The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Four

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

We pick up the action a week after the last installment: Andrej is biking through the Xanadu mountain range in the Central Siberian Plateau, gets cold and decides to hitch a ride.]


Subject: The Gunmen of the Kolyma, Part One

The nights on the south slopes of this mountain range are as cold as a witch’s teat. And so it came to pass that your humble narrator hitched a ride on a dynamite grooz-avik (truck). Yes, you heard right. It was a two grooz-avik convoy. The first grooz-avik was the mighty URAL and the second was the only slightly smaller ZIL. You can tell them apart because the URAL has a big polar bear hood ornament. They are both six wheel drive and the CV joint on these son’s of bitches is bigger than my head.

Allow me to introduce the cast of characters:
  • PET-Ya: driver of the ZIL. PET-Ya is a Virgo, and his hobbies include Jesus, dirty magazines and cursing.
  • OO-Ra: demolitions expert and general all-around outdoor’s man. OO-Ra was the MC. He loves to play the guitar and drink and smile. He is seven feet tall and dressed in full camo with a green handkerchief on his head. His weapon is the knife. OO-Ra rides in the back cabin with me.
  • Roos-Lan: this was our Na-chelnik (boss) and geologist. Roos-Lan is a Gemini and his hobbies include hunting, photography, doting on his lovely daughter, and blowing the shit out of mountains. Roos-Lan sits up front in the drivers cabin, with the foul-mouthed PET-Ya, and he carries a double-barreled shot-gun. Roos-Lan is a Ukrainian Cossack and he really looks like one. He has a shaved head, sunglasses and a blond Turkish handle-bar moustache. He is wearing grean camo and, like a real Cossack, rubber slippers.
  • Slava: is the guman for the ZIL. He carries an AK-74 and a TOKAREV pistol in a shoulder holster and is wearing urban, black and white, camo. He also rides with OO-Ra and myself in the back of the ZIL.
In the other grooz-avik (truck), the URAL:
  • Is Kol-Ya: Kol-Ya is a Gemini, and enjoys laughing and visiting the dentist. And with him is…
  • Andrei: Andrei is armed with an AK Combat Shotgun loaded with 24 gauge manstoppers. Andrei was very quiet during our trip. He seemed to have a lot on his mind.
The moment I jumped into the cabin with OO-Ra and Slava, OO-Ra busts out two small cucumbers, an apple and a plastic bottle of samagon (moonshine). Now I’d been warned, by many, many, people, about drinking samagon with the yahoos  of the Far East. But, I figured, I’m already drinking beer, vodka, not to mention smoking and playing with live ammo, in a dynamite truck, how much more danger could I possible bring upon myself by drinking a little samogon.

The Russians always ask me how old I am, when I tell them I’m 33, they all say the same thing: “you are like the Christ.” Apparently all Russians, including the Muslims, are acutely aware of the age of Jesus when he was Transfigured*. 33 is considered to be a man’s prime, and a lucky age.

Well I survived the jolly dynamite truck. At one point we were passing through an extremely fucked up little village. Between shots of vodka, Slava points out of the window and tells me that a few years ago a truck, just like this one,  accidentally detonated and annihilated this town. I looked out the window and, indeed, the town looked like Hiroshima. I began to laugh maniacally and I could not stop for a very long time. Why I laughed so hard I do not know. Maybe it was because I was happy to be alive, even though I knew that I was on the razor’s edge.


Next: The Gunmen of the Kolyma, Part Two

[*ed note: Czechs always make this comment about ‘Jesus age’ too, and they’re all atheists. Must be a pan-Slavic thing.]

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