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September 24 – 2011 Stranded in Siberia

Posted by on September 30, 2011

Olga made us a delicious breakfast of eggs on toast and ricotta mixed with banana. The looks on the faces of J and C were priceless…
We caught a taxi to the Irkutsk Airport for our flight back to Beijing. We checked our bags and then to Passport Control – that is where everything turned upside down for us. The date on our Russian Visa had expired on September 22 – OOPS! Our bags were taken off the plane and we were told we could not leave. They had ideas of sending us to Moscow, or Korea, or Japan…
Russians are BIG people and I mean BIG, both the men and women – we felt very tiny and very nervous. We did not understand much of what they were talking about, however, “military” and “spy” did come up a few times.
We had to get back to Beijing as our return flight to Canada was 2 days later.
We sat in a dark, dimly lit hallway for nearly 8 hours. The Russians marched in and out of their offices, with our passports in their hands. We were stuck!
Finally they told us to find a flight to Vladistovok on the east coast of Siberia – a 4 hour flight. We booked it for 4 am the next day. And from there, a flight to Beijing at 1 am on September 26th. We then had to pay a fine to extend the date on our visa to September 25th. After all of this, we waited again and finally had to sign a bunch of legal documents all in Russian and then they handed us back our passports. WHEW!!!!
We crashed at an airport hotel till 2 am and then boarded the flight to Vladistovok, a place I had thought about going to on our trip preparations, but it was too far out of the way. Be careful what you wish for…