Everyone left for the field and I was left at camp with Rebecca, Irina and Alyesa. They all had work to do and I busied myself organizing my things. What will I absolutely need, not need until London, might need in between. I refused to remove my tent and sleeping bag until the melodious sound of the grinding vesdehod was in earshot. I was cautiously optimistic but wasn't taking any chances yet.
At about 3PM, as I was dozing in my tent I was awakened by Rebecca telling me the vesdehod was in the area. I was sleepy and uncoordinated but managed to get my shoes on and start breaking down my final things for an imminent departure. I have never been so happy to see two total strangers as I was the moment those men pulled up to camp.
The bone-jarring ride out of Stolbevaya was by comparison of my entrance like riding in a pumpkin drawn by white horses. I was alone with the two men, the vesdehod driver and the boat captain. They let me ride in the passenger seat, where I was safe from oncoming branches and the claustrophobic heat of the cargo area. My ride in was more like a scene from the Beverly Hillbillies with people hanging on in every direction and gear and supplies strapped to every available square inch. A mere two hours and we were at Kultuk where the Russian flag atop the familiar blue boat was a joyous sight.
I climbed aboard the boat, again my last ride had been aboard the barge so I was feeling a bit like royalty by now. It occurred to me shortly after we spent the better part of an hour attaching the barge to the boat and loading the vesdehod that the boat what a true indicator of what kind of company I was in. The windshield was spotless, the inside upholstery was clean, the dashboard was devoid of any grime and the floor was swept. The captain was in his camouflage but neatly groomed and had not one speck of dirt under his fingernails. I, by comparison, was a clutch of molecules loosely tethered together by dirt. It was incredibly nice of him to take me aboard. I also noticed he hated mosquitoes, which I found rather amusing. He started catching them and putting them out the window. I killed one and he removed it from the boat cabin. I have been living with mosquito carcasses on my tent floor for quite some time now and thought nothing of having one dead one around. I saw that the captain felt differently and changed my method of pest control.
Four hours later, by dark of night, the captain skillfully docked the barge and allowed the vesdehod to disembark. I climbed off the boat and barge to find a couple waiting for me. They had a sparkling clean black SUV, which is saying something in a place where the roads are not paved. I assumed the man was Alexander Tikamerov and the woman was his wife. Right about now I am feeling like I have been cast in a Matt Damon movie. My baggage and I are loaded into the SUV and we proceed to a gasteenizeu, hotel. By the looks of the outside it is no different from any other building in a series of rectangular boxes but this is my waypoint for the night. And no, Matt Damon was not there.
Dirty, hungry and tired, this place has everything I need. I have a place to sleep, a bathroom with running water and a tray of food that looks fantastic. By the way, it was fantastic. With some basic Russian, a lot of hand gestures and repetition I assure them I understand everything they are showing me. They leave me alone for the first time in weeks and I get myself situated. Eating from the tray of food, I watch a man I believe is Engelbert Humperdink entertain a packed house of Russians on TV. This is followed by what I think is the Russian version of American Idol.
I didn't sleep much but, I have my ticket for the bus in hand, I am ready for my 14 hour long bus ride and I am looking forward to seeing Petropovlovsk.