04 June, 2008

The Russians are coming? No, it's me coming to them!

I arrived in Zarubino Russia yesterday morning after a smooth trip from Sokcho and rode the 220km to Vladivstok yesterday afternoon.
My first view of Russia (from the deck of the Dong Chun ferry) below was not that promising. Things were looking a little bleak and miserable and I really truly felt I was in a different world. Perhaps those grey stereotypical images the west portrays as Russia are true after all?

From all the looks the bike is getting, I am fairly certain this is the first Burgman in Vladivostok - the Russians are very curious and they all want to know how fast it will go.

Roads are a mix of good and bad - lots of roadwork - fuel around $1.00 per litre, not too bad. I've had a minor incident with the back panel on the Burgie coming loose (the pins broke in transit from Australia), falling on the road and getting all scratched up - I'll have to work out how to repair it.

Ferry ride was good but a little bribery and corruption was required to get me customs cleared - took me 6.5 hours from when the ferry docked till I was able to ride away, I've been told this is a record short time!

Coming in to Vladivostok itself I rode past the airport and was soon after overtaken by a SU24 (fighter plane) at very low attitude - the airports in Russia are used for both civil and military purposes. It was at this point I started to realise the majesty and might of the soviet military machine.

I was fortunate enough to stay in Vladivostok with Alexei (Shustrik from HUBB) and his partner who generously accommodated me for my first night. I found this to be typical of the Russians I met on the road, all prepared to share whatever they had with passing strangers.

However, as I needed to arrange for my visa registration I spent my second night downtown at the Hotel Primorya (translates as by the sea) .

Contrary to the generosity exhibited by the people I met and stayed with, the average Russians major concern is with theft - I have had to put the bike into secure guarded parking for every night I stayed in a city in Russia.

My mind is not yet made up regarding Russia - it is very different from the Asian countries I have visited and is really an extension of Europe, albeit a long way from home.

Vladivostok has been described by many as the San Francisco of the East. My experience of the city was rather more disappointing, especially after having arrived from the modernity and neatness and trimness of South Korea.

The large Stalinesque apartment blocks are omnipresent and the city has a mouldy run down air about it with dirt and rubbish strewn everywhere.

Hot water (which is delivered from a central heating system for the whole city) was shut down for summer repairs and the ground floor of each apartment block reeks of cat urine from the ubiquitous stray cats which inhabit the entrance foyers. Each individual apartment has two doors (a steel outer and regular inner) with a plethora of locks and deadbolts - the Russians are very conscious of their security. Alas I discovered this to be typical for every apartment I stayed in except for St Petersburg.

Will leave for Khabarovsk tomorrow - it should be a fairly straightforward 800km (500 mile) one day ride.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading and seeing the photos of your adventure. Don't forget to stop and smell the Vodka!

Cerion said...

I found this blog by pure accident... What can I say? I'm delighted with it. You are really great man. I'll be glad to see you when you'll be here in Saint-Petersburg(of cause if you will have a time for it)

Anonymous said...

RoguesWhere are you Gaz...?? nothing since the 4th, not even a squeak on your birthday... not playin' mother hen but hope things are OK