August 17, 2009 - 8/15 – Travel to Irkutsk

Saturday, 15 AUG, 3:00pm:  Lisa and my sister Susie saw me off at Charlotte Douglas airport.

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17 hours later, via Paris, I arrive in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.  They scanned us all for ‘sickness’ with some sort of camera before they would let us off the plane.  Here’s me getting scanned.

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The flight was an hour late. The international and domestic terminals in Moscow are literally miles apart.  My bike in a box and yellow duffle with riding and camping gear did not make it.  I rushed to fill out the forms and catch the flight to Irkutsk.

Entering immigration, a verbal commotion followed.  They found the luggage.  Rather than miss the cross-country flight waiting for the inter-terminal bus, I tossed everything into a cab and zoomed around the airport to terminal 1. 

Having already ridden 1,100 miles through Belarus and Russia, I expected things to be a little run down and was not disappointed.  Warm Coke (out of an apparent refrigerator) and warm white wine are better than none at all.  They boast FREE INTERNET in terminal 1, but uniquely and irritatingly enough, you have to log back on every 5 minutes or so to use it.  I was a bit surprised though that there were no gates at the domestic terminal. (pic1)  It gets VERY cold and wintry in Moscow. 

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Departing Moscow at 3:45pm – my second night in a row on an airplane.  Both nights with seats that do not recline, for different reasons.  The Air France seat was broken (unusual for them), and on the Aeroflot plane seat 8C was, unfortunately, right in front of the exit row.  🙁 

Finally, 27 hours later, I arrive in Irkutsk at 5:20a.  Here’s the security guy coming to yell at me and Mark Bos (across the aisle on the plane, diplomat for EU to Russia) who was taking my picture.  There Alexsey, my guide, was waiting.  My luggage made it.

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Now it’s off to regroup in town. For the next 8 days I’ll be in Russia.  Most folks, especially in rural areas, are quite nice.  They seek out the person in town who speaks English, to enable a translated conversation.  In the bigger cities though, somehow they associate entrepreneurship with crime.  One needs be careful.

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