Today, at 1:41 a.m. (CST), West Hansen and Jeff Wueste, both of Austin, Texas completed the first descent of the Volga River in Russia. The river proved to be 2130.09 miles (3427.31 km) from the source to the Caspian Sea. It took 59 days...54 of those paddling.
The started their day off with a wonderful breakfast made by Aksana at Procosta. Their 8:30 am starting time was pushed back to 8:45 a.m. The boats were completely unloaded and light. Initially, the estimated miles remaining were 4.5 but ended up being about 10.5. They were escorted by two boats provided by owner, Anatoli, from Procosta down to the Caspian Sea. Once at the sea, the boats stayed at the last land point and West and Jeff proceeded out in the sea to their stopping checkpoint. The Caspian Sea was very calm without any barriers, at all. To coin a phrase from Jeff, "it was the anti-Amazon experience". They paddled about 7 mph the entire way. It was a great turn of events after the strong headwinds they endured early on and throughout the expedition.
On their way back upriver, with their boats inside the escort boats, the guide fisherman caught what looked like a 8"-10" goldfish. In addition, the Lotus blossoms are getting ready to bloom and they saw an eagle's nest with birds inside. They did get pictures of this and, once they get checked into their hotel in Astrakhan, they will send those along for posting.
West and Jeff are enjoying the rest of the day at Procosta before heading back to Astrakhan tomorrow. From there, they will explore some of the sights in Russia before heading back to Moscow on Tuesday and back to the US on Wednesday. Behind the scenes, plans are being made for tranport of the boats, picking up gear left in Moscow and tracking down a box sent from Cheboksary.
While I'm sure this won't be the last update, I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed "meeting" and getting to know all of our contacts in Russia. Everyone I have met has gone out of their way to help our guys and do whatever they could to assist them (and me) in any way. I now have many new Facebook friends and look forward to keeping in touch via technology.