Unlike the stern Zodiac platform on Orion, on Orion II you go down the gangway to the Zodiacs. We do so for the first time on a calm day with flat seas sparkling under an unexpectedly clear blue sky. As always, a number of Orion’s crew help to make the disembarkation easy.
Bugs, no one mentioned anything about bugs, and it seems to come as quite a surprise to the expedition staff too. Urup is a picture perfect bay with a delightful beach, soaring ridges and a verdant plateau, bisected by a river filled with salmon. But all we can think about are bugs.
Pesky, vicious, oversized sandflies have set up advance camp on every surface and in every orifice, and this has driven a number of blood-speckled passengers back to the beach to bathe in insect repellent.
But I forge ahead, meeting two local fishermen who camp here for the summer, then setting off to climb the nearest ridge through chest-high grasses for a view of the bay (and, hopefully, enough wind to deter the bugs).
From the ridge, the ship shimmers, a breeze blows, the bugs are thin and all is good. And it remains this way till, back on board, I count the raised angry bites. Unctions and antihistamines are applied while the expedition staff insists that bugs are not the norm.