The Kamchatka Peninsula on the far east end of Russia is actually an island. Oh, sure — Google Maps will make it look like it’s actually connected to the rest of Asia, but between the volcanoes, swamps and complete lack of roads leading into the region, it may as well be in the middle of the Bering Sea.
Nevertheless, in 2016, a group of expert explorers braved the inhospitable conditions and trekked 2,000 miles from the starting point of Magadan, west of the peninsula, around the Sea of Okhotsk to the Kamchatka city of Petropavlovsk. The Drive published a fascinating story about their journey and no matter how many times I read it, it still seems like a thing that shouldn’t be possible:
First off, you need a few details concerning the starting point, Magadan. Originally founded in 1930 as a transportation hub for the forced labor camps—the Gulags—in the area, the port city is located about 250 miles west of the peninsula, sitting across the Sea of Okhotsk. It has a population of just about 100,000 people and the distinction of having at least one road connecting it to other parts of Russia, even if it just runs to the Siberian city of Yakutsk, often referred to as the coldest city on the planet.
All this to say is even the most realistic starting point for a Kamchatka expedition is way the hell out there. The closest major settlement to Magadan that you’ve maybe heard of is...well...there really are none. It’s closer to Montana than it is to Moscow. And it just so happens to be the home of three hardy off-roaders named Anatoly Subotin, Nikolay Dekhonov, and Sergey Yakovlev.
To complete the journey, the five off-roaders hailing from Magadan and Vladivostok built two trucks: a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, and another that loosely resembles a Suzuki Escudo. I say “loosely” because this one happens to have six wheels riding on massive Avtoros low-pressure tires, as well as a sizable cab at the back that can accommodate four people. Almost nothing underneath appears to be stock, and you probably wouldn’t recognize this thing started life as a Suzuki if not for its headlights. Surely, they’d give the arctic trucks of Greenland a run for their money.
It took the group 23 days to make it to Petropavlovsk, and that was after they’d already dropped supplies at multiple points along their planned route months in advance. Temperatures were regularly well beyond 30 degrees below zero, as a trip like this can really only be made in the winter when the ground is frozen solid.
I don’t want to spoil any more of the story, so just go read the whole thing for yourself, but definitely expect creative solutions to myriad mechanical problems and teeth-gritting photos of predicaments that would surely doom less-seasoned travelers.