Thursday, 12 July 2012

Russian Spa - mountain style!

Before we had gone up to the Barrels on Mount Elbrus, we had made a provisional booking at a hotel in Cheget Village for their 'spa' package.  The package included 2 hours of a hot steaming sauna and cold plunge pools - apparently very healthy and great for rejuvenation, which we obviously all would need after a week on the mountain!

It cost us 500 Rubles each, and I paid for Yuriy as I felt he was part of our team and he basically had our lives in his hands and did a damn good job! 
We were all quite excited to head on down there, and our booking was confirmed for 4pm, so we had about 2 hours to finish shopping and showering before we had to go.
The Funnells and Joe and myself were in town most of the time,  I had to find a bikini and they had to find some shorts!  We shopped at the markets and I found a nice bikini for about R125 and the boys found some cool shorts for about R70 each! We only returned to the hotel after grabbing some food  around 3pm to get showered and ready for the 'spa'.
Yuriy told us that they would provide gowns and 'sheets', which I presumed to be towels.

It started raining as we walked down, but we were all excited to experience this Russian spa.
The receptionist couldn't speak a word of english, luckily Yuriy was there, but when I was shown to the ladies change room we had bit of an issue as I wanted to know how I was supposed to dress and what I was supposed to do with the big white sheet that accompanied the smaller waffle weave piece of fabric??? I didn't want to go out and make a fool of myself haha, anyway I ended up going out into the pool area and saw Yuriy there...haha he had this little hat on and the waffle weave around his waist! At least I  knew where that went now, and the soft sheet is to use after, like a towel or blanket!

The Spa Hotel Foyer
It was a very interesting set up indeed! These gorgeous raw wood benches were placed around the ice water pool and scattered around were the funny little felt hats.  I knew what these were for as earlier on in the day in Azau village, Yuriy had shown Joe and I the various ones for sale and explained that you wear them in the sauna to protect your hair from the extreme heat - how clever is that!!  So we all donned our little 'kappies' and climbed into the 'hotbox'!  How amazing - the sauna we were in was run by a proper fire! The man came in and stoked it, added more wood etc - awesome! You could hear and feel the heat a mile away!

The plunge ice pool
Ray & Joe - the strongmen!
We had loads of fun - it was quite a sight to have all the boys lined up in the box on the top row...haha unfortunately the cameras wouldn't take photos in there, but I will never forget it! We also realised that there was no bucket and ladle to scoop water over the rocks, but this was soon changed when we discovered the pale in the shower!  Ray was in charge of the scooping and boy things were about to get really really hot!!
The plunge pool water is COLD...frigid, freezing, hypothermia all come to mind literally took my breath away when I got in there, instant pain!! But also relief in some ways?? The only person who really lingered in there was Yuriy and Ray - Ray seems to be able to cope with anything that comes his way...amazing!

Strong men and relaxing men pose!

This was the 'gay' pose photo!
After jumping in, I saw a drinks list on the wall with a phone and Yuriy explained that we could order beers/softdrinks and have them delivered to us in the spa! Now we're talking! So Yuriy ordered for us and a few minutes later the delivery arrived! Life is good in Russia!
We also discovered the 'ice showers' - there is a chain, you pull it and this huge wooden pale empties frigid water all over you in the loudest heaviest gush imaginable! I screamed blue murder when I did it, it was freezing!!
Joe sipping a beer
Jay in the ice shower
Robbie and his belly

We continued the afternoon by getting excruciatingly hot and frigidly cold, enjoying our Russian beers and all the chatting with Yuriy.  It really was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in the gorgeous Baksan Valley with the snow capped mountains surrounding us - an experience I recommend to everyone, and one I will treasure forever!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Messages to my team mates

Ray Funnell

Ray - AKA The Tortoise & Big Funnell - where to start....
Ever since meeting you and Jay for the first time in the Drakensberg some time back I knew that we would all just get on like a house on fire...your easy going, fun loving attitude is contagious and it's just always an absolute blast to be around you.  Sharing your life story with us and just seeing how you live each moment to the fullest has really made me want to be a better person and just appreciate each moment and experience so much more, remembering not to take anything for granted!
Your passion and drive are admirable, and the work you are doing in support of The Sunflower Fund and SANBS is inspirational to say the least.  I have to confess that I knew very little of these 2 worthy causes until I started doing some research upon reading your story...and I cannot wait to go and sort out being put on the register, I know that if I ever needed my life to be saved I would hope that everyone I knew was on that registry!

You are a wonderful father, and I loved watching you and Jay interact over the 2 weeks we spent abroad.  Your love for your family shines through in everything you do and you really are the definition of the ultimate 'family man'.  You have definitely taught me a thing or two on just taking it easy...not to sweat the small stuff...and just to live each minute to the max.  Who can forget the 'bug box' at night, in an oil barrel on a mountain in Russia?? We had amazing laughs and tough times, but your calm perspective just always seemed to put things in place.  I cannot wait to climb many more mountains with you and hopefully get to know your family better!
Quote for you:
 "Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."  Harriet Tubman

Jay Funnell

Jay - AKA Stretch, JaySUN & Little Funnell (he is by no means little!!)....
You were just our fountain of youth in Russia - although I still feel very young, I think I sometimes forget how to also act young...and you are so your father's child!  Nothing stressed you out, you took it all in your stride and just cracked a joke which made us all roll around laughing...You really are an amazing guy, and what you have accomplished so far is just awe inspiring!  I can see how you appreciate all the time you have with your dad and how you love conquering these mountains together.    Don't ever stop reaching these amazing goals...your dad has given you an amazing platform and don't forget us little people when you're famous ok??!

I had an absolute jol with you and our Vodka After Party will forever be in my well as those nasty hand got me good every time!! You can be super proud of yourself, at your age most guys are goofing off and not interested in serious goals...I cannot wait for the next adventure I get to share with you better keep me posted in December!!
Quote for you:
"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."  Patrick Henry

Dr Nick Saragas
Nick - AKA The of the gentlest men I've ever met!
Doc, spending the time on the mountain with you and getting to know you better has really enriched my life, and I'm sure everyone else's as well!  You have the patience of a Saint and your giving and fatherly nature are admirable to say the least.  You always looked out for me, you never put yourself first and you always had a smile or a positive word for anyone who needed it.  Your wife and daughters can be so proud of you, and I'm so blessed to have spent this time with you.  Your passion in everything you speak of and love is amazing and I loved hearing all the stories you had to tell.

You made us laugh, and your stressing about boarding just lightened the mood each time...just what the doctor ordered :-)
You are very special and I look forward to growing our friendship in have an amazing wife and beautiful daughters...must be those Greek genes!
Quote for you:
"I am a lucky man.  I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men."  Sir Edmund Hillary

Robby Kojetin

Robby - AKA Tin Tin & Fatty (and sometimes Robert if he was naughty).....oh fearless leader....where to start....
I don't think I have ever laughed so much BEFORE a trip has even started properly...your sense of humour and quick wit were a breath of fresh air to say the least!  We all got on with you so well, you always managed to crack a joke or two about any situation, diffusing stressful times and just letting us get on with it. I love how you made jokes at your own expense...I will never forget 'Batman' and the "boep out" at the spa...thanks for always keeping the laughter flowing...without laughter what is there?

You always pushed on even though we all knew you must be in pain, not once did you moan or mention it.  Your zest for life and enthusiasm for adventure is contagious, and I've learnt a lot from listening to your stories and experiences.  I look forward to a very long friendship with you...and maybe a book or three!
Quote for you:
"All men dream but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible."  T.E. Lawrence

Joe Segers

Joe - AKA - Segers & The partner in crime!
As was a blast!  This is our second of the 7 summits together, and the journey has been incredible.  I love how you appreciate and really get into the experiences you are having, appreciating being able to be there and just bubbling over with excitement.  The best thing I heard on this trip to Russia was when you screamed at the top of your lungs, on the chair lift surrounded by huge peaks "God is amazing" - and you are right, those sights are once in a lifetime, and to be appreciated to the utmost.

Thanks for dealing with my packing issues, my moaning about the snoring (thank God for pink ear plugs) and for always having my back...this is just the start, we have many more peaks to climb and sunrises to see - I can't wait!
Quote for you:
"Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own."  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Vodka After Party

Delicious Borscht & Bread 

Joe and his antics! PG RATED

The Doc inspecting....

Mount Elbrus Lager!

Yuriy handing out T-shirts

Tortoise likes his!

It's stretch!!

The doc

Robby thanking Yuriy

Awesome speech!

Handing over to Yuriy

That looks like a naughty grin Mr Funnell!

Ok, so who stole the rest of the toilet??

Cheers Doc!

Awesome team!

Stretch loving the beer!

I had to...