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Old 01-17-2010, 08:25 PM   #61
Camel ADV
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I'll save you all the long winded post about how our Dangerous Good Certificate (which required for shipping bikes via air) was screwed up by a clueless cargo worker at the airport and how that just about caused us to miss our flight to South Korea. Long story short, the cert was screwed up, the bikes didn't fly out on July 15th as they should have but we did leave that day.

We scrambled to get from the cargo terminal (10am) to the passenger terminal to make flight at 12pm. As it turned out the inbound flight that was to take us to Tokyo where we were supposed to catch a connector to Seoul was struck by lightning and had to be checked top to bottom before we could board. That was a 4 hour delay. While sitting around waiting we started talking to a very cute girl named Michelle who was flying to Thailand to train in Muay Thai kickboxing for several months. This girl was awesome! She was in her late 20's beautiful and had traveled all over the world doing cool stuff. To say that Petar, Tim and I instantly fell in lust with her wouldn't be a lie.

Since our flight was 4 hours late that meant we missed our connector in Japan. At first we were pissed but we realized it would give us 12hrs to spend in Japan. Air Canada put everyone up in hotels, provided 2 meals and shuttle service for everyone. As luck would have it, all the cheaper hotels were full and Petar, Tim, Michelle and I ended up getting free rooms at the Hilton...SWEET!

After a quick shower and meal we grabbed a cab and headed downtown. It was pretty awesome! I've been through Canada, the US, spent some time in the UK and Mexico so Japan was nothing like I had seen before! We didn't really do much except wander the streets looking around. We came across a "gentlemens club" and we all decided we had to have a look....ummm, yeah, not going to happen. As we walked to the door the bouncer crossed his arms in a "X" and made a "haaaa" sound (think loud exhale). He wouldn't move out of the way. Ok, I guess we aren't welcome here so on to the next one we went only to be faced with a sign that said "No Foreigner Allowed". OK then. We wandered into "The Cage Bar" which is a tiny (I mean tiny) karaoke bar. The stairs leading to the bar are damn near ladder steep and apparently have lead to several deaths by falling. Tim and I know we are BAD singers but we figured that it was Japan and no one would every see us again so we sang what could be the worst version of AC/DC's "You shook me all night long". It sounded like 2 cats being run over by a car. To say it was bad is a gross understatement!

After we defiled AC/DC we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Home for the night:


Tim, Michelle and I in the Japanese cab:


Me trying to get through the bathroom door at the Cage Bar. I bet it was 4.5ft tall and 18" wide:


Wandering the streets of Narita, Japan:


More wandering:


I guess we aren't welcome!


Looking like dorks in matching seizure robots shirts:
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Old 01-17-2010, 09:21 PM   #62
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Old 01-18-2010, 07:24 PM   #63
Camel ADV
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In the morning we got to the airport and caught our connector to Seoul. Once there Michelle's friend picked us up and drove us to a hotel in the tourist district. We stayed there for a day or two, checking out shops and the Korean War Museum.

Since large amounts of paperwork and a carnet are required to ride in Korea we had the bikes shipped via courier to the other side of the country. The ferry to Russia departs from Sok Cho. After a couple days in Seoul we jumped on a bus for Sok Cho.

We had a miserable time finding a courier that was willing to transport the bikes as they were not crated. The airline wanted them as roll-on so they could be palleted but they would not lend the courier the pallet to deliver the bikes. We ended up paying approximately $500 per bike to have them transported the 3hrs to Sok Cho....they ended up coming in a 5 Ton!!

There is some very cool stuff at the war museum.


Looking around in the tourist district:


"This is Sparta!


Sok Cho:


Apparently a tourist place in the summer. There didn't seem to be much but dried fish stores, literally hundreds of them. There was some cool stuff down by the beach though:



25hr Mart???


My FAV pic of the whole trip!
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Old 01-19-2010, 07:46 AM   #64
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:25 AM   #65
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After hanging out in Sok Cho for a couple days the bikes arrived, in the back of 5 ton, not tied down....hmmmm.



We had a few hours to kill before the ferry left and the guys in the customs compound were pretty cool, they let us working the bikes in the warehouse. We were able to get all of our gear sorted out and repacked properly.


At 3:00pm we got the bikes loaded on the ferry and were standing in line waiting to board when a ferry employee told us to call our customs broker because there was a problem with paperwork. It was quite a challenge to figure out what was going on as we don't speak Korean and they don't speak English. We managed to find a Swiss girl who spoke reasonable english and some Russian then we found a Korean guy who spoke a bit of Russian too and we began attempting to communicate. I spoke to her, she to the guy, he to the employee then all the way back before I got an answer. Do you think there was anywhere for things to get mixed up along the way?!

As it turns out, the customs officer in Sok Cho (only one on a sunday) was nowhere to be found and he had not yet cleared our bikes for export from Korea. They ferry ppl suggested we leave the bikes on the boat (going to Russia without us) and that we could catch the next ferry in 2 days. We declined and ran out of the terminal down to the secure customs area, through the gate, down to the boat (the cargo loading bridge was already on it's way up). We got on the boat and got our bikes back on the dock and back to the warehouse. Much pissing and moaning followed.

We spent 2 more days in the city with nothing but dried fish shops. We did nothing but wonder around and try to say amused. Two days later the ferry had returned. The Dong Chun Ferry simply goes to Zuribino, Russia, unloads, loads new people and goods and returns to Sok Cho, then turns around and does it again. This time we managed to get our bikes cleared and loaded. While waiting for our chance to board the boat we ran into Terry a biker from London who was meeting some friends that were already riding in Russia (see BAM thread RR).



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Old 01-19-2010, 12:34 PM   #66
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The ferry trip is 18hrs. We had several hours of daylight and we managed to get on the very upper deck. The view was awesome. I've lived in western Canada my whole life and have never spent much time on the ocean. Tim, Petar and I sat on the top deck for hours laughing and talking about the adventure that was about to begin. This was one of the best moments of the trip.







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Old 01-19-2010, 01:24 PM   #67
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Once the sun went down the boredom level increased and I tried to sleep but the pitching and swaying of the boat made that tough.

About 10am we arrived in the port of Zuribino. The view as we pulled into the port was amazing. We weren't able to be on the deck as we pulled in so we didn't manage any pics. The dock was old and run down and Russian Customs was located in an old warehouse 40yards from the dock. Old vehicles and run down building were everywhere.

After going through customs control we went through passport control, then immigration control then the drug dog went through our bags. After that we went to the customs brokerage office and were each screwed out of $150 US for their services. After getting fleeced we were able to get our bikes off the boat.

Sitting outside the brokerage office:


Finally on the road again! RUSSIA!


We weren't on the road for long before we were flagged into a parking lot by a half dozen Russian soldiers. We all exchanged looks like "Here we go..." Expecting to get shaken down we all got off our bikes. Nope, these guys just wanted to know what we were doing and wanted a few pics. After that they bought us lunch We needed to learn that not everyone is out to screw us over!



After lunch we were back into the rain and it stayed that way until we arrived in Vladivostok. The first night we stayed in a hotel and in the morning got ahold of the Iron Angels Motorcycle club who had been recommended to us by an other Canadian who had been through Vlad a year or so before.

Bikers in this part of the world really stick together. These guys treated us like family. They were great!

Traffic in Vlad:



Us with a few of the Iron Angels"



That night Petar and I stayed with a couple he met on CouchSurfing. They had a cat so Tim (allergic to cats) stayed with a couple of the Iron Angels.
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Old 01-19-2010, 01:26 PM   #68
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Old 01-19-2010, 10:18 PM   #69
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From our site:
We left Vladivostok in the morning, it was misty and damp, and then it just got worse. And worse. We drove in the rain for hours, and hours and hours... soaked to the bone. This was our first big day riding after leaving Zarubino, and it was a slightly miserable experience.

After a full day of riding, we started looking for a hotel at about 8:00 pm... but we had miscalculated a bit.. which brings me to a litte story about Russia...

The infrastructure in Russia is very different than Canada. There are no "rest stops". The small towns between Vlad and Khabarosk are very, very primitive. Hotels and places catering to tourists are non existant. So we were not having any luck finding a place to stay.

It was getting later and later, when we came around a corner and in the distance were 3 huge stacks, and massive power lines leading off in all directions. It was a monster Soviet-era Nuclear Plant, a huge monolith beside the road. In it's shadow was a small community where the workers lived, so we stopped and asked some locals hanging out if there was a Hotel close by.. they immediately took us on a journey through the community down back roads and alleys, and we all were becoming more and more cautious, as they seemed a bit too eager to help... after a bit, we ended up at some building, where they took us inside to a desk, and yes it did seem to be a place you paid someone to stay at, but there was sadly no security for the bikes, and we had a bad feeling about the whole situation, so we left and got back on the road.

We then did something that we had agreed in advance we would not do, and that was to drive after dark. But we were tired, soaking wet, and had been on the road for over 12 hours. We had made the decision to push on to Khabarosk, still another 250km away, where if we kept going, we would get there at 1:00 to 2:00 am... not the best set of options.

About an hour after we left the Nuclear community, we drove past a building that actually looked like a small "inn" by the road, where lo and behold, they had a couple rooms for rent, including one with three beds (perfect) and a HOT shower, and an area where we could put the bikes securely.

At this point we met Kate, one of our hosts, who had learned English in school, and was very excited to use here basic understanding to try and communicate with us and help us. We very much appreciated the help she provided, and we had a good night, wherever we were.

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Old 01-20-2010, 01:43 AM   #70
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Actually I'm just going to keep posting from our site. This Tim's commentary of the trip.

We arrived in Khabarosk, two days after leaving Vladivostok, with no idea what to expect. Vladivostok was full of the most gracious, helpful people you could hope to meet, and we already missed our new friends.

We drove down the main street of Khabarosk, and came upon a huge, new Grocery store, very modern, very western. Inside, they had everything we do, and it was new and beautiful and such a huge change from the crumbling Soviet era buildings we were becoming used to.

We spent a good hour buying up supplies, and marveling (ogling) the Russian women's ability to shop for groceries in 5 inch heals and mini-skirts. They were everywhere.

We had been given a number for an "Alex", a fellow biker in Khabarosk by the Iron Angels, so I called it, but there was no answer.

We got back on the main road, and where just driving along when we say a building with a picture of a Motorcycle on it, and decided to stop and see if they knew a place to change tires.

We approached a friendly lady, named Elena who owned what we now knew to be a "biker" themed bar, to ask, and as we were talking to her, my phone rang, and a voice on the other end started talking to me in Russian. I had no idea what he was saying, but I guessed it might be "Alex" since I had just called him. This went on as Cory was still trying to talk to Elena. The Russian voice and I hung up after a few minutes of frustration.

Elena pulled out her phone and called her husband, who it turned out was a biker. After a quick conversation, she said he would be by with a few of his friends in a bit, to help us out. This was great news!

Her husband's name she said was Alex. Ummm... Alex.. the biker. I showed her the number I called on my phone. "Oh, yah, that's my husband."

In a city of 800,000 we happened to drive by a bar, with a picture of a motorcycle on it, and meet the wife of the guy we were looking for, who I had just been on the phone with while Cory was talking to her.







Getting the knobbies put on:


$18 US to swap 6 tires...umm, ok!




Alex and Elena from the Garage Bar:






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Old 01-20-2010, 01:48 AM   #71
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Old 01-20-2010, 07:09 AM   #72
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Old 02-03-2010, 03:14 PM   #73
Camel ADV
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We left Khabarosk, sadly saying goodbye to our new friends the Iron Tigers. As we pulled out, we went through one of the many Police Checkpoints, this time being stopped. They checked our papers, then quickly waved us through. This would be the last Police presence we would see for the next 5 days.

We did 400km our first day out of Khabarosk, before deciding to pull off the road at some random point to Camp for the first time in Russia.

But first a bit about the Road. The road from Khabarosk to Chita is part of the larger main road from Moscow to Vladivostock (Trans-Russian Highway), It is similar to the Trans-Canada Highway, as it links the entire country.



But it's not finished. There will be sections of pavement, as good as anything in North America. Then it will end. And it will just be a dirt track. There are sometimes signs pointing this out, sometimes not.

So you are driving along at 100km/h, and suddenly, you are driving through waterfilled potholes, and rocks.. fun stuff.

We have seen hundreds of road crews, dump trucks, graders and pavers. They are making a huge effort to pave the entire way, and in a few more years, this road will be done, and the trip will take a couple days. As it is now, it's a mess of pavement, dirt, rocks, gravel, and a few more surfaces I couldn't identify, that changes every 20-30 KM.

The first 1000 km is more pavement than not, so it was fairly straightforward. The next 800km was more hard pack than pavement, and we were much slower.

So, after 400km of this, alternating between 100km per hour, and 30km per hour, we decide to start looking for a place to camp. There is no hope of finding lodging out here, there is nothing.

So after a few false starts down some side roads, we picked a dirt trail off the highway, and drove as far as we could into the trees to hide us from anyone who may want to steal our stuff.

This led us to a dirt, grassy trail in the trees and long grass, that was literally the most awful place you could imagine. Hot, humid, 1000's of mosquitos, fly's, Big Fly's, flying things, buzzing things, spiders... you name it, if it crawled or flew, it was trying to get us.

So we were sweating, stinking, covered in bug spray, with mosquito nets on our heads, in our full riding gear, setting up camp, in a field of long grass.

It was awful, and it was hot.

I saved it on my GPS, it you ever come this way, please stop by.. it's lovely. :)

So we crawled into our tents, along with all our gear, sweaty boots, sweaty clothes, and listened to the bugs try and get in, and tried to stop sweating, before we fell asleep.



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Old 02-03-2010, 04:02 PM   #74
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We left Camp Awful at first light, but not before we had a little mishap. We couldn't turn the bikes around at camp, so we ended up driving a bit further up the "trail" to turn around. Cory got his bike down a hill, and ended up in a swamp. 950 lbs Motorbike in a swamp is no fun. So we've just had the worst night yet, and we begin the next day by spending 30 minutes extracting his bike from the bug infested swamp.

Blah.

We finally got on the road, such as it was, and did another average day of 392 miles. We had some rain today again (we've had more than our share for this time of year), which makes the unpaved sections not much fun.

Once again, at the end of the day, we started looking for a place to camp, and our luck had changed, we found a lake, with sand, and wonderful warm water we could swim at.

It was 180 degrees from the night before, and it really lifted our spirits (The sand and the lake did) :)







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Old 02-03-2010, 04:47 PM   #75
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After leaving Camp awesome the road quickly turned to sloppy mess:



It continued to rain and even though we all had antifog lenses in our helmets it was no match for the constant moisture. I gave up on my visor and flipped it up. My sun glasses seemed to work much better as they didn't fog. I had to stop ever 10-15min to wipe the back side of the lens though:



The rough road made me aware of a new problem. The HB pannier brackets that came with my cases were garbage. They flexed and swayed all over the place so before we left I had beefed up the rear bracket that attached each side to the other. I wanted it to be as strong as it could be with out being too heavy or bulky. I took several measurements to ensure the rear tire cleared under full suspension compression. My measurements were taken with the 150/70-17 Anakees not the 140/80-17 Deserts that were now fitted on my bike. Every bump I hit caused the knobs to contact the bracket. The noise was annoying but the fact that it was literally ripping the lugs off the tire was cause for major concern. One lug had torn off and the tire had exposed belts . I knew that I was going to have to get some work done to rectify the issue. At home it would have been no problem at all to roll into a shop explain what I needed and have it done in 20mins. Here towns were few and far between not to mention not being able to read the signs to even know a welding shop if I saw one.

I pondered the problem as we continued on our way. We came across a road side stand selling juice, coffee chips etc. The man at the stand spoke a bit of english so I did my best to explain the problem and asked if there was a welder near by that could help. He told me there was a welder in the next town that could help me.

Igor and Yuri:



Following Yuri's direction we pulled into one of the most run down towns I have ever seen. We rolled around the back of a large Soviet era warehouse. There was a small Chinese man named Hung wearing sandals and shorts (no shirt or gloves) squatting in a mud puddle welding on a huge pipe. He spoke no English and I no Russian or Cantonese. After 5 mins of pointing and grunting I managed to explain what the problem was a what I wanted to wanted to do to fix it.

I have lots of experience cutting, welding and fabbing parts but I have no idea how these guys do what they do with the tools they have. No bench grinder, drill, angle grinder or sawzall to be seen anywhere. No cutting torch either, just a crusty 80yr old arc welder and a few boxes of damp rods. Hung simply cranked up the amps and blew the old bracket off before welding (crudely) the new piece of angle in it's place. It was ugly but it worked 100%. Hung must have been part of the witness protection program because he FLIPPED when Tim took a pic of him. He stood there until he saw that Tim had deleted all the pics of him.

Welding shop:



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