Vladivostok, Russia - June 29, 2015
What a jam-packed few days. But the short of it, is that I am now in Vladivostok, at the guesthouse, with the bike safe and sound and parked outside. I have generally been exceeding my goal of getting one major thing done per day.
I think I was in Donghae waiting for the ferry last time I wrote. Finding the ferry and getting in touch with the agent there all went very smoothly. So I was waiting out in the parking lot, the only bike around, when some young Korean kid, maybe 20(?) pulls up next to me on a small scooter with bags hanging all over it and he himself wearing a backpack. Since there was only ferry traffic in the lot, I was quite curious and asked him where he was going. Big grin and "Portugal!" Well, Okay! His English was good so we had a nice chat. His name was Heung Gu if I caught it right, and it was his first trip anywhere. No GPS, no map of Russia and no idea where he was going to stay. Now that is one adventurous guy. But before long, we were joined by another scooter and two somewhat more capable motorcycles. All solo, and all on their first trips anywhere. Anyway, we shared the same dorm room on the ferry, along with a Lithuanian who is hitch-hiking across Russia and another Korean who is bicycling. I think I am not so adventurous now. These guys must all be WAY outside their comfort zones. I was waiting for the big question and of course it came soon enough. "So, how old are you?" It certainly lays them all low when I say 62. It's fun to watch. Oh well. Some have adopted Western names that they let westerners use, just because its easier to pronounce and remember. So in fairness, I now have and oriental name. Gung Ho. It doesn't seem to mean anything in Korean (which is probably just as well) but they had seen enough western movies to understand it. I don't know... is Gung Ho a Chinese phrase? Probably better than Msr. Anglais the name I was given by the hotel in France.
So the ferry ride was quite wild coming out of DongHae and throughout the night. Don't think I've been on a ship that was tossed around so much. It was actually hard to sleep because it was enough to roll you out of position. So it was as if someone was pushing you around all night. Dinner time happened to be the worst, with a couple and pretty large waves in succession scooting the dinner plates all around. Lots of people weren't feeling so well at all.
Anyway, by yesterday morning, the ride was much smoother, The ferry got pretty boring though and so it was nice to get to Vladivostok. Unfortunately we had caught up with the rain and bad weather again and so it was pretty awful here. But I was met by Svetlana from the import agent's office and after an hour of waiting and signing papers, she kindly brought me to the guest house. I just unpacked a little and went out to find a grocery or something. Anyway, the skies just let loose. Streets were flooding and I had to climb up on a small retaining wall to avoid wading mid -calf in some spots. Hopscotched back to the hotel, beer and pistachios in hand.
Had a knock on the door and opened it to find a very nice teenage boy, who was also a guest at the hotel. His mom, who spoke no English at all, was pushing him to speak English. She wanted him to practice. Anyway, we started a mixed English-Russian conversation, but she asked me in Russian to please only speak English to him. So we talked for about two hours about all kinds of stuff. His English was quite good in terms of grammar, but he was short on the vocabulary, so he would either ask me in Russian for the English word, or if we were both stumped, he would punch the Russian into his smartphone and it would translate to English for me. I must say that for 13 years old, he was a most impressive kid. Kurril was his name I believe. His mom was busy drying their clothes from the rain, and I could hear her asking him to translate for her. Or she would say in Russian, 'Ask him about so and so'. Anyway, it was a great evening. They were gone before I got up which was too bad, as I would have like to exchange some contact information.
So I met Svetlana and Yuri Melnikov, the import agents this morning and got the bike released. Both Yuri and Svetlana are so kind and helpful. They have this down to a science and I did virtually nothing but sign and pay a range of fees. But today's weather is fantastic... clear and warm. An unusually great day by Vladivostok standards for this time of year. So Yuri spent a couple of hours driving me around Vladivostok, and up to some viewpoints. What a beautiful city. Just spectacular. So I took them out to lunch - they chose the place - a stolovaya or buffet - near their office. All very good. Lots of Russian dishes.
I hate to waste this beautiful day, but needed a little rest, and thought I would write before heading out again to cruise the city. I'll send out a spot, except that it won't be exact as the guesthouse is tucked between buildings and Spot can't see much sky. I'll move out to the nearest open spot and send from there.