We look out of our hotel window eastwards as the morning sun climbs higher over the Sea of Japan, which, in a few short hours, we will set sail upon. Today is the first day of real adventure on this trip according to Anne, I however feel that when we set off from Vladivostok, we will be on our way back. Interesting that we each have different views on how we perceive the road ahead, but both agree that then last two months have been very comfortable, certainly reflected by my expanded waistline.
We had scouted the location of the Passenger Ferry Terminal on arrival yesterday since highway 42 ended at the main port entrance where we ascertained our entrance was around the corner. A five minute ride in non existent Sunday morning traffic had us entering the port and being directed to join a group of four motorbikes parked outside what we learned was the ferry logistics office. Other travellers, who what where: questions in our minds as we park alongside a mixed bunch of bikes, all really loaded, including spare tyres. We quickly learn that three of the four are Korean brothers setting off on a six month journey that will take them across Russia, Mongolia to Europe ending in Spain in December. They all speak good English and over the next half an hour, we are joined by another six motorbikes and scooters all with Korean riders. We have a small army of adventurers with everything from BMW1200GS to 110cc scooters, maybe a motorcycle enthusiast can identify all the models, I could not.
Almost all are carrying replacement more off-road oriented tyres, their current road ones are all partially used. We have no spares but put new, what we think are, long life tyres in Vancouver, Heidenau K60 Scout. It would be interesting to do a comparison on how we all ended up. Ours must last until Turkey some 10,000 miles / 16,000 kilometres distant, which, based on previous experience, should be doable. We shall see.
We have become so used to seeing western adventure motorcyclists in our travels, online and in electronic media that we forget that others, ie Asian, have that thirst for adventure as we do. We exchange blogs, look at each other’s bike setups. Anne and I are taken with the mesh seat covers which create ventilation passages for air to flow. Our Scotoiler attracts some interest as did our panniers and spot lights.
We all have to undergo the same customs process and this is detailed in our Visas and Borders section. We do get to ride without helmets, at 30 kph, to the customs inspection area. It is always a nice experience to have the wind in your hair, even for a couple of minutes, but I would not risk it on the highway. We spend a couple of pleasant hours, mostly waiting before the Customs inspection is complete and we ride into the bowels of the ship to leave Streak and Storm to their slumbers.
We have to then go in reverse through immigration, security, and customs to collect our hand luggage and then return in the opposite direction. We had a booking made for us, but still had to pay and collect tickets so we joined a somewhat chaotic scrum at the booking/ticketing counter that shared the same space as the access to customs/immigration. Still it all worked out and half an hour or so later we have passenger tickets in our hand as we climb the gangplank onboard the ‘Eastern Dream’. We are told our cabin is open, we do not have to collect our key? Open the door and guess what, we are sharing! Our advertised 2 person cabin now has four floor mats jammed in so closely that the outside mats are bent upwards by the wall. Even in the 90 person room you get a curtained off bunk. Not what we are paying USD$200 pp for! Our Russian roommates kindly leave to allow us to change from our motorcycle gear and then Anne feels a visit to the information office is warranted.
We are told that four to a room is company policy for first class, even though the advertising pictures show two mats per room. We are told to come back at 15:00, but shortly afterwards we are approached by a staff member to be told the other couple has vacated our room, hopefully to one of their own and we have our own place. All I can recommend is that you are probably better off in a cheaper bunk bed than pay this amount for a shared room where the sleeping mats run up the wall to fit. We would do that if we came this way again. We find different maps onboard rating these rooms as first and second class cabins, company greed at work here I think.
In preparation for departure we are treated to a lifejacket demonstration, unlike the airlines I have flown with, they show the light works and test the whistle. I think the airlines could learn something from this. Now where is the cupboard with our lifejackets?
As we get underway I can hear playing Rod Stewarts ‘Sailing’ over the loudspeakers. For mostly Korean, Russian and Japanese passengers someone has a sense of humour, I wonder how many people get it. We sail out of Korea having only spent a few days glimpsing this intriguing country. We have so many questions, what is Korea’s history?, why are roofs and walls painted blue? We both agree that we would like to return, not on motorbikes, and see and learn more, probably as a stopover on the way to Europe one day. As always, we have met kindly and generous people whose paths we will never cross again and their actions cannot be returned by us. It reinforces our view of the positive nature of people around the world, not just when major tragedies strike, but everyday kindness that exists worldwide.
As I am writing this blog, Anne plays a Dido song which has the words , “I will go down with ship” ha… I prefer Rod Stewart “Sailing” any day, it has an upbeat floaty appeal to me. Must stop looking at the lifejacket cupboard.
The sea is calm, a big benefit for fair weather sailors such as ourselves, may it last the full 22 hours of the journey across the Sea of Japan. Hey, is that not the place where what’s his name lands all the missiles he fires? Maybe a moving ship is like being on a motorcycle in a lightening storm, keep moving and you are insulated by the tyres. Must stop looking at the lifejacket cupboard. At least we have four.
I think there must be a good couple of hundred passengers and we have not seen most of the motorcyclists again. We have meal vouchers, the benefit of being first class passengers, interestingly at meal time, the majority of diners are Korean or Japanese, the Russians seem buy the instant noodles and eat them in their rooms or on deck.
We wake to calm, thankfully but misty views as we plough on towards Vladivostok. Breakfast and lunch pass without the low cloud lifting, we must pack to be ready for arrival.