Insecure Security: 28 June 2006 (Wednesday)


Oddly enough waking up at 6am wasn’t too bad. I was dehydrated today but nowhere near as hungover as I had expected to be. We drove to the MinVody airport through countless and seemingly meaningless security checks. More worrying were the two security ladies who asked Sergei what was in my bag as it went through the scanner. We explained that it was my camera and that was all the check they needed – no opening or checking – very odd.

The “International Lounge” – open only to obviously foreign looking people, nothing to do with where you were going – was right out of the 1960s. It was 30+ Celsius outside and no air-conditioning but the windows were open so we could jump out onto the airfield which made the security checks completely impotent. Ahsan and Anders left on an earlier flight to Moscow and we had about 5 hours to kick around MinVody airport. We made a plan to meet Tom and the Americans at Red Square in Moscow at 8:30pm for supper. I am looking forward to some real vegetarian (ahem, vegetables) food or even some fish. Here’s hoping my luggage and everything else will make it there in one piece!

3:20pm

We’re sitting waiting for our flight to Moscow to take off. We have just gone through the most hassling process to get on this flight. Had it not been for Sergei, I suspect we would still be waiting in line. So here’s the story. Sergei came by the waiting area after he had met his next group of Elbrus climbers. The five new climbers were from Great Britain and Ireland. Joining them all at a cafe in the airport, we sounded like wise people giving advice to the new folks (if only they knew). I didn’t get their names but all were nice and Keli’s Newfoundland accent became stronger after chatting with the boys from Dublin.

We headed out to check-in for the flight only to realize that Sergei had misheard the announcement. The check-in area was accessed from outside through a pretty worn courtyard. Unfortunately we were too early and were chastised by a heavily-set check-in lady and meekly went back to the cafe. On the way Sergei suggested weighing our luggage and seeing if we were overweight. MinVody airport was infamous for making foreigners pay ludicrous amounts for overweight luggage. I was over by 7kg but we could take 5kg as cabin luggage. I unloaded as much weight as I could into my camera bag and carried the books so they couldn’t be weighed! An hour later we headed back to the check-in dragonlady to begin the ordeal… again.

Let me take you through the steps of getting through MinVody Airport.

  1. The ticket lady took our tickets and gave us our boarding pass. We walk down the hallway to the next step. Sergei was not allowed to go through but suddenly he was forced to go through by the guards to help translate (a very good thing).

  2. We lined up for another lady with our passport who painstakingly entered info into a computer. I pitied her because of my name. We walked down the hallway yet more; it was getting quite hot in the narrow security area.

  3. We then lined up for the security machines, took off our shoes and wore blue plastic socks. We placed everything else in X-Ray machines (Keli’s bag became stuck). If you do this don’t forget to place everything in the exact orientation shouted at you by impatient Russians, lest you be glared and shouted at even more.

  4. We then stepped through the security gateway – multiple times in our case.

  5. Another guard then took our passports, demanded our vouchers and checked them through.

  6. In yet another cramped room our luggage was weighed. Surprisingly they none of us are considered to be overweight. Wowzers.

  7. Next we were placed into a waiting room room with a very weak air-conditioner

  8. Finally the doors are opened in this waiting room and we are told to board a bus to go less than 100ft to the plane.

  9. Alighting from the bus, we waited at the bottom of the stairs as attendants check our boarding pass at both the bottom and at the top of the steps (apparently you might lose the pass between getting on and off the one flight of stairs)… Oh yes, one could essentially just run anywhere in the airfield at that point… all that security and it seemed for naught.


Finally here we are crammed like sardines into a Tupolev alumnium can en-route to Moscow. You really couldn’t write a movie script like this (it would be too tedious, despite being bloody brilliantly hilarious). Mike is seated on my left and Keli to my right. Moscow can’t come quick enough!

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