We traveled all over Russia and crashed only one snowmobile




In 2021-2022, the camera crews of Russia Beyond traveled all over Russia within the project ‘Russia: 85 adventures’ — to shoot short videos about what one can do in the country’s different regions.

Each video from the project ‘Russia: 85 adventures’ is just a minute long, but filled with a quintessence of emotions, impressions and experiences, while filmed vertically. Behind each video were weeks of planning, days of filming, crazy relocation logistics and the desire of the project’s creators to see the truly uncharacteristic Russia — and then show it to you! We talked to Russia Beyond’s producers — Yulia Akimova, Mikhail Khokhlov and Nikita Andreev — about the most vivid moments and impressions from traveling all around the country.

Russia: 85 adventures

With such an amount of filming and moving around, problems and difficulties are inevitable. Did you have a moment when you thought that you shouldn’t even have got involved?

Yulia: First, it happened in Altai, when we blew a tire. We went to film an American farmer named Justus Walker. He lives very far away from civilization and it’s five kilometers to the closest village; on top of that, it was winter, everything was buried in snow...

He told us, "You won’t reach me by car, I’ll send a worker with a tractor." We left our car half-way to him in a forest. On the tractor, they took us to the farm and we filmed everything we wanted. Then, they fed our camera crew and then we had a breezy ride back to our car. In a jolly mood, we were driving to spend the night in Barnaul and board a plane back home early in the morning.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Suddenly, Mikhail said, "Guys, we have an issue with a wheel." We got out; the wheel was completely deflated. We had a spare, but no one knew how to take it off from under the bottom of this particular SUV. We were looking for buttons, levers or at least some clues. The guys crawled under the car, tried to unscrew something with their hands.

Yulia Akimova

Mikhail: It was -20 degrees Celsius and we spent a whole hour on the ground under the car, trying to get the spare wheel off.

Yulia: Midnight struck. Our options: either walk back to the village or back to the farm. We were surrounded by a forest, most likely full of wolves. But there was nothing we could have done, and we were already starting to freeze. It was impossible to carry our equipment five kilometers through snowdrifts, so we left it in the car. We rolled the SUV to the side of the road, locked it and made our way back to Justus. In the end, he let us sleep on the floor of his cheese factory.

When we tell this story to people, everyone asks, "Why didn’t you look up how to get the spare off on the Internet?" My reply: "Guys, let me repeat: a forest, Altai Territory. What Internet are you talking about?" Justus had a signal, although a very weak one. We sent a message to Moscow and our colleagues described to us in text how to get a spare off of this SUV.

Good thing that, the next morning, when Justus took us to our car, he also took a pump, because the spare was deflated, as well. But then, it was just a matter of time: the guys changed the wheel, pumped it and we drove off.

Yulia Akimova

What was the secret with this spare?

Yulia: There was a special wrench in the kit that was supposed to be assembled from three rods. It was unclear how to put these three rods together and then slot it into a very small hole on the bumper. No one even realized it was used for something.

Yulia Akimova

Mikhail: Then we had a very nasty situation in the Komi Republic, when we went to the Manpupuner Plateau on snowmobiles. These snowmobiles were flipping all the time. We rolled knee-high into icy rivers. One night, I just flew off the snowmobile; everyone else kept going and I was left alone on the river.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Yulia Akimova

They didn’t notice? Were you driving last?

Mikhail: I was sitting in the passenger seat behind the driver, on the last snowmobile and we rolled over a bump. I fell off. Snowmobile engines are very loud. I shouted, but no one heard me, they just turned the corner. And that’s it, the last snowmobile lamp dimmed in the distance. Only darkness and silence was around me. And with each step, you fall knee-deep or even waist-deep into snow.

Artem Osin

For how long did you wait?

Yulia: Not too long, our guide was periodically looking back and counting heads. And then he looked at Artem Osin, the operator, who was riding with Mikhail: "Where’s the other one?" In silence, we just turned around and went looking for him.

Yulia Akimova

In the end, Mikhail fell off the snowmobile three or four times. The snowmobiles’ handrails are not very useful. The guide also told us we happened to go there in the worst weather possible for a snowmobile ride. So, every now and then, we got stuck, snowmobiles flipped, people got lost and we also fell through the ice of the Pechora River.

Yulia Akimova

At one point, three of four of our snowmobiles were out of gas. We were riding across wet snow, so their fuel consumption was insane. We didn’t even have enough energy to get scared. We were like, "Okay, we’ll hang around the impassable and cold taiga in the night, that’s alright. The remaining snowmobile will go and bring some gas for everyone."

Mikhail Khokhlov

One snowmobile crashed into a tree, right?

Yulia: Yes, that was me. Almost all the way, cameraman Maxim Dorokhov was driving my snowmobile. He’s a large man, weighing probably more than 100 kilos. To make a difficult turn on our snowmobile model, Maxim had to lean left or right with all his weight. By the evening he usually was all sweaty and tired from this inhuman effort. On the fourth day, we were going through a trodden forest path, not on Pechora’s ice anymore. And Maxim told me, "Listen, I’m very tired. Please, take the wheel."

Maxim Dorokhov

All the other snowmobiles had a metal frame that protected the sides and important nodes, but we had no such frame. For about two hours and a half we briskly followed the rest of the guys. Our guide was in a hurry to return the snowmobiles to another group.

Artem Osin

During one of the turns, our snowmobile skidded heavily and we suddenly stopped. The hit was quite hard. I found myself on the snowmobile’s steering wheel. Maxim fell somewhere. We checked ourselves; it seemed we were okay, no broken bones or blood. Turned out, I rammed an aspen tree with a spindle that connects the front ski with the snowmobile itself. All the other guys had already moved on. We had no signal, so we couldn’t even report that we had a problem with our transport.

Mikhail Khokhlov

In the end, we somehow connected it in a way that the snowmobile could move slowly and barely managed to catch up with the rest of the guys.

Well, Nikita, do you have anything in store to beat that story?

Nikita: Most of my incidents were with communications. The most vivid moment happened in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. There, at the local TIC (tourist-information center) they told us: "there’s a reindeer herder for you, he has reindeer, he has a family and they all will wait for you in traditional costumes." We arrived at the place and, thar=t same day, the reindeer herder got blind drunk. We went to sleep and the next morning we learned he went away and could no longer film him. There were no reindeer, either. At some point, he returned with a wounded leg, telling us he needed to go to a hospital and left again.

We stayed to spend the night at this house, since, without escort vehicles, it was almost impossible to return back to the city. On top of that, this reindeer herder left us with his two kids. He overworked his diesel generator during his last bender night, so we had no electricity. Thankfully, we had an autonomous lighting device that we took along for filming. That’s what we used.

Nikita Andreev

At some point, one of the kids banged their toe and started bleeding on the floor a bit. So, we used our first aid kit that I had not touched prior.

Nikita Andreev

The most impressive regions

How many Russian regions each of you visited in total?

Yulia: I visited 51, I’m not as avid a car driver as Mikhail. He believes that if a person visited less than 50 regions there’s nothing to talk about with them.

Mikhail: Yes, I have 71.

Nikita: About 40.

What region would you like to return to without thinking twice?

Yulia: Altai Republic, 100%.

Yulia Akimova

Mikhail: Agreed. Every time you visit, your soul stays there. It’s weird. Caucasian mountains are more beautiful and epic. But an unreal force lives in Altai. You connect with the earth. An unusual feeling. It’s not the prettiest of places, there are locations that are more epic. But there’s something in it that you treat as your first school crush.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Yulia: I’m also absolutely in love with what I call the South-Siberian loop: a circular route from Khakassia to Tyva, then to the Krasnoyarsk Territory and back to Khakassia.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Artem Osin

And also Chukotka, of course. Although it’s hard to reach the most beautiful locations of the region, you need a lot of luck. All the locals told us, "You won’t have your flight on the date you booked your tickets for." The day before we experienced a July blizzard; yes, that’s normal there, but, in the end, both of our flights went as planned. In general, Chukotka is unbelievable, but it’s hard to recommend it for a visit, since, due to the weather, you may not even be able to leave Anadyr.

Yulia Akimova

Mikhail: Chukotka is the most unusual and beautiful from what I’ve seen in Russia. It’s like you discover Atlantis in Chukotka. A different world, different landscapes. Their mountains are not that tall. There’s not a single spot you can put your eye on and say: "That’s a distinct landmark." But, the surroundings overall consume you with colors, fogs, shapes and vastness.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Tell me more about your travels in Chukotka.

Mikhail: First, we, with some adventures due to flight cancellations, arrived in Anadyr; then, a trip to the village of Provideniya awaited us, which is the one that could have been delayed for a month, due to bad weather. Then, we reached the sea shore in an amphibious vehicle, switched to a motorboat and spent an hour reaching a cordon in the Senyavina Strait. That’s how we found ourselves in the Beringia National Park.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Yulia: There, you stay with your belongings in a wooden house for four-five days. From that cordon, which belongs to the National Park, guides take you to the whale alley and the Eskimo villages.

Mikhail Khokhlov

During one filming day, we spent 11 hours in a cold motorboat. There was no roof or any conveniences either: it was just a steel boat with seats in it. Sunset arrived, such a long sunset, in fact, it’s not even a sunset but an eternal white night. And suddenly we saw whales.

Artem Osin

We filmed them for two hours with no breaks. Just gunning away with all we had: drones, cameras, phones. The complex part is, you never know where a whale could surface. It’s not like it tells you, "I’ll surface right here!" And you say, "Great, wave your fin at me. Let me adjust the focus." It’s scary, too, because they’re so large. You think it’ll flip the boat if it swims underneath. But, thank god, nothing like that happened.

Mikhail Khokhlov

When our guide suggested we return to the cordon, we begged him to give us a few more minutes, so we said, "Give us just the chance to look at the whales with our own eyes, not through a camera or drone controls."

Mikhail Khokhlov

Let’s return to other regions. What else was memorable?

Yulia: Also the Primorsky Territory. I adore Vladivostok’s Yubileynaya Embankment, the vibe of this city and the beauty of the bays around it.

Yulia Akimova

Mikhail Khokhlov; Yulia Akimova

Mikhail: Yes, Vladivostok is the only place in Russia where such a modern and interesting atmospheric city combines with cool nature. Many regions have great nature, for example Magadan Region or Zabaykalsky Territory, but they don’t have a city you’d move to. If I was to move to some Russian city, it would be Vladivostok: atmosphere, sea, nature! Also, you can buy or rent a motorboat or a kayak and sail the sea, because the water’s color is out of this world and there’s a lot of animals. Scallops lay right under your feet. Although, they say their winters are harsh!

Yulia Akimova

Nikita: My selection is more modest, so I’d name Arkhangelsk Region, Adygea and Yekaterinburg.

Arkhangelsk by itself is a fine city, but it’s really beautiful there at Lake Kenozero.

Nikita Andreev

Nikita Andreev

Adygea is on the list for its endless Caucasian nature. There’s a lot of plains, mountains, rivers and waterfalls.

And third — Yekaterinburg. The city itself has a lot of contrasts, it’s very cool, modern, it has its own life unlike those of other "millionaire" cities and it’s really interesting there.

Mikhail: I’d also note Zabaykalsky Territory and the Chara Sands. This is the most unusual location of all for me, because around it there are swamps, forests, some regular flatlands and then a desert begins. And in the background, three-kilometer-tall mountains stand like a wall. So you literally can traverse the swamp, hunting for berries, then you find yourself in a forest, set up a tent and then walk up to the desert. With mountains in the background. All literally in one place. Sunsets, sunrises, indescribable contrasts!

Ivan Krasovsky; Mikhail Khokhlov

Yulia Akimova

Yulia: I’ll add the Caucasus. It’s impossible to highlight specific regions there, because I can’t choose between, say, Dagestan or Chechnya. It’s all cool!

When people ask me, "Isn’t it dangerous? It’s the Caucasus!" I say, "Why, the biggest danger there is that your eyes will pop from such beauty or they’ll feed you to death there. You just can’t eat so much tasty food."

Ruslan Babkin

Mikhail:In Chechnya, our guides rescued us from the locals who insisted we would visit them as guests. The guides told us, "Don’t do it, they’ll make you stay the night and will feed you non-stop." We still had filming to do!

Ruslan Babkin

The most delicious dishes

Since we’re in that territory, I have a question: what are the most delicious dishes you’ve tried in the Russian regions?

Yulia: A dessert in the Altai.

Mikhail: My eyes popped when I tried it. It’s a mix of pine nuts, ice-cold cranberries or lingonberries. With condensed milk on top and also a spruce or cedar cone, soft, from a jelly jar. Sour ice-cold berries with nuts and warm sweet condensed milk. All in one spoon at once. How does it feel? Like going to space.

Yulia: We even came there for a second time to eat this dessert, although it was way out of our way.

I also really liked trying reindeer meat in the Nenets Autonomous Area in a hunter’s restaurant. I went there several times. Even managed to pop into a store before my flight to bring this most delicate meat home.

The nomads usually just boil reindeer meat, I don’t really like it. But a reindeer steak — that’s what I’m talking about! Nikita doesn’t like reindeer meat at all, though.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Nikita: Can’t stand it. I’m not really used to Russian cuisine. So, due to my gastronomic preferences, I usually go looking for an Asian eatery in every city, especially for Thai cuisine. I think I explored all the Asian cafes in all the regions I’ve visited.

Although a Caesar salad from Birobidzhan was the most memorable. It had really seared into my mind. There’s no mayo in it or cheese. They add hummus and some bland croutons. Not really matzah, but something similar.

Yulia: Also fresh caviar in Chukotka. The locals at times gave us the fish they caught, some of it had roe inside. They taught us how to make five-minute caviar.

The roe is wrapped in something like a film. Each individual roe is attached to this film, you have to separate it carefully with a spoon and put it in a bowl. Then you salt it, wait and eat. At first, we didn’t know what to do with this film and we ate it, as well. But the national park director taught us in the end how to do everything right.

Is it convenient to travel across Russia?

What are the peculiarities of traveling across such a vast country?

Yulia: I like that, even in the tourist places, you can find the truth of life. In Tyva, we went to a babushka that was always accommodating tourists. A tourist attraction, it might seem. But, I understand that, apart from the fact that this babushka put on a pretty Tyvan robe for us, in everything else she lives exactly as she shows us: she eats this cheese she makes in sheep’s intestines and shepherds over her herd.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Yulia Akimova

Nikita: Unfortunately, there are still places that are pure tourist attractions. For example, Plyos in Ivanovo Region for me is still the strangest and the most useless point on the tourist map of Russia. This is such a stupidly touted city; I have no clue how this city works from the standpoint of tourist attractiveness and I still wonder how and why so many people go there.

The big problem is, our entire service sector is based on the fact that people will come visiting in any case. So you don’t even have to try. You would still want to look at the Rufabgo waterfalls in Adygea, so we’ll put a 250-ruble fee on just crossing the bridge. And you can only approach these waterfalls via this bridge. The park visit is free of charge, the bridge is not... very convenient.

Mikhail: I’ve grown so used to hard conditions and bad infrastructure over this year and a half that it seems normal to me. Objectively, however, for the majority of people it will be harsh in the most interesting places in Russia. Anyone can travel to the Golden Ring of Russia or go to Altai hotels.

Yulia Akimova

But, the problem is, you probably won’t be able to see the entire Altai from a good Altai hotel. However, if you put some effort into reaching some kind of climber training camp... If you first drive a car for a while, then switch to an UAZ vehicle, then walk some more — then you’ll see the coolest parts.

After all, in Russia, to see the most interesting things, you have to put in effort and agree to hiking conditions, sometimes even spartan ones. For example, when you sleep in a sleeping bag with a one-liter bottle of hot water so you won’t freeze. Then you’ll have the chance to see the exciting things.

Mikhail Khokhlov

How did this project change you

How did this project impact you personally?

Yulia: I realized that I knew nothing about Russia. My opinion about the country hasn’t grown better or worse, I simply perceive it differently now. They say, "Russia is a multinational, multiconfessional country," but you understand it best when you travel by yourself and talk to the locals in the regions.

Mikhail Khokhlov

I don’t like to compare Paris to Kyzyl. Sometimes you want to visit Paris, sometimes Kyzyl. Of course, there’s downsides: terrible roads or something else. But, I was astounded by some places — so beautiful they are and how much they are underappreciated.

Mikhail Khokhlov

Mikhail: I’ve always been interested in Russia. Yes, when I was younger, I wanted to visit abroad more, to see what’s there. But, when you begin to travel to such different Russian regions, your interest towards them grows more and more, it’s exciting.

Before I didn’t want to return anywhere. But when filming ‘Russia: 85 adventures’, many times I caught myself thinking, "I will surely come here again." I couldn’t tear myself off the window when we were taking off from Chukotka, from Provideniya. I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to return the next day. Although it’s very harsh there, there’s nothing to eat, it’s cold and gray. But there’s this certain something.

Artem Osin

Watch all of the 85 adventures here.

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