The past few days were more than challenging. This running around with 60kg of trolly weight in Delhi and Moscow in full day layovers took the steam out of me. At 60 I am not so steamy anymore anyway!
The Delhi Moscow flight was comfortable. But I couldn’t sleep. So I got off at SVO Moscow airport, sleepy and jet tired. I hit the tarmac at 5.30 am local and it looked as bright as any afternoon. I felt exhilarated being in Russia. My first time.
Getting my luggage on a trolly, I went about the customs clearance procedure. I had planned on doing it my self as I had got a quote of USD 4000/ for the full job. That was my global fuel bill probably, so I decided to do it myself. It wasn’t difficult and I went from point to point; my Google translator ready to decode my luggage. By 3pm I had moved some mud and now had to get to the climax, which means get the Stamps. The language became a barrier here and just as was about to break down, there appeared my Russian sis-in-law:Asya, to help me out. She had called me earlier and I was politely refusing her presence. Luckily she had more common sense than I had and just came over. There was an emotional moment at the customs office as Asya told everyone, that I have a cold and am not crying. We finished in the nick of time. Scooting over to the airport, we met Elena, a Russian restauranteur from Goa. She has been mentoring me in addition to the Russian Consul and I bade them all goodbye. Walking into my flight, I realised that I am now about to cross the Continent sized Russia to the other side, from where I will ride back to Moscow. Must be a Past Life Thing.
This time I slept for 6 of the 8 hours. I missed a meal and they served me later. Aeroflot: simple and effective. Vladivostok looked forested as we started to land and it struck me that I am in Siberia. Wood, minerals, fuel, water and nature in abundance resides here. Probably the highest per capita anywhere.
At the exit, the Diplomat from the Indian Mission recieved me. So did my new friend: Valery and his wife. Mohit the Diplomat had bought Ruslan the translator, to help me clear the cargo. At that point I got my messages that my bike couldn’t travel with me due to no space. The bike would come tomorrow. So thanking everyone for the effort, the Diplomat entourage escorted me to my Airbnb selection.
Right at the tip of the promontory, at the end of Vladivostok, is the House of Ekaterina. It spreads on a hilly slope. Expecting me, she met me warmly and the Diplomat took leave. Her house is unique. Made of wood and things you throw away, she has a tiny kitchen, that functions as a reception and indoor washing room. This leads to a cute dining room, that’s as big as dining for 8 in a square. A small library lines the wall and so does an electric stove. Every piece of house art and decor has a story of being hand done. I was charmed by her effort. My room was next. A bigger than a single bed with a lovely window welcomed me warmly. So did two cats on the bed. Enough space for luggage and a shelf, this room got great sunlight.
Ekaterina put a hot bowl of Borscht in front of me and told me to eat. I did. This was home food, personal and lovingly made. Her Google translator talked to mine while I relished one fat bowl of hot Borscht. I paused only when it finished. She sat next to me, with her son and his friend trying to do human translations where Google fails. Then she showed me a pound cake made specially for me, warmly coated with home made marmalade. Wow. This looks like the afterlife. I showed her my Quest site and the pix of my Flagoff. She showed me her property. A twenty foot elevation took me to my toilet. At thirty was my bucket bath. She explained, here the water was freshly boiled to use! They have their own well. At forty was her sunset point, from where you could see the sea and Korea! Her kitchen garden adorned the slopes and a sailors rope was strung along to climb up and down. She has a number of cats and one dog. They accompany her around the land, which must be half an acre. Very pricey, looking at its location.
She took me back to the dining room and served tea and cake. I made room for the cake. Her son at one point took my hand and pulled me to the sunset point. He said can you hear the Monastery bells? They ring at this time. I couldn’t cause I hear less, but the glow on his face was priceless.
Valery my biking friend came over to see if I am ok and we planned the morning. Cargo pick up.
The difference in elevation between the road at her entrance and the Sunset Point must be forty or fifty feet. The rooms were at ten feet. Afterwards she asked me if I wanted to attend a music event that she was going to. I politely declined as I was exhausted. So she wrapped herself warmly and after showing me the switches and other tactical points, she left. The cats watched me stay back.
I went to my room and started to unpack. As I was sorting out, I got a message on my Airbnb messaging from Ekaterina. Open your luggage later. Rush to the sunset point for your first sunset in Russia. Take some pictures. This would be my third climb. It was heavenly. All the cats came with me. It was a magical moment. With some intuitive signal, the cats and I left at the same time. The cats went to do cat things and I went to the cake.
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