We began our journey to the Tundra from Salehard. We traveled on a rough highway, then a winter highway to Beliarsk, a city with a population of about 2,000. A winter highway is just that. It’s only around in the winter. It consists of frozen rivers, lakes and tundra. It was truly amazing the see what God has created in the extreme north.
We stopped at an orphanage on the way. Unfortunately, many of the children who would be there were on winter holiday and were with extended families. So, there were only a few children at this orphanage. But, out of all of our travels to date, this received the most resounding response. It was from one little boy — he was maybe 8 or 9. He opened his box and he about jumped for joy. He loved it. Another young boy opened his box an immediately opened his Bible.
From there we traveled the rest of the way through the frozen north to Beliarsk. We stopped at an apartment to eat and get geared up for our snowmobile ride of a lifetime. We snacked on sausage, cheese, crackers, etc. None of us were really ready for what we were getting ourselves in for. Paul Tokarchuk told us we were going about 12 kilometers to our first teepee. And, so we set off.
Unfortunately, this evening was full of excitement. The sleds we were riding on were more for carrying cargo, or packages, not people. We struggled to stay on the sleds. Each bump hurt. Each turn, we struggled to stay on. You would think they would stop to see how we’re doing — but they didn’t. They stopped only after someone asked to stop — me. Wow, it was hard. On one of the stops we saw the northern lights. How beautiful! But, after almost two hours, we arrived at, what we thought was, our destination. It was a tee pee owned by a Ynunsi Christian family. Ynusi are reindeer herders and nomadic. There are only about 30,000 Ynusi. They move their camps (homes) about 7 times each winter to find feed for the reindeer. At this teepee we ate raw reindeer, cookies, crackers, and bread. Tea is served with EVERYTHING. I know why, too. IT’S HOT. We also gave the kids Christmas Gift boxes from the church in Salehard.
However, this teepee wasn’t our final destination this evening. We had to travel another two hours. Unfortunately, the family we were trying to find had moved to find feed for their reindeer. They left a barrel with directions on how to find the camp. It took another 1 1/2 hours to find it. When we arrived at 1:30am, they were waiting for us with tea, raw reindeer meet, and a warm fire to ease the -30 degree cold we were encountering on our long snowmobile ride. After we ate, the fire was stoked, we were covered with reindeer skins to stay warm and we all went to sleep.