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Freedom is inside us

While sitting at our sweet homes, it seems to me that traveling to such a distant corner of the world is difficult and requires a lot of preparation, great health, and superhuman abilities. On the other hand, people like us live there, without gore-tex clothes, vibram shoes, and special insurance cards. During our stay in Tuva we even filmed a short documentary movie about a disabled boy who goes to Tayga together with Rajmund Bagiński just to show that limitations are inside us.

What is really dangerous out there is ourselves. Even if we are riding a boat on still water, when the boat turns upside down, nobody will take us out of this river. A helicopter will not arrive, no services will magically appear. You die. That is why you have to be careful and care for each other not to hurt yourself or anyone. If it is chopping wood, jumping on stones, swimming in a river. If you make a mistake, nature won’t forgive it.

The area around Yenisei river is surrounded by several hundred kilometers of Taiga. No people, no buildings, no roads – only nature. Departure away from the river does not give you many chances to survive if you do not know where you are and where to go.

One day we met an old man, a woman, and a child. They asked for a satellite telephone because their phone was out of power and they urgently needed to call for help. Two men were riding a boat up the river to fish and they did not return for the next two days. They couldn’t get in touch with them. Then all of us realized how dangerous this place might be despite the beautiful weather and incredible nature.

Film crew

There were three of us who left for the expedition: Łukasz Jastrzębski (cinematographer), Jacek Sehnal responsible for sound and additional shots and myself – Andrzej Sobina as a drone and camera operator.

On one hand, we have Tuvans, who are descendants of Mongolians and on the other hand – Russians who live in this region, because it is Russia. We see orthodox churches and Buddhist temples standing next to each other. We see steppe and mountains up to 4000 m above sea level. We experience 36 degrees of Celsius falling to zero. We ride a boat at a large canyon engraved by the river in the middle of an amazing forest stretching for hundreds of kilometers. Also, we were the only tourists in this region, because no train or bus leads to it. You have to take good care of the local residents to get anywhere. In order to show how difficult it is to move around this small region, I will say that we have traveled 120 km for 13 hours of driving, which gives a 10 km / h drive inside the truck through high mountains and gravel roads.

Author: Andrzej Sobina

Film Crew: Łukasz Jastrzębski, Andrzej Sobina, Jacek Sehnal

Producer: Panopticon Films

Client: Tridon Active Excursions

Preparations for excursion

Preparations for an expedition like this lasted for two months or even longer. In retrospect, it seems to me that you can not prepare for it or plan what will happen in its course.

We left for a month – as long as the tourist visa allowed us to stay in Russia. Our goal was the Republic of Tuva located on the border with Mongolia between the mountains of Sajan and Altai. Tuva is crossed by the ribbon of Small Yenisei, which turned out to be larger than we had expected. In Tuva, you can find a geographic center of Asia, exactly in its capital and the only city out there – the city of Kyzyl. This place is pinned with a tall monument of Maral standing on the top of a large globe.

Before leaving, I read Hugo Bader’s travel book “White Rush” because he as the only traveler described reaching so far into this part of Russia down from Abakan. Hugo Bader described this city as a place where the world ends.

Romuald Koperski – another amazing traveler, whose 3 books inspired me to go to Russia decided to turn back from this region and head East.

Fortunately, we went together with and on behalf of another well-known, wonderful traveler Rajmund Baginski who became our great friend after this trip. I think it is impossible not to make friends with someone after a month full of intense experiences like this.

Rajmund gave us one hint before leaving, do not read anything, because nothing will prepare you for this trip. Pack your personal belongings in a 30-liter backpack and this is all you will need. He was right.


We planned the trip to reach the Nadaam festival, which is a unique event in the Republic of Tuva and Mongolia. You can see local dances, costumes, archery, horse riding and amazing Mongolian wrestling. How exceptional this holiday is, let it be testified by the fact that it has been entered on the UNESCO heritage list. It is an opportunity to eat local dishes of mutton milk as well as mutton meat and blood sausage for brave – a local delicacy. In addition, the holiday menu is also affected, because most of the products consumed in Tuva have an origin of mutton and consist mainly of fat.

We also had a lot of fresh fish in our diet as we were on a boat for 2 weeks moving down the Yenisei towards Mongolia.

Following journey

Will we return to Siberia after this trip? I am convinced that yes. It draws you in. It’s like Canada but raw. It is wonderful and natural.

This is a difficult place to shoot movies. We charged batteries with the help of an old and laud Russian aggregate. It’s better to use the analog gear. For example Flycam instead of Ronin.

We lost two drones through difficult conditions and bravado. Fortunately, the second drone fell just before the end of the trip. What I can advise for filmmakers and photographers going on such a trip is to make everything double. Footage should be stored on 3 drives: SD card, Laptop + external drive.

ND and Polarizing filters – double for each lens. Breaking the glass is easy when you drive an old truck across Taiga and all your luggage hits the ceiling of the car. This is the turbulence you can’t imagine. It is almost impossible to buy a professional filter in this part of Russia.

Luggage weight is less important as we moved almost everywhere by car. Only by switching to a boat, we had to limit the equipment and put it to special waterproof bags. The Russians do not distinguish movie gear and were throwing our bags as they usually do, so you have to look after your luggage yourself.

As for the hardware configuration for such a trip, I would advise taking a small reporter camera with a Zoom lens with Auto Focus and a good microphone to shoot what is happening during the trip because sometimes you lose the most interesting moments if they are not recorded. It is a great footage for a documentary movie. This is one thing that we missed during this trip. At that time, there was no Sony FS-5 on sale, but I think it’s the perfect camera to find its place in the luggage. And this is what we will take for the next trip to this region, maybe the north of Siberia. Probably in winter. Also, Patagonia attracts us like a magnet. We will see.