If you know one thing about Siberia it’s this: Siberia is cold. Very cold. Especially in winter. It’s not the sort of place you’d take a leisurely 1,200 mile stroll. Yet, there are reports coming out of Russia of a mysterious woman doing exactly that. For months people have reported a strange figure walking down the Kolyma Federal Highway—also known as the “Road of Bones”—slowly and silently making her way to Kamchatka on Russia’s east coast. It doesn’t seem to be a publicity stunt, or a “fun run” for charity or anything like that. It doesn’t seem like any sort of normal occurrence, really.
First reported by the Siberian Times, the strange figure has been seen by multiple witnesses over the last three months with no apparent survival gear or pack, save for the coat on her back and a small bag she appears to be carrying. For those of you keeping score at home, three months ago, exactly, was the middle of January. According to people who have seen the walking woman along the road, she doesn’t make any attempt to contact anyone, and doesn’t respond to offers of rides or assistance of any sort. According to the Siberian Times, some people are saying that her name is Luidmila and that she comes from Kazakhstan, though how they gleaned that information is left unclear. Also unclear is how information such as her name and country of origin didn’t come with an explanation of why she’s walking across Siberia, refusing—or ignoring—all aid, in the dead of winter.
Stranger still, there’s no mention of how she’s still alive. The Kolyma Highway rarely reaches above -30 degrees Celsius in winter (-22 degrees Fahrenheit), and it’s often much colder. That’s the kind of cold Jack London wrote about. That kind of cold can kill. It’s not impossible to survive, humans are pretty adept at dealing with cold, but you need gear. From the picture provided by the Times, she doesn’t have any. Of course, she could be a survival expert, she could be well equipped with fire-starting material, she could be a student of Wim Hoff, in which case good for her, that’s pretty cool. She really doesn’t give that impression though.
There are, of course, those who suspect that this woman might be something beyond earthly explanation, and considering the route she is walking, those suspicions seem understandable. The road is officially named the Kolyma Highway. Unofficially, it’s known as the Road of Bones. That macabre moniker refers to the thousands of gulag prisoners who died building this road to Siberian gold mines during Josef Stalin’s rule of the USSR. Now it’s lined with the remains of the gulags, eerie tributes to the dead, and barbed wire fences. Those that live in the towns along the Road of Bones largely can’t leave. They or their families were left stranded by the collapse of the Soviet Union without the means to escape. Winter is six months long, and in the summer the road is nearly impassible due to the collapse of the ice bridges and the pits of mud that dissolve the dirt road. It’s not a nice place, basically, and it has more brutal and tragic history than you could shake a Kalashnikov at.
Perhaps when she reaches her destination her walk will be revealed as a stunt of some sort, or pure stubbornness. Most likely, nothing will be heard of the mysterious woman ever again. Just one more blip of the strange, at the end of the world. I hope she gets where she’s going, wherever that may be.