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Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe

Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
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August 2, 2007 - Location: Borselv, Norway

GPS Coordinates: N70 19 02 E25 33 23

Greetings from Norway. The drive here from Mongolia was quite arduous, to say the least. 
Below is the recap from July 20-27:

Ulaan Baatar to Ulan-Ude 460 kms (286 miles) 17 hours (9 hours at the border)
Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk 430 kms (267 miles) 8 hours (1/2 day in Irkutsk)
Irkutsk to Krasnoyarsk  1070 kms (665 miles) 17.5 hours
Krasnoyarsk to Omsk 1380 kms (858 miles) 18.5 hours
Omsk to Ufa   1402 kms (882 miles) 20 hours
Ufa to Vyazniki  1210 kms (752 miles) 16.5 hours
Vyazniki to Hamina, Finland 1130 kms (702 miles) 21 hours
Hamina to Alta, Norway 1291 kms (802 miles) 16 hours
TOTAL TRIP: 8373 kms (5203 miles) 134.5 hours

The drive was not without its excitement, however. I saw the aftermath of at least 10 car accidents and 20 semi-truck accidents. I reckon the truck drivers must revive themselves with something other than coffee.

I was warned by Pablo in Chita that I'd encounter a plethora of police checkpoints and speed traps as I traveled into Western Russia. He also prepared me for the journey by recounting his most recent trip where by he had to pay over $400 USD in bribes (10 x $40 "fines" in Russian police-talk). I must say I thought he was either an egregious speeder or a bit of an exaggerator when I made it all the way to Omsk without any police interference. Then, over the course of 6 hours of driving, I was pulled over 3 times (hope my insurance company doesn't read this). Here is a brief summary of each....keep in mind that all communication was done with facial expressions and sign language and 100 rubles is $4 USD.

I was in the lead of 5 cars that were all pulled over simultaneously. The policeman comes over and takes my temporary vehicle permit and my international driver's license (IDL) and motions for me to stay in the car. 20 minutes later, the 4 other cars have left. I wander over to the cop car and am instructed to get into the back seat. The two officers are in the front. Apparently I passed in a no passing zone even though there were no road markings. One officer motions like he's putting my IDL into his pocket. I pull out the Russian dictionary. They pointed to "tourist?" I said "yes." They laughed. I sputtered the phrase for "I'm sorry." They laughed. I asked "rubles?" They understood. The fat one (they are both pretty heavy-set) writes "5,000" on a piece of paper. In an attempt to refute the previous label and implications of being a tourist, I let out a guffaw that says "Ha! I may be stupid but I'm not THAT stupid!" He hands me the paper, I write "500" and hand it back. Their faces lit up like it was Christmas and they nodded "YES!" That, in the world of financial trading, is called "getting run over." They probably would have been happy with 100. I handed them the rubles, shook their hands and retreated back to the truck.

I am pulled over exiting a small town. The officer points to his radar gun. "75" it says. I write "80?" indicating what I think the limit is. He writes "60" and draws a map of the town indicating 60 is the speed limit in town. Strangely, I'm about 2 kilometers out of town. I guess the boundary is where ever they park that particular day. Armed with my experience from my first police encounter, I confront the officer and let him know that I'm ready to pay. This time I sit in the passenger front seat. The "boss" officer looks over my papers and IDL. He must have been late for lunch or just didn't have time or patience for an awkward conversation with a language barrier. He wrote "$5." He even did the currency conversation for me! I said "rubles?" He wrote "100." I graciously handed him 500 and he made the change for me. I saved $1 on the "arb!"

This time I'm pulled over for thinking about using the accelerator. Or at least that is as obvious as reason as any. I guess the most likely reason is that I'm driving a vehicle that screams "FOREIGNER!!!!" And in English too. This was reminiscent of the first encounter. Two rotund fraternity brother-looking officers working to make enough money to afford a European car on a $200/month salary. I'm in the passenger's seat and the "boss" motions the "I'll-put-your-drivers-licence-in-my-pocket-and-not-give-it-back" bullshat. I shrug my shoulders like "I don't care." He says "nepanya?" or something like "you don't care?" I say "nyet." Then we spend 5 minutes going back and forth about my "plasteek" license. He kept grabbing one of the 10 or so that he has confiscated and demanding that I give him mine. I retort with "Rooski ooznat!" meaning "Russia recognize" the IDL. We both know that the U.S. license is far more important than the AAA-issued IDL and the last thing I was going to do was add mine to his collection. Finally he writes "500." I pretend like I'm making myself comfortable for a nap. He laughs and hands me the paper. I write "200." He holds up 3 fingers and I agree. I shake his hand and get out.

That's it for the drive. I'd include more pictures of Siberia and central Russia but they really don't look that much different from the middle of the United States...... just a lot bigger.

Crossing into Finland was a big relief and big surprise. The Finn's have near-perfect roads and everything is nicely manicured. It occurred to me that grass........ as in lawns, is strictly a privilege of the wealthy. You won't find any lawns in rural Russia or Mongolia. The other surprise was the price of diesel. I paid $1.92/gal in Russia and in Finland it was $6.50. and $7.20 in Norway!!! A sign of things to come I reckon.

This part of Norway is beautiful in a barren ground-type of way. Winter encompasses about 10 months of the year here so everything is in full-motion during the brief Summer. I fished the Borselv River for 3 days and caught a couple of small Brown trout, 3 small Atlantic salmon and a dozen or so Arctic Char. I plan on going back to the river for 3-4 days and concentrating on the salmon. This is the end of their spawn so the pickens' might be a bit slim.If nothing else there are plenty of beautiful and robust Char to pursue.

That's it for now. Thanks again for all the e-mails and continued support from home and abroad. If anyone has some suggestions on places to fish in Scandinavia and Europe, please send them along. Happy trails!

Not done with the rough trans-Siberian yet!

A nice scene from St. Petersburg

Plentiful Norwegian reindeer (white ones are supposed to be magical)

Camp on the Borselv River

Heating up some tea

The beautiful Borselv River Valley


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