||Day four was a travel day…and a grueling one at that. Based on the day’s journey, I decided the perfect adjective for the inter-Russia rural travel in “rickety”. From the St. Petersburg airport, we slowly made our way through customs and various baggage searches and passport scrutiny in order to boarda rickety old jet (complete with creaky seats and peeling carpet and wallpaper) for a 4-hour flight to the small city of Mineral Vody. We landed on a rickety old runway, asphalt-patched and weed-strewn. I looked out the window and was mildly disturbed by the fact that there didn’t seem to be an airport to go with this runway. A rickerty old people-mover style bus met our plane from it's stopping point in the middle of this unmaintained asphalt plateau. From the plane, the rickety old bus weaved across the tarmac and deposited us at what I had thought was a storage shed, but was in fact the terminal. We waited in a stuffy, glorified Tuff Shed as the rickety luggage conveyor squeaked and whined our luggage towards us.
At the airport, we took lunch in a small lounge which was probably really spiffy looking back in 1968, but now now, alas, somewhat run-down. From the airport, it was on to a pair of rickety old vans the would take us to our destination. After a check of our passports and payment of some “administrative fees” (wink wink nudge nudge) to the local police, we were on our way down a bumpy, rickety highway for a 4-hour drive into the Baskan Valley and the town Terskol, which required a good amount of livestock-dodging (lots of cattle roaming the roads).
The day was capped off as we pulled up to a building that I was told was our hotel, although it sure looked like it was still under construction to me. The Hotel Azul was a rough cinder block and mortar affair and looked like something that would be really snazzy when it was done. As it turns out, it WAS done, but in this area of the world, they’re not really big into exterior facades…the interior was spartan but quite well done, even with marble floors and staircases! And after a long, shaky day, the beds in the small but functional rooms felt just fine to us!