Monthly Archives: July 2014

Russian power house


I hadn’t taken many pictures today when we went past this power station. I couldn’t work or whether it was nuclear or conventional, as it had no cooling towers but no tell tale signs of nuclear either.

There was a sign proudly displaying the fact it had been in production for 40 years. I wondered if it was one of the nuclear stations producing weapons grade plutonium as a bi-product, a left over from the cold war. Either way it doesn’t matter. It was a fairly impressive place and I’m glad we passed it.

I have to say I’m a little disappointed we didn’t find an abandoned nuclear submarine in Vladivostok. We haven’t seen any abandoned tanks either, and no-one has offered me a Kalashnikov assault rifle yet. As far as stereotypes go, Russia is breaking them all so far.

I like power stations, I’ve no idea why. I just do!

Camp David


Well not really, just the three of us camping in the middle of nowhere. I found a great road heading off the main drag, which we trundled down past a load of derelict old houses. The road turned into a track between some swamp like crops. It looked like no one had been by on a while, so we camped on a spot near s bend.

5 minutes later a large 4×4 logging truck came by with a 4×4 escort, with rather surprised looking occupants. They just waved as they went past. The rest of the night was silent – apart from our sound system! Chip and Ken have a great speaker, with which they introduced me to a new mind of music I didn’t know existed.

A cross between hillbilly bluegrass and rap music. They call it HIC-HOP. It’s actually pretty good.

We’ve got similar cooking gear so breakfasts and coffee set us up for the day. Right on the money budget wise!!

Lunch at Koleso


We stopped for lunch at one of the roadside cafes today. I followed Oleg’s advice and picked a spot with lots of lorries outside. Inside there was a basic menu, but the owner Sergei told us what to have. He was really friendly and explained everything in broken English.

The food was good, especially the smoked fish. He came out for a chat and brought some home made whisky for us, which smelled great. We took a bottle away for later, which will try when the beer runs out. I’ll let you know if it’s any good if I can see my keyboard tomorrow!

As the only bought meal of the day it was superb. We had a fairly long stop, chat and recharge. I managed to contact a friend of a friend in Khabarovsk. We’re going to meet up tomorrow, which is handy as I get the impression Khabarovsk is a big city.

Где туалет?


We stopped for petrol yesterday and I went for a pee. I wasn’t sure of someone has stolen the toilet or if they were all going to be like this. A trip to the loo today confirmed that toilet theft is obviously a major crime here! Still, if you’re wild camping and nature calls it’s pretty much the same thing. When in Rome, as they say…

Pretty buildings of Russia


We eventually left Vladivostok on the main M60, a good and fast but featureless road heading north. Not much to see, but enough to keep you on your toes. Like having a zebra crossing across a 3 lane motorway without warning and lots of pedestrians. Or smooth tarmac for many miles, interspersed with the odd half mile of gravel and huge potholes.

At the turnoffs for small towns we tended to detour into them. Not because there was a lot to see, but just to break the monotony of the motorway. At one town we passed this very pretty orthodox church. The guy in the car park welcomed us in and we took some photos. There was a service about to start and a lady ringing the bell. Stunning building.

We made it to Spask Dalnij, but there wasn’t much there. We stocked up on supplies and wild camped down a track. As I type I can hear a chorus of mosquitoes outside the tent. Insects here are petty fierce. You’d better be indoors by dusk or else !!

First crash!


Leaving Vladivostok this morning we ended up on the crazy busy, gridlocked M60. They’re was no way I was sitting in that again, so I started to filter through. Ken and Chip were with me so I had to keep an eye behind as well as in front – I didn’t want to loose them. I’d stopped for a narrow gap after changing lanes, when I heard a crunch followed by “shit!”.

I looked behind and both bikes were upright, but Chip had caught someone’s bumper with a pannier and took the end cap off. Or the other way round. (He hit the front of the car with the back of his bike, how does that work?). Anyway, a big fat angry Russian appears shouting and waving. Chip had moved his bike, which you’re not supposed to do in an accident in Russia – and that’s what he seemed most upset about.

Chip and Ken pointed to me as their translator, so the guy comes over to shout at me. I calmed him down we did had a quick chat. You have to call the cops in a smash, but eventually I persuaded him not to if we paid for the damage – just as a passing cop car pulled up! Then there was trouble!

Actually there wasn’t at all. At no point did I ever feel threatened, the police guy’s expression when he saw what was going on said it all. Basically, ‘why don’t you all just F off, it’s not worth the paperwork’. He asked if Chip spoke Russian, I said no and that was it – he was ready to walk off.

Dima (the angry fat Russian) had called his garage and said it would be 200 dollars. That’s over 7000 Rubles. I said “That’s 6000 Rubles, OK?”. Chip paid and that was that. I should have said it was 4000. Hindsight eh?

I didn’t take any pictures at the time, which I really regret now – but you never know how that’ll tip things, and at the time it didn’t seem appropriate. It was a great start to the day (well maybe not for Chip), but it left me feeling much more positive about my (or rather our) ability to get out of any situation.

If Dima wants that money laundered, this fly poster at our apartment seems to be advertising how to do that.

Ленин at sunset.


We dropped the bikes off at the apartment and Ilya I took us on a tour of the city, Russian island and the university. All very interesting and things we wouldn’t necessarily have seen without local knowledge.

As tourists we need to remember that it’s not just about the bikes, but the history and culture of the places we visit. Just one of many statues around is the Lenin memorial outside the ferry terminal. Striking an imposing figure, I took this picture as the sun was setting behind. I’m not sure which way he’s pointing, but I like to think maybe he’s guiding is home! Bereft of detail due to silhouetting, I think it makes a striking image.

Well, considering I took it with a phone that is….

The Iron Angels


The Iron Angels are a bike club in Vladivostok. Seoul Joe told us to look them up, so we did. We met up with Ilya II, who took us across the city to their clubhouse. It was a fairly stressful trip as we were following a car through gridlocked streets. On a bike it’s really hard not to filter through traffic!

We had the engines off and paddled the bikes for half a kilometre, moving over for an ambulance to come through at walking pace. Vladivostok isn’t a good place to have a heart attack! We finally made it to the club house, after making sure Adbang got on the main M60.

Quite an impressive pad, we met the chairman, German and a couple of other members. I had a quick blast on their drum kit before Ilya II and I rode off to the local bike shop on my bike. I wanted to do an oil change but hadn’t got any oil. At the shop I managed to get some new rear brake pads as well as oil. My bike was appreciated by the mechanics, as was the trip! I got the 15℅ club discount, every little helps.

Back at the clubhouse, Chip and Ken were chilling and shooting the breeze with German. I did an oil change but kept the pads, as there’s a few kms left in the old ones and it’s a 5 minute job to change them. (I love the new Kawasaki brake calliper design BTW). With the chain adjusted I’m good to go, for the next few thousand at least.

We were given stickers before we left, which now adorn the side panels – and contact numbers for the various chapters across Russia, who we’ll no doubt be looking up. It was great to meet like minded individuals with a passion for bikes. Thank you Iron Angels!

Бутылка вина


Here we are with the very well traveled bottle of wine. Charles gave me a bottle of wine when I left Melbourne, with strict instructions not to consume it! I was to take it to Vladivostok and share it with Ilya, my friend there.

It was a struggle, taking up precious room in my bags, but I managed to successfully take it around Australia and Korea. Through two sets of customs and over some very rough terrain, without breaking the bottle or having it confiscated.

I’m glad I made it, because Ilya has been a star and really looked after us. It would have been much more hassle and no doubt expense if we had to do it alone, so thanks Ilya!

Bikes away


Ilya collected up this morning right on time, and delivered us to the ferry port. True to her word, Svetlana had the paperwork all ready. We signed, paid and then went to collect the bikes. Completely painless, we were on the road in no time.

We made it all of 50 metres before we stopped for a coffee and to say goodbye to Adbang. We met Ilya 2 from the Iron Angels bike club, who Seoul Joe told we were coming. More on those guys later.

Thanks Ilya & Sveta!