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Murphy endeavours to have the last laugh


View Ride Europe - East to West on Zamiam's travel map.

Well I should know better than to think Murphy had finished with us. After the ping telling us the customs clearance had been issued Friday evening and we should have the container around midday over the course of late afternoon and evening we hear that:

• "In port it is not so good as in customs. I'll send you email soon. Most probably we will not get container tomorrow";

• Our container is one of the rare ones selected to get weighed and they are unsure when that will happen (funnily enough John's was one of the rare ones as well);

• They will not release any containers until the ship has been completely unloaded and we'll hear by midday;

Late Friday evening becomes Saturday morning and it's not looking good:

• 7:14am "Good morning. Container weighing is complete. Ship unloading is not finished yet. Port can't release container so far. So we just wait. Truck is waiting."

• 7:52 am "Port broker guy called service center in port that releases containers. They say ship is fully unloaded but documentation from customs has not reached port yet. He thinks maybe that is customs computer system problems as it was yesterday? He is checking port system from home. We get in touch with him every half an hour. Till what time would you like to wait?"

• The answer to the last question Is "until there is no chance of getting the container today". We arrange to hold a container yard open for is until 5pm (1,000 rubbles), and to pay a container truck to wait for us (1,200 rubbles an hour) until its proves impossible to get pit container (port closes at 2:00pm for weekend);

• 10:00am "Ship docs reached port service center. We are going to port with port broker now";

• So we ask what are our chances of getting the container today?

• 11:33am "If we finish with port now we get container today"

• As we slowly creep up on and then past 2:00pm we feel that we will be staying in Vladivostok until at least Monday. At 2:25pm we get the call, "we have the container" and our very helpful shipping agent, Yuri from Links Ltd, arranges to pick us up and transport us to the container yard which proves to be a long way out of Vladivostok. As we pull up at the fortress gates the container truck rolls in behind us. It was about then that I felt like making a certain gesture to Murphy but I know better than to challenge him!

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As we watched the crane move into position to lift our container off the truck the realisation that we are about to embark on the trip of a life time really starts to sink in.

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Yuri moves to cut the lock and opens the doors to show us the van and bikes had actually arrived.

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After removing the strops, wheel chocks and a quick reconnect of the trusty Delicas battery Yuri squeezed his way in the door and drove the van out onto Russian soil.

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It was then time to turn our attention to the bikes.

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It was somewhat disappointing to find that all our careful calculations and preparations had been ignored and they had removed the bars and rear rack before shipping. The latter being strapped down so tightly that they had left serious marks on our seats.

So the next hour or so saw Steve and I rushing to get the bikes put back together while sliding around in the mud and rain. Steve had a slip and damaged his little finger, possibly even broke it. The fact that we had much more to put back together that anticipated was exasperated by the conditions.

Finally we had them all together and it was time to experience Russian traffic from the seats of our bike with the Van following on behind. Yuri continued being extremely helpful and led us firstly to a gas station to fill up, our first experience with the "novelty" that is getting gas in Russian and then back to our hotel along a very novice Russian rider friendly route i.e. NO roundabouts. Yuri and his company Links Limited are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by us: professional, delivered on everything he promised, went to the nth degree to get us our bikes as quickly as possible etc. etc. While we were frustrated by the delays we have to be honest and say that we don't believe that we could land 3 vehicles in NZ and have them cleared and in our hands in less than 48 hours after the container ship docked like was achieved in Vladivostok.

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Once back at the hotel the bikes were parked in the "secure" car park behind the hotel alongside the USS Carr (Johns BMW). The security for the night involved us paying an elderly Russian who lives on the edge of the car park in what we in NZ would consider a small garden shed the princely sum of 100 Rubbles.

Sunday morning saw us kitting up and heading away from the Hotel Primoyre on the first leg of our tour, 750kms to Khabarovsk.

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So what did I think of Vladivostok - not much being very candid. Other than the Aquarium which I concede was well worth the visit it doesn't have much to recommend it.

Posted by Zamiam 10:18

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