Well, the last days were meant to be resting days – and that included blogging as well 🙂 This doesn’t mean that nothing has happened, quite the contrary.
Saturday: it was my plan to stay in the hotel, relaxing. And actually this was a very good idea. I was glad that I had gained one day on my plan as it was raining the whole day. I woke up early, like usual, but forced myself to stay in bed. I was woken up by a phone call by the reception at five to nine. If I still would come to the breakfast. Yes, of course. I only understood the next day why this happened. There are only few guests in the hotel and all had had their breakfast already. The buffet was put away and when I showed up in the breakfast room, I was served ALL the contents of this buffet in sequential order. That was a lot! But I got used skipping my lunch the last weeks so this should last until dinner. I returned to my room and forced me to be lazy. I used the laundry service. I studied possible destinations in Japan and watched Japanese television to get prepared for the next weeks. In the afternoon, it was time
to get working. As it was continuously raining, I parked the bike under a pavilion of a children’s playground where I found the perfect cover from the rain. I swapped both wheels and could even work seated, LOL.
Although I was wearing gloves, the work was very dirty as the bike was covered in a mixture of mud and oil. I took my time and in the end the bike had new tyres. I replaced the missing nut of the pannier rack and adjusted the wind shield. That was it. Not a very big service after 12.000 km.
Sunday: this time I got up earlier and all the mystery of the breakfast buffet was revealed to me. I had an appointment with Yuri, the fixer for the transport to Japan. At 10 a.m. I arrived at his office in the centre. With the help of the translation app I could get to his office. I did not know how much money I needed to bring so I carried all my remaining Rubles.
I had forgotten my Euros in the hotel and in the end after having calculated the sum of all the individual costs (passenger ticket in 4-8 person bedroom, custom charges, handling charges, and and and…), I was 300 Rubles or 4 Euros short. I would give it to him another day. We had a long chat and he told me some stories of other travellers he has dealt with. Apparently he organised the transport of a Swiss biker to Canada who got to Vlad in ten days and is attacking the world record for a fastest round-the-world trip (19 days, 4 hours, Nick Sanders). Other people will join me in the customs procedure on Tuesday.
I went to the south tip of the city where there is a small causeway to a little lighthouse. The path is so small that the waves wash over it. A funny place. The wind was very strong and many surfers enjoyed it. I wanted to go to the southern tip of the big island called Russky. To do this, I had to cross the big Zolotoy brindge and the even mightier Russky bridge. After some kilometres, the dual carriageway ended and a muddy, bumpy track continued. Now this was too annoying. But the real reason why I came to this island was a more sinister one. I spotted a small road into the woods and followed it. I stopped at a little clearing. This was it. This was the perfect place.
An illegal waste dump. I removed my wheels from the back and removed the special tyre rack as well. I noticed that the lower rack that is carried to carry the big aluminium box was broken on both sides, like once before. I had actually expected that. However the rigid set-up had avoided that this had turned into a problem. It would have been a miracle if nothing of the pannier/rack system would have come out of this unharmed……all these bumps….thousands and thousands of bumps, under the heavy load of the two wheels. I used some of massive cable ties to keep the broken rack together. There won’t be a large weight on it anymore, so this is not critical. I placed the stuff next to the other dumped waste and really felt sorry about it.
They had served me well, and I would abandon them just like that? Well, another fact is that I want to ride much more lighter in Japan, enjoying mountain roads and stuff. And the (expensive) transport back is calculated by volume weight, i.e. the dimensions of the bike do count. So, it does make sense….apart from the fact that I still have 10 rims lying around at home. Was it really necessary to carry the wheels? No, in retrospect no. But I was playing it as safe as possible. In the end, the result counts.
While I was still feeling sorry, the XBR appreciated the new freedom, breathing freely now. A few kilometres down the road was the large Oceanarium of Vladivostok. Why not spending the afternoon there. But first some exercise. It was a 1 km walk from the parking to the entrance. What? Using my own legs? Let’s see, I can do this….left….right…left….right….right….aaaaargh!
Slowly I realised the dimensions of this place, and I even had skipped the dolphinarium. It’s not only a large aquarium, but also a kind of science museum that explains in great detail the evolution of sea life and the respective habitats. Really impressive. I let the pictures speak for themselves.
What was left? Well, dinner in the log restaurant.
I needed to change hotel and move to the Lotte Hotel in the centre. It was booked for a long time and a cancellation was not possible anymore. John and I had booked it as a reward after the long trip through Russia. So I packed and left this kitsch palace. As I had a lot of free time, I decided to purchase some motor oil, I had used all of the oil bought in Novosibirsk. I located a shop near the centre and rode there. It was a small shop, but had a good selection of oils. I bought one litre of oil and went outside to the bike. The guy from the shop came outside, saw my bike and we started a conversation. It all took a funny turn when he mentioned that he was also speaking Spanish.
From there on, this turned to one of the funniest conversations I ever had on my travels. We talked in Spanish from this point on and probably the most funny thing in this situation was his Argentinean accent; he had spent part of his childhood in Argentina. His name is Timoteo and he had lived in many places, Spain, Montenegro and others, and now works in this motorbike accessories shop in Vladivostok! You can’t make this up. What a bizarre, but entertaining talk. He offered me his help should I need any.
I continued my ride to my new hotel. It is run by a Korean company and has all the facilities you would expect. Rather a sober interior, but elegant.
It was time for my planned shopping tour. I had deliberately not carried a lot of clothes, only some light trekking trousers and some t-shirts. I was clear that this was enough for this roadmovie-style trip through Russia. But in Japan, I want to dress up a bit. My plan is to visit nice restaurants as well. Showing up in biker gear is probably counter-productive. So I strolled through a shopping mall where I had some trouble finding clothes in my size. But at least I found something, quite impossible in Japan I guess (unless it’s a shop for sumo ringers). Three shirts, some trousers and a pair of shoes will have to be stuffed onto the bike. However, I come prepared. As this was all a planned move, I carry a light bag that can be filled with light stuff and will be attached on the rack where the wheels had been.
I walked down to the harbour and around the central square. I spotted a souvenir shop and went inside. I finally got what I wanted: two stickers for my motorbike panniers. But before I had to endure all kind of grades of horrors for tourists. The way to hell is paved with souvenirs.
I returned to the hotel and prepared my luggage that had to go into the bike’s panniers the next day. I will only keep some hand luggage on the ferry. Later in the evening, I visited the Korean restaurant in the hotel. For lunch, I had some Korean Udon fast food in the shopping mall which was so-so. Now I ordered a full menu and was expecting a lot from the cook. I received some kind of starters…pickled stuff, Kimchi, raddish….and then a meat dish with some rice…hmmmm….no progress….was that all? I was still hungry! After a while, I asked the waitress….it turned out that her colleague had made a mistake and noted down one dish instead the menu. I light of my complaining stomach, I ordered another dish. All in all, I was not very convinced of the Korean cuisine so far. The Kimchi stuff keeps my guts very busy (although it is claimed that lactic acid fermentation is very healthy), a little bit too busy.
Tuesday: I was surprised by the large breakfast buffet this morning – the hotel tries to accommodate Russians, Asians and Europeans, an enormous selection! I handed over a laundry bag to the room service, I will only have clean clothes this evening, this should be enough for the next two weeks. At a quarter past nine, I was picked up by Yuri who carried more customers in his van. We went to the harbour and into the customs area. I met some of his other clients: a New Zealander who ships his Cross bike to Magadan and wants to ride the road of Bones, Mongolia, the Stans and finish in Bulgaria. Another German couple went many months with their bike through Georgia, Azerbaidshan, Kasachstan etc and wants to cross to Canada now. Talking with these genuine globetrotters, I always realise how much my trips resemble a trip through the park.
The workflow was very quick and after 90 minutes, Yuri drove us back to our hotels. I though it was a good time to consider lunch. I discovered that there was a wine bar in a close-by yard: this was a nice discovery! A fantastic wine selection (for far eastern Russia) and some excellent dishes. I enjoyed the crab lasagna a lot. Never had this before. A good Sauvignon Blanc and a good espresso made the imaginary trip to Europe complete.
I strolled around, downwards towards the harbour. I visited the exposed submarine S-56, the „unsinkable“. It is a museum now containing a lot of memorabilia of the Soviet era.
When I was walking back to the hotel, I had a surprising idea….I had seen a barber shop yesterday….are there any around? Yes! Only 8 minutes away. My beard was growing for some weeks now and quite wild. Should I, for the first time in my life, enter a barber shop? Hmmmm….why not? What could possibly go wrong?
I entered and tried to explain my wishes to the guys in there. Interestingly, all three barbers showed no facial hair. No, no hair cut, no shave, only some trimming, please, look, very wild. Equipped with a series of electrical trimmers and razors, the lad started his work. And it was clear that he knew what he was doing. After 15 minutes, I looked a tiny bit more ‘hipster’ than before, but definitely more “decent”, LOL.
In the evening, I wanted to visit the “European” restaurant in the hotel. However, the menu was not very appealing (I could eat most of the dishes at home), I decided to give the Korean restaurant another chance. So I ordered the menu I had not been served yesterday. Lots of dishes were served, always in pairs. Was this Noah’s ark? I asked if this menu was for two persons and I got a positive reply. What?? Yesterday, I had asked if the menu was for one person and the answer was “yes!”. Fantastic. The table must have been bent under the weight of the served plates….I tried my best, but I left deliberately a bit less than half…why passing a sleepless night? Apparently, the chef is from Seoul and provides a real Korean taste. Well, I am underwhelmed. If this true Korean cuisine, then I direct my hopes towards Japan. Tomorrow, I will embark on the ferry to Japan. It will stop in South Korea on Thursday and arrive on Friday morning in Sakaiminato, Japan.