The Caspian Challenge: To kayak all 2,300 miles of the Volga River in Russia– solo and self-supported. An epic endeavour that aims to raise at least £1 a mile for Hope and Homes for Children.
To the outsider, Russia is a bit of an enigma. Coming from the UK, it’s also just mind-blowingly huge in size. On my wall map of Russia, the Volga River, being Europe’s longest river at 2,300 miles, barely seems to scratch the surface of the country – a country that covers 11 time zones. I’ll confess that more than once, I’ve found the idea of 3 months in Russia more than a little daunting and quite intimidating at times.
It’s hard to think of Russia without also thinking of its stereotypes: harsh Siberian winters, political controversy, the discipline and beauty of Russian ballet, the vodka, the beetroot soup and also the Russian movie villains that always seem to be planning some kind of unspeakable mischief (especially in James Bond films). In fact, I hadn’t really noticed just how many movie villains tended to be Russian until I started planning the Caspian Challenge! If I’m honest, now less than 2 weeks away from visiting for the first time, I don’t really know what to expect. Any preconceptions I did have of a terribly serious and stern nation have already been shaken by the great deal of support and warmth I’ve received in the preparation stages for this challenge. Without exception, each and every Russian person and organisation I’ve encountered have gone out of their way to be helpful and supportive. I feel that there’s a great deal of pride involved in being Russian and also for the river often referred to as the “Mother Volga”.
A few months ago, I felt so nervous for choosing Russia as the setting for my challenge but curious enough to delve a little deeper and to continue preparations so that I might find out for myself. Some of those nerves undoubtedly remain but much more, I feel excited to discover the charm of Russia for myself – beyond the headlines, beyond the stereotypes. It feels a bit like getting ready be introduced to the significant other of a friend that you’ve heard wonderful things about.
Russia, I can’t wait to meet you.
The Charity: Hope and Homes
The UK-based charity works with willing governments across Central and Eastern Europe and Africa, helping to get abandoned and orphaned children out of institutions and into loving families. www.hopeandhomes.co.uk
Fundraising page: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/caspianchallenge