Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Trip to Lazo (April 17)

I left Vladivostok on a 5-hour bus-ride to the town of Lazo, home to the main offices of Lazovsky Zapovednik, at 5:50 pm on April 17. Even in April it stays light out until about 9 pm, and I was very excited to have a window seat and get my first view of nature outside of Vladivostok, including passes through forested hills – with trees still bare from winter – marshes and meadows, local towns and fresh air.

If you want to get an impression of the “real” Russian people, one way is to take the bus – particularly for long distances. The bus can be interesting. The seats are not what you might call comfortable, or clean – although they are cushioned – and even though you are traveling for 5 hours or more, there is no bathroom on the bus. This is okay, though, because the bus stops frequently, about every hour, either to make a scheduled stop or, in our case, if there was no scheduled stop within an hour, then our driver just pulled over on the side of the road, and as if on cue, all the men piled out of the bus to have a cigarette. (Outside of Vladivostok, there are not too many other cars on the roads in the sparsely populated Primorye Region.) My neighbor on this trip was a fisherman named Sergei who had just today returned from a 3-month stay at sea. He had also just purchased a new cell phone. And after 3 months at sea, he was of course quite talkative. Therefore he spent most of the trip, whenever there was a connection, calling his friends and family and talking to them very loudly, just in case the rest of the passengers on the bus had forgotten that he just got a new cell phone today. When he couldn’t get a connection, he talked to me about his adventures at sea (including witnessing how killer whales surround seals and teach their young to hunt), about seeing a tiger at camp in his childhood, adventures in China and, most of all, about the importance of me giving him my phone number, an invitation I somehow managed to turn down.

I arrived in Lazo at about 11 pm and was directed to the zapovednik headquarters, where the night guard let me in to the room where I would be staying – a super nice single, complete with a TV and mini-fridge, for which the zapovednik director charged me only $8 a day, although it usually goes for about $25. There were no other guests at this time of year, though. Tomorrow I would spend the day at the zapovednik headquarters, meeting staff and touring the museum, visitor’s center and library; on Thursday I would head out for a day trip into the zapovednik, and on Friday I would get to attend an annual conference for local children.

Picture: My room in the Lazovsky Zapovednik headquarters building in the town of Lazo.

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