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The Frenchman who brings his love of Siberia to the world

By The Siberian Times reporter
04 January 2014

Famous traveller and film director Nicolas Vanier embarks on a new epic dog sled trip.

'My dogs, like their ancestors, wolves, cover dozens of miles at a time. When the track is in good condition, they can go up to 150 km in 24 hours with an average speed of 15 km an hour', Nicolas Vanier said. Picture: Nicolas Vanier 

From the shores of the Pacific to the world's coldest lake in the heart of Siberia, this is a snowy journey the intrepid adventurer is ready to share with the world. His trip of almost 6000 km - named Wild Odyssey or L'Odyssee Sauvage - started in the Vanino district of the Russian Far East  takes in Manchuria, Northern Mongolia, and Sayan Mountains before arriving on the shores of Lake Baikal in March.

Senegal-born adventurist Vanier, 51,  is no stranger to Siberia. His film Loup - The Wolf - was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and features the life of Evens reindeer herders in the Verkhoyansk Mountains of the Sakha Republic and in particular their fight for survival with wolves.   

'Wild Odyssey' will be the third and final stage of the Vanier's expedition trilogy which began with 'White Odyssey' in 1999 when he ventured across the North American Far North from Skagway - in Alaska - to Quebec on sled dogs in less than 100 days, a route covering 8600 km. The second adventure - 'Siberian Odyssey'- took place in 2005-06 involving. The length of the expedition took over 8000 km across Siberia. 

Nicolas Vanier-film loupe-wolf

Film Loup - The Wolf - was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and features the life of Evens reindeer herders in the Verkhoyansk Mountains of the Sakha Republic

Vanier is a 30 year veteran with travelling by dogs. He has written more than 40 books, while also making 20 films and participated in 20 expeditions. He ushered in the New Year in Khabarovsk having arrived from the Pacific coast. 

'The most striking impression was near the village of Datta (Vanino district). Our guide took us to his winter hut on the top of a hill, and on one side was seen the ocean, and on the other taiga - this is a very beautiful place,' he said.

His goal? 'We travel through three countries - Russia, China and Mongolia. In each territory I will see how people live, talk about their problems, about their joys, touch upon the problems of the Amur River, where there was a strong flood, whether this is due to climate change or environmental.'

His team numbers 10 and he is accompanied by a film crew from French channel RTL.

'We are moving day and night. Under the light of a lantern we go with the dogs on the way that a small team of logisticians together with hunters, trappers and nomads paved for us. My dogs, like their ancestors, wolves, cover dozens of miles at a time. When the track is in good condition, they can go up to 150 km in 24 hours with an average speed of 15 km an hour.

'Each 'pass' lasts about 6 hours and is punctuated by short breaks, useful for raising the spirits.' 

Nicolas Vanier in Khabarovsk with locals

Nicolas Vanier ushered in the New Year in Khabarovsk having arrived from the Pacific coast. Picture: Nicolas Vanier

He is respectful to those who pull his special taxi across these frozen landscapes. 

'At each stop I make time for each of the dogs, talk to them, check the condition of the clutches.'

Now in China before his return to Siberia in March, he said of the start of his trip in December: 'The sun shines brightly, is dry and cold weather, the thermometer shows minus 25C. A group of pupils came to see off 'French man', as they call me, and his dogs. 

'A few metres from me are the waves of the Pacific crashing on the frozen shore, giving colour to this magical moment. During this journey me and my dogs plan to explore the endless white expanses, to dissolve in a magical atmosphere that you can only find in the North, this cold and pale light of the Northern winter'.

See Nicolas with children from the village of Vanino, and on way with his dogs. All pictures below: Nicolas Vanier

Nicolas Vanier in Vanino with local kids


Nicolas Vanier starts his trip in Vanino


Nicolas Vanier with his dogs in Russian Far East


Nicolas Vanier with his dogs moves through the Far Eastern forest

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