YPT International Tour Manager Shane talks you through his recent camping holiday! However, being the Soviet history nerds and pursuers of adventure travel that we are, we swapped the south of France for a former Soviet gulag in the far east of Russia! Here’s how it went:
The Russian far East is home to many former Soviet gulags but one in Magadan Oblast stands out as being one of the best preserved of all. It’s exceptional condition and relative ease of access to foreigners make it well known to Soviet history nuts.
The Dneprovski mine still holds much of its infrastructure today. It’s been seventy years since it housed hundreds of Soviet “enemies of the state”. Watchtowers, rail tracks, carts, barbed wire fences, huts and graveyards are scattered throughout this vast and rugged facility. One doesn’t have to think too hard to wonder what conditions were like in the camp’s heyday of the late 1940’s and early 50’s.
YPT ran our first trip to the gulag last August and it’s fair to say we had a very memorable experience camping out in the middle of the gulag under the stars, hundreds of miles from civilization. The journey from Magadan city takes around six hours. The long drive takes you along the labor-constructed road of bones, through abandoned towns and towards Yakutsk in a classic Russian workhorse mega truck – the Kamaz. Accompanying us was our own cook, translator, lumberjack and guide/bear hunter. Black bears are common so we were each required to carry our own flares just in case. Kind of disappointingly, we did not get to use them.
We spent two days hiking through the Dneprovski mine whilst our incredible cook slaved over the stove. Every time we returned to camp in the evening, a Michelin star meal would materialize in front of us! When it was time to return to Magadan city, we hit the beach (indispensable cook and lumberjack in toe). We frolicked with fishermen, chatted and dined with local families, hosted our own little beach party. Of course, this ended in a very brisk dip in the icy sea of Okhotsk!
Even though it’s well known and quite accessible, it’s remote location in the far east means that its not a cheap holiday by any means. Until now that is! We have created the cheapest possible tour to Magadan and the Dneprovski mine, with return flights to Moscow included. It is a remote Russian Oblast that should be seen and experienced by the many and not the few.