August 1, 1998
Nijneudinsk to Kirensk. There is a no shortage of fuel for us here. The Russians took fuel that was supposed to go into a commercial flight and said our flight was more important and they were happy to share.
Valery and Khalide have set these legs up to be no more than 5 – 6 hours a day, which is a lot when you consider they want to stay up until 2am with “Russian Hospitality.” Now, I must say, they are very hospitable, courteous, generous, and just plain sweet. Nikki is in the AN-2 with the majority of our crew and they are having a blast with her. She’s had some communication problems too – like airspeed! Their indicator is different. Nikki did slow the flight for 2 days across Siberia until she figured out that when Natasha was says, “Nikki, keep it below 15,” she actually meant to keep the needle at the bottom of the gauge (where the numbers get larger and you go faster) and Nikki was keeping it numerical at 14 and 13 (which is slower). I would still be trying to figure it out.
We landed at Kirensk and were taken directly to a banya (sauna). I think this was the Nik’s request. She loves the sauna. Personally, I think it’s the branches and cold water. Wrapped in our sheets, we sat outside the banya at a table and had tea and homemade jam. Sitting at that table, eating, drinking and talking was one of the best days of the flight.
Actually, our hotel (and I use that word loosely) had a sink and bucket for a bath and an out-house “in” the house, so the sauna was the cleanest we could get. The women kept our flight suits so they could wash them. We went to our rooms and took our one bath with only cold water trickling out. Really though, this country is wonderful and we have had the time of our lives. Parts of it are pretty primitive compared to our living, but I see things that they do daily that would be good for us.
After dinner, we all headed for the river for a riverboat ride. The Siberian sunsets are beautiful. We stopped on the river bank and got off. Stod, the military mechanic with 4 gold front teeth, picked flowers for me. I am sending pictures ASAP so you can see our friends.
On our way back up the river in the boat, we missed Jeremy. Constantine, Mikey, Anatoly, Rafail and everyone was searching for him up top, sides, below, everywhere. The boat was already turned around to go look at the river bank when Anatoly found him sick in the toilet. Had to have been the tongue and caviar (wink wink.)