Virgin Books

Barbed Wire Babushkas: A River Odyssey Across Siberia

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ISBN: 9780753509388
Publisher: Virgin Books
Publication Date: 2005-01-06
Number of pages: 272
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Victor was clearly concerned about our plans to travel along the border, promising that the guards would shoot us on sight: 'They will be made heroes, with medals from Moscow,' he thundered, slapping his chest, ' but you will be dead!' And with that, he moulded his hands around an imaginary machine gun and sprayed our chests with an impressive salvo of spittle. For years they'd dreamed of packing in their day-jobs and travelling one of the world's greatest rivers, so long as it was somewhere warm. Siberia seemed like the obvious choice...Starting from high in the mountains of northern Mongolia, Paul Grogan and travelling companion Richard Boddington set out to make the first source-to-sea descent of Siberia's 4,400km Amur River, known in China as The Black Dragon. After wading up-stream for five days to reach the source, they begin their epic, four-month journey knowing virtually nothing about the region they'll be travelling through, or even where they'll be able to find food along the way. One of the few things they do know about the river is that for almost 2,000km if forms the long-disputed border between Russia and China. the scene of armed conflict up until the late 1980's, it's still considered off-limits, even to Russians. Never sure if they'll be able to continue around the next bend, the pair face guns, gunboats and arrest at every turn, and are forbidden to even set foot in Chinese territory. But beyond this fascade of military might they find a generous, warm-hearted people with a wicked sense of humour and an unhealthy predilection fir poetry, pig fat and home-made vodka. With sun, sauna's and dancing girls also high on the agenda, they are soon swept along by life on the river and the occasional 4 a.m. flood.

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