A Travellerspoint blog

Khabarovsk-Blagoveshensk

The crew heads west towards Siberia

semi-overcast
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Day two of riding saw us leave our hotel in Khabarovsk about 0830 and ride 695km to Blagoveshensk, the administrative capital of the Amur Oblast of Russia. Blagoveshensk is on the border with China with only the Amur River separating the city from its southern neighbour.

Again, to plagiarise Lonely Planet

"Blagoveshchensk is where modern China comes grinding up against provincial Russia, facing as it does the Chinese city of Heihe across the massive Amur River. The cultural weight of its giant neighbour can be felt throughout this modest, clean and tidy place – Chinese restaurants, street signs, tourists and business people are ubiquitous and it's fair to say that the city looks far more to the south than it does towards Moscow."

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We did not schedule a lay-over/sightseeing day for Blagoveshensk although we had planned to walk over the bridge to China but....alas..... our information was not correct and the bridge we planned to walk across is still under construction!

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John

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David

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Steve

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Unusual decor in our hotel in Blagoveshensk

Posted by stevecrownz 09:12 Archived in Russia Tagged bridges buildings bmw versys carr khabarovsk as_the_crow_flies blagoveshensk Comments (0)

Helpful tip # 1

Carry a hair-dryer when touring

rain 11 °C
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OK, I know I am bald. Even though she did not speak a word of English, the lady in the electrical goods store in Khabarovsk made it very clear that she thought it was very funny when I asked (via Google translate) to buy a hair-dryer...

We got soaked to the skin on the ride from Vladivostok.

While laundry service took care of our wet clothing, an urgent solution was needed to dry our boots and gloves.

My solution .....
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Bloody brilliant if I may say so myself. It worked a treat!

Posted by stevecrownz 07:30 Archived in Russia Tagged rain water russia dryer khabarovsk wet_boots Comments (0)

Welcome to Khabarovsk

The Far East’s most pleasant surprise...

overcast 16 °C
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What a beautiful city, very picturesque with wide-open tree-lined boulevards.

Lonely Planet sum it up well; "The Far East’s most pleasant surprise, Khabarovsk boasts a dreamy riverside setting, vibrant nightlife, lots of greenery and boulevards lined with pretty tsarist-era buildings."

Situated on the massive Amur River (home to the Amur River Sturgeon you can see in our earlier aquarium post) Khabarovsk is a far cry from the dreary congestion of Vladivostok.

Due to massive flooding along our planned route, we ended us staying here three nights instead of the planned two while we waited to hear that the roads through the Tulun region had re-opened. Apparently 15 bridges were washed out with 9m of flood waters along the route.

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Fun lunch at V-drova]] pizzaria (sorry Luca, Al Volo is still mt favourite pizzaria)
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Posted by stevecrownz 06:57 Archived in Russia Tagged crow russia carr khabarovsk Comments (1)

Vladivostok to Khabarovsk

rain 16 °C
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Sunday dawned wet when David, John and I loaded our panniers onto the bikes and headed north towards Khabarovsk.

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Julia, Oleg, Michael and Mary (J.O.M.M.?) had been staying with Oleg's brother in the northern outskirts of Vladivostok so they had taken the Delica home on Saturday night laden with all their luggage plus two sets of spare tyres and various other bits and pieces we three could not carry on the bikes. There was no point in them driving back into the city this morning so we had made plans to meet them along the route; the only stipulation being that they leave after us and always be behind us as our support vehicle.

Many of us have, at one time or another, watched one of those videos that keep popping up in our news feeds with titles such as 'WORLDS WORST DRIVERS CAUGHT ON TAPE". If you have, you probably noted that most of the footage seems to originate in Russia. OMG, now we see why. Russian drivers simply seem to love tempting fate - if they aren't downright suicidal. The results of two crashes seen today add to one seen yesterday, not bad for our first two days on Russian Roads.

Following is a selection of images from today's 750km ride, 90% of which was in the rain. We were all soaked to the skin by the time we arrived at our hotel in Khabarovsk.

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The three riders stopped on the roadside coming into Khabarovsk to download directions to our hotel and figure out the best way to get there when a young Russian guy riding a BMW R 1200R pulled over to see if he could assist. He later told us he thought we were locals when he first stopped but when we spoke English he offered to lead us to our hotel. His English was pretty good.

We arrive at our hotel in Khabarovsk
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We were all very tired at the end of what had been a pretty hard ride in testing conditions so we retired to our respective rooms for the night (although John admitted the next day that he had gone next door to the hotel and got KFC for dinner. Americans! David and I elected to get room service).

Mum, can you tell little brother to tidy our room!
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The next morning we split into three, John went off sightseeing with a local friend who owns the only two Tesla in Khabarovsk, JOMM went and met some friends of Oleg's from his school days here, and David and I went to breakfast with our new Russian friend, who put his details into my phone as "John Khabarovsk" - the guy who led us to our hotel the prior evening. He picked us up and we went to a nice cafe, he even insisted on paying and would not take no for an answer.

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David and 'John Khabarovsk' at breakfast.

Posted by stevecrownz 20:58 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia versys carr khabarovsk as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa Comments (0)

Murphy endeavours to have the last laugh


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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 Comments (0)

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