Bengaluru woman braves Russia’s ‘highway of bones’

Daunting task: Nidhi Tiwari completed 5,080 km from Yakutsk to Magadan and back.   | Photo Credit: Handout E Mail

Even for experienced drivers at home in extreme terrain, the route to the icy Russian village Oymyakon, dubbed the Pole of Cold, and Magadan beyond can be daunting. So when Nidhi Tiwari, an outdoor educator and a passionate driver from Bengaluru steered her Toyota Prado through –50° C temperatures, many Russian villagers were surprised.

The 36-year-old adventure lover and mother of two completed her 5,080 km solo expedition from Yakutsk to Magadan and back, through the coldest regions of Sakha Republic to become the first Indian to get there.

Ms. Tiwari, born in Dharwad and raised in Bengaluru, wears her badge for inter-continental expeditions proudly. “My drive from New Delhi to London in 2015 put me on the road for 97 days, covering 23,800 km across 17 countries,” she says. She zeroed in on Oymyakon in December 2016, as she wanted to see the coldest place on earth, and take the treacherous ‘Highway of Bones’ route from Yakutsk to Magadan, viewed by some as one of the world’s most dangerous roads.

The trip started with a flight to Yakutsk, followed by the drive for 14 days with a low temperature record of –59° at Ustnera near Sakha Republic. “I would drive for 14 hours a day on rough snow and ice. Even a minute’s exposure would freeze me with pain,” the explorer says.

During the trip, she had Skype conversations with 5,000 school children in India on what she saw.

With many geographical surprises popping up en route, adaptability was crucial. “The weather pierces the skin, and one has to deal with fatigue,” she says. What helped her was perfect four months of road-mapping and planning. Her SUV achieved an average of 12 km per litre.

Villagers surprised

As she covered the miles to Magadan, people could only stare in disbelief that someone from faraway India had made it to Oymyakon. “Shocked people offered free food and told me that I was crazy to be driving there,” says Ms. Tiwari who had to get used to just reindeer and horse meat with hot soup.

As the goal was reached, historian Vasielia Tamara Yagerovna of the Russian Geographic Society said on Facebook that the list of visitors from 47 countries to Oymyakon now had an Indian name, the first.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 3:53:26 PM |

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