Russia 2002

Russia 2002

Russia 2002

The recruitment expos are due to begin in Vladivostok with a briefing on Sunday 6th October.  The cheapest way to get there was to fly via Shanghai, China, and take a Shanghai Airlines flight from there directly to Vladivostok.  However, that plan had to be abandoned when the travel agent notified me a few days ago that Shanghai Airlines had cancelled all their flights between Shanghai and Vladivostok, adding that no other airline was flying on that route.  The travel agent suggested that the only way to get to Vladivostok in time for the expo at an affordable price at such short notice would be to leave three days earlier and fly via London.  Reluctantly, and seeing no alternative, I agreed, which is why I am leaving today rather than this Saturday as originally planned.

The in-country arrangements (within Russia) were made on behalf of all the Australian schools and colleges by AusTrade.  One consequence of that arrangement was that AusTrade’s Sydney office arranged the visas for all the participants.  AusTrade left this process until the last minute, and therefore I had to travel to Russia via a short stopover in Sydney in order to collect my visa (which was on a loose sheet of paper in the old Soviet style) from an AusTrade representative who came to Sydney Airport to meet me for the purpose.  (For the record my flight from Adelaide to Sydney was on a Qantas Boeing 737-400, registration VH-TJL, 11 years old).

When I collected my visa, I was immediately alarmed because (being able to read basic Russian), I could see that the date of entry for the visa was marked as the day the first expo was due to open to the public in Vladivostok (7th October), not my scheduled entry date of 5th October.  I was assured by the AusTrade representative that this should not be a problem, and that Russian border guards only worried if someone arrived after the scheduled date.  That has not been my previous experience dealing with Russian border guards, who I have always found were emphatic sticklers for precisely correct details, but I had no option other than to transfer to the International Terminal and board my flight to London.

I was reassured when the Qantas check-in agent inspected my Russian visa (because Moscow was ticketed as my final destination after a transit connection in London), and was sufficiently satisfied to check my baggage all the way through to Moscow.  This meant I would not need to collect and re-check my luggage in London.  Nonetheless, carrying a Russian visa with obviously incorrect dates did not help me to relax on the long flight.  For the record, the flight was on Qantas’ first and oldest Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA, 13 years old), flying 17,090 kilometres to Heathrow with a stopover in Bangkok.

Day 1

Adelaide to London

Wednesday 2 October 2002

Аделаида в Лондон