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The Story Behind the Photo: Siberia Valley

November 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment


Some hike memories stay vivid for years.  Others fade.  Siberia Valley is one of those hikes that is still very vivid to me.


Kathy and I were finishing up our New Zealand tour back around 2001.  I had read about an adventure called the Siberia Experience in beautiful Mt. Aspiring National Park.  In the Siberia Experience, they fly you into a remote valley, you cross a knee-high stream, then walk through a valley and down off of a plateau, and finish with a jet boat ride back to the starting point.  Sounded cool to me.  I decided to do the Siberia Experience near the end of our trip, in case the stream crossing went bad for my camera.  In those days, I shot a Mamiya 645 Pro film camera.  I'm not sure if back then I had heard of a dry bag, but I know I did not have one (now I have several).


Kathy wisely opted out of the adventure.  She's quite smart, that girl.


The last day I could go, it had been raining on and off in the area for about a week.  Streams were running high.  We arrived at the departure point in Makarora.  It looked like it might rain, but I wanted to go.  I did not ask much in the way of questions, I just went.  I flew in with 2 other marks (I mean, hikers) ....it was a very pretty and scenic flight.   It started raining pretty good before we landed in a field on a grassy landing strip.  When we landed, the pilot then informed us that Siberia stream, normally knee-high, was running very high and swift, and would be over our heads.  He proceeded to instruct us on how to do a river crossing without dying (hopefully).    I thought about this, and said "what the heck"; I'm a very strong swimmer.  I put my camera in my pack, and simply planned to hold it above my head.  I then proceeded into the fast-moving stream, fully clothed, boots and all.



The good news is that the camera stayed dry.  However, I figured gravity would take its toll and it did (see, this is where the Ph.D. helps out).  Holding my camera bag out of the water, combined with the weight of my clothes and boots, had the effect of pushing my head into the water.  I ended up half-swimming, half-bobbing, half-blow-holing my way across the river.  It took about 3-4 minutes.  After I got onshore, I took stock.  I was fully soaked, it was raining cats and dogs, so, I decided to hike up the valley, my boots squishing with every step.   I got some nice photos along the way as the rain gave way to clouds.  The hike back down the valley, down off the plateau, and the jet ride back were a hoot.  



I guess that they don't call it the Siberia "Experience" for nothing.  As usual, I'm glad I went.




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