"Mansi - the Forest People of the Urals" Ethnographic Expedition Programme
The Expedition shall take place from August 15 to August 23 (9 days), 2016, in the Ivdelsky Area (north of the Sverdlovsk Region.)
Expedition Participants will get acquainted with the history, culture, and lifestyle of the people who once inhabited a much vaster part of the Urals. Participants will see how the modern Mansi live today and will have a chance to socialize with & talk to these representatives of the ancient Voguls.
Day 1 - August 15
The City of Ekaterinburg and its attractions (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/beyond_moscow/yekaterinburg.html)
Arrival in Ekaterinburg from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon (NOTE: Please arrive/fly-in early=on time to join the Expedition Group!), *hotel check-in. Members of the Group meet together.
Sightseeing Tour of Yekaterinburg. Seeing the Regional Museum* Exhibit dedicated to the history of indigenous peoples of the Urals.
Return to & accommodation at the hotel (from *aprx. 30 euros per person.) Meal at a cafe.
At the *Museum, we shall see the famous Shigir Idol (pictured here on the left). It’s the most ancient Mesolithic wooden sculpture in the world! A recent German radiocarbon analysis gave it an age of 11,000 years, which makes it much older than the Egyptian Pyramids! Moreover, its design & patterns much resemble the “X-ray” art style of the Australian Aborigines who depicted animals or human figures with their internal organs & bone structure clearly visible - to express the ongoing sacred ties with the natural and supernatural worlds. During our Expedition, we’ll even show you where & how it was found!
Day 2 - August 16
Visit "The Land of Our Ancestors" Ethno-Park & Mansi Culture Center*
Seeing the Park* exhibits.
Exploring the Park Museum exhibits, master-classes & workshops. Field messing (camp meal in the Park.)
The Day’s programme includes rafting down a small tributary of a small river to see a picturesque lake with the peninsula where we will examine the remnants of the Ural prehistoric pictograms dated to 5,000—7,000 years BC; moose (elk) salt-licks; some ancient dolmens (single-chamber Neolithic stone burial tombs) and much more!
At the *Mansi Culture Center, you can examine & buy some authentic Mansi souvenirs & artifacts to take home with you & impress your friends! Very rare ethnographical movies will be shown to expose & prepare you for the Expedition. You will also have a chance to see the reindeer & some other local animals & birds at the Park!
The workshops include metal casting of the totem animal figures that were used for shaman magic; sacred figurines made from dough; and many more exciting try-it-yourself projects!
Day 3 - August 17
Start of the Expedition
Driving in an off-road group vehicle to the Ivdelsky Area.
Geting acquainted with (meeting) the Pakiny family (ethnic Mansi). Socializing & communication with the Mansi. Field messing (hiking camp meal); sleeping in tents.
Possible stop-over in the city of Nizhny Tagil to see the local Histoy Museum’s ethnographic exhibition & collections. Lunch at a town cafe.
We shall be very lucky to hear the magical sounds of the famed Mansi stringed musical instrument called “Sangkvyltap” (Hear it playing on our website!)
Day 4 - August 18
Getting to know the Mansi
Continue socializing with the Mansi. Listening to their stories around the communal camp-fire. Field messing (camp meals); sleeping in tents.
With enough trust from the Mansi & luck from the local Spirits, we might be even led to & shown a sacred bear skull burial site!
Days 5-7 (from August 19 to August 21)
Discovering the Ancient Land of Mansi-Ma
Leisurely catamaran rafting down a taiga river (the Ivdel River*.) Exploring the Mansi-Ma country. Camp meals; sleeping in tents.
* In case of dry weather (= very low water levels), the rafting might be done down the rivers of Sos'va or Loz'va.
The site's panoramic pictures tell it all!
Day 8 - August 22
Return from the Expedition
Transfer & return to Yekaterinburg.
Hotel accommodation. City cafe meals.
Day 9 (Final) - August 23
Departure of the Expedition Participants
Check-out from the hotel; transfer to the airport; final farewells & good-byes! =)
Notes & Disclaimers:
* In case of bad or inclement weather & other natural phenomena, the Expedition Schedule/Programme may change.
* Camp Accommodation - 2-3 persons per tent.
* Meals - three times a day.
* Number of participants - 10 people max. (incl. the 5 Guest Participants = i.e - you!) Age of Participants - from >12 years.
* Field Support Group - 4 professional guides, incl. a certified medical nurse/assistant.
* Road travel & transfers time may vary slightly depending on the time of arrival/readiness of the whole Group.
The Expediton Cost/Price** of 679 euros* (or its other currency equivalent) includes the following:
- Official Registration on arrival in Russia;
- All local Transfers (incl. Yekaterinburg - the Ivdelsky District - Yekaterinburg);
- 3 meals a day (including disposable tableware which is recycled/disposed of through burning)
- All tours/exhibitions/museum entrance fees;
- First Medical Aid;
- All camping equipment (tents, sleeping pads & sleeping bags);
- Hiking & master-classes equipment;
- Camp (bon)fire equipment;
- Visiting the Mansi Culture Ethno-Park & all workshops (classes) there;
- Full Guide services.
*(Now, with the ruble exchange rate drop of almost 50 percent against the U.S. dollar & euro, travel & tours to Russia have become significantly much cheaper!)
**The Expedition Cost/Price DOES NOT include:
- The roundtrip airfare Your Home Country-Moscow-Yekaterinburg;
- Russian visa fee (please contact your local travel agent ASAP to obtain your visa on time; the visa fee is non-refundable!);
- (Staying at major hotels of your choice in Moscow & Yekaterinburg; eating & dining at expensive restaurants is also extra (= you pay for it on your own.)
For your hotel accommodation in Moscow, try https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g298484-d299976-Reviews-Tourist_Hotel_Complex_Izmailovo_Gamma_Delta-Moscow_Central_Russia.html for very reasonable rates & great access to the major city attractions!
In Yekaterinburg, the Expedition Organizers shall recommend a similar hotel; or just stay at the Mansi Culture Center for a minimal (very symbolic) cost (hostel-like camping conditions)!
Flying to Yekaterinburg is easy because over 14 Russian & foreign air companies offer regular flights to this destination - just choose the most convenient flight for you!
(Travel Disclaimer: This Expedition DOES NOT include a trip to the Manpupuner Rocks (pictured on our home page), which requires special advance official permits to visit the park & a separate trip of 5 more full days just to get there on foot. Plus, no Mansi settlements exist there nearby in present times. Bear in mind that, during our Expedition, we’ll visit many more “of the beaten path” Mansi sacred sites that are as picturesque & breathtaking (see our other photos.)
Some Travel Tips & Advice:
This trip to the Urals is a journey of discovery in a vast region of North-Western Siberia, where civilized tourism (as you know it!) is almost non-existent.
We are very fortunate to be assisted by professional anthropologists & members of the local Mansi families. The specific program is not predetermined (set in stone!;)) and may be influenced by many factors, such as weather conditions, etc. The only thing we are confident in is the expertise of our guides who are doing their best for this trip to make it as comfortable as possible and to provide the best exposure to the aboriginal traditions & worldview.
Local Mansi elders, present at the camp & respected for their traditional knowledge, may help us to tap into the memories, the native know-how and craftsmanship still alive in the communities. For example, in some places the Mansi still use very old household items & utensils made in the last century, which they pass-on to the next generation.
This trip itself is a little magic. The prior preparations for the trip can be worrisome, however, once you arrive in Yekaterinburg, just let go of all organizational details, programme, schedule, etc. - for we’ll take good care of you & the rest items!
Most of the time we’ll be out of town, travelling by long-jeep or all-terrain mini-bus to discover the vast wilderness of taiga (the famed Siberian dense coniferous forests.) Many of the sacred places that we plan to visit are literally a vortex of vibrant energies! Some travelers even compare the pristine Ural Mountains to the Alps that existed before the onslaught of massive tourism!
The days will be punctuated by easy walks/hikes; erection & dismantling of tents; listening to elders’ teachings; friendly circles around the evening camp-fires; swimming; enjoying Nature; stargazing; picking & eating the delicious forest berries; and definitely many more surprises with lots of free time for those who just want to relax, spend some time alone, or meditate. Visualize this trip like a served plate of food - you take what you want & what is good for you!
The Mansi are shy & simple people. They appreciate that we are interested in them, though it may take a while 'to break the initial ice.' Around the cozy evening camp fires, you’ll be delighted to discover that they do love to tell & share stories and have a very good sense of humor. However, some sacred places might not be allowed to be photographed. It is better to always ask beforehand if you may take any pictures of people.
!IMPORTANT: Please DO NOT share, sell or offer any ALCOHOL to the Mansi! They are not genetically tolerant to alcohol & rampant alcoholism is known to have decimated whole villages!
Our guides are excellent cooks who can prepare varied & balanced meals over a camp fire! (Pastries & breads, fish & meat, vegetables, salads, fruits, cereals, bottled still water, teas, etc. ). Everything is fresh and pooled on the common table, so you can do your picking. Vegetarians & vegans may have to improvise here a little according to their own liking & taste.
No special requirements. If you are physically fit for leisurely nature walks over flat or semi-rugged terrain, or do some leisurely paddling on a small catamaran (see the picture on our site) - then you’re OK! You must be comfortable living in a remote (but stunning) setting with few amenities- so good interpersonal & some basic camping skills - and, of course, a good sense of humor are welcome - but not absolutely required!=)
No special equipment is needed: everything shall be provided by the Expedition Organizers. However, we do recommend you to take the following:
Rain coat or cover;
Waterproof sandals, or any other similar shoes for rafting/swimming;
Comfortable walking/hiking shoes/boots;
Light Wind Jacket;
(Your favorite cup, knife, fork & spoon, only if you prefer your own);
Your favorite mosquito/tick/insect repellant (in case you don’t like what we have.)
If you are taking any prescription drugs, pharmaceuticals, or regular medications, please do not forget to take those along with you! Always remember that you are responsible for your own health. Most of the time, we might be very far from any city pharmacies or drug stores. Two professional doctors shall be accompanying us during the trip to take care of any special needs or unexpected cases.
No food poisonings were registered during previous trips. The surroundings are a particularly clean area: you can swim without fear of disease and most water sources are safe to drink.
Not really much to spend! A good bet is that you may not spend a single penny during the camping fortnight! However, you may want to buy some local hand-made souvenirs (the natives are even making some especially for us!); bring sweets or candies to the aboriginal kids, or just give what you want (money or some useful household items or products, such as black tea, cotton clothing, hunting knives, strong sewing threads, hand tools, and a variety of seeds, fishing line and hooks - are all a good idea (optional & at your discretion, of course!)
Participants are strongly advised to exchange your local currency (euros or US dollars are the best!) into rubles either before your departure (you may have to place a special order at your bank); or to change your money on arrival in Moscow or Yekaterinburg at the airports, hotels, numerous exchange points, or local banks. Remember that there are no banks in some remote areas that we are visiting!
Contrary to popular misbeliefs, summers in Siberia can be very hot during the day (averaging 25-30°C max.), with cooler evenings & nights (about 10°C -15C°) However, August is usually quite milder (just like the Indian Summer in September) - and with much less mosquitoes! =) With the recent climate change, it is hard to forecast the exact temperatures - so please check the weather before your departure!
Because of the international character of our Expedition Team, the preferred language of our discourse shall be English, and a professional United Nations certified Russian-English interpreter/anthropologist accompanies us throughout the whole trip. (Outside of big towns, most local Russian people & all Mansi speak Russian only.)
About The Mansi Expediton
The Wild West is long gone: but the “Wild East” is still there for you to discover & explore!
From over 180 ethnic groups in Russia, the Mansi (who just number over 12,000), are among the 41 endangered indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East. Believe it or not, some of these ancient peoples, scientists claim, are even ancestors of the American Indians!
Several centuries ago, the Mansi, an ancient tribal group (formerly known as “Vogul”) of glorious warriors of the vast steppes and skilled fishers & hunters, were spread from the pine-birch boreal forests on the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains (the provisional geographic barrier separating Asia and Europe) to the swampy borders of Grand Duchy of Moscow!
The Mansi speak a dialect of the Finno-Ugric language of the Uralic linguistic family, to which the Saami and Hungarian languages also belong!
Up to the beginning of the 20th century the important role in Mansi life belonged to shamans. They say that this tradition is still alive today, but is carefully hidden from prying eyes. Ranging in height from 30 to 42 meters, the Remote Holy Rocks of the Mansi (pictured on our Home Page) are one of Russia's 7 Wonders to rival Stonehenge and Moai Statues of the Easter Island! According to the Mansi legend, the stone pillars were once an entourage of the neighboring tribes› giants walking through the mountains to Siberia in order to destroy the Mansi people. However, upon seeing the holy Mansi Mountains, the shaman of the giants dropped his drum and the entire team froze into the stone pillars. Like the Ainu in Japan, the Mansi are one of the few remaining peoples in the world who still practice & perform the famous Bear Cult Ceremony!
Of all the peoples of northern Siberia, only the Mansi (& closely related Khanty) had stringed musical instruments: a type of five-stringed zither and a one- or two-stringed, bowed instrument (its bow made like a small archer’s bow.) The strings of both types were made from moose (elk) sinews.
Today traditional Mansi trades include some reindeer management, hunting & gathering of natural products, small-scale agriculture & handicrafts.
Now, with only 3,000 native speakers in Northwest Siberia, the Mansi language itself is on the verge of extinction. Scientists sadly predict that their unique culture & way of life may be extinct in 10-15 years at the latest!
Other reasons for the marginalization of Mansi are among other things to be found in the decades-long sovietization and Russian-language boarding-school education of Northwest Siberia. A further reason for the decline of their traditions & culture lies in the massive migration of Russians to Northwest Siberia, drawn there by the discovery of gas and oil and the jobs created thereby.
With only 180 left, the Ural Mountains Mansi are a dying breed altogether. (Read more in the BBC article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2238333.stm)
This August 15-23, 2016, (in the wake of celebrating The International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples which is observed on August 9) and thanks to our very fortunate last-minute arrangement with the Russian National Geographic Society and its professional anthropologists, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to know the genuine Mansi culture & lifestyle as it is today in the Sverdlovsk Region!
Courtesy of the local Mansi Culture Center, only 5 outside Participants (pay-for-the-trip laypeople) are allowed to join the Expedition to the remote Mansi settlements! Please continue to our Travel Info section to view the details. Thank you & welcome to our Expedition Team!
“Your travels tell your story. The real magic is that you get a completely different set of experiences & life answers versus your expectations before the journey. If the journey doesn’t surprise you, it’s not worth the trip!”
Mike Anouk, The Expediton's Gatekeeper