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Welcome to Russia!

Welcome to Russia!

That’s the phrase we’ve started to use whenever something doesn’t quite go as planned.

So as Steve said Yuri from Links limited scheduled to meet us at 12:45 today. We have had multiple email exchanges with Yuri who we contacted due to some very positive feedback on other blogs. He has been a great source of information and extremely helpful. In fact he even put us on to Phil and the GT Logistics team in NZ.

Anyway it was nice to finally meet Yuri face to face which we did by the fountain in the Ferry building. A quick stroll along the road towards the port saw Steve and I loitering with intent outside the shipping offices while Yuri went it to pickup the required paperwork. A further stroll saw us meeting Oleg and Julia and going into the Customs office to arrange clearance on the bikes and van. It is a requirement that you be physically present in order to do this so there is no point shipping things earlier (as John unfortunately found out). Signing a multitude of pieces of paper including copies of the bill of lading, our passports and visas under the very stern eye of a uniformed and side arm carrying offical felt somewhat cliched but it was what was done.

Yuri then preceded to present our documents at the customs desk where they carefully checked our passports and visas against the provided copies. It was then time to wait for the required clearances to be completed and printed. It was as our anticipation and excitement were building that Steve and my fairy godfather, who’s name is Murphy, decided to step in and assist, as he does on an all too regular basis.

Yuri was called back to the counter and returned with a worried look on his face. Where upon we were told that the Russian Customs computer system required to issue the required clearances was down, not just in Vladivostok but across all of Russia. The computer experts had been called but Moscow was only just getting to work. No prizes for guessing where they were located. So here we are 3 hours from close of business for the week and the computers have crashed - ummm a weekend In Vladivostok was looking highly likely, a hotel booked solid from Saturday our departure day and no transportation - thanks Murphy - WELCOME TO RUSSIA!

Yuri very kindly arranged a ride for Julia to get back to their friends (Oleg had left to help John get his insurance sorted) and offered us a ride back to our hotel. Enroute to our hotel Yuri took a call from the senior Customs officer who offered to send someone in on Saturday to get our clearances processed if necessary - YES! we thought blissfully unaware that Murphy had another card up his sleeve that he was about to play. Yuri explained that even if we got the clearance the issue would be getting the container as the crane operators finish at 2 on a Saturday and no one will work Sundays. For a modest fee we could get them to stay for another hour tops.


It was at this point that we decided yeah we were going to be stuck in Vlad until at least midday Monday - there goes our schedule!

So it was a somewhat despondent pair of brothers who were dropped off at their hotel.

About now we started to have seond thoughts about the WELCOME TO RUSSIA! phrase. Maybe we are being a bit harsh as both of us have had years of experience importing all kinds of things into NZ and know that there was absolutely no way that one could land and clear a vehicle in anywhere like 24 hours. Additionally the memory of NZ’s largest city being without power for quite some time came to mind.

Yuri had told us customs were working until 6, an hour later than normal, and that he would check in with them at 4 to see what was happening. He’d update us if there was anything to report. As the clock ticked towards 4, then 5, then the closing at 6 without any news we were getting used to the idea of being stuck until Monday. Steve hatched a plan of us hiring a taxi for the day (5,000 rubbles around $NZ120) and going down to the North Korea border - about 350kms each way but not something we are likely to get a chance to do again.


At 5:45pm ping goes my phone. Message from Yuri saying he has the customs clearance and should have the container by midday. Awesome we’ll try and hit the road mid afternoon to put a couple of hundred kms under the tyres and get things partly back on schedule.

Posted by Zamiam 02:42 Tagged crow vladivostok carr as_the_crow_flies Comments (0)


Russia's Capital in the East

View As the Crow Flies Russia 2019 on stevecrownz's travel map.

We have been here in Vladivostok for nearly a week, much of that time making last minute preparations for the trip west. These have ranged from John running around like a headless chicken while peeling off wads of US dollars to get his bike cleared and off the docks, to me going into Intimo underwear shop to get some briefs as all my luggage is in the container with the bikes (which is 3-days late) and there really is only 4 ways to wear one pair of underwear without repeating , to David spending $40 on shaving foam (ouch), to getting adapters, cables etc.

By the time we all arrived at out hotel, the Hotel Primorye my little brother David had already snagged the good bed in our suite and left me with the pull out couch thingy. There is so little respect of the elders these days.

His lordship David Crow's palatial suite at the Primorye
Steve Crow's humble abode at the same establishment.

After I (sort of) forgave him, David and I headed out for dinner at the aptly names Brothers Bar & Grill just around the corner. Really nice place with probably the most expensive New York steak in town (about NZ$50).

After we seated the manager comes over and asks if we would like a hooker?

We were stunned to say the least.

Then we realised he meant hookah and we politely declined. Our new saying "Welcome to Russia" was born.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent site-seeing. The weather, apparently typical for summer, sees a lot of sea fog and overcast skies with temperatures in the teens to low 20's. Taxis (Maxims) are fantastically cheap so we kept the drivers for long-periods and got taken all over the place, including down to the end of Russky Island to the south of the city of Vladivostok. This involves a trip over the magnificent Russky Bridge which connects the Russky Island and the Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula sections of the city across the Eastern Bosphorus strait. With an overall length of 1,885m and central span of 1,104 metres it is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. It apparently cost US$1.1 billion (that's with a 'B') to build and has an impressive 70m of vertical clearance.

Unfortunately sea fog prevented us getting any good shots of the bridge.

Following is an assortment of images from around Vladivostok.


Russky Island


Posted by stevecrownz 01:05 Archived in Russia Tagged beaches bridges buildings skylines birds boats crow bmw russia vladivostok as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa russky_island Comments (0)

We changed the name of our blog

As the Crow Flies becomes 181 Across Russia

We decided to change the name of our blog to reflect the fact at is not just two 'Crows' riding across Russia.

The new name, 181 Across Russia, does NOT refer to our intended average or even top speed for the trip.

It is the sum of the ages of the three riders.

Steve 62
John 62
David 57

We thought about 'Old Bastards Road Trip' or similar but then decided that would imply our Mum's were ladies of low morals....

Posted by stevecrownz 19:03 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia customs vladivostok versys carr as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa Comments (0)

John's bike arrives

USS Carr arrives

overcast 13 °C

John shipped his 2018 R1200 GSA directly from his US home in Las Vegas a month before our bikes shipped from Auckland.

His cleared customs yesterday.

The big guy's bike arrives. He's a happy chappie even though it cost him US$6500 to get it off the docks (see my earlier post for the reasons).

We have just been advised that the ship carrying our container docked in Vladivostok at 1530 yesterday and we are to meet our agent Yuri at 1245 today to clear the van and our two bikes.

Bloody good service!

Fingers crossed :-)

Posted by stevecrownz 18:45 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia customs vladivostok versys carr as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa Comments (0)

Seoul to Vladivostok while avoiding unfriendly neighbours

Korean Airlines burns a lot of extra fuel to stay in friendly skies

semi-overcast 17 °C
View As the Crow Flies Russia 2019 on stevecrownz's travel map.

While David was swanning across the skies in Business Class the rest of the Russia Team were checking in at Gate 235 at Incheon International Airport in Seoul for our two and a half hour Economy Class hop to Vladivostok.


8k? Seriously? I don't even have a 4K television at home yet but Samsung were advertising a QLED 8k version in the departure lounge. I spent a few minutes watching it but to be honest I could not discern any significant improvement over the 'standard' 4k offerings on sale at home-ware retailers at home - still if you are so inclined to always want the latest and greatest 8k is apparently coming soon.


Soon we were boarding ...


As usual John powered off ahead as fast as his massive 6'5" frame would carry him, leaving us mere mortals stumbling on behind in his wake. That's him in the picture below, striding purposely towards the air bridge (probably secretly disappointed that the little lady cutting in from the left is going to beat him onboard.... aghhh first world problems).


It was a good flight, John and I were seated together. The biggest surprise for us both was the route that Korean Airlines took - going hundreds of miles 'off-course' from the direct route in what could only be explained as a very costly (for them, think of just the additional fuel cost - I believe the A300 burns about 10 tons per hour) effort to avoid the airspace of their missile-loving nutcase to the north. Thank you Korean Airlines, we would rather not be a target for despots.


Like many are these days, the plane was fitted with a number of external cameras, allowing passengers to select to view such scenes as 'forward', 'straight down', 'from the tail', 'left side', right side', etc. It was through the 'straight down' camera that I soon caught my first glimpse of Russia as the clouds parted and luscious green forest appeared below, followed a few minutes later by the runway at Vladivostok International Airport through the 'Forward view' camera.


Now I would be lying if I said I expected to breeze through immigration and customs on arrival in Vladivostok but that is exactly what happened. Sure there were long and slow-moving queues at the rather primitive immigration counters in a non-air-conditioned arrivals area but after examining my APEC Card and passport the non-smiling immigration lady stamped my passport and suddenly I was officially IN RUSSIA. Not a word was spoken in the minutes I was at the counter - she just did whatever she did, stamping paperwork, looking at multiple screens etc, in chilling silence.

I was expecting a full going over at customs but the guy on the counter for the Green 'Nothing to Declare' lane did not even look up from whatever he was reading and suddenly I was out, into the cavernous and rather empty main terminal area. All in all, arriving in Russia (or Vladivostok anyway) was easier than doing the same in New Zealand or Australia. Absolutely painless and a pleasant surprise.


Pretty soon however one of our party, our intrepid "leader" John Carr, got an unpleasant surprise. Being the ever-cautious over-planner that he can be, not wanting any delays when he arrived, John had shipped his 2018 BMW R1200 GSA from his home in Las Vegas to Vladivostok to arrive several weeks before us. No risk of shipping delays for John. On hand to greet him in the arrivals hall was a lady from the local shipping agent that he was using - to politely inform him that his bike had incurred over US$ 4000 in storage charges in the 3 weeks it had been sitting on the wharf awaiting his arrival. John's argument that he had been quoted US$10/day (so US$210 in total) for storage fell on deaf ears and so started 24 hours of very costly clearance processes that ended up costing him about US$6500 or some 5x the actual shipping cost! Welcome to Russia.

John, with Oleg assisting, arguing with his local shipping agent about the huge storage costs he got hit with.

David and I fervently hope this isn't a indicator of what awaits us when we try to clear our bikes after they arrive on the 27th but our agent, Yuri, is supposedly the best in the business so we are optimistic.

John departed the airport with his shipping agent and pretty soon the rest of us bundled into 'Maxim' cars (sort of Russian version of Uber) for the 50km journey from the airport to downtown Vladivostok and our hotel.

We are finally here, after nearly two years of planning.

Posted by stevecrownz 13:37 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia immigration customs vladivostok versys carr as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa korean_airlines Comments (0)

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