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ADV RidesRiding Chukotka: When an Essential Piece of Your Gear is a Boat

Riding Chukotka: When an Essential Piece of Your Gear is a Boat

Necessity is the mother of invention when riding Russia’s last frontier.

Published on 11.04.2019

In a world that’s rapidly developing and more connected than ever, how far would you need to ride to experience real adventure? The response will differ from rider to rider. But for Russian traveler Anatoly Chernyavskiy, the answer lies in Chukotka, Russia’s last frontier.

Here, in this little-known region of extreme North, the 180th meridian separates the East from the West, and half of Chukotka‘s territory is above the Arctic Circle. This vast, wild, and largely uninhabited land is the country’s far East: bordered by East Siberian and Chukchi Seas of the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea of the Pacific Ocean, Chukotka is nine time zones away from Moscow.  “If you‘ve seen Chukotka at least once, you can‘t forget it. It steals your heart forever,” explained Anatoly.

Adventure Rider Anatoly Chernyavskiy
“If you‘ve seen Chukotka at least once, you can‘t forget it. It steals your heart forever” – Anatoly Chernyavskiy

The 35-year old has been riding motorcycles since high school, first taking trips to Lake Baikal, then extending his travels to South America. However, after spending a year on the road in South America, Anatoly had decided to return to Russia and explore its most remote territories by bike.

He has been coming to Chukotka since 2018, first traveling this fascinating region on his Honda XR650L motorcycle. According to Anatoly, riding Chukotka is no easy task. There are no summer roads leading here, and the only way in is either by ship via the Northern Sea Route or by boat on the Kolyma River from Magadan.


“The roads in Chukotka are few and far between, and they’re all gravel or dirt tracks. But the main difficulty is the lack of bridges across hundreds of rivers, the largest of which cannot be crossed on a motorcycle. Last year, trying to cross the rivers in Chukotka, I‘d wait for large trucks and transport the bike using their help. Permafrost does not allow the local rivers to go deep, so they diverge in breadth,” Anatoly said.

Packing a Boat

Deep river crossing on a motorcycle.

This year, he decided to embark on a different mission. Instead of relying on the trucks, Anatoly, on his quest to cross the sparsely populated Chukotka from ocean to ocean using the Pevek – Egvekinot route, used an inflatable boat. This time, he chose a smaller, lighter Honda XR250 Baja motorcycle. “This bike is much easier for river crossings. I packed a conventional inflatable 2-seater PVC boat with a capacity of 210 kg, and it was enough for the bike and my luggage,” says Anatoly.

Honda XR250 Baja
Chokotka Russia

To be able to cover the costs of the trip, as well as show Chukotka to other adventure riders, Anatoly decided to take another rider with him. Because he had stored his XR650L motorcycle in Chukotka beforehand, his Chinese guest could use this motorcycle, while Anatoly himself used the little Baja. Both motorcycles were only slightly modified with larger tanks, crash protection, and some soft luggage to prep for the trip.

The entire expedition lasted four months. “From [Irkutsk], I rode to Magadan, put the bike on a boat and reached Chukotka by river, as there is no road going to this Far East territory,” he explained. Once in Bilibino, Chukotka, Anatoly met up with his Chinese co-rider, loaded both motorcycles, and took off on a journey across Chukotka taking the Pevek – Egvekinot route. For most of the trip, the riders wild-camped or put their tents in abandoned buildings. “Except for a few stays with friends in Bilibino, there were no accommodations anywhere in Chukotka, so we camped all the way.”

Anatoly Chernyavskiy checks river depth
Chokotka Russia

To cross the wild rivers of Chukotka, Anatoly would put some chest-high fishing waders on, load the luggage onto the boat, and tow the boat across the river with a rope. Then, he‘d come back for the bikes. “The fishing waders help you endure the icy water, but walking across isn‘t without risks – sometimes, the currents can be very strong. At one of the rivers, we had to wait for four days before the water levels finally dropped,” he recalled.

Honda XR250 Baja and XR600

According to him, an adventure motorcycle trip across Chukotka requires complete autonomy. Anatoly recommends carrying enough gas for at least 530 miles as well as food supplies for ten days. 

The Extreme North Budget

While riding in Chukotka itself isn‘t very expensive – wild-camping, using your own gas reserves, and preparing your own meals do not cost much – getting here can be a costly adventure. According to Anatoly, because Chukotka is so remote, the logistics of getting a motorcycle in and out of the region is a difficult task. “Shipping a bike via the Northern Sea Route from Archangelsk to Pevek can cost $1,500, as an example. Flights from Moscow to Chukotka are about $2,000. So while the traveling in Chukotka is cheap, getting here isn‘t,” he explained.

While riding in Chukotka itself isn‘t very expensive getting here can be a costly adventure.

Because of these costs, Anatoly plans to organize a motorcycle tour here next year. “I used to work at a nuclear power plant, but as my thirst for adventure grew, I had to find a different way to fund my travels. Photography is one of my hobbies that I now monetize, and doing motorcycle tours to the Far East will be another.”

Riding Another Planet

Chukotka is remote, stark, and treacherous. The permafrost, the dangerous conditions of traveling solo through a land that‘s so barren it‘s almost hostile to human life, the icy river crossings, the unpredictable weather and the sheer survival on Chukotka‘s remote dirt roads – why travel there in the first place?

Rugged terrain of Russia's extreme north east
Riding Russia's last frontier

“Chukotka feels like a different planet with otherworldly landscapes. In the adventure motorcycling world, so little is known about this phenomenal region. All the wild beauty of the northern uninhabited areas, the taiga, and the rivers open up to travelers in Chukotka. The pristine nature, the mountains, the sea, the tundra, the fauna and, of course, the fascinating and hardy people who live in this cold, distant land are unforgettable. Three times I have seen a bear on this journey, many times wild deer, very rare snow sheep, wolverines, ermines, and other wild animals and birds in their natural habitat. I have seen so many photos of adventure riders crossing the equator, but I‘ve never seen a rider here at the 180th meridian, the dividing line between the East and the West. Traveling Chukotka is a whole different adventure,” Anatoly said.

Follow Anatoly’s adventure on his webpage and his Instagram page.

Remote adventure ride in the far east of Russia.
Anatoly Chernyavskiy experiences complete desolation

About Chukotka: Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is located in the extreme north-east of Russia. It occupies the entire Chukchi Peninsula, part of the mainland and a number of islands. This is the only region in Russia part of which (the entire Chukchi Peninsula and the eastern part of Wrangel Island) is located in the Western Hemisphere. Chukotka covers 284,800 square miles, but the population here is barely 50,000. Chukotka contains the easternmost point of continental Russia, the Cape Dezhnev, the easternmost city in Russia – Anadyr, as well as the country’s northernmost city Pevek.

Most of Chukotka‘s territory is located beyond the Arctic Circle. The climate here is severe, and the winters last for up to ten months. The average temperature in January ranges from 5 to -38 Fahrenheit, while in July, it warms up to 30-50 Fahreinheit. The extreme low temperatures can drop down to -77 F.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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Eric Altman
Eric Altman
November 20, 2019 7:56 pm

Hardcore!! Thanks for the inspiration!


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