This expedition involved an overland journey from Moscow across the frozen Russian continent in mid winter to Oymyakon, Siberia, the world's coldest permanently inhabited place where in winter the average temperature is -60 degrees celcius. This will form one episode of my upcoming Discovery Channel TV series "Dangerman" With me were camerawoman Rachael Wilson, mountain guide Mark Whetu and Russian interpreter and guide Rob Walker from The Lost World Tours.
Day 1 23rd January 2004
Moscow, the day was spent filming around central Moscow with mixed success, the general method was to start filming and hope we get some film before being told to stop, We were approached by an armed security guard in a coffee shop and told told to stop filming "in case we were working for another shop and getting information on what they charged for their cakes" In Red Square the Kremlin's personal security service stopped us from filming but told us that it was fine from another position only 10 metres away from where were were standing...go figure... I bought a great fur hat for the journey ahead selecting the Arctic rabbit over some of the more exotic fur hats avaliable to avoid an animal rights uproar. I even spotted one woman wearing a hat that looked like it was made from a big old tom cat, complete with tail ! As we prepared to board the Trans Siberian Train for a 2330hr departure at Yaroslavl Station we encountered our biggest problem, Rachael was filming the station when she became involved in a scuffle with two policemen who tried to take her camera, stating that it was prohibited to film the railway station, she wouldn't give it to them, they then demanded the tape and our passports, she took the tape out of the camera and gave it to me but the police spotted her doing this, I refused to give it to them, while the abuse flowed I then passed the tape on to Mark who hid it in the car while I prepared a blank tape to give them, trying to get the telltale wrapper off the blank tape was problematic with gloves on, so I ripped the wrapper off with my teeth and put it in my mouth, and finally we snatched our passports off the police and gave them the blank tape. They walked off, by this time other officials arrived and told us there were no rules against filming and that we could continue, we did without incident. We boarded the train and departed only several minutes late on our epic train journey from Moscow to Irkutsk after stowing over 200 kg of luggage in a tiny 4 man compartment.
Day 2 24th January 2004
We awoke in our warm and quiet train cabin to an endless vista of bleak and desolate countyside covered in deep snow, the occasional town with an un pronounceable Russian name flashed by. A thermometer in one town announced the temperature at 20 celcius below zero in contrast to a flash digital readout in our train car that announced a cozy 21 degrees above zero, a 40 degree temperature difference, we experienced the same filming difficulties at every station we stopped at.
Day 3 25th January 2004
3 time zones later and the same landscape out the window. We pass through Perm and Omsk and it's back into darkness, the sun rises at 9 am and sets at 4 pm.
Day 4 and 5 26th and 27th January 2004
Days 4 and five were spent in Irkutsk and travelling by air up to Yakutsk, the departure point for the road journey up to Oymyakon.
Day 6 28 January 2004
Today was spent filming in and around Yakutsk, the temperature never rose above - 28 degrees Celsius all day. The sun rose at 0900am and set at 3 30 pm.
Day 7 and 8 29th January 2004
We departed Yakutsk at 09 am for the 2 day, 1000km journey to Oymyakon........to Oymyakon arriving at 1 in the morning.
Day 9 and 10 31 January / 01 February 2004
In Oymyakon.. more details when I get time
Days 11, 12 and 13 Feb 02 to 05
The next few days were spent travelling out of Russia with some interesting air travel. The pre flight safety briefing would go something like this.... "In case of loss of cabin pressure forget about the oxygen masks as there aren't any, carry on baggage can be stacked up to the roof in any spare seat, the exits are to the rear but may be blocked by the foriegn film crews excessive luggage, and lastly, smoking is prohibited but as the flight attendants will soon fall asleep for the duration of the flight please feel free to smoke in the toilets "
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