Saturday, June 18, 2016

Day 36 – 17 June In St Petersburg - Taking leave of the Champion

If I was under any misconception that what happened last evening with the flat was the height of stress during the Expedition the events of this day corrected that. Vassily had sent me a link last night of the place where we could meet at 9 am to complete the formalities for shipment of the car. I wanted to avoid rush hour traffic and started early after making sure that I had put all the required stuff in the car and had all the original documents with me. I reached the location advised by Vassily well in time and messaged him that I was already there. I parked the car and strolled around. I walked to what looked like a beautiful church of Our Lady close by. The premises were closed. However, a security guard opened the side gate for me and said that I could walk around inside if I chose to as the church would open after 9 am.

The angst of Beslan in stone
When I was praying to Our Lady standing outside the church I got a call from Egor asking if I had time to check my mail and get the required documents done. I told him that I would shortly be meeting up with his colleague, Vassily, to get the printouts organised as well as notarization of the Power of Attorney. Egor didn’t seem happy about the arrangement at all and said that I should get all that done by myself and that Vassily is no longer available to help me! I was too stunned and shocked to even react. My mouth went dry and knees weak. I didn’t know why such a thing had happened. I prayed to Our Lady to help me through this crisis, as I do always when confronted with one, and started pleading with Egor to lend me the assistance of someone who could communicate in English and guide me through what was needed. After a while, Egor gave me the contact of Roman who worked as a surveyor with a company in the Port of St Petersburg. Roman told me to meet him in the port premises and send me the GPS link to the site. As I was leaving the church the security guard asked me if I was Indian and advised me not to keep the purse in the back pocket!

When I reached the port I was stopped by security personnel who mentioned that the access to where I wanted to go was sealed for the time being because of the high profile Economic Forum conference. However, an English speaking guard, who also went by the name Roman, came to my rescue. He spoke to Egor’s contact Roman who confirmed that he would come to meet me at the place where the guards had asked me to park the car. Roman, the pleasant young man, arrived soon and we exchanged plans for the rest of the day. Egor and he gave me some sense of comfort that all would be done to take the car into the container freight terminal before close of business that day. I had to fill some forms and sign them. Some other forms had to be notarized, for which Roman had to get the correct contact. He promised that he would finish his work and come back to me with the printed forms in an hour. That interval stretched to three! With every passing hour my despair increased. If there was any glitch to the handing over of the car to the terminal it could also jeopardize my travel plans back to India with attendant financial implications.

Finally when Roman arrived he took me to a Notary where he was told that we would have to go a firm where translation would also be available. We then drove to the city centre, close to where Roman stayed with his wife in a 200 year old apartment! The Bruxelles complex was also the place where Fyodor Dostoevsky had lived and penned his famous works. At the firm all the details were taken and we were asked to return in an hour to do the rest of the formalities. We had time till 5.30 pm and I suggested lunch. Roman took me to a restaurant operated by his friend. The young Roman has had a varied life so far – he has been a chef and sailor and now a surveyor and entrepreneur; he runs a specialty Chinese Tea Shop with a friend. Roman had a pasta while I wolfed down a chicken roll. After we returned to the firm we had to wait till 7 pm to complete all the documentation in the firm, scan them and send them to Egor, who had to get the permission of the Line to take in the cargo.

When all that was being done Roman told me that the Modul Container Freight Terminal would be open only till 8 pm to accept cargo! It all seemed hopeless because the rush hour traffic would defeat all the efforts of the day, I surmised. When I despaired thus Roman mentioned that someone would wait an extra hour to accept the Champion. Miracles like these keep unfolding, when all seems lost. We reached the terminal just before 8 pm and drove into it after getting all the permissions. The terminal seemed empty of people for the busy one that it is. A few reachstackers were operating and so were a few forklifts. Roman located the person, Cheska, who would do all the formalities. She did a thorough inspection of the car and all its contents. Photos were taken from different angles and views to establish the condition in which the cargo was being accepted in the terminal, to guard against any future claims against the terminal. She said that the documents have to be modified since the cargo inside the car had not been mentioned prior. There was also a lengthy discussion with another gentlemen who had to be convinced about the contents in the car as well as the non-hazardous nature of the consignment.

It was 11 pm by the time the Champion was parked in the suggested slot inside the terminal and all necessary documentation completed. Roman told me that the car would be stuffed on Monday for shipment. Cheska had been a great help through the trying times inside the terminal and she understood my urgency in getting the car into the terminal. She also appreciated the journey I had done in Russia. The Champion also attracted some of those in the shift to admire the art work on her. It was an emotional moment taking leave of a companion who was the only one who understood what we had been through in the past 35 days. As I bid adieu to the soulmate I could not hide a tear that silently rolled down the corpulent cheeks.

Roman called for a Uber cab and soon I was deposited at my apartment complex. I was surprised how close it was to the freight terminal. Roman also told me that the place is quite close to the airport. I had despaired yesterday thinking that I had chosen the wrong place to halt in the city. As it turned out it was the right one. All things happen for one’s own good, if you believe so.

Two days of tension and extreme stress found an outlet in the Russian Standard vodka that was waiting for me in the apartment. I have never had such strong drinks in a long time. But the stresses had to get out. I counted my blessings through the expedition and found that at every step I was helped by the prayers and good wishes of friends and family. One does not accomplish anything by oneself. There are many accompanying components and prayer is the most powerful of them all.


  1. Congrats on completing this adventure. Have a safe trip back.

    I have created a simple trip plan of this entire trip based on your blog

  2. Congratulation Mr Suresh for completing this journey as planned. I was following your blog from the first day till now. The same way when you made the London and Singapore trip. Now relax for few days before you plan your next adventure. Hope to meet you in India when situation permits. Once again thank God to make this possible without any hurdles.

  3. Suresh sir grip on details of Russia captivates us to read blog ...

  4. Congratulations Mr Suresh - this is truly a great achievement. And St Petersburg is the appropriate and most beautiful place to complete this adventure. Hope to speak to you sometime when you are in Chennai


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