Thanks to those of you who have been reading my dispatches from Russia and the Ponoi River. It was, in every sense, an epic trip of a lifetime.
But there is some backstory worth sharing. KLM airlines lost my luggage in Amsterdam before I could fly from Helsinki to Murmansk. I cleared Russian customs with my computer, camera, and a plastic bag filled with six pairs of underwear, two pair of socks, and a bottle of scotch I bought at Duty-Free. The perplexed customs agent stared at me for a bit, and I simply stared back, implying only “I’m here to party.” I got stamped through…and I think even Hunter S. Thompson would have been proud. (Fortunately, the guides at Ryabaga camp outfitted me for the week with everything I needed, clothes and all, which I think is further testament to what a top-notch operation they run on the Ponoi.)
The real issue for me was, admittedly, the ride in and out of camp on a Soviet-era Mi-8 helicopter, which lasted for two hours each way. I had seen my doctor and obtained a prescription for some “chill pills” specifically for that purpose. Add a little Pink Floyd through the iPod, and it was all good. I must say, however, riding in one of those choppers is like sitting in an airborne tractor–it’s more akin to something from Jules Verne than Star Trek. But it was a great experience, and I am a better man for it.
I can’t vouch for everyone else on that ride, and hence, I offer this image as a Fly Talk caption contest fodder. What’s missing in this photo is the strong smell of av-gas, and the portrait of the Virgin Mary hung outside the cockpit. But you get the gist.
You also know the drill. Best caption wins a prize, and in this case, it will be an autographed copy of my newly-released book, “The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp.” Good luck, and have at it.