Ok, so we haven’t posted to the blog in a few months and figured it was time for an update. We’re in Russia! Yay! But it’s been a heck of an adventure just to get here. I’ll give the cliff notes for now and if you’re still interested you can read the delightful unabridged version in a few months when we get home.
So we left Calumet on June 20th. It was great. Said goodbye to our friends, locked up the house, drove out of town. We stopped in central Michigan to visit Matt’s parents on our way out of the country. That was great too. The only thing we had to deal with was the shipping details for our kayaks. Our generous sponsor P&H sea kayaks was handling the shipping and we just needed some confirmation. And we got it. I talked to our local rep Kelly and he passed me off to there main office in the UK. No problem. Then I got an email. An earth shattering email. At the last minute P&H finds out they can’t ship to Russia. Boom! Like a bomb being dropped on our trip. We are less than a week from flying to Moscow and the bulk of our planning has been blown to smithereens. Our lives entered a free fall. After a few phone calls we found out we could get boats, just not in Russia. Ok. So we had to get them there ourselves. In about 4 business days. Ok. Crisis mode ensued. We spent a lot of time on the phone planning, replanning, then planning again. All the while Kelly was scrambling and doing everything he could on P&H’s end. Slowly and painfully a plan emerged from the chaos. Not a great plan. Not even a good plan. But a plan, sort of. We decided to wing it and trust our luck. Seemed reasonable. We’d just handle it one step at a time. No big deal. The stress was slowly killing us. We didn’t sleep, didn’t eat and spent a lot of time yelling at each other and the people around us.
So step one was getting the boats. Can’t paddle a boat you don’t have. We already paid for our travel so we had to work around that. We decided to meet them NYC in an attempt to simplify. This cut out our Detroit to New York leg. Made sense. But where do you get three boats delivered on short notice in a city that big? We didn’t know. Eventually, after being laughed at by airport personal and hung up on by the post office we found Empire Kayaks in Long Beach. They agreed to help. They were skeptical but willing to do all they could. And they did. I can’t say enough nice things about them. We received the boats and they took us to the airport.
Step 2 – get boats to Moscow
Ok so we have boats, now what. Let’s just check them as baggage. We’d heard stories. Seemed almost reasonable. That’s how Brandon and Heather Nelson did it when they paddled Baikal. What’s the worst that can happen. We sat with three 17 foot boats at the airport for 22 hours. When it came time to check them it happened so fast we weren’t sure what happened. They laughed at us, then took the boats. No problem. They almost didn’t even charge us.
Step 3 – storing and transporting in Moscow
We were met at the airport by a family friend, Max, of Anya’s. Max had hired a truck. We loaded the boats into the box truck and an hour later were at his apartment. We hoisted the boats to Max’s second story balcony with our tow ropes. Boats stored. Problem solved.
Step 4 – boats to Irkutsk
We had a week in Moscow to figure this out. Seemed easy. We tried the trans Siberian train that we had tickets for but it was a no go. They recommended a shipping company in Irkutsk. We called and made the arrangements. They said the boats would arrive the day before we did and it would cost about 3000 rubles ($100). Deal. We hired the same truck, lowered the boats from the balcony and dropped them at the station.
Fast forward 8 days and 3000 miles. We get off the trans siberian, get deposited at a hostel by the wonderful people at the Great Baikal Trail Association and call the shipping company. Boats? What boats? Oh, those, they won’t be here until Monday. Crap. We waited, not so patiently. Call back Monday. Boats? Oh yeah, they’re here but we don’t unload until Tuesday. Crap. Call back Tuesday. Boats? Yeah they’re still on the train, no one unloaded it. They’ll be off Wednesday. Oh yeah, and the three thousand rubles we told you is actually 8000. Jesus. I hate Russia.
So that’s where we sit. Waiting in horrible frustration for our boats to be unloaded. It’s been a week. We’re fed up, burned out and this adventure is wearing thin before we even get on the water. I think we used up all our luck early on. Hopefully the boats get unloaded, we get a truck to haul them and the rest of our stuff to the lake and we can start to paddle. But I’m not holding my breath.
At least we have a story…and it beats working. Hopefully the next chapter is a little less eventful.