Kamchatka Land of 10,000 Bears, Part 10

by david on January 22, 2020

I have no idea how much time passed before we arrived at the snowmobiles. Fatigue and the wilderness had lulled me into somewhat of a lethargic state and the time flew by. Evidently we were slightly behind schedule, as it became hurry- up-and-go mode as soon as the truck stopped. Alex and some folks I did not know had beat us there and he was in a hurry to get started. Both groups had a ways to go and he wanted to be in camp well before dark. This was slightly easier said than done since I was in travel clothes from the airport. Then, for some reason, fortune then smiled on me. I had packed my hunting clothes in one bag and my street clothes in the other. I almost never do this. Packing some street and some hunting clothing in each bag is sort of a failsafe travel procedure I almost always adhere to. I pack like this in case one bag goes AWOL while I am in transit. If only one bag shows up I can survive until the other catches up. Anyway, I was just lucky I had broken my own rule for some reason. Finding my waterproof pants, Pac boots, toboggan, gloves, and coat was easy. Goggles and sunscreen, not so much. I eventually found my goggles and Alex let me use some of his sunscreen. When I was outfitted to Alex’s approval, I zipped up my suitcase and everything was loaded onto the sled.

During the planning stages of the trip Mikhail asked if I had ever driven a snowmobile before. I said I had not but could probably figure it out. I have ridden all sorts of ATVs, motorcycles, jet skis, PWCs, tractors, and the list goes on. I was about to find out none of them were in any way, shape, or form, like a snowmobile. I had taken Mikhail’s advice and elected not to drive and would be riding behind Vasili. Igor’s snowmobile would be pulling the sled and he would also have Julia riding with him. Starting out was not bad at all. My seat had a back and there was a handle on each side of my seat for me to hold on to. The first stretch was more or less straight and once I got used to the speed (I am guessing 50 mph) it was easy going.  The fun started when we went into the trees. It was back and forth, up and down, speed up slow down, lean right on the front end of a turn, and then left on the end of it. By the way I was trying to accomplish this with my backside not in contact with the seat due to all too frequent bumps and sudden hard acceleration. Vasili was a little larger than I was and I could not see around or through him well enough to know what was coming next. This necessitated me reacting to the turn or whatever after the maneuver was started. That made things hard on Vasili and me both. Twenty minutes into the trip, I was ringing wet, sweaty and exhausted. Forty-five minutes in my hands ached from holding the handles, my legs ached from trying to squeeze the snowmobile tight enough to keep my ass on the seat, and I had a case of whiplash from going over a cliff. I could also add cracked kneecaps from birch trees and welts from birch limbs across my cheeks. After the first hour, I was pretty much done for. Too bad … only six more hours to go. The rest of the trip included some snowless bare patches that would rattle your teeth, interesting cable bridges with a few rotten boards (Vasili fell through one), crossing rivers without the aid of bridges, and bears. I just held on for dear life, doing my dead level best just to make it to camp.

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