Last days on an expedition are always moments for reflection. There certainly are many things to reflect upon from this remarkable expedition.
There could not have been a more perfect landing to help us with these thought processes. It was not cold, but there was a strong wind and driving rain. Often the initial reaction could be this is not for me. But then a few moments later we are maybe reminded that often the most memorable experiences are those that come at a cost.
And this is how we soon found ourselves on a wonderful walk on the tundra heading for some hot water springs. The first impression was the extraordinary palette of colors that greeted us, brilliant velvety reds, oranges, yellows, bright greens, browns, blues and purples. One could be baffled with such a profusion of plant life. As we became accustomed to all this life, we began to notice other organisms, fungi, mosses and lichens. Many of the plants were laden with berries, lingenberries, blueberries and crowberries. Soon we were all crouched down selecting these delicious fruits and eating them, they tasted so delicious!
There were birds to see as well and probably the most exciting to spot were a group of sandhill cranes close to the hot water springs, but there were also shore birds and eider ducks along the way.
Some stripped down and took a dip in the hot springs, with different reactions. “It was too hot.” It was perfect, in fact it could have been five degrees warmer.” “It was not for me.” Whilst the long hikers took a moment to dance the sandhill crane dance.
A good number became enthusiastic berry pickers on the way back. From the landing it was possible to see figures crouched, almost lost, in the tundra as they went about the business of finding and picking the brightly coloured fruits. The most prized were the rarer blueberries, some of these were so ripe they would fall apart when picked. But there were plenty of lingenberries and crowberries to harvest and after a while the concerted effort was rewarded with a jug full of the prized fruits. Our head chef was delighted with the contributions and promised that the next day they would reappear in some form of delicious food.
For the rest of the day we sailed towards Provideniya where we pulled alongside so as to allow the authorities onboard to begin the clearance of the ship out of Russia. This was very smooth and afterwards a large number of us lingered on in the lounge with a drink and a time to chat about the wonderful morning on the tundra as well as a chance to share other experiences from this expedition.
As we sailed from Russia we headed towards Alaska, and at some point during the night there was a time change and also the unusual experience of sailing into yesterday!