KHV and PKC. These are not the best known airport call numbers in the world. And the towns they stand for are not the easiest to spell or to pronounce. Khabarovsk was my first stop in Russia and my destination was Petropavlovsk (PK to the locals).
The plane eventually left Beijing in China to head to far east Russia around 02h30. Well, it seemed to be “eventually” as it was so bleeding early in the morning and also perhaps because it was so many hours since I’d left home.
By the time I arrived in Khabarovsk some two and a half hours later, it was raining heavily. As I expected, when I got to the Immigration counter, every last detail was checked in my passport and accompanying documents. What would customs be like, I thought.
The carousel eventually started rotating. The first bags that arrived were all wrapped in plastic. They each belonged to a Russian. What did they know that I didn’t? My non plastic covered bag sat out in the rain somewhere before delivery for retrieval. Having finally retrieved my bag from the carousel, it was time to clear Russian Customs. To my surprise, that proved to be a non-event.
It was at this point that fellow intrepid tour members became obvious. We all stood out in the crowd. There were five of us, one of whom had a heavy, heavy head cold. What did this mean for the coming days?
We established that the domestic terminal was a five minute walk away along very wet and uneven paths and roadway. We dodged deep puddles, potholes and rickety old trolley-buses, but eventually we found the right building. Check-in was accomplished, the correct departure lounge found, and so began the 90 minute wait for the plane to our final destination at Petropavlovsk which was still just over a thousand kilometres away.
About half way through the flight, the weather cleared, and I enjoyed looking down on this part of Russia.
Rivers and lakes formed amazing abstract art.
Inlets carved their way into the land.
And then all was green as we came down lower towards our destination.
It was raining heavily with a very low cloud cover as we landed in Petropavlovsk. Waiting to disembark from the aircraft the rain could be heard on the fuselage. The same baggage collection performance took place here, but at least now there was a known face in the crowd. Rosemary (our Australian tour leader) had come out to meet us. She had arrived a day earlier along with two other Canberrans we had previously travelled with on the Mongolian/Siberian trip in June 2008. The only face I didn’t see from that earlier trip was our Russian tour leader Denis. He had, unfortunately for us, just got a new job in Moscow and therefore no longer works for the same tour company.
Rosemary may have arrived a day early but her luggage didn’t. A quick run around PK found some alternatives as she was told her luggage could take up to 21 days to catch up with her! In fact it arrived the next day but we had already left PK by then.
It was a very wet drive to our hotel some 18km from the airport. A lot of Russian cities and towns look sad and grey at the best of times; add rain, and they become even less attractive! It was a dreary drive into town. Many people live in cramped flats or apartments. At least this group had a touch of colour, albeit very faded and somewhat dilapidated.
A few residents live in ‘millionaire’s row. This view was from our hotel. We were told that many who live here, don’t earn their money in the usual way but rather by graft and corruption which, it seems, is rife.
Another view of ‘millionaire’s row’.
Our hotel “Geyser” had seen better days. It was very Russian in style and maybe 2 star rated by our system. However it was clean, the bed was good and hot water gushed from the hot tap. In fact, the hot water was never-ending as it is pumped from subterranean hot springs. I was into the shower like a rat up a drain pipe, along with my dirty clothes! That hot water was five star luxury!
There was just 90 minutes between arriving and leaving for dinner at a nearby restaurant, one that the locals eat at, which turned out to be very Russian indeed, but certainly adequate. There was a choice of four salads. Having made a choice, the food was spooned out of its container into your bowl – and weighed! A total cost for the meal was calculated this way. The food was much better than airline food.
The cloud was becoming ever lower in the sky by the time we headed back to the hotel. There, across the bay was a tantalizing hint of the wilderness we had come to explore. But that was for the next day. Most of us needed no rocking to punch some zzzzzzz’s that night.
More anon David
All Photography Copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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