Another week and another great story from one of our customers of life on the Trans-Siberian! So without further ado …
Hoping you are all well down there at the bottom of the world. This is going to be a very incomplete account of things (as far as we are concerned anyway) as it has been basically a month since I sent the last “brag” and there is just too much to tell.
Anyway, as briefly as I can, we are basically winding up the Russian leg of our travels and it has been absolutely amazing.
The ship trip down the Chukotka/Kamchatka coast was quite fantastic. As a reminder – we were on the same Russian ex-research ship (Prof. Krohmov/Spirit of Enderby) as we were on over last Xmas/New Year down in the Sub-Antarctic islands so I won’t explain the boat life in any detail except that this time we only had 35 paying passengers as opposed to 48 last time and were only about 4 that some of us thought we’d like to throw overboard so a good time was had socially as well as the activities. Had great weather, mainly cool but only one bad day that was wet and really rough and couldn’t get out in the zodiacs, which was pretty good in a region that has a reputation of much mist and few views. We certainly got the views and couldn’t have been better for all the beautiful volcanos of Kamchatka.
Saw many animals - walruses, bears, arctic foxes (I want one!), a red fox, dolphins, 7 species of whales including apparently a rarely sighted Baird’s Beaked whale, sea otters, seals (yea well), Steller’s sea eagles, puffins, kittywakes and many more birds.
A bear enjoying a swim
The title of this image was 'Arctic fox - I want one!' ... who wouldn't!
Whale watching near Kamchatka
And visiting some of the villages that Rodney (owner of the expedition company and leader of the arctic expeditions) has built up a trust and rapport with was pretty special and gave us a good feel of how life is way out in eastern Siberia – man it would be harsh in winter!!!
Really was a fantastic couple of weeks but pretty full on getting changed about 4 times a day, on and off the zodiacs once if not twice daily, lectures, debriefings – man we were busy!!
Travelling west on the Trans-Siberian
And the trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway has been quite something. Disembarked the Prof. Krohmov at Petrapavlosk Kamchastky and flew to Vladivostok where we had a couple of nights to stop the lurching and loved it. Think we have both decided it is our favourite Russian city. From there we commenced our/the Trans-Siberian railway journey, getting off at Irkutsk and taking a trip down to Lake Baikal on a small hydrofoil which was pretty cool apart from it running aground, the hatch above our heads blowing off and then completely konking out in what seemed like the middle of the lake – we did a lot of bonding with our fellow Russian passengers that day!
Provodnista's gathering outside the train
The trains have been something else really. Our little compartment (admittedly we were traveling first class) with our seats folding into two beds, TV, towels and wee cubbyholes to put things, big windows with views both sides meticulous (shared) bathrooms that are regularly cleaned, a diner with really good food (contrary to what the Lonely Planet says). And then there are the Providnistas, the women that look after your carriage – VERY important people! Can’t talk more highly of the railway system here and although I know it is Russia’s life line, it leaves us for dead with the services! On time to the minute every time.
The scenery Russian past the train window (rushing, Russian, get it?)
Stopped again for a night in Krasnoyarsk wandering and getting a feel for things, a day stop in Novosibirsk, the only wet day so far so sploshed around the town for the day and back on the train for Moscow. I had been to Moscow and St Petersburg back in 1978 and couldn’t believe the difference – quite beautiful now, modern, clean and the buildings are something. Went to the Bolshoi Ballet one night (Giselle) as you do when in Moscow! And although we were probably the most underdressed in the audience (some people use it as an excuse to dress up and were certainly some Fab sights) and not thinking we were really “ballet people” we actually loved it and the atmosphere. Did the usual Red Square/Kremlin thing but also we had to experience another aspect of life in Moscow – a trip to the doctor. I had a bit of a tendonitis problem in my foot, compounded by a sprained ankle, and it finally got the better of me. An amazing experience it was as my Dr Denis was fantastic, spoke good English, X-rayed it and found the problem which unfortunately can’t be completely rectified just now a needs a little op but he gave a good diagnosis, instructions and gave me what seem to be wonderful Russian drugs & ointments and voila I am off bounding again!
The magnificent St Basil's in Moscow
Now in St Petersburg and wandered around doing the usual touristy things. Staying in a really neat boutique hotel (Rachmaninov Antique Hotel) which is very quirky with stark traces back to the Soviet era. And yes Rachmaninov used to board here once upon a time. And tomorrow we are off on the train to Helsinki, Finland.
We are both quite sad to be leaving Russia although it has been constant so are quite tired. Have been so lucky with the weather, the time of year that we are visiting is perfect coz the autumn colours really enhances the scenery in the countryside and most importantly the people just keep blowing us away with their friendliness, generosity of time to help us overcome the language barrier, and also in giving us little gifts, just all over the place is quite extraordinarily great and quite the contrary to what a lot of westerners would have us believe. When we were at the airport in Nome, Alaska an American who was assisting our ship group commented “beware over there [Russia] they are paranoid”. Well he couldn’t have been more wrong and are inclined to think it is America that is paranoid! We have had a very special time and love the country!
Well that is enough as have shed a tear for Russia and are now in Helsinki. Are about to hire a motorhome and spend 2 weeks motoring around Finland, Norway and Sweden.
So “dasvidanya” and my hearty congratulations to those that have gotten to the end of this epistle!!!
Me & He (Sarah & Barrie)
Got the travel bug?
I am hugely jealous of this incredible trip, particularly the trip to Kamchatka. Did you know that there are no roads connecting the Kamchatka Peninsula’s main city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the rest of Russia, making it one of the most isolated and remote large cities in the world!
If you fancy following in their footsteps in Kamchatka, or along the Trans-Siberian, get in touch with our travel team and see what they can do for you!