Extreme Winter Tour of Crimea, New Year's 2014-15
by John Anthony Robles II
by John Anthony Robles II
The bitter cold of the Russian winter stings the face and freezes the breath as it leaves your mouth. Any skin begins to ache with pain if exposed to the raw elements for more than a few seconds and even the slightest breeze quickly begins saps the many layers of clothing of warmth if it lasts for more than a few minutes, no matter how well dressed you are. That is only at minus 20, the temperature when the snow under your feet becomes almost dry and squeaks and scrunches as you walk over it. At minus 40 the effects are tenfold and even the hardiest individual can succumb to the elements in a matter of minutes if not properly dressed and equipped for the numbing cold. Welcome to Russian winter.
With my new job beginning only in the middle of January and my first paycheck from it appearing only in February and the bills continuing to build up, in the dead of winter I decided to hit the road in an attempt to make some money to cover my daughters growing hospital bills and pay the rent. Unfortunately I was robbed along the way and making the trip ended up putting me further in the red, however regardless of all the that the trip may be of interest to anyone out there who is into extreme travel. I was actually thinking of offering such tours to order but the cost would be prohibitive and only affordable to the wealthy but perhaps it would be an idea worth pursuing.
To say that living conditions are getting difficult in Moscow would only make those in the West waging economic warfare on Russia happy, so I will not get into that too much but such is the case. Not only is it getting difficult economically but also socially and sometimes I believe I am experiencing something like the Jews went through during the rise of Nazi Germany. Yes the US/CIA support for Nazis in Ukraine to drive a wedge between the people and their attempts to divide Russian society by stoking the flames of nationalist sentiment are having an effect but I will not get too much into that either as that would make the CIA planners laugh with glee. In this environment I am trying to survive and it is difficult. After the fiasco with the last two jobs, one which turned out was for a con man fraudster and the other with a client whose flat was covered in swastikas I decided it might be time to leave Moscow and this also influenced my decision to hit the road in the middle of the winter, a risky endeavor even under the best conditions. But my daughter’s hospital bills are adding up and there is nothing else I can do.
Note: It is illegal under Russian law to display swatstikas and nazi symbols although the owner of the above flat is getting away with it because it appears at first to be an act of vandalism and is in fact backwards. The owner of the flat itself was responsible for the swastika on their own door as is evidenced by the abundance of real swastikas inside the flat. Which unfortunately I was not able to photograph so you will have to take my word on that.
The idea was quite simple to begin with, I would gather passengers who wanted to go to Crimea on a site for travelers, they would pay for gas and expenses and a little extra for my making the trip in the dead of winter and I would make a little money to bring back home if I was careful with expenses. The entire profit of the trip depended on me finding passengers for the return trip but unfortunately that was not to be.
Departure was scheduled for the 30th of December with the goal of reaching Crimea several hours before midnight on New Year’s eve which would have worked out if not for two events which delayed the trip. One was several cancellations at the beginning of the trip and the subsequent finding of last minute travelers and the other was that one of my passengers may have been on a suspected terrorist list which I will get into later.
Time was of the essence and every minute was vital to reaching the goal of crossing into Crimea before midnight December 31st 2014 and due to the aforementioned difficulties we set off at 00:45 on the morning of December 31st rather than 20:00 on the 30th as I had planned. Having monitored the weather and road conditions for several days and knowing that road traffic would be light that close to the New Year I was confidant we would make it, although such a long trip in the dead of winter in Russia is fraught with dangers, the new modern roads and the fact that I know the route like the back of my hand also allowed me to be confident I could pull it off. I would not recommend such an endeavor to rookie drivers, hotshots or speed-demons, for such the consequences could be fatal.
The road was fairly clear most of the trip, as you can see by the picture above taken at dawn on the beautiful modern newly built M-4 highway north of Rostov on the Don, with several hundred kilometers of hard packed snow to contend with and the rest being either, clear and dry, or with extensive patches of black ice. The vehicle I was using is a 1996 GMC Suburban and with five full grown male passengers and their baggage it helped to weigh it down and keep it on the road. When it comes to snow and ice nothing helps more than weight and good tires. The Cooper all-season all-terrain tires I was lucky enough to buy before my political termination last year did a wonderful job under load in the extreme conditions. I do not use the steel studded tires because they only give a false sense of security and seem to add to skidding at very low speeds with their benefits being negligible at high speeds although high-speed traction on ice is their main selling point. That said, for lighter vehicles and front wheel drive compacts the steel studs do make a difference but for something as heavy as a Suburban they do not. Being well equipped can be the difference between life and death when engaging in such a risky endeavor as I had taken on, but extreme times call for extreme risks.
Unless you are an avid fan of road trips and driving in extreme conditions you will be bored by all of the details of the hundreds of kilometers of road we devoured as we headed south so I will spare you all the details. However I will say that; as any skilled driver knows who engages in high speed driving on ice and snow knows, the almost complete absence of traffic was a blessing and made it possible to cover the distances at full highway speeds despite the black ice, high winds, blizzards, hard pack and at sunrise the blinding white that tortured the eyes. The biggest danger obviously is other drivers who force barking and trajectory changes. The biggest headache was due to the freezong cold. Although we had the heater on full blast it was not enough to warm the inside of the vehicle and ice built up on the inside of all of the windows from the breathing, except the windshield, and the freezing floor made the feet numb from the cold almost from the minute we left. As I sit here three days after returning home my toes are still stinging from the cold.
As I have written before the M-4 is a wonderful smooth multi-lane controlled access highway and the approximately 400 kilometers of toll sections make it better than most American highways. Russian drivers are also a pleasure to share the roads with during winters as only experienced drivers dare to take to the roads. The biggest problem I had during the 22.5 hour all night/all day drive south to the port where the ferries take cars over to Crimea was, like I said the ice buildup on the inside of the windows and the cold that crept up through the floor boards. However (conspiracy theorists pay attention!!) there was an attempt to force me to have an accident. Fortunately I got it on video and the license number of the first car is very clear (not that anyone will do anything about it) unless it goes viral which it surely will not.
If you watch the video above, at about 06:20, you can witness how two cars teamed up to run me into oncoming traffic. The second car was squeezing into my right door as the woman in the Nissan Teana began slamming on the brakes in front of me, leaving me with only two options, either run into oncoming traffic or smack her in the back and run her off the road. As you can see from the video I was already passing almost everything on the road but for the blonde behind the wheel of the Teano that was not enough. She was in a big hurry and doing close to 200 kilometers an hour. If anyone is interested her license number is visible in the video (T800HX 164), as if it was not bad enough that some stupid blonde tried to get me into an accident but the second car did the same thing immediately after her. About 5 minutes later we were stopped for an inspection and the traffic police on site had no interest in hearing about the homicidal driver in the Teano and her tag team partner.
After covering the approximately 1,300 kilometers to the beginning of the Krasnodar Region almost non-stop we were stopped at the Krasnodar Region border checkpoint on the M-4 which marks what Russians call the “near border” zone. All of the main roads from central Russia to the border zones have such inspection stations so this was not unusual. What was unusual was the level of scrutiny of the inspection that we were put through. The officer in charge, after me and all of the passengers produced their identity documents, informed me that they were searching for several groups of provocateurs who were planning terrorist and other acts on New Year’s Eve as a protest to the reunification of Crimea with Russia. These were reportedly representatives of Ukrainian SBU, the Right Sector and mercenaries who were travelling on falsified documents. Although the officer was not supposed to he showed me a list of about half a dozen vehicles they were searching for and about 5 pages of names, including many which were Arab sounding. The officers were in the midst of an anti-terrorist operation so I did my best to help out. However we were delayed almost an hour as they inspected the vehicle and all of its contents in particular one of my passengers who received extra scrutiny and judging by his endless anti-Jewish rhetoric and other clues he may have been from a Right Sector cell in Crimea. Although the officers were professional in their search they missed key areas such as the frame of the vehicle and the shoes and linings of the coats of the passengers. Not that there was anything to be found that I know of but these were areas I would have checked. I could make an issue that the search of my vehicle and even the way all of the passengers were frisked was illegal as there were no witnesses as required under Russian law but as it was an anti-terrorist operation to do so would be foolish and no harm was done to me. However the delay did prevent us from making our goal to cross into Crimea before midnight. I was also concerned for my own safety as the people I was travelling with were strangers, so having them checked out before we crossed into Crimea was a definite help to me as well. And who knows we may have prevented a terrorist act.
The photo to the left is of the group I took down there. A motley multi-national group and a little scruffy looking but they paid for the trip down and most of the trip back until I discovered that one of them had robbed me which left me stranded over 1,400 kilometers from home, but I will get into that later. The picture was taken in Rostov on the Don, in the photo we see Alex, Nickolai, Nickolai, Alex and Nickolai (no kidding) and as you can see there is no snow on the ground there but the temperature was about minus 3. One of the passengers was a DNR fighter and was on his way home, three were Crimeans (one with extreme anti-Jewish views) and the other was a Georgian from Krasnodar who seemed the most innocent of the lot.
Innocent travellers or foreign agent provocateurs? Regardless of their factually belonging to a cell operating against the interests of the state and the people, if they had been planning something for New Year's they were completely and quietly neutralized in the most discreet and non-interfering manner possible. One was late for his train out of Rostov, another was delivered with delay to his destination and three spent New Year's Eve with me in a parking lot waiting for the ferry into Crimea, completely isolated and at a very safe distance from any populated centers and any of their co-conspirators. I am not saying this was intentional or planned of course but that is how it worked out and looking back it seems like the most logical and reasonable resolution to what could have been a real and present threat to public safety. The fact that my New Year's was in the toilet is not important and perhaps this is a consolation. Check out the guys yourself and make your own assessment, who am I to judge?
Whether by accident or design we arrived at Port Kavkaz at about 22:30 on December 31st and missed the ferry to Crimea by about 30 minutes. I marked the parking lot where I spent New Year's on the map to the left. It is visible from satellite footage on the upper image which you can view yourself by visiting their site which also has live web cams and information about crossing into Crimea. This was 22 hours after leaving Moscow and by this time I was exhausted as I had driven the trip non-stop. As for endurance driving events I think 24 hours of Russian winter highway, complete with agent provocateurs, near frostbite, hostile homicidal drivers and unpredictable weather should be up there on the list of the world's extreme events. Not to blow my own horn but I would not wish such a trip on anyone and it was clear we were the only people who had undertaken such an endeavor. There were no cars from Moscow crossing into Crimea on New Year's Eve and the weather alone made it clear why.
There was one consolation to spending New Year's in a parking lot waiting for the ferry. The director of operations of the port, whose name I will only give as Anton, staged a New Year's get together for all of the staff unfortunate enough to be working that night and invited us to sit down with them. He was quiet enthusiastic as to my "foreign appearance" and wanted to do some business in the future. Being as I am almost a Muscovite, I guess he thought I had all kinds of good connections, which I may or may not have. Regardless it was very kind of him to invite me to his table and fill us with drink and food. Something I should not have done in hindsight, but after almost 24 hours behind the wheel I was exhausted and depressed that I was not at home in the company of my baby girl and wife and was instead in some god-forsaken parking lot freezing my ass off and wondering if my toes had been frostbitten yet. In all honesty it was the worst New Year's of my life and if it is any indication of what 2015 will be like I think it will soon be time to make a big exit from this miserable planet and finally admit that this hell-world called earth has finally won. Not to be nihilistic but an entire year of that crap will be intolerable.
The picture to the right is of me quite drunk with one of the port employees and one of the Nikolais that I took down there. Before morning him or one of the other two remaining guys would take the money I had saved up out of my pocket while I was passed out in the Suburban. I know better than to drink with strangers but to be honest with the cold and the stress and the fact that I trusted these guys I was not as careful as I should have been. I can be thankful they did not kill me or taker my documents although I was sure this would not happen as they were already registered with the security services and police who knew they were travelling with me. So if I was found dead somewhere they would be the first suspects to be pulled in. They were all under active surveillance anyway so if they farted wrong they would have been popped, of course I was not supposed to know this at the time but it was obvious.
The good part (I thought) was that I would be free of them soon and be able to relax a little and actually enjoy the sea which was my principle reason for going down there. I had wanted to spend New Year's on the beech by the sea, not in some God forsaken frozen parking lot waiting for a ferry to take me across an 11 kilometer stretch of water. Just another cross to bear and in reality it could have been worse. There are people who spent New Year's starving or homeless or even worse so I should not be complaining too much I guess. Given the ongoing genocide of Russians going on several hundred kilometers from where I am now sitting it seems arrogant for me to bitch and moan about my surrounding on New Year's.
At six in the morning I was woken up by the attendant knocking on the window. We had been parked in the staging area and it was time to go to the parking area near the actual ships. It was when paying for the actual ticket for the ferry that I realized that someone had taken almost all of my money as I had been sleeping. I barely had enough for the ferry ticket and how I was going to get home was now under serious question. The photo to the left is of the ferry on the way back actually as I did not take a picture on the way there. Going into Crimea we were wedged in between tractor trailer trucks which makes sense since had there been explosives or other such devices in the baggage of my "innocent" passengers, an explosion among trucks would have done little harm.
The three remaining passengers were sound asleep during the entire crossing over process as I decided on how to confront the fact that one of them had robbed me. They remained asleep until we docked and I started out on the road through Kerch when we came upon another police checkpoint where I woke them up. The police and security forces were out in force and the officers were working on the same five pages of names that the ones in Krasnodar had been working off. This time it was clearer who they had been after and as it turned out it was the anti-Semitic Nickolai who was of greatest interest. The security forces escorted us to the local FSB office in Kerch where they proceeded to question the suspects and after another couple of hours of delay they were allowed to go. It was clear that one of the individuals was a Right Sector member but again he was neutralized before he could do any harm. I was instructed to take him to his destination which I did and hopefully will not see him again. After leaving the FSB offices in Kerch I proceeded to drive them home, leaving on in Feodosia, another near the red dot below near Sovietsky and the last near Vosxod.
During the trip through Crimea all mobile communications ceased to work as well as, for the better part of the trip, most GPS positioning devices, this includes my radar detector, GPS navigator, car cam and cell phone navigator. As for the cell phones this was also true last summer.
I saw many many interesting things however I can not go into details about the locations, but during the route we passed through a military Polygon which would be considered a secret strategic location and in the deep country we passed through many many fields where the crops were green. It was like something out of X-Files. Here it was about minus 3 and there were crops of some sort of bright green leafy plant that were an absolutely healthy green. These were not evergreen plants but leafy plants. I was told they were experimental crops by one of the locals but did not dare film or photograph them. They were absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I also drove through an area that was several dozen kilometers square in which everything was absolutely dead and was told that low yield nuclear weapons had been tested there years ago. This was by one of the passengers who had been an SBU agent when Crimea was still under Ukrainian control.
The last passenger I dropped off in the village of Vosxod Rossiya. The name translates to "Sunrise or Rise" of Russia, which I though was very interesting. The village had maintained its name during all of the years since Soviet times to this day. It is supported by a slaughter house and a meat processing facility as well as several agricultural concerns.
The village is currently being affected by power outages and a slight water shortage due to the actions of Kiev in cutting off all electrical supplies to Crimea and the stoppage of all fresh water supplies to the peninsula last summer through the canal systems. The village is located directly on one of the main canals that depended on Kiev for fresh water but the agricultural facilities and the population are getting by almost unhindered due to Russian supplies of fresh water to the region.
My last passenger lives in a block of flats which you can see in the photo below and to the right. In the middle of the photo you can see an entire block of flats that has been abandoned. It consisted of one room flats and due to vandalism it was condemned, however the building in in good condition and would be salvageable if an investor was found. An unlikely possibility in the middle of a farming village with nothing nearby except crops and farms which span thousands of square kilometers.I took several pictures of the surrounding areas, including the canal that has been empty since last summer when the Kiev junta cut off all fresh water supplies to Crimea. With every move that Kiev and the West make to punish the people of the peninsula for choosing to reunify with Russia their resolve to integrate with the Russian Federation grows. The damage that the CIA and NATO are doing to international relations by supporting nazi thugs and overthrowing the democratically elected government of Ukraine will have long and far reaching consequences. The people are proud of their history of defeating nazi Germany and fascists in the past and their pride in defeating them again will last for generations.
What Russia could not do in instilling national and ethnic pride in the youth of the lands, the West has done for it. Young men now willingly wish to enter the army and whatever qualms people may have had in cooperating with the KGB and the organs of state security during the collapse of the Soviet Union are now gone as people rise up to the threat the West is posing to their very existence. You will not find Coca Cola and McDonald's in Crimea. Not because of the sanctions, even Cubans drink Coca Cola which has to travel to South America first, but because the people themselves will have nothing of it. This should be a warning to the West. No matter what their supposed geopolitical goals are, including surrounding Russia with missiles and neutralizing Russia as a geopolitical opponent, they will fail because they can not in a million years win the hearts and minds of the people. And without the people the twisted neo-con PNAC dream of global US hegemony will always be just that, a dream.
I took hundreds of phtographs during the trip as I performed the loops you can see on the map above. It is unfortunate I am not a professional photographer and that I have outdated equipment but these were the best I could do. The following pictures were taken between Simfereopol and Feodosia. If you like them or want to use them they are free to use for a small donation through PayPal. I need to make something for the trip unfortunately so I have to ask for donations.
The pictures above include a plaque near the Port of Kerch which reads: The 227th Temruksky armored division fought here to free Crimea from November 1943 until April 1944. The outside temperature was about minus 5 and the pictures were taken on the second of January which explains the complete absence of people.
After crossing back into Russia I decided to spend some time in my favorite place in the world. I spent many summer vacations in the small town of Golubitskaya but had never been there in the dead of winter. I also needed time to regroup and think of a way out of the desperate situation I was now in. I had no money to get back home and less than half a tank of fuel. As you can see in the picture below the weather was awful. It was raining and about 2 degrees and after the New Year the town was completely empty. Below is a picture of the sign on the outskirts of town which I took in the morning and of my favorite club/restaurant where I spent many happy summer evening way back when dancing and singing and having a good time. Seeing it closed up and deserted in the middle of winter was actually quite depressing as, to be honest, was the entire trip.
The beach was only accesible by jeep as the sand was wet and soft and I almost got stuck which would have been a disaster as the lovcation was so remote and there was no cell phone or other coverage available. If you are a Suburban fan these are some photos of the Suburban in its true element. I camped out for the better part of a day as I communed with nature and regrouped. Although 4 degrees is not the temperature most people would decide to go to the beach in, compared to the minus 20 that I had left behind in Moscow it was warm. I even sat on the beach for several hours in the freezing rain impervious to the cold. It seemed quite warm actually. Below the GMC is the beach where I camped out on the Sea of Azov. A beautiful and unspoilt location.
After sitting on the beach for ages I decided to attempt to make it home and use the internet to try to find passengers who could help pay for the gas. The entire effort had turned out to be a complete failure due to my foolish attempt to celebrate the New Year and trusting strangers. At my age this is not something one can have any pride in admitting but that is the way things turned out. Being unemployed and with my next paycheck from a job I have not even started being over a month away I thought I would try to make the money to pay the rent and pay my daughter's hospital bills honestly, even if at great risk to myself, my health and my life. But it was not to be.
I realized as I sat on the beach, the freezing rain pummeling me and the two dogs above watching me only because I had given them my last bite of bread, that absolutely no one needed me. I had expected at least one text message on New Year's or at least one call from at least one person who may have noticed I had disappeared from home. Then only message I had was from my wife who decided that I was a hopeless case and rahter than sticking it out with me had decided to go back to living with her mother. My baby girl is still in the hospital and needs further treatment but if I do not bring money home my wife believes I do not have the right to see her and her family will not allow me to. That is how things work here in Russia. As a refugee I have no rights.
I also realized many other things on that beach as I sat staring into the distance for what seemed like ages. But I think I better keep them to myself for now.
As for my return trip I also realized something, it is possible in 2014 to die of exposure and hunger surrounded by people. I made the decision to attempt to make it to Rostov on the Don with the little gas I had left. I also had five liters in a gas can that I had to use. I barely made it to Rostov but I figured in such a large city I should be able to find some passengers or somehow get someone to wire me some money. I had not eaten in two days and had not slept in four by the time I got there. I parked in a gas station and managed to get on-line with the Satellite and the HTC and started sending messages to everyone I could think of. I waited and waited but no one was responding and this close to after the New Year no one was travelling. I spent about 24 hours freezing and hungry in the vehicle before my son finally sent me a little money. Just enough to get me to Voronezh which is about 500 kilometers from home. Being in Rostov I was able to find an ATM machine and receive the funds. ATM are few and far between and are only to be found in major cities, which is a big problem in Russia. I took 50 rubles or about a dollar of the money my son sent and bought some bread which I devoured with some water I had saved in a bottle. After more than two days going hungry even plain bread can taste like caviar.
To describe to you what it is like sitting hungry, weak and freezing as people rush around buying presents and celebrating the New Year when by no fault of one's own one is completely destitute is something that only the homeless might be able to understand. To think that a year ago I had an audience of almost half a billion people listening to my newscasts on the Voice of Russia, I was the voice of the Government of the Russian Federation, I was interviewing newsmakers and even Vice Presidents is almost impossible to believe given how far I have fallen. And all because a CIA installed 5th column of Zionist Jews decided to marginalize me. Sure I called them out for how they were subverting the Russian media, then they did what they always do, marginalize me, imply that I am an anti-Semite and blacklist me through all of their financial and business mechanisms. To expose that the Zionist Jews are using nazis and fascists in Ukraine as they wage an assault on Russia is what I did wrong. The Zionist Jews can not have anyone who would threaten their "moral Holocaust granted superiority", yet I called them out because my people, the American Indians suffered the greatest holocaust in the history of mankind and our moral superiority as the keepers of the earth and nature can not be questioned. The Zionists in their self granted superiority and hate are completely genocidal just like those who call themselves "Americans", yet as I realized on that cold and wet beach, there is nothing we can do to stop them and I will be dead soon and they will continue like a cancer destroying the only god we have, the great mother Earth.
To finish this depressing tale I would like to introduce Marina. She sent me a message on the internet while I was in Rostov. She was interested in travelling from Voronezh to Moscow with her daughter. Her life is also not easy, her mother is terminally ill in the hospital yet she helped me. It was because of her that I took ever last penny I had and put it in the tank to get to Voronezh. She single handedly paid for all of the gas to get me back home from there and if it was not for her I would have frozen to death in the Suburban somewhere between Rostov on the Don and Voronezh.
Now I am back in Moscow and in two days have to pay 45,000 rubles in rent. I start a new job in three days but my next check will only be in February so what can I do? Once again beg for donations? That is about all I have left. As a refugee I have no access to social assistance or financial instruments such as loans or aid. The only option I have is asking you to send whatever you can. If you liked this story please donate something through PayPal by making a personal transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org . The money will go to paying my daughter's hospital bills, the rent, keeping this site going and for food. 45,000 rubles are needed for rent, which may seem like a lot but Moscow is the most expensive city in the world.
I do not want to believe that at 48 I am too old to be of use to anyone as appears to be the case, I also do not want to believe that there is no one out there who can help so I ask you please contribute whatever you can. Your donation will go to a good cause and if the donations are big enough and I can pay off my daughter's hospital bills then I can think about helping the people in Novorossiya like I had planned to and like I was doing when I lost my job.
To be continued.......
If you are a corporate sponsor or interested in extreme road trips in Russia I am open to any and all offers of cooperation.
Equipment list: 1996 GMC Suburban with body lift, Cooper all season all terrain tires, maps, wool socks, leather boots, snow suit, Toshiba Satellite laptop, HTC HD2 as a modem and GPS locator, infra red car cam, Russian "Inspector" radar detector, Nokia C3 cell phone, Panasonic Lumix digital camera (circa 2005), 3 liters of coffee, bread, lots of Russian music, a picture of my newborn daughter who is in the hospital and a whole lot of heart hope and skill.
Playlists: Make sure you buy their albums!