Yamal Permits

Technically, you'll require a permit to venture into the Yamal Peninsula. Until 2003 several travellers managed a trip without one, but recently authorities have been much stricter, and some visitors have been arrested and deported from Russia for permit violations. Check carefully in Salekhard for the latest information before heading out. The strategic gas-production area Bovanyenkogo is especially sensitive.

of the Easter Island Moai heads, albeit in miniature wooden form. Other totems have seven notches, representing the seven levels of the Nenets cosmos. Examples are found near the Bovanyenkogo gas and oil fields, to which a remarkable 4000km pipeline from Western Europe is presently under construction.

The discovery of large natural-gas reserves has raised a lot of interest in the area. Anthropologists and archaeologists are regular visitors, often funded by the gas companies. See www.mnh.si.edu/arctic /html/yamal.htm for a trip report. Recent discoveries include some naturally mummified bodies.

Most Yamal access is from Salekhard by oil-company helicopter, though a new railway line and unsealed road are under construction from Obskaya towards Bovan-yenko. By ferry you can sail up the Ob Gulf to Novi Port (22 hours, roughly weekly in summer). However you travel you'll need to be self-sufficient, with a tent, all food supplies, good local contacts, permits and loads of time.

Note that in summer most of the Nenets herders head far north towards the Kara Sea coast, where the cold winds reduce the mosquito annoyance. The Nenets come south in winter, and on Sunday from mid-March to early April they organise winter games. Notable examples are held in Yar-Sale (the Yamal Peninsula's administrative centre) and most famously in Nadym on the first Sunday in April.

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