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
May 17, 2014
Well, some expeditions aren't without their challenges and this one is no exception. We have had a few small glitches with our modes of communication. Hopefully, we have it worked out and should be getting updates on a daily basis, once again.
The team paddled 21.9 miles to arrive into Ulyanovsk. They were met at the yacht harbor by Sergey Zhuravsky. He guided the team on where to store the kayaks, safely. Soon, Vasya (pronounced Wasa), Sergey's son arrived. He spoke English and clarified that they were, indeed, friends of Stas (the friend of Stas from Rybinsk)...are you following me yet? After declining their hosts offer to stay at their house, they were given a ride to several hotels until they found the right fit. Once they showered, they were introduced to Ulya Uzrutuva, a journalist doing a story on the team for the local internet page. Once that is posted, I'll share on here. They walked around with "Julia" for two or three hours during the interview. They saw many of the beautiful sites around town. After the interview, they were picked up by Vasya, and met Sergey at the local Metro (Costco). They picked up food/tape/epoxy. Sergey owns the yacht club and is a really good craftsman. He assisted the team in mixing the Russian form of epoxy and fixing small items on the boats, The new friends were pretty impressed with Gorilla tape. After shopping, now 9:45 p.m. (they woke up at 1:00 a.m. for an early start), they dropped their groceries off at the hotel and went to hear Stas play music. At Sergey's, his wife has prepared dinner and dessert for the team. They sat at the table eating and drinking, looking at videos and pictures of their mountain climbing-"which was truly cool", and socialized until after midnight. Stas played guitar and sang really beautiful songs, which West videotaped. They had a wonderful time with all their hosts and even got to see some cool things associated with Lenin's birthplace.
West said Sergey and Vasya spent a lot of time on Google Earth helping West and Jeff plan the portage around a very large dam coming up in Tolyatti. They are having to cross a large body of water before getting to the dam. It's about 10 miles across and will pose a challenge. Uvgheny (sp) was very helpful. He was just about an expert at everything. He is a climbing buddy of Sergey's and was extremely helpful. In addition, they hung out at the "man cave of all man caves" at the yacht club. These were real men! These guys have 300 years of outdoor experience between them. He was so impressed. He said these guys were over 60 and "built like bricks". Not like "at the gym" built but normal, daily living built. These guys are mountain climbers, expert skiers, they swim two miles and back across the Volga River as their workout, against the wind. They spend lots of time enjoying the outdoors and it's obvious by their bodies. They loved the expedition and were helpful, pulling out many navigational maps to show the team obstacles and the best way to approach different areas. They, also, said the river will speed up after the dam...hope so. West and Jeff wished they had more time to spend in Ulyanovsk.
Once back at the hotel, the boys fell into bed, exhausted. They set up all their powered electronics to charge while sleeping. Unfortunately, they did not realize until morning, that the light switches, in the OFF position, turned the power off to the plugs. Therefore, in the morning, nothing was charged. Trying to download and save files turned into another hassle so that was shut down, as well.
Despite getting a late start, the team is in great spirits and ready to hit the river again. They had a huge crowd there to send them off. It was a lot of fun but duty called. The beach they are staying on is beautiful. Unfortunately, they are swarmed by these big black bugs. They do not bite but are landing on them and is just posing an irritant. Their plan is to start waking up earlier each day, when the wind is low and stop as they need to. This will allow them to make some good time in the mornings. They probably won't stop in Tolyatti but move on to Samara.
I will (hopefully) be getting some pictures soon to share from our new friends in Ulyanovsk. Also, I'm looking for contacts in Samara before the team starts a long trek past that. These large reservoirs are giving them the challenge they were seeking.