Tuesday, September 4, 2007
In June of 2006 I received a phone call from Will Blair of The Best of Kamchatka. I was surprised to hear from our outfitter. He was supposed to be on the peninsula, welcoming his first of 13 fishing groups to the fabled wilderness of Russia. Bad news was imminent. Due to the loss of FAA status, the Russian airline that was scheduled to transport us to the Kamchatkan hub Petropavlovski would not be flying. Our trip was cancelled, rain-checked until 2007.
For a full year my 3 comrades and I prepared for our turns to wade into the runs, riffles, and pools of the Leveya River. During that year the trip would morph into a grotesque journey from one airport to another before reaching our final destination. I wasn't the only hesitant angler in the group. Would the fish be worth traveling for 24+ hours? That's a long way to go to catch a fish. The answer could only be known by embarking on this pilgrimage.
So on the 18th of August, at 6:30 pm, we boarded Alaska flight number 2333, bound for Los Angeles. Just after midnight we took our seats on the second and longest leg of the journey aboard a Korean Air jumbo jet. For twelve torturous hours we sat in our cramped, economy class seats. By the time we reached Seoul Korea, my feet were so flushed with blood; I wished my shoes were a size bigger. Five hours lapsed before we boarded the flight to Vladivostok Russia. Travel into Vladivostok was uneventful. Vlad to Petro was the opposite. We were packed into an old DC-3 that had been sitting on the tarmac in 90-degree weather for hours. The plane door closed when our Russian Captain donning a golden crucifix unhidden by his half buttoned uniform, entered the cabin and did the final passenger checks himself. At random he pulled bags down from the overhead shelf, making passengers stuff their carry-ons under their feet, shrinking any level of comfort to nothing. Once he was satisfied with his mischief he returned to the cockpit to torment his American passengers for another 40 minutes. As the temperature soared the plane stayed grounded. With no air was circulating in the cabin we roasted. At one point a Japanese tour guide visited the seats of each of his tourist, forcing them to chug water. Just as the situation reached maximum tolerance the plane speed down the run away and into the air for the 3-hour flight in Petropavlovski.
Tired, sore, and smelly, Leeann, Herb, Glenn and I deplaned with the other 12 travel weary anglers into the land of bears, vodka, and mouse eating trout. A sense of accomplishment and relief was shared by all. We had made it. Like any traveler, I awed at the experience of the past day as I marveled at the sights of this new environment, but the striking views of volcanoes to the North, West, and South couldn’t curb my need for a warm shower and a bed.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Friday night at midnight, I crawled into my bed after 48+ hours of travel from the Leveya River in Kamchatka. What an adventure?. Drunken Russian miners, beautiful women, old school helicopters, poachers, bears, extreme jet boating, vodka, caviar, rain, a useless sat. phone, a late extraction, 8 hours on wash board roads racing to the airport, more drunk Russians, missed flights, expensive upgrades, alcoholic guides, enormous volcanoes, and bowls and bowls of borsch. We did catch some fish too.
Check back for the full report.