Today is, I think, the halfway point of my trip. 39/77. So far I've covered a lot of km, mostly by plane to Beijing.
To update the blog, yesterday I went back to Anya's to cook dinner for her and some friends, but her mother strongly discouraged me from leaving and cooked a wonderful dinner instead. Today I will attempt anzac biscuits, since they requested Australian food. Today I visited the Yakutsk museum, which is actually pretty good. There's a whale skeleton out the front, maybe a whale swum up the river one day? The only other excitement was sending a postal vote request to Moscow for the upcoming election, during which time I'll be in Kamchatka. I have not found another Australian to verify my identity, but apparently this is not necessary under difficult circumstances. I think mine qualify!
Travel statistics: (Some...).
I took 10 trains in Russia, average time about 10 hours, average distance 600km. Slow trains are cheap trains. Total cost was about $284 Australian dollars, which shames long distance trains in the US and Australia! For nearly every leg I had a sleeping berth with bedding, though no door.
BAM stats! As promised, here's the details everyone has been hankering after. The BAM project was to link the Lena river port of Ust-Kut with the Amur river port of Komsomolsk-na-Amur, with short branch lines from Tynda north to the coal mine at Neryungri (and by 2020 maybe Yakutsk!) and south to the Trans-Siberian Railway at Chita. (I think).
Total length: 3097.6km (mostly single track)
Length of sidings, yards, and passing loops: 445km
No. of urban cites: 100
No. of cities built: 3
No. BAM workers (not including the military) in 1981: 40000. In 1988: 60000.
Percentage of workers under 30 in 1984: 75%.
Length of embankments: 2446.9km
Length of embankments higher than 12m: 59.9km
No. of embankments built on swamps or marshes: 640
Length of excavations deeper than 12m: 112.2km
Length of excavations in permafrost: 196km
Length of excavations with angle greater than 1:3: 122km
No. small bridges: 844. Total length: 17.7km
No. medium bridges: 638. Total length: 31.3km
No. large bridges: 113. Total length: 22.8km
No. tunnels: 6. Total length: 31.7km. NB. The cape tunnel at Baikal is actually four closely spaced tunnels.
Greatest altitude of line: 1300m
Deepest permafrost: 600m.
Total number of structures built excluding bridges: 2600
Quantity of earth moved: 570 million cubic metres
Number of vehicles supplied 1975-1977: 13000 large trucks, 1100 excavators, 2000 bulldozers, 1200 mobile cranes. Most were scrapped after a single season due to maintenance costing twice the cost price!
Total budget (according to soviets) US$11 billion (1984 dollars).
Estimated actual cost of labour, materials, etc in a market economy: $30 billion (1984 dollars).
In the original budget, 10% was set aside for unforseen costs, and 15% for rebuilding shoddy or permafrost affected work. 25% budget pad!
As it happens, building on permafrost is really tricky, as it moves a lot! Under pressure it liquefies and subsides, and in spring and autumn can squeeze dirt everywhere. The native Yakuts have many words for the peculiar formations that can occur.
I have had difficulty organising a hydrofoil as part of the trip, which is too bad. I think I'm still doing okay on the luck stakes. I attempted to upload photos, but while the internet is okay, the net cafes are quite difficult to use. Since my last upload (half way through Mongolia), I have taken around 2000 photos, though!