October 9, 2012
“Do Not Frustrate…”
Our empty plane banked right over a sea of clouds. Sensing a shift in motion, I lifted my head from lying across an empty row and looked out through the port window. Two snow-capped volcanoes marked the center of our compass as the plane continued in a holding pattern. Leaning back down on my makeshift pillow, I closed my eyes and dozed back to sleep.
Sometime later, I moved from my semiconscious state and looked out the window again. The volcanoes were in the same place at the center of our holding pattern.
Keith, siting behind me, “We’ve been circling for 45 minutes, I bet we’re going to have to land somewhere and refuel.”
Tired from 20 hours of travel, I grunted in disapproval and lied back down on the empty row.
A thick accent blurted out over the loudspeaker, waking me from my slumber, “Do not Frustrate… our flight need refueling and we must head to Magadan. We will be back in Petropavlosk-Kamchatksi in… 3.75 hours.” Following this announcement, he offered the handful of Russian nationals on the flight the same story in their native tongue. Spread through a half dozen rows, our crew, composed of Trevor Gordon, Cyrus Sutton, Ben Weiland, Dane Gaudauskus, Keith Malloy and Chris Burkard, perked up and sat to attention.
“Is that Siberia?” Trevor asked rubbing his eyes.
“It must be , that’s the closest airport, either that or we land in North Korea,” Cyrus chuckled.
As predicted by the pilot, we were on the ground in Kamchatka four hours later, marking our total flight time from Anchorage at a hair over 10 hours. The airport, a relic from the Cold War, resembled a mid 90’s documentary on the History Channel, sporting a full squadron of long range strategic bombers, tanks, helicopters and the occasional German Sheppard. The custom officials ushered us and the thirty or so fifty year olds dead set on either catching boatfuls of rainbow trout or hunting for the region’s three types of native sheep, never breaking from a mechanic demeanor.
Keith’s beard posed a problem at immigration. His ten-year-old passport picture presented him with long hair and scruff, (he now has short hair and a Poseidon-like beard). That difference in appearance, combined with enough stamps and Visas to make James Bond blush prompted the immigration official to call over a gun-wielding security guard for a second opinion. After twenty minutes of displaying multiple forms of ID’s and offering to shave it off, Keith made it through beard intact.
Cyrus and Keith catching some cosmic rays after a session.
Trevor and his a symmetrical finless Rabbit’s Foot.
Cy fresh off the plane.
After the clouds broke.
Keith’s bodysurfing setup.
Trevor chasing Silver Salmon.
Cy warming up his feet after a sunrise session.
After gathering our boards, pelican cases and dry bags, we congregated in the parking lot. Volcanoes dotted the horizon in every direction. The weather was in the mid 70’s, and felt more like Central America than a remote sub-arctic peninsula known for its fishing and grizzly bears. Waiting impatiently for our ride, we heard the low rumble of the 6×6 diesel engine long before we could see it. After 36 hours of travel from Southern California, we were finally in Kamchatka.
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