Tuesday 12 May 2015

Welcome back to the Varzuga Blog

Welcome back to the Varzuga Blog! We will try and post a report from this remarkable river every day through to the end of our season in early July. We squeeze it down a somewhat tenuous internet connection so apologies in advance if we have had to reduce down the size and quality of some of the photographs in order to post the blog from ‘the middle of nowhere’.   

The Varzuga breaking on Saturday
I met the advance party at Murmansk airport on Sunday evening and after the time honoured reunion celebration with Russian champagne in plastic pic-nic mugs in a bright but windy car park we set off for Varzuga. Arriving at midday on Monday we found the river unfrozen and flowing freely, albeit with plenty of ice coming down. We had had reports over the weekend that the ice was breaking and as always it was a great relief to come over the hill into sight of the village and to see, in the distance, a long dark ribbon of open water rather than a frozen, white landscape.

Feodor and the team of guides had two boats in the river but getting to camp by boat took a bit of time as we waited for patches of clear water between massive rafts of ice. By mid-afternoon we were all installed with our kit in the familiar and warm surroundings of the Lower Camp – Sobacci as it is known by the locals.

Sasha, Tiffy, CR, Donna, Terry, Maryke, Ollie, Bill and Glenn
The weather is pretty mild for the time of year; overnight we had a light frost and this morning the air temperature is a balmy 8⁰C with little or no wind. The river came up about 8 inches yesterday and has settled overnight – it is high, and for us that is just perfect as there is a steady stream of ice coming down and we are getting a really good clear out which I hope will leave few of the precarious ice walls on the banks of favourite pools that dog us some years. 

Waiting for a gap in the ice flows
If the normal pattern prevails the river will stay high for a day or two yet and then slowly settle in and the fun can commence. Today we will get up to see Marina who looks after the vast store in the village where our supplies are kept – and, if the ice flows diminish, this afternoon we will take a boat up to Middle Camp to see how that looks. In the meantime there is masses to do here and the camp is a hive of activity; the rest of the boats are being dragged to the river, and the lodge being prepared for our first guests who arrive on Saturday.
Heli Pool this morning

‘So far so good’ as they say – I look forward to updating you tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson