A little devil’s machine, an Antonov 24, will go north far beyond the Arctic Circle. There was little rain here, what we learn about our contact, which is why our plans are again uncertain. We do not allow ourselves to be brought across the mountains with a boat, but with a fat Ural vehicle.
Then we have to see and maybe walk with the heavy luggage a few kilometers downstream and hope that the river will be deep enough to paddle …
We have to take pictures of the museum-ready machine, but this is forbidden by attentive air traffic control staff. We still get our recordings. These machines were built from 1949-79. If we are lucky, our soul seller is only forty years old.
Forty-four people who are tired of life fit into the small cabin when fully occupied, but the machine is not fully occupied and a large part of the space is occupied by luggage, for which there seems to be no other storage space.
In addition to guns and guitars, household appliances and televisions seem to be very popular.
To cheer you up, shortly before takeoff there are free sweets from the expressionless flight attendant with the charm of the rusty patina of the turbines. My guess is that by accepting the sweets, the airline is released from any liability in the event of damage.
Safety instructions are dispensed entirely. What for? There are no emergency exits, oxygen masks have never been heard of and life jackets do not help in Siberia either.
Uli, the mechanic, says when the rotors start: “Oh God, I’m afraid” Our hope is that the pilot will be at his usual alcohol level to get the crate to its destination safely.
Against all expectations, the machine takes off with probably all parts and turns around the Lena, the great river of Siberia. You can see this river yourself from space. Many islands lie in the middle of the huge water and barges make their way.
We fly over the mountains, in which there is surprisingly little snow. It looks very barren. Only behind it can individual ice fields (“Naled”) be recognized. These do not melt all year round.
We come to a stop on a gravel track. A small barrack marks the airport building. A truck brings our luggage, which is distributed to the strongest like aid supplies in the crisis area. We leave the airfield through a fence and enter Batagay-Alyta, the courtyard of nowhere.