Liberation Day and our Last day of Diving

Liberation Day and Last Dive Day

August 21, 2012

            This is our last day of diving and we are going out of the closer marina in the afternoon.  Yea, one day we get to sleep late!  Unknown to us when we planned the trip, it is also Liberation Day in Guam, the 68th anniversary of the day when Guam was liberated from the Japanese in WWII.  It is a big party day here.  People have paid small fees to have a watcher site along the main parade route and yesterday they were busy unloading tents and awnings and chairs and barbeque pits and such.  Many people come and camp out on the boulevard (Marine Corps Highway) and have a big party.  It’s not too expensive to rent a site if they clean it up afterwards because they’ll get a large part of their money returned.  So the entire highway through the main part of town is lined with people getting ready to party hardy and watch the parade.

Our host and hostess are going on the boat with us this afternoon to snorkel.  Our hostess is a water baby and a scuba diver and such but her husband is more of a land lubber and she is not sure she will get him into the water.  The plan is to watch part of the parade and then head over to the dive marina in a roundabout way because we won’t be able to get onto the highway to drive down the road.

We have a lovely breakfast again and then pack up the car to go watch the parade.  We end up by a small museum where someone has collected some WWII vehicles and memorabilia and put it in a museum that looks interesting.  We might be able to stop by here tomorrow on our down day.  We are able to park the cars close to the museum today so we can walk down to the highway.  Supposedly the parade starts at 10 and that’s right about when we got there but we think we only ended up seeing about 3/4ths of the parade.  The military floats and the military marchers and bands were the first entries in the parade and we missed them entirely.  That was sad.  I would have liked to have seen that.  There are still a very small few of men from that time frame.  They are quite old now (80’s and 90’s) and each year the number who participate in the parade declines.  Soon they will be all gone.  It would have been nice to see them and honor them for their work by supporting the parade but we missed them.

We found a spot to stand in the shade of a huge telephone pole and right across from the governor’s offices.  They were slotting people into the parade from this location so that they didn’t have to walk extra miles before they got to the actual parade route where there were people to watch them.  So we saw a lot of entries that walked onto the highway from where we were standing.  It was very hot and some of the entries were NOT wearing shoes!  OMG.  Those poor men, women and children!  I know they were in their native costumes from centuries ago when shoes weren’t invented for them but they didn’t have to walk on hot tarmac and blacktop back then either!

The Liberation Day parade is a chance for a big party as there were many entries in the parade that had absolutely nothing to do with the liberation of Guam but had a lot to do with showing off your car or just having a party.  Hey, ok with me.  These people are at least community spirited and proud of themselves and of Guam.  And we did see some floats that were very proudly proclaiming the liberation slogan.  It was a really nice parade and I haven’t stood and watched an actual parade in probably over 20 years!  I was quite glad that we were able to catch this one and see it and see the community in action and the pride of it all.

Of course those were my thoughts at the beginning of the parade.  By noon, when we had been standing there for two hours, I was pretty hot and tired and not so thrilled with it all and ready to leave.  Luckily for us, the end of the parade came by us just about that time and we were able to walk up to our cars and drive them down to the highway and turn left, away from the parade, and drive to the marina.  There is a small restaurant there and we have time for lunch.  Several of the boat people come in for their lunch as well and they must have standing orders because they get their food quickly and are gone.  Takes a little longer for us but MDA people have recognized us and know we are here so they won’t leave us.  Another boat crew from another dive shop is there eating their lunch as well.  They look like a combination boat and snorkel and dive and party crew.

Onto the boat and ready to go and oh look, a whole bunch of Japanese tourists and a drift dive!  What a surprise J  don’t mind.  We are enjoying ourselves and growing ever so much more confident in being by ourselves under the water.  We don’t go far and anchor, seemingly just outside the harbor.  Our dive briefing says we will drift towards the right of the boat but we probably won’t go around the bend of the island.  We believe him.  Another so-so dive in that we didn’t find anything spectacular and marvelous but there were a lot of little fish and they are pretty.  Our hostess got in the water to snorkel as did her husband but he got right back out again.  He is truly a land person.

We are having great luck with our new safety sausage and its reel of string and are able to deploy it from 30’ depths or more and then just reel it back onto the reel as we go up to our safety stop.  However on our first dive, when we surface, we are around the bend!  This is the bend that the boat captain said we would probably NOT drift around it.  We look all over and don’t see our boat anywhere.  There is another boat there and seems to be a dive boat and they see us but they don’t come over for us, we are not their clients.  My husband and I have been down approximately 45 minutes so we figure we went pretty far and probably need to swim back around the bend so that the boat will see us.  I may have already mentioned that I am not a fast swimmer and apparently I am not a good swimmer either (well, I pretty much knew that).  We start swimming slowly towards the bend.  A couple of minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes and we haven’t moved at all really.  The current is pretty much keeping us in the same location where we surfaced.  Great.  There is no way I am going to be able to swim around the bend.  We are bobbing in the water with our safety sausage trying to decide what to do.  I try to blow on my whistle a couple of times and it’s a small thhwwit noise that isn’t going to attract any kind of attention.  We try to swim a bit more and nada – going no place.  Some more bobbing and then suddenly my husband sees our boat!  It is coming towards us from the opposite direction!  Yea!  Apparently the boat captain came around the bend to look for divers anyway and some of the Japanese tourists had drifted a lot further than we did because we hadn’t even seen the boat further down the shore.  Saved by the Japanese!

Back on the boat and some of the good mango snacks that we picked up from K Mart and then soon we are ready to enter the water again.  Our hostess is back in the water snorkeling as we get ready.  Oh wait!  This is going to be a return to the boat dive!  Our first one here.  Now we could use a guide because we will have to go out, turn around and find our way back to the boat.  Just great.  I am not very good at this even though I have a compass on my rig.

Into the water and I try really hard to figure out which way we are swimming and I do this numerous times so maybe we will be able to find our way back.  This is a nice dive as we find a whole community of anemones but they don’t seem to have any fish swimming in them.  Then we find some anemones with fish and spend a bit of time with them.  We make a square box maneuver and are swimming back towards the boat, we think.  Finally I see an anchor line but there is no boat attached to it.  As we have been slowly rising depth-wise, and have been swimming in the safety stop zone for enough time, it is safe to do a spy-hop – that’s a quick bob to the surface to check and see where the boat is.  We both pop up and glorioski! – the boat is just a few meters away at the second anchor line.  We probably would have even found it had we kept swimming.  Wow.  I have actually navigated us back to the boat – with my compass and my hubby also deciding which way to go.  We have plenty of time left with air so we descend and swim to the boat and play around the anchor line for a while.  We find our one and only lion fish hiding under some rocks by the anchor line.  I find another eel as well.  So this was a pretty good dive.  Finally we figure we should get back on the boat and we are actually the last ones on the boat.  Back to the shore with some good dunking of our gear and then we are ready to head for the house.

Now we really rinse everything even better and then spread it out to dry and hopefully under the eaves in case it rains.  Last thing I want to do is pack up wet gear.  We also head for the laundry.  It isn’t a problem to wash it here and sure makes my load back at the house much easier to not come back with a total suitcase of dirty clothes.  Not too hungry after our big lunch but we hit Del Taco one more time.  It will be months before we are able to go to a Del Taco again.  Total junk food but it is tasty.

Sadly now we are done diving.  Haven’t been real happy with the performance of my new dive light.  I definitely still need buoyancy work and camera work.  The diving was good but wasn’t spectacular so not sure if we will dive here again.  I had wanted to dive on the two ships, a WWI and a WWII ship that are next to each other.  We had been told we could swim out to them from shore, about 200 yards.  Yea right.  I couldn’t make any headway around the bend and I’m going to swim 200 yards!?  Never happen.  So sorry that we missed that dive but no one seemed to be interested in it but us.  Maybe next time, maybe not.

Tomorrow we will pack and try to sleep as our plane leaves in the middle of the night.  It would be good to also try for a museum or two but most are closed so not sure what will happen.

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Back into the deep for two more days

Into the Deep Again

July 19, 2012 and July 20, 2012

            ARGH, it is hard to get up in the morning.  We have to leave earlier today as we are diving out of the far marina and it will take us a bit longer to get there.  Both Thursday and Friday are going to be out of the further marina so I’ll just include both days together as the days are pretty much the same, only the dive sites change!

We did manage to have a delicious breakfast with our host and hostess and 5 dogs and assorted chickens and roosters and ducks outside.  It is fun to watch them wander around and each animal has a history which we learn and appreciate.  Never gotten into birds in a big way but I do like to watch them.

Loading up the car again and we’re off and don’t get lost but thank goodness our hostess took us to the marina so we knew how to go.  We are able to get right onto the boat when we arrive and it seems as if most of the Japanese tourists have already arrived as well and the dive sites have been determined.  Again it will be drift dives.  Yesterday, after our two dives in the big blue by ourselves, we decided not to ask for and pay for a dive master.  We decided we were big kids now and could play in the ocean by ourselves and besides, it wasn’t like we have to navigate.  We didn’t have to make sure we could find the boat again so we thought we would be ok.

Listening to the main man that goes with the Japanese tourists, he knows a lot about the dive sites and where to find various cool things.  He says there are some anemones on this site with good fish so we will try to find it.  As we go into the water, we see him in the water with his group and try to follow but everybody swims faster than me.  I could win a “swim slow” non-race I think.  We head in the basic direction where we thought they disappeared and we do find some anemones.  I could easily sink to the bottom and watch the anemone fish for hours and have done so in the Philippines.  Here they are surrounded by a bit too much coral and very sad to say and very guiltily I say I did knock a chunk of coral.  I must do better on my buoyancy because I hate to hurt anything underwater.

Again, we are torn between the two dives.  One was so-so and the other was good, not great, but good.  We are finding a lot of small fish on most of the dives but not very many bigger ones and certainly not a lot of unusual ones.  Sometimes though, it takes several dives to see something that really thrills you and on one dive we did see an octopus.  I love octopi.  This one was sliding over some coral and as soon as he knew I had spotted him, he ducked under a ledge and wedged himself into the hole with just a bit of his mantle sticking out.  My hubby wasn’t as lucky and didn’t get the view that I got.  I tried to take some photos but he wasn’t having any of it and didn’t cooperate.  We left for a bit and he started to come out but he saw me start to come back and did his hiding thing again.

Seemed like there weren’t a lot of eels on this trip either.  We saw maybe 5 in total over 8 dives and that’s a pretty small number.  The corals on a couple of the dives were really great though.  Stacked on top of each other like ever decreasing discs.  Some of them were pretty awesome.  There were an odd array of sea cucumbers – different sizes, different colors and different skins.  And we also saw a crown of thorns starfish which is quite a destructive animal.  Usually there is a line of death behind it as it moves across a coral head or the sea floor.

Still not having a lot of good luck with my wrist light so on a couple of dives I took along my big dive light that I am used to using.  However, with the wrist light attached and the dive light and holding the camera, I have run out of hands to be efficient and streamlined.  How people handle the huge monstrosities of cameras and lights, I don’t know.  Plus those rigs are so expensive, I’m not sure I would ever take it into the water!

End of the dive and we have our new safety sausage to try.  I pull it out of the pouch and realize that the string is NOT attached to the sausage.  Guess I should have checked before getting into the water.  I make a knot and tie it onto the safety sausage and blow some air into the sausage from my regulator octopus rig and the sausage shoots to the surface and the string is unreeling quickly.  I am in danger of getting a rope burn or of getting tangled but we manage to get the sausage on the surface and the boat is heading our way when we are on top.

End of the second dive and I have not managed the safety sausage any better.  As I pull it out of the pouch, I am fighting the string as it tries to wrap around my fins and my legs.  Luckily I see this happening because it could really ruin my day if the sausage popped to the surface dragging me along with it before I did my safety stop.  I get untangled and we send the safety sausage on its way and then we are up and ready for the boat.

We dive from the same location the next day and it really would have been nice if we could have left some gear at the boat – locked in their shed – but they don’t operate that way.  Also, it seems as if most of their Japanese divers are good for one day.  Apparently a lot of the tourists from Japan come down for a shopping weekend or a shopping and diving 2 or 3 days so they don’t really have more than one day to dive.  At least at this marina, I spotted a large water barrel as we exited the boat and we were able to dunk all our gear into it and get it washed off before we put it in the trunk of the car.  Then when we got back to our bed and breakfast, we just spread it out on the stairs to dry.

There is a Del Taco close to the base that we pass on our way back to our BnB so we stop there whenever possible to get lunch.  We are hitting all the big ones here.  We stopped at Pizza Hut one night to eat as well.  We have the afternoons free but we’re not really interested in doing a lot.  I figure out we are going to have to make another K Mart run, sorry to say.  We drive around and around looking for it and stop at several different gas stations to get directions and this is after we had directions from our hostess but we turned the wrong way one time and that is enough to really screw you up on finding the K Mart so we had to postpone that lovely trip to another day.  When we finally got there, it was after 9 p.m. and the store was as busy as a back to school sale day!  I could just not believe that so many people go to K Mart.  There were several busloads of “fresh off the plane” tourists as well and every one of them had a cart full to the brim of stuff.  We did stock up on some vitamins and such that are expensive in the U.K. and did find some lovely Guam dried mangoes (from the Philippines!) and certainly managed to spend some bucks there but nothing like the tourists.  If I ever live in a country where everyday living costs are so expensive that a trip to another country to shop in K Mart is a good idea, then please let me be living on someone else’s money!  Please, please, please!

Another afternoon was spent looking for a place to get my husband a haircut.  He felt like he was getting a bit raggedy.  Luckily for me, my hair is pretty slow growing and I can go a long time between haircuts which is good since I can’t ever seem to get a good one.  We sauntered into the mall after eating at the pizza hut for lunch and found one place to cut his hair.  It turned into a marathon of haircutting with three people working on his head.  The first lady was just learning and my hubby made her a bit too nervous with his comments and NO don’t cut that and so forth.  The next person was a bit of a step up and I never learned why this person left but finally he got an experience technician who must have felt he had to spend a lot of time on cutting my hubby’s hair since his first two people didn’t do very well.  All in all, it was about 1 ½ hours waiting time for me and I wasn’t even in a really great mall so I wasn’t interested in hitting all the stores.  Mostly I sat and read and was bored.  You can only peruse the hair stylist magazines so long and 1 ½ hours is about 1 ¼ hours too long.

We have one more day of diving on Sat.  AND Sat is the 68th Liberation Day Celebration for Guam.  68 years since they were liberated from the Japanese.  It is a really big thing here with lots of parties and a huge parade down the main street.  Sat. we are diving in the afternoon rather than the morning.  So we will be able to see some of the parade.  Hurrah!.

We stopped back at MDA after the second day of diving when I realized I couldn’t safely control the string on the safety sausage.  It could well become the “bends” sausage or the “rip off the fins” or the “rope burn” sausage.  So we wanted to exchange this newly purchased sausage for one with a reel and a good rope, one that we could control as it comes off the vest and control as it goes to the surface.  Unfortunately, the one we are trying to bring back is wet, wet, wet and she doesn’t to exchange the wet one but tells us if we dry it off, we can bring it back in the morning and exchange it for the one with a reel.  We do that and have much better success on our third day using the safety sausage.  Yea!

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Who Runs the Boat?

Who Runs the Boat?

July 18, 2012

            Our first day of diving finally and we both seem healthy enough with only the usual aches and pains of arthritis and creeping old age that we are ready to go!  Yea.  Our dive boat leaves out of the closer location this morning so we don’t have to get up too early and we have prepared all our gear last night.  Downstairs for breakfast with our hosts and all the dogs.  Our hostess has 5 dogs now.  They are lovely dogs and the two “wiener dogs” are cute as buttons and always trying to beg for some breakfast.  As we have two cats, it is lovely to stay someplace where they are such animal lovers and it gives me a chance to get a “fuzzy fix” since I am far from my cats at the moment.

Breakfast and good company and good conversation done, we load up the car and head for the dive boat which is close to the power plant.  We’re heading down the road and manage to find it without a worry and are even a bit early.  They are still setting up the boat and getting ready for the tour group that comes for the dives.  MDA’s bread and butter and jam and marmalade are the Japanese divers who come often and frequently.  We had actually neglected to ask if a dive guide went with each group of divers.  We prefer it because it is easier to spot wildlife when you have someone who knows the area and you don’t really have to pay much attention to where you are going either.  When it is time to end the dive, the dive guide or dive master usually knows where the boat is located and you have circled back to it.  Well, not remembering to ask if there was a dive guide meant we were in for a big surprise this morning.  We’ve dove in resorts for so long that I guess we just assumed we would have a guide but NOPE, that’s not the way they operate.  You can request a guide, in advance, and pay for one, but otherwise, you and your buddy are on your own – EXCEPT for the Japanese divers who come with a guide and come with helpers too I think.  MDA definitely knows who butters their bread.

The staff finally told us we could get on the boat and then we have another surprise.  We have paid, apparently, to have our tanks delivered to the dock BUT that means we are supposed to put them on the boat ourselves.  Again, they are busy loading the tanks that the tour group will use but we have to put on our own tanks.  Luckily, we can do that as we know how.  And, to be fair, some of the staff almost always helped me put my tanks on board because I do look rather feeble (gosh, hope not really but it is obvious I am older!)  That’s also a first with resort diving.

We got our gear ready and set up which included putting on our BCD’s and our regulators onto the tanks and usually that’s also something that resorts do for their clients.  This part I don’t mind because I think every diver should know how to set up and take care of their gear.  So we are ready to go and it is Past time for the boat to leave when the “bus” arrives.  Not sure it was really a bus but suddenly there are a dozen or more Japanese tourists who have arrived and are getting on the boat and being directed to their equipment which is sitting there on the boat ready for them.  They just have to hop on and get their mask, fins, and snorkels ready.  Amazing.  I was a bit surprised that the difference in service was so marked and vast.  However, I don’t know what these people paid for either.  It’s possible they paid a much higher price than we did to get their tanks loaded and prepped and to get a dive guide in the water with them.  Everything has its price.  Also, they were the ones who told the boat where they wanted to go as in which dive sites.  Before they arrived, there was a lot of discussion among the staff on what dive sites to visit today.  Once the Japanese tourists were on board, their staff member pretty much told the boat where he wanted to take his tourists.  As this staff member also seemed to be a MDA employee, possibly he was just higher ranking or more knowledgeable  but it seemed evident that the boat was going where the Japanese tourists wanted to go and so it was each and every day.

The boat is away and we have gotten a very brief boat safety lecture from the staff and we will get a very brief dive site briefing shortly.  We aren’t going to any far away sites on any of the days so it doesn’t take long to get to the first site.  We are going to be doing drift dives.  I’m not always a big fan of drift dives.  It means you go with the current underwater and when it is time for you to surface (low on air, running out of time, whatever), you deploy your safety sausage and do your safety stop and then pop up to the surface.  Supposedly the boat will have seen your sausage and been on its way to pick you out of the water.  In theory.  In practice, we have done some drift dives where we have surfaced in a driving rain storm and it took the boat 20 minutes to find us.  That one was scary.  I have also surfaced after a drift dive where the current was so strong, I had to hang onto rocks to remain in one place and had drifted so far that the boat took about 15 minutes to get to me.  So I’m less than thrilled that: (1) we have no dive guide to give us direction underwater (2) we’ll have to rely on spotting good stuff by ourselves without local expertise and (3) it’s a drift dive and we have to hope the boat sees us and comes to get us when we surface.

Still, we love to scuba and there’s always good stuff to see so we suit up and are in the water fairly quickly after we are anchored and “the pool is open”.  I’m working on a new light system with this trip to help my photography.  I have two underwater cameras and one does a fairly good job but not thrilled with the second as it doesn’t filter out very much of the blue unless I have the subject lighted really well.  My new light system is strapped to my wrist and supposedly shines the light wherever my hand points.  In practice, it kept twirling around my wrist because I couldn’t’ get it tight enough as I wasn’t wearing a wet suit and I think it needed one.  And also, it was just hard for me to figure out how to manipulate my camera and the light at the same time.  So I was less than thrilled with the results on my photos.

The first dive, I was quite pleased that I actually found a scorpion fish.  They are greatly camouflaged and usually quite hard to spot unless they are moving.   I caught this guy out of the corner of my eye and possibly he had been moving but he was still when I turned to look and verify what it was.  So my husband and I are underwater together by ourselves for possibly the first time in 20 years and we found a hard to find fish!  Awesome.  The dive wasn’t terrific though.  There were plenty of small aquarium type fish but nothing extraordinary past the scorpion fish and sad to say, my new light and camera system didn’t work very well and I ended up without a good photo of it.

Too soon the dive is over and we are surfacing and have realized that we don’t have a string to attach to our safety sausage so we can’t deploy it until we are on the surface.  It’s also hard to get a lot of air into it other than blowing so it is like a limp wrist bobbing on the surface and not standing up in the air for the boat to see.  The boat does see us though and comes to get us and we spend our down time talking to a few of the other divers on board waiting for the next dive.

The boat moves to a new site and we are ready again to enter the water.  This dive was a bit better as the corals were a lot more interesting.  Still, we aren’t seeing a lot of interesting fish but we are seeing some that we don’t recognize and that’s always good.  At the beginning of our dive, we saw some of the other groups descending and swimming but they quickly disappeared into the blue and we are alone again.  It is still a bit freaky as we just aren’t used to being underwater by ourselves and yet we know divers who would sooner slit their air hoses than be attached to a group or a dive guide.  There’s room underwater for everyone I guess.

The dive boat captain had loaned us a safety sausage for our second dive (in case I haven’t explained, a safety sausage is a long red or yellow tube.  Underwater, you blow air into it either from your mouth or from your octopus rig or your regulator.  Once it has air in it, it floats to the surface or jets to the surface if you put in a lot of air, and bobs there, hopefully upright, so the boat can see you and come get you).  This safety sausage had a string and reel attached so we could deploy it while we were still underwater.  We never heard another boat but the captain said we were in boat lanes so having the safety sausage arrive on the surface ahead of us was a good thing.

All divers back on board shortly after we climbed aboard and we are heading back to the dock.  MDA has a number system.  Everyone signs in and gets a number with a clasp that attaches to your equipment.  After the last dive, the numbers are collected by the staff and when they have all the numbers, they know they have all the divers.  The staff are quite quick on pulling the numbers off your vest as your climb the ladder onto the boat and I think I only once had to take my number off my vest and actually hand it to him.

Once at the dock, another bit of a surprise because we have to take all our gear with us (which we actually realized that because we are leaving from a different marina tomorrow) but there didn’t seem to be a place to rinse the gear (I found it later) and that means we’ll have to rinse it back at our BnB.

Time for lunch but first we have to stop at MDA and get a better safety sausage system, one with a string on it so we can deploy below the surface.  There are several there with reels and while I would like one, it seems there is one in a pouch too that has a string and it is much cheaper so we get that one.  Now lunch.

We have been hitting the Del Taco already.  Love Del Taco with its cheap greasy imitation Mexican food.  There is a Del Taco in the shopping center so we stop for burritos and nachos and then head back to the BnB to clean up our gear and take a shower and find something to do for the rest of the day. Took a while to get the gear rinsed as our hostess just has a hose.  All the grass has been picked over by the chickens so the area quickly got a bit muddy as I was washing the gear so I put it on the steps to dry.  We’ll have to come out this evening and pack it up to go tomorrow again.

We have visited Guam twice before so we have seen a lot of the museums and a lot of the sites on the island and we decide, in the end, that we are still tired from hiking around abandoned cities in Russia and gulags and that we can relax and enjoy ourselves and just chill.  So we chill.  Nice day, nice dives

Today is Wednesday though.  Wednesday is the day of the Chamorro Market in town.  The Chamorro people were some of the first settlers of Guam and there are still plenty of them around.  In fact, our host is Chamorro.  The Wednesday market has restaurants and stalls and stuff for sale plus is a good gathering place for locals to talk and dance and have fun.  We had planned on going with our host and hostess.  We took both our rental car and they drove in their truck in case we wanted to stay longer or vice versa.


Found some parking and then walked over to the market which was just getting started.  Our hostess pointed out the place they like to eat and there was already a line forming.  We joined the line while our host went to find us a place to sit.  The line started moving promptly at opening time and we got one large plate to share and drinks and then climbed up to the top floor of the community building to eat our dinners.  Below us was a small open dance floor which will be busy later this evening.  Our host said the same people come every week and dance.  A gentleman below was starting his evening warm up.  Many of the people who come to dance will wear costumes or wear traditional clothing of the islands.


After finishing our dinner, we walked around the market for a while.  I was hoping to get some ice cream but it was not to be.  The places that had it were quite crowded and I was just too tired to wait in line.  We headed for the Micronesia Goldsmiths shop.  We had visited this shop years before and purchased a pair of earrings for me.  At the time, Victor, the man who owns or runs it or makes the jewelry (never sure which – ah, looked it up and he’s the owner and jeweler:, had a gold dragon that I particularly liked and I wanted to see if he still had it.  It might have been the same one but this time I didn’t like it as well.  But we got started talking to him and stayed there talking to him for quite a long time.  He’s a travel nut and we’re travel nuts so we had a lot of stories to share.  And in the end, we got a glass of champagne and purchased a pair of gold turtles with diamonds on their backs.  Lovely.


Our host and hostess left while we were in there and afterwards, kept looking for that ice cream but it was not to be.  My husband however, found a microbrew at one of the bars and we went in to taste it.  He thought it quite good for a beer that started out as being made at someone’s home in a hot climate.  When we left, we talked briefly to the wife to compliment her hubby on his beer.  Then it was time for us to meander back to our room and get our gear ready for tomorrow.

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Let the Diving Begin

Let the Diving Begin

July 17, 2012

            Originally, I had set up our diving schedule with MDA divers in Guam to begin today.  I thought we would do a couple of dives a day from Tuesday through Saturday with our day off on Sunday and then fly home early in the morning on Monday.  Then I came to my senses and realized we were going to be VERY tired on Tuesday morning so I decided we would skip that day and just do 4 days of diving.  Sometimes I am incredibly smart because I was so right that we were so tired on Tuesday.  Our hostess met us at the airport at the incredibly rude hour of 2 a.m. or something like that.  She has lived in Guam over 20 years and while I’m not sure how long she has been doing bed and breakfast, we have gone to her house 3 times now and she always meets us in the middle of the night.  Her explanation is that the Asian airports close down past midnight so they fly to Guam, which doesn’t’ close in the middle of the night, and then they are ready to go back to their home base when the airport opens the next morning.  One of these days I must fly in from somewhere that doesn’t land me in the wee hours somewhere between darkness and dawn.


Our hostess is down one car from the last time we visited so she had to borrow her neighbor’s car and our bags almost didn’t all fit but we crammed into the car and luckily her house isn’t far from the airport.  We were snugged into our apartment over the carport within an hour of walking out of the airport and hugging all around.  She does a great breakfast but assured us we could wander down whenever we wanted and she’d cook us up something great.  Only problem with that is her rooster.  She’s a bird person and has some ducks and chickens and geese and roosters and most of the neighbors seem to have roosters as well plus there are some wild ones roaming about the area.  Any roosters I’ve ever heard have never been “sun up” kind of birds.  They just seem to crow whenever they feel like it; middle of the night, middle of the day, middle of the sleep, whenever.  All these roosters seemed to follow this pattern so we did not sleep very late this morning.  Would have liked to but were not allowed.  Roosters rule and seem to say, you are in a tropical paradise so get up and enjoy it!


Like I mentioned, our hostess was a car down so after breakfast, she took us to the car rental place she likes so we would have transport.  This place doesn’t have a spot at the airport so she will have to return us to the airport in the middle of the night again when we leave.  In the past, we have actually rented her car but this one will do ok.  Next order of business is to check in with the dive shop and make sure we are set up for our dives the rest of the week.  On our very first trip to Guam many years ago, we had been set up to dive with them but my husband had an ear problem in Saipan so he could not dive once in Guam.  I did one dive in the Pitti Bomb Craters which is just a shore dive and then we did the tourist thing the rest of the time.  Now we will be able to do boat dives with MDA.  It is a very good thing we went to the trouble of checking in with them a day early because the dive boats leave from different marinas and we had no clue as to where the marinas were located.  Luckily our hostess did so she directed us down the road to find the marinas.  We are diving out of two different ones.  One is quite a drive from her house and will take us about ½ hour to get there or a bit longer if there is traffic.  And on Saturday, it is the 68th liberation day celebration from WWII when Guam was liberated from the Japanese.  There will be a big parade which might make it even harder to get to the boat but we’ll worry about that later.


My hubby gets his rented BCD and we pick up weights.  I won’t do Nitrox diving on this trip because most of the dives are shallow enough and we would have to stop at the shop to calibrate the tanks and transport the tanks ourselves if I wanted Nitrox.  Hmmm. Not quite the resort diving that we are used to getting in some places.  Transport my own tanks!  Wow.  Haven’t done that in about – hmm – forever it seems.


Now to the main business of the day – laundry!  Oh my gosh! Do we have dirty clothes!  Everything is dirty except the swimsuits which we haven’t used yet.  No quarters so our hostess gets everything started for us and then we head to the bank to get some good ole U.S. cash and a roll of quarters for the laundry.  She’s looking for Wisconsin – one of two state quarters that she doesn’t have yet.  Right out of the roll is a Wisconsin!  I bring luck!  Takes a while to do the laundry because like commercial dryers everywhere, they really don’t ever dry your clothes.  We finally get the warm enough and head back to the house to spread them all over our room to finish drying.


Spent the rest of the day just relaxing and getting ready to dive the next day and having some dinner and basically getting re-acquainted with the island.  The most popular place to shop is K-Mart.  You have never experienced a K-Mart like Guam because it is on the tourist run and has its own shuttles bringing in tourists and shoppers.  There are some hotels that pick up their guests at the airport and stop at the K-mart on the way to the hotel.  The store is open 24 hours a day and it is never less than throbbing with people and heaving with customers trying to find bargains and crowding the checkouts and the lanes.  There are a ton of Japanese customers and they are the ones that like it the most, I would say.  We work on trying to find my hubby a pair of shorts and also pick up some vitamins and snacks and such that we have a hard time finding in the U.K. or that are too expensive in the U.K.  We figured it would be our only run to K Mart because don’t really like K marts but I was mistaken.  bummer

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And Everyone Leaves

And Everyone Leaves

July 16, 2012

            This is our last day in Vladivostok.  Most of the other tour members are leaving very early this morning so we are not going to get up before 6 to say goodbye.  We said goodbye last night and will just email or watch Facebook for news.  I’m sure we’ll see Simon again someday because his company, Koryo Tours just offers too many good things to do and see.  Chances are my hubby won’t be on one like this again though.  We have found that he’s not keen on Dark Tourism and apparently I am.  Ah well.  We have so many other tours and trips together that we both like so not a problem.


A couple of the Brits who are expats in Hong Kong will be on our afternoon flight to Seoul.  We will all ride to the airport together.  They both seem to have a lot more energy than we do and both were up and out the door this morning to go see things in Vladivostok.  I would like to say that both are much younger than my hubby and me but sad to say, I think one of them is older!  The energy train has left the building for us.  We try to sleep as late as possible which isn’t easy since the hotel is still remodeling and the scaffolding is right beside our hotel room window.  Some men were busy climbing up the scaffolding around 7 a.m. but they passed by fairly quickly and then we didn’t hear them again so we managed to sleep a bit later.  Then down for breakfast and it’s always a bit odd to no longer recognize anyone in the room.  It is amazing how much you come to enjoy seeing the other tour members and having someone else to talk to at a meal.


So, in the end, we do nothing else in Vladivostok but pack our bags and then take care of some business on line and some reading and some photo labeling and quickly the morning passes and we are downstairs with our suitcases – all four of them – and waiting and hoping our two fellow travelers show up on time and they do and we all pile into the van for the ride to the airport.


At the airport, we are handed out of the car and that’s all from the tour company.  The four of us head into the terminal and are stopped from going into the check in area because they are not ready to check in our Korean Airlines flight yet.  As we are standing there with the line growing, my husband and I are staring at a sign that says “Business class passengers please proceed upstairs to the business class lounge”.  I love being business class.  Not wanting to haul 4 suitcases up the steps in case it is a mistake, my honey gallantly walks upstairs to see if we should go up there and yes, we should.  One of the other men helps carry my bags upstairs and we are ushered into a room where they pile up our suitcases and take our passports and usher us into a lounge and then run off with everything while we wait in relative comfort and also have drinks and snacks.  How nice.  I am a bit anxious that they have taken our passports but they return with them shortly and have our luggage tags and our boarding passes in hand.  Now we just wait for a bit until it is time to board, practically.  They have a nice treatment protocol set up for the business class passengers.  Time to go to the gate and we have our own little immigration counter to check out of the country and then into the departure gate area where we see our two friends also ready to board the plane.  Leaving Russia again but I’ll be back to Russia in a couple of weeks with my daughter for a short trip to St. Petersburg.  One side of the country to the other.


The flight on Korean Air is about 2 hours with a 2 hour time change.  We are upstairs on the plane.  It has been awhile since we’ve flown a double decker.  Usually on Asian airlines, it’s pretty hot in the plane but since it was an older model, we had some air at each seat, luckily, and I didn’t get overheated.  Out of Russia and into Seoul and we passed over some lovely islands coming into Incheon Airport.  I say this a lot but I sure do miss living in Seoul.


To transfer from one flight to another without going through immigration still means you have to go through security so we caught up with the two men going to Hong Kong in security and said our last goodbyes and then we went to the business class lounge because we have a late flight to Guam and are going to get there are about 1 a.m. or so.  My plan was to have a short nap in the lounge and take a shower before we leave and then hopefully also get a bit of sleep on the plane.  It worked fairly well, the plan but we still seemed to be terribly tired by the time we hit Guam.

Posted in Far East Russia, History, Russia, Scuba Diving, travel, Vladivostok | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tour ending in Vladivostok

Tour ending in Vladivostok

July 15, 2012

Our last day of touring with the group and everyone scatters tomorrow.  Today is Vladivostok day   but won’t be a huge tour as most of the group has done some exploring here already but we will hit some of the high points.  We have heard of some underground tours where “diggers” (seems to be the term here for underground urban explorers. Here is a website that explains it better: and their definition… “””Digging – (name of Russian urban exploration) – dangerous alternative hobby, consisting of the infiltration and exploration of underground levels and constructions such as tunnels and drains.”””) take people around in former fortresses and tunnels.  Several of us are interested in doing this but the Vladivostok diggers are apparently working stiffs like the rest of us and can only do this in the evenings or on the weekends and the timing just isn’t going to work.

We start our day with the wonderful buffet breakfast in the hotel (and wonderful is a bit of a stretch but there is usually yoghurt).  We meet Julia in the lobby and walk down to the ferry.  That’s down the hill past the train station where we can see the old steam engine on display on the tracks below us.  I tell my husband that there is a plaque that shows this is the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway but I couldn’t remember exactly where the plaque is located.  We continue to the ferry and Julia meets someone who has our tickets for us.  The ferry is waiting so we get on board and there are very few places to sit.  I find a seat on a large square structure and park it and remain there until it is time to get off of the ferry.  It could be a car ferry but no cars get on board.  My husband wanders around a bit but mostly he sits next to me too.

Usually the ferry makes a stop before our destination of Russki Island but that dock had been washed away so it’s a straight shot for us now.  At Russki Island, there are two taxis waiting for us and we pile into them and are raced around the island to the far side.  This is Voroshilov Battery.  It is one of the military facilities built around Vladivostok during the early 20th century.  The purpose of these batteries was defense against the Chinese and the Japanese.  It is felt that these batteries kept Vladivostok from falling under attack and kept Vladivostok safe.

The battery is surrounded by woods and the trees have grown up some over the viewpoints so now you can’t really see a long way off in the ocean but in its heyday!  We are met by the former and the last base commander.  He now works here as a guide.  We assemble along with some other groups and he leads the way to the big guns sitting on top of the hill.

The guns are not functional any longer but they must have been something as they were huge.  We did find out that the guns were never actually fired in defense or war, just that they were there was enough to keep the marauders from marauding.   The base commander doesn’t speak English so Julia must translate for us.  Sometimes she holds us back to do this so the group is wandering ahead of us as we get the information a tad bit later.

From the guns, we are going into one of the battery stations; the place where the ammunition was kept and shells rolled onto lifts and bays to raise to the gun, be rammed into place and fired.  While the guns where never fired in earnest, they did have practice runs so the men would know how to fire the humungous weapons

I found this on site:

“””«…Over the Voroshilovsky battery there remains a deafening silence. You can hear even the leaves falling… first… second… third… On May, 1931 USSR Revolutionary Council of War makes the decision about measures to improve defense of Vladivostok. According to it from 1932 to 1934 most concrete, rocky and underground works on Russki Island have been done. Onshore heavy artillery batteries were installed in 1932-1945 years in Vladivostok defense area and due to their presence on the coast and islands; the Japanese fleet has not risked attacked Vladivostok, and turned on Pearl Harbor. Details of towers and cannon barrels were transported to the island on barges. On February, 1, 1934 the installation of the first tower took place, and on April, 1, 1934 – the second one was finished. Since 1934 and up to the present days artillery has been protecting approaches to Vladivostok from seaside.

Officially Voroshilovsky battery was closed down as fighting unit of coastal defense of Pacific fleet on July, 30, 1997. Now it is a museum of the Pacific Fleet. There are markers near the road, with their help it is easy to get to the absolutely confidential object, which Voroshilovsky battery was in the past. Under each of the two towers there is the underground under-turret block with accommodation, technical facilities and ammunition depots, with 3 floors, and the descent into the deep – gallery length of 217 m. At the Voroshilov battery year round heat (there is electric heating), and all rooms have electric lighting, a souvenir shop.”””

It was quite an interesting tour.  It is hard to imagine it up and running and especially at the speeds that were required to get the ammunition ready and into the guns to fire.  The whole layout was ingenious and  remarkable in how they moved the powder charges and the shells and how quickly too.  The base commander certainly was proud of the installation and his place in history as one of the commanders.

Too soon we are back into the taxis and race back to the ferry dock.  We can’t miss our ferry or we wait a couple of hours for the next one.  No problem as it is just pulling up to the dock when we arrive.  I find a slightly better seat this time and we start the ride back to Vladivostok.

Pretty much time for some lunch so we follow Julia away from the port and up the main street to a restaurant building.  It appeared that  this building was full of different types of restaurants.  We have a room with a Chinese meal awaiting us with soup and dim sum.  Quite tasty but now my stomach is playing havoc with me as well as the hips and knees.

We have a bit of time after lunch before we start some afternoon touring.  My hubby and I walk up the street and around the block.  We were looking for the pedestrian street but somehow we missed it so we went towards the train station instead but I couldn’t remember where the plaque was and we had forgotten to ask anyone before we came so we didn’t go down any of the long flights of stairs to find it.  A train did arrive while we were standing there and it was quite long.  Pretty sure it was the Trans-Siberian arriving. We walk back to the Everyman Monument to meet the group for our afternoon bit.

The group is dwindling as some members of the group have been to these attractions before and wants to go see other things.  Everyone agrees to meet for dinner one last time though and Simon will take us to a local shop to eat.  Julia heads for the submarine with her dwindling row of ducklings.  She is showing us the square where there is a monument to Peter the Great up a side street.  Unfortunately for us, it is scaffolded and under repair.  Next to the submarine is a chapel dedicated to mariners.  I stepped inside for a minute and looked around as the last time I had been here, it had been closed.  My hubby takes some photos and also of the monument to fallen sailors then we duck into the submarine which is a museum in the first half and shows bits of the submarine in the second half.  I am very tempted to buy a hat on my way out which is strewn with naval pins but I pass.  Then a tour member comes out behind me with the hat in hand and I am sorry I didn’t get it.  Wow, so easily swayed one way or another.

This is the end of our tour and we slowly trudge our way back up the hill to our hotel.  Most of the group is leaving in the early morning so the last we will see them will be dinner.  A couple of the Brits who live in Hong Kong are on our Korean air flight with us back to Seoul and we won’t be leaving until about 12:30 from the hotel.  It’s been a remarkably good tour even with my husband decided this type of adventure is not for him.  He did have a good time most of the time.  I had a good time all of the time except when bits and pieces of my body wanted to be in a hot tub anywhere but where I was.

We hang out a bit in our room checking to make sure all our flights are in order and everything is a go to head to Guam for our last week of vacation which will be scuba diving.  Then we meet the group downstairs at 8 p.m. for our last dinner.  Simon leads us down the hill to the waterfront area again and we end up at a Russian café which is basically a walk through the line and point to what you want or pick it up and put it on your tray.  Not really hungry so I don’t get much and share the rest with my hubby.  Somehow I thought the last meal would be a bit fancier in a restaurant but this is ok, really.  It’s quite typical of the way the Russians go out to eat.

There aren’t enough seats at a single table so we are a bit scattered between two and ½ tables.  I am facing a table where two older gentlemen and a woman are eating.  One of the men is dressed in a full military uniform and we found out it was the Navy.  Every time I snuck a glance over towards him, he would look up and wink at me.  Finally I can see that they are about finished with their meal and they are getting ready to leave.  The Navy man looks at me again and I motion with my camera that I would like to take a photo.  Wow.  He is totally up for that, in fact, he jumps up and puts on his hat and starts posing for us.  Several of the tour members have come out without their cameras tonight and are quite sorry because we got a show!

Julia is not with us so we are dependent upon Simon for translation and the man speaks too quickly for Simon to get most of it but he gets some salient points.  The man is a former Navy Captain.  He even hauls out his wallet later to show us his identification.  Not quite sure of all the other things he tried to tell us but he had definite opinions on everything and didn’t care for President Obama when he found out some of us were Americans.  Wow, that’s a first because usually people overseas love Obama.

He wants his photo taken with me which I am not overjoyed about but I do it and then one other member wants a photo with him and then suddenly he has gotten out his stringed instrument, a balalaika, which is triangular and has three strings.  Sort of like an oddly shaped ukulele.    He starts playing for us and we all dutifully listen and when he stops, we applaud.  His wife is sitting resignedly at the table.  She has the look that says, Here he goes again and that says he must do this often.  Why else would he run around in his uniform with this balalaika?

After we applaud, he starts playing again but it is the same song.  This time he sings along with it for more applause.  Once again, the applause stops and he starts playing again.  Now he adds some dance steps that amount to him jumping up and down in place as he is singing and playing.  End of performance, weaker applause, smiles all around, he starts again.  This happened about 8 times.  Then he says that he wants a souvenir from us.  He knows the souvenir word.  We have nothing to give him really because we’ve all come out without backpacks and such.  One of the Aussies pulls out a $20 Australian and hands it to him.  We are all going, OMG, you aren’t going to get it back but he says it’s ok.  The captain examines it very carefully and Simon explains it is from Australia.  The captain smiles and pockets it and launches into another song and dance and it is the same music again.  Our favorite Aussie then pulls out a $20 U.S. and hands it to the captain.  This bill he recognized immediately and stuffed it in his pocket without examination.  Glad our Aussie was rich to give away almost $40 to the captain.

The captain is still going strong so Simon says we should all get up or we’ll be here forever so we do and the captain mimes and asks Simon if I will send the photos we have taken.  Sure, I can do that.  He gets a piece of paper and starts writing down his address so I can mail him the photos.   He is about half way through writing down his address when his wife gets frustrated and takes the paper from him, turns it over, and writes down the address to give to me.  And then we are able to take our leave.

The group goes down the street to a bar and there are hugs and smiles all around and goodbyes.  It has been a remarkable group and rather cohesive too as we were all interested in the subject matter of the tour and the uniqueness of it.  My hubby and I go with Simon to a shop where he buys chocolate for his helpers back at his office.  We just get a few snacks for the plane and then it’s up the hill to the hotel and we finish our last bit of packing and we are zonked.

Posted in Far East Russia, gulags, History, mining, Russia, travel, Vladivostok | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Magadan and Vladivostok

Return to Magadan and Vladivostok

July 13 and 14

            Today we leave our cozy guesthouse in the apartment blocks of Susuman and return via our 650 km road to Magadan.  It is a very long drive and we have seen parts of this road a lot as it is the road to the airport, the road to gulag and the Road of Bones but also now the lifeline between many of these small towns and villages that continue to survive in the vast backlands of Far East Russia.  It is a journey that a good many of us probably slept through, rousing for the rest stops and not much else.


Back in Magadan we are free for the evening.  My husband and I struggle up to a new room and find out that it hasn’t been cleaned yet.  We get a second room but it is on the street side and we’ve heard from other tour members that boy racers like to drag race their cars up and down the street at night.  Not looking forward to being kept awake all night by muscle cars and loud engines, we ask for a room on the backside of the hotel and get our third room.  We will need to pack tonight and weigh our bags to see what we can take back with us of the various items we have brought from Akta and Kadykchan.   But before we do that, we decide to walk to the Lenin statue in the town.


We ask directions and are told we can’t miss it which is almost always a sure sign that we will.  We head out of the hotel and follow the directions until I feel we have walked far enough.  Nothing is in sight of where we thought it should be so I stop people who are passing and ask for Lenin.  The first two people we stopped had no idea what we were talking about and they did speak English.  We stopped a couple and they decided they knew where the statue was so the lady says to come with her and she turns around to walk back the way she had come and to escort us to the statue.  I love it when people are kind enough to do this.  She walks us a couple of blocks further down the street and we can see the statue so we thank her profusely and go take photos of Lenin with bird droppings all over his head and shoulders.


The statue is in the square right next to the former KGB building and we had read that you aren’t supposed to take photos of that building.  There was a young girl in the square who had a large bag of bird seed and was busy pouring it on the ground in various places so that the pigeons would fly to her and get the seed.  We just positioned ourselves on the opposite side of her and snapped away.  Why some buildings are photographable and others are not is rather odd but then I don’t know espionage and maybe there is a secret code written in the building’s stone.


We are also busy checking the internet to see if we will be able to take my moose antler home with us.  There is nothing in Russia regulations that would seem to forbid it.  So I think we can take the antler.  We look up British regulations since that is where the antler would live with us for a while.  Again, nothing that would preclude our bringing it home with us.  BUT, when we leave Vladivostok, we are heading to Guam which is the U.S. and there the regulations got us.  They wanted proof of a hunting license or proof of purchase from a reputable dealer or hunter or something that was going to be impossible for me to obtain or to prove.  Think the customs agent would let me in when I explained I happened to find it in an abandoned Russia city?  So with a heavy heart, we decided that I would have to abandon my moose antler.  But wait!  We know an ivory carver and I’ll bet he could use a nice moose antler.  We have seen some nice carvings in the stores from moose antlers.  So tomorrow morning, we will take it to the ivory carver and give it to him and maybe he’ll even be so grateful for getting a free moose antler that he might give me a small ivory carving or at least sell me one at a cheaper cost.


We are able to pack up everything else and get it under the weight limit of 20 kg that Vladivostok Air seems to love.  We do have to put a few extra things in our backpacks which make them rather heavy but we are packed and ready to go.


Next morning, July 14th,  we are heading out to drop off our moose antler.  I am pretty sure I can find the ivory carver again and so is my husband so between the two of us, we should be fine.  But as luck would have it, we ran into Simon who is still trying to find his girlfriend a gold ankle bracelet so he’s on his way to a different gold shop.  We tag along and set my antler down by the door so I can look at jewelry.  Really, honey, it just happened that we ended up in a gold shop, quite an accident.  Of course I found some lovely earrings.  As my husband ended up getting the ivory carving for his collection of small animals that he has for good luck, I thought it only fair that I get a pair of earrings.  Well, I always think it is fair that I get a piece of jewelry of some sort or another.  Having a piece of jewelry from almost everywhere we visit is a nice goal to have.  We also visited the souvenir shop with Simon where he bought a t shirt, I think.  We were just hanging out then but did find a magnet.  Magnets are also a good thing to collect.


The lady at the gold shop thought that my antler should be better protected so she pulls out this huge plastic bag.  The bag looked like one that might come around a mattress.  It was pretty thick and about as big as a baby mattress size of plastic covering.  She puts my antler in it and tapes it down and hands it back to me.  Well, we don’t have  far to go to the ivory carver but it was a very nice gesture on her part.


Simon is still walking with us and he definitely knows where the ivory carver has his shop but happily, my husband and I would have been correct in finding it.  Unfortunately, we enter the building and he is not there.  In fact, his workshop, which is downstairs below the entry level, is barricaded with a metal bar door.  I’m very disappointed because I am not going to get my free ivory piece or discounted price in gratitude.  Oh well.  I think I can slide the moose antler under the door so I try and it clatters down the stairs as it slides to the bottom of the steps and stops right in front of his door.  Perfect.  Now I hope he doesn’t come to his shop and think I have dropped off a bomb or something.


We have a treat for our last day in Magadan.  One of the tour company ladies has talked her mother into cooking a traditional meal for the group.  They did this for the first tour group that came here with Simon and it was quite successful.  Simon says she is an excellent cook.  We meet at the hotel and then walk up the hill to her apartment block.  Her block looks the same on the outside as they all do but with a clock tower on it so a bit nicer.  Of course she lives on the top floor so I trudge up the steps and arrive last at the door.  I still am let into her apartment which is very, very nice but completely full in every nook and cranny.


Everyone removes their shoes and we go into the kitchen/dining room and gaze in awe at the table and how it is so laden and just groaning with the amount of food that is sitting on it for us to eat.  Vika’s mother doesn’t speak English but she knows some German and several of the tour members speak German so they can communicate and ask questions and the tour agency ladies translate a lot for us.  Mama is quite happy to have us here and offers us beer and her homemade cranberry liquor first.  The cranberry liquor is quite good and I bet I could drink a lot before I would realize I was getting drunk.


Our first course is going to be soup and we get a choice of a noodle soup or borscht.  I never liked beets growing up and there are many sad tales of beet meals gone awry in our family but I love borscht.  Somehow  it never tastes like my hated childhood beets so I asked for borscht.  On the table for our enjoyment and to help ourselves are the following dishes and I have probably forgotten a few:  dried reindeer tongue (like beef jerky and absolutely delicious – I ate a lot of it), a crab salad with rice, fresh cut vegetables, mushrooms with cheese melted on them, big pickles, an eggplant something, smoked salmon, a fish cake of some sort, another type of smoked or raw fish (didn’t try either of those, not a big fish fan like that), nice fresh bread both white and brown,  and that’s all I can remember of this part.  When we had eaten a great deal of these dishes, she brought over two huge cooked crabs! OMG.  By  now I am stuffed but my hubby just LOVES crab so he digs in along with some other men and they put that crab to waste.  I get a few bits from him but while I like crab too, it’s too messy and hard to work at it so I just steal his.


This was definitely the best meal of the tour and I do wish I could have brought home that entire reindeer with me and some of the other stuff as well but too soon it is time to leave.  Our Bear Guy, Volodkya is there so we get to say goodbye to him, and also to the tour agency owners who have been fantastic in putting together this trip.  Turns out their agency specializes in some of the hunting and fishing type trips that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.  So we pack it in and trudge back to the hotel for our bags which are once again locked in the closet and then out to the van to ride back to the airport and leave Magadan.


Nothing special about the flight but we have to stop in Khabarovsk again for a bit and then into Vladivostok and our time changes again but only by an hour.  Back to Vladivostok hotel where we pick up our diving gear.  The only sad thing here is Vladivostok Air allows 23kg on the flights return to Vladivostok where I know they were only letting 20 kg on the flight to Magadan.  I could have brought my antler as far as weight goes!  But the U.S. regulations were still probably going to make it impossible to keep.  Well , we asked the tour agency ladies to please call the ivory carver and explain where his unexpected gift of a moose antler had come from.  Hope he was able to use it.

Posted in Far East Russia, gulags, History, Magadan, mining, Russia, travel, Vladivostok | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment