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2017 Siberia: Reindeer migration with Nenets Nomads

Join a TeamJames Hipkiss


EXPEDITION AIM - The aim of this expedition is to cross the Gulf of Ob alongside the Nenets nomads, travelling in a minimalistic style. Twice a year the Nenets on the Yamal Peninsula migrate 60km across the frozen Ob, a bay of the Arctic Ocean. This intense migration can take up to 24 hours.

There is no pasture along the way meaning that it is a race to get to the other side before the reindeer become too weak from a lack of food. This means there will be no breaks for the herders, the animals or for you.At the end of the crossing we are invited to the annual reindeer herders festival in Yar Sale, which will offer a chance to witness some extraordinary events such as reindeer racing and traditional sports. MINIMALIST STYLE - We are not only going to join the nomads on this fretful crossing but completely immerse ourselves into their lives during the migration. This means dressing, eating and travelling like a local. You will be kitted out with a Nenets traditional suit and boots to protect you from the elements. This will be much needed because temperatures can reach minus 50 degrees Celsius and are often accompanied by howling Arctic winds. HIGHLIGHTS - Join a genuine race for survival in this extreme and remote environment Experience the Nenets unique way of life Wear traditional herders suits and boots Experience the annual Reindeer Herders Festival Travel by sledge, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicles Look out for unusual arctic flora and fauna.

OUTLINE - As a team, our expedition will start from the Arctic town of Salekhard. From there well drive along the frozen surface of the River Ob on Trekol all-terrain vehicles to reach Yar Sale village. From there well transfer to wooden box-sledges attached to snowmobiles from Yar Sale to cross the 60km wide frozen Gulf of Ob into the Nadym District. Well arrive at the nomad encampment and meet the family group we will be travelling with.Over the next week the team will live and work with the Nenets nomads. We will conduct short migrations every few days, preparing for the looming crossing and taking part in everyday life, waiting for the optimal weather window to make the crossing. The migration itself crosses the Gulf of Ob and can take up to 24 hours. Any longer and the reindeer start to perish from a lack of food. It is an intense day and you will be working hard to complete this very real challenge.Once the team is safely back on the Yamal Peninsula, well return to Yar Sale on the snowmobiles and sledges just in time to attend the annual Reindeer Herder Festival.YAMAL PENINSULAThe Yamal Peninsula is one of the least known, but most important, regions of the Russian Federation. In the language of the indigenous Nenets, Yamal means the end of the world.

With a territory around 1.5 times the size of France, the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (YNAO) is located in the north of West Siberia, just northeast of the geographic border between Europe and Asia above the Arctic Circle. Today more than 10,000 nomads herd 300,000 domestic reindeer on the pastures of the Arctic tundra. Under those pastures are huge gas deposits holding almost a quarter of the worlds known reserves.NENETS REINDEER HERDERSThe Yamal Peninsula in Arctic Siberia is home to the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders. They have retained an extraordinarily rich and well-preserved culture. They dress in furs and traditional hand-sewn clothes, live in reindeer-hide teepees and travel by reindeer-drawn sledges. The Nenets are famous throughout Arctic Russia for being the best reindeer herders with the biggest herds, the longest migration routes and the most well-preserved culture, religious beliefs and language. They are the guardians of a style of reindeer herding that is the last of its kind. Over the course of a yearly migration of over a thousand kilometers, they move gigantic herds of reindeer from their summer pastures in the north to winter pastures just south of the Arctic Circle. No-one knows for certain who is leading who the reindeer or the people but whoever is in charge, they have to battle one of the worlds harshest environments.

REINDEER HERDERS FESTIVAL - After the migration, there is the opportunity to watch and to participate in the annual Reindeer Herding Festival. Herders from many different camps will gather in Yar Sale village to take part in traditional sports including reindeer sledge racing, Nenets wrestling, sledge jumping, stick tug of war, lassoing and many more. For families living in camps whose migration routes do no cross, this is the one time during the whole year when they see each other.

Young people often look for potential spouses. It is the event of the year and is certainly not to be missed. ITINERARY for March 2017 Day 1: Arrive Moscow. Day 2: Fly to Salekhard. Drive to Yar Sale. Day 3: Sledge across Gulf of Ob to meet the nomads in the Nadym District. Day 4-12: Migration. Day 13: Return to Yar Sale. Day 14: Reindeer Herding Festival. Day 15: Festival/ Return to Salekhard. Day 16: Rest day. Day 17: Fly to Moscow.