When I was last here 19 years ago, there were no cars in the village during the summer. That’s because the Bikin River separated the village from the road system. In the winter, when the river was frozen, vehicles would cross over on the ice.
In 1996, the village was connected to the road system by a series of three bridges built a couple of hundred yards downriver. Ironically, the village today is more isolated than it was two decades ago. That’s because the road on the other side of the river is now in worse shape. It’s so bad now that the bus between Krasny Yar and Luchegorsk, the nearest significant town, stopped running a few years ago. It takes 3.5 to 6 hours now to drive to Luchegorsk, located some 60 miles away. When we traveled on the road, we stopped our vehicle four times because we were so nauseous. Ihila nearly vomited .
It appears about a third of the villages households today have cars, but most are broken down and sit as junk in their owners’ yards. The people here have no experience with cars. The typically bought cheap, old cars, drove them around the village until they stopped working, and pushed them into their yards or to the side of the road, where they sit today.
There is no system in place for removing the junk cars. It would be enormously expensive to haul them to Luchegorsk.
A group of Japanese environmentalists are concerned about the junk in the village and will be coming this fall to discuss ways to help the village create a system for removing the cars and other large piece of metal.