Our Aeroflot jet took off at about 8 PM from New York on Saturday night. After settling in my nice large premium economy seat I immediately fell asleep. Airports tire me out. Going through security and walking with all my gear tires out an old man like me. I was awoken by the stewardess coming by with dinner about two hours into the flight. I had the lamb chops and the food was one of my best meals on an airplane. Had some coffee then read some. I tried to view a movie, but all the movies were in Russian. A woman sitting next to me was from Belarus and she talked fluent English so we had a nice long conversation about our countries, my photography and why I am going to Kamchatka. She has never been to Kamchatka so she could not give me any thoughts on what I am about to experience. When the lights were turned down, I fell back to sleep for the long trip over the Ocean. I was awoken by another stewardess serving breakfast. We were about three hours away from landing so I decided to eat breakfast and then stay up.
We then landed in Moscow at about 11:30 AM. By the way, when I checked my suitcase in at JFK, I was told that my bag would be routed all the way through to Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. I would not have to pick up my luggage in Moscow and would only have to go through immigration there and customs later. I thought to myself. What are the chances that my luggage makes it all the way? Good luck on that.
The international airport in Moscow is named Sheremetyevo Airport for a Russian poet of this name. None of the airplanes pull up to the terminals, but you disembark on the ground and take a large bus to the arrivals terminal. Odd for such a large airport in such a major city.
I am traveling with two other people in the group. Donna is from New Jersey and Rich is from Connecticut. We found a nice lounge near our gate and settled in for the layover until we had to board our next flight. At about 3 PM we met two other participants in the workshop. Marcela is from Mexico and Kiko lives in Lima. Both Marcela and Kiko have spent a day in Moscow before the second leg of this journey.
At 4 PM we went to our gate and got on the bus to be taken to our airplane for the trip to Petropavlovsk. So lets rehash a minute. Moscow is seven hours ahead of New York and Petropavlovsk is nine hours ahead of Moscow. This means that our final destination is sixteen hours ahead of New York. I settled into my large premium seat and was sitting next to a beautiful Russian woman who spoke no English. We were first served a full course meal and then myself and my aisle mate tried to converse through an app and my photography. I got much further with the photography and realized that photography is indeed a universal language. I then fell asleep again. Could not stay awake even if I tried and I really tried. About six hours into the flight I was woken up by another stewardess offering another meal. I turned her down. I could not eat anymore airplane food if I tried. I then stayed up and read for most of the remaining trip.
We finally landed in Petropavlovsk Kamchatka at about 10 AM Monday morning. What a voyage. It seemed like I was traveling forever and on a spinning wheel going around and around. We disembarked on the tarmac and where then led into a large bubble covered room where there was a large conveyor belt to pick up your luggage. How I wished I would see my large black suitcase. There were lots of people crammed into this small area and then I finally saw it. my beautiful large black suitcase. My heart was pounding with joy. The five of us then walked out the airport and no customs check.
The airport looks like it was left over from another era. Most of the buildings were old looking plain buildings with some interesting smaller homes and buildings amongst the plain box like structures. I had previously seen these kind of buildings in Western Mongolia.
We then all boarded a large van for our forty minute drive to our hotel. Dimetri, one of our guides, told us that it starts to snow in early October and doesn’t to end until the beginning of May. Our hotel is quite basic. My room has two single beds and is very plain. In the lobby is a large stuffed bear. We were told to not wander far outside since the local bears are foraging.
At 2:45 we met for a drive to a volcano museum and an explanation of the volcanoes we are going to visit. A young man, who was very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English, gave us the grand tour. Kamchatka sits on top of three large plates in the earth and that is the reason why there is so much volcanic activity here. A volcano is a crack in the earth to relieve some of the pressure that has been building up underground. Smoke, steam, hot ash and lava could be emitted from the earth or a combination of them to help relieve some of the pressure. Hopefully we will experience most of these releases.
At about 4:30 we boarded our van for the drive back to the hotel and dinner. One thing that I have already observed is that I have never seen such beautiful wild flowers as are growing here. The colors are simply beautiful.
We arrived back at the hotel at 6 PM for dinner. I am so exhausted and can hardly stay up. We had a wonderful dinner of various local fish and then I topped it off by having some borsch. The borsch was so good. Reminded me of my Russian heritage. More on that later.
I need to go to sleep now. We leave at 7:30 AM for our real adventure. I will probably not connect with anyone until the trip is over since we will be camping out and the internet will be non existent. I will still write my daily blogs and then send them to you one each day when I return home.
Heres to an adventure that i imagined for a long time.