This is the first descent of Europe’s longest river by kayak from the source in the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow to the river’s delta at the Caspian Sea. The Volga traverses 2300 miles (3700 km) through western Russia’s most beautiful countryside with some of the richest history known to man.
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 2130.09
TOTAL DAYS: 59
MILES COUNTDOWN: 0.00
Leaving Tver (in West's words)
April 22, 2014
We started off today at the hostel rushing around preparing to depart ASAP. It was a tough wake up after yesterday's slog. With a dehydration headache, stiff joints and extremely sore muscles we were moving slower than normal. It was a tough, tough day pushing against that dead water yesterday, then hanging out with our truly gracious hosts in the evening. The radiated room was pretty hot, neceissating us to open the windows and sleeping on top of the covers just to keep the sweating down to a minimum. The hostel website is www.hostel-kukuruza.ru. Our host there was extremely kind.
About 10:00 am, Mikhail showed up unexpectedly to drive us to the river and see us off. It was checkout time, so he was considerate enough to take time off work and help us off. We weren't near ready and contemplated paying for a half day at the hostel to allow us more time. The plan was to pick up some water bottles, new reading glasses for Jeff and mail our extra food/spiz/gear to Natasha. We still had to get Natasha's permission and mailing address, so this was going to take some time. Finally, we decided to just postpone the departure until tomorrow morning (4/22/14) so we can get everything properly accomplished and get an early, non-rushed start. As is was, we'd be leaving late in the afternoon and camping within site of Tver, not unlike the departure from Manaus on the Amazon expedition.
We notified Mikhail, paid for another night (1200 rubles-which is about $35.00 US) and changed our itinerary for the day. Mikhail helped us purchase some boxes from the post office and deliver them to our kayaks and arrange for Igor to pick us up at 2 p.m. When Alexi arrived, he brought along their friend and shuttle driver, Andrey ("Andre"). Andrey is a rather huge guy with biceps and forearms the size of two small refrigerators. The only thing bigger than Andrey is his laugh, which erupts every minute or two at his own humor, whcih is pretty impossible to resist, even with the language barrier. Alexi, who spoke much better English what we spoke Russian hurried us through a local mall to pick up things off our to-do list. Andrey was around to offer us various other un-needed minutiae much to his, and our, amusement. The pair laughed when I bought M & M's, which I did for my daughter for the mere reason that the labels were in Russian.
We learned that Andrey is a computer geek, who knew his way around the tech world quite a bit. He is also a strong nationalist with well deserved pride in Russia. Andrey, you see, is a romantic. Hopelessly so. Without spirit, you see, a country, money, relationships, nothing has meaning. He committed philosophy along this vein throughout the rest of the day, for which we are much better people.
Igor shuttled us around town and back to our hostel, where Andrey planned to pick us up later to complete our hustlery. I wanted to upload some videos from our first few days for the website/blog and Andrey has the bandwidth to make it happen. I was to download the clips and he'd upload them and send them to Barbara via email. Cool.
Jeff and I hadn't eaten, save for the bread and jam offered up as breakfast at the hostel, so we were a bit hungry. Andrey only ate natural things and wasn't interested in eating, so after the downloading we were off to gather things from our kayaks to mail to Natasha. We had supper at the same place where we ate with the kayakers and their wives. This was fine by us, since it was great food. Andrey wouldn't let us get the tab or even pay for our own food. Such a gracious guy, really. We took some pictures back at the hostel and promised, easily, that we would never, ever forget Andrey.
(from Barbara)--I am working to download the videos. We have a few glitches in getting them transferred but I am amazed at the actual slogs, bogs, terrain, etc. West was not exaggerating when he was describing the terrain at the source. In addition, the river and landscape is absolutely beautiful.