Day 90. 30th of May. Lodejnoje Pole to Mandrogi. 29.8 km, 6.0 km/hr average speed.
We expected an interesting day, and we got more than we bargained for.
They day got off to an abrupt start when Stein got out of the tent at 0500 hrs, and reported back: One kayak is missing!
We cursed ourselves. The kayaks were only five meters from the tent, but close to the water. Almost all we have met have warned us against teft. “things happen in Russia”, so theft was our first thought.
On second thought we considered the possibility that the kayak had been swept away by the waves from a passing boat. But we haven’t seen waves that large, we hadn’t heard anything and Erling’s boat hadn’t move an inch.
Well we had to explore options within reach. We alerted Vladimir who alerted traffic control. Mean while Erling got in the boat and paddled down river to look for the missing kayak.
After about 2 km he found it. It was stuck in some willows. It looked OK. Even a loose wheel from Stein’s kayak wagon, just lying on deck was still there.
Erling towed the kayak back up to camp. Stein discovered that his spraydeck was missing. Fortunately we have an extra.
It is overwhelmingly likely that the kayak was swept along by waves from a passing boat. And we were very lucky to find it.
We had a long breakfast and went to visit the museum attached to the park. It was small and haphazard, with zoology, interior decorations, and the biggest section dedicated to the liberation of Lodejnoje Pole from Nazi occupation in November 1944.
We got going for a very short first leg. Two kilometers to a landing close to an ATM. So now we have relevant cash, when needed.
The rest of the paddle to the locks was uneventful. An overcast day with strong northerly head winds that we tried to avoid as best we could by shifting sides of the river.
As we arrived at the lock the plot thickened. Vladimir was negotiating with traffic control on our behalf. But they were adamant that such small boats would not be allowed into the locks. We pulled the boats ashore and went to investigate options. We went a little too far in our investigations, we must have trespassed into military area, because suddenly an armed man came up behind us an pointed with his Kalasjnikov to the gate we had just entered. It is particularly easy to take a hint when it is given with a Kalasjnikov and we walked back out without any discussion.
Still no solution. Getting the kayaks onto a passing boat would not be easy, even if we were allowed to. This was because there was no quay. Still Vladimir thought this was our best chance.
As we stood discussing this a truck approached from the closed compound. We tried to wave it down. Success! We tried to explain in Russian plus handwaiving that we needed transport for two baidarkas around the locks. Maxim the driver understood this. Which proves he is a really, really smart guy. And he was willing to help. 30 minutes, some heavy lifting and a little driving, the kayaks were at the water’s edge on the upside of the locks.
Maxim wanted no compensation, but Stein gave him a paper copy of Svetlana’s article before he drove away.
As we were lunching 10 minutes later he came back and wanted us to sign the paper. We get asked for autographs! Anyway Maxim is the man of the day.
We paddled on for another couple of hours until we came to Mandrogi, a village designed for tourists to see what traditional Russian country life was like. As we approached, Anna who works as seasonal hand here, waved us in. Turns out she has a kayak and wants to paddle with us a little tomorrow morning. Tonight she helped us find our way and find somewhere to put the kayaks. She and her friend Vasha (Vasily) also invited us for a samovar after dinner.
Again: Russian hospitality and generosity saves the day. We need just a little bit more for the second set of locks tomorrow…