call the reference center before going to the airport, your flight has probably been canceled and you don’t have to go.”

How do people get there?

A winter snowstorm in Anadyr.

The Russians who live on the “mainland” are used to buying tickets online when they need them. Half a year prior or two hours before the flight; they even meticulously choose which airline to fly with. In this region, you can’t expect that to happen.

Only a couple of airlines operate and if they put tickets up for sale a month prior to departure, they’ll be gone quite quickly. You can also witness the phenomenon of booking your flight right on the day of boarding. The same goes for ground transportation.

The intercity helicopter in Anadyr.

“They have snowmobile taxis,” Alexey Kotelnikov, an Altai traveler, says, who himself encountered long transportation waits during his expedition. “I saw how one local asked another to take him to his village 250 kilometers away. He was ready to pay 60,000 rubles (approx. $950) but the ‘taxi driver’ wasn’t budging – too little!”

No rush - just enjoy the life.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the local inhabitants don’t go anywhere. They’re just used to it and know how to wait and understand that it’s useless to struggle “against time.”

“In just two days (if you’re not in a settlement), you’ll stop perceiving days and weeks, you’ll just have no use for them,” Evgeny Basov, a tour guide from Anadyr, writes in his blog; he recommends to just go with the flow when traveling.

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