We made it to Vladivostok
Last night Dick went for a walk to a nearby pond and found three small furry creatures swimming with their heads out of the water. He thought they may be otters. If you look on the Spider Tracks for the first report this morning, you can see the pond near the position the Earthroamer was parked.
Our last day on the road for this stage of the journey around the world was exciting but we also felt a little nervous and hoped everything would go OK.
Just as we were about to leave the car park of the café, a car pulled up and a family got out to do the usual – they came over to have a good look at our vehicle. We said hello and the lady produced her business card. She communicated to us that she was working as a TV director. She was heading towards Khabarovsk for a few days and she wished us a safe journey.
We departed at 8.45am with the skies overcast and a cool temperature of 45°F (7°C). We stopped at a fuel station a few kilometers down the road and put 150 litres of diesel in the front tank. That was enough to get us out of Russia and into Japan – we hoped!!
It wasn’t long before the potholed bitumen turned into rough, corrugated dirt so we were back to creeping along at around 20kph for a couple of kilometres. We were relieved when the road returned to bitumen. We had to drive through a number of these bad dirt sections every now and then but on the whole, the road to Vladivostok wasn’t too bad. Pip was also pleased when the sun came out and she was able to get a few photos as we drove through some of the villages.
|We passed many wooden houses and gardens in the villages|
|Two ladies enjoying the morning sun|
|A lady looking through her window|
|Apartments in Sibirtsevo, 590kms from Khabarovsk|
At about 240kms from Vladivostok , a very clean Landcruiser overtook us, then indicated and pulled over in front of us with lots of arm waving from the driver, indicating that he wanted us to pull over. This has happened a few times and it has been friendly Russians who just want to say hello. We were anxious to get to our destination so for a split second we thought, “Oh no, we won’t stop – we don’t have the time”. Fortunately we did pull over because as the young gentleman got out of the Landcruiser we instantly realised that he wasn’t Russian – he looked like an Aussie, and when he said, “G’day,” we knew that he was. It was Dan Tebbutt from the Australian Trade Commission. With him was Vladimir Gorokhov, Australia’s Consulate in Vladivostok and their driver. Dan told us that they were driving to Khabarovsk and had recognized our vehicle as it drove past, having seen our website when he was in the Australian Embassy in Moscow. They turned around and chased after us. It was a lovely encounter.
|Dan Tebbutt & Vladmir Gorokhov from the Australian Trade Commission stopped to say hello|
|We asked Dan to take this photo of us beside our Earthroamer|
When we were showing them the interior of our Earthroamer, we offered them the bottle of Vodka that the truckie had given us the day before. Dan pointed out that the bottle was special as it was Kosher Vodka and had the Star of David on the label. It is made in the Jewish community of Birobidzhan, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, where we had stayed two nights ago.He suggested that we keep it as a special souvenir.
We had only gone a few more kilometres when we were stopped by a Policeman at one of their check points. We felt that he only waved his baton at us because he was curious and wanted to have a closer look at our vehicle. He asked us if we were tourists. We have noticed that the traffic Police only glance at the paperwork – consisting of the vehicle permit for Russia, the Russian Insurance certificate, the vehicle registration papers and Dick’s International Drivers Licence. Only one policeman on this stage of our journey has ever checked that the number plate on the vehicle matched the paperwork. We got pulled over only one more time today – just coming into Vladivostok. Again the policeman was only curious to look closer at us. Each time they glance at the papers and then peer through the window past Dick to see what is behind us, give us a smile and send us on our way. Imagine having to live in a country where you are constantly, randomly pulled over a number of times each day by the traffic Police! We are so fortunate in Australia. We should never take for granted our freedom to travel without constantly having our bona fides checked by government authorities.
We noticed that the traffic in both directions was building up. The Japanese vehicles still continued to flow out of Vladivostok.
|A house 130kms from Vladivostok|
We stopped at 1pm near a roadside café and made ourselves a salad with fresh bread for lunch. Dick lowered the fibreglass cover for the grey water tank down from its mounting on the roof and we put it inside the Earthroamer. We were concerned with the extra height this added to the vehicle and the unknown height of bridges and overhead wires in Vladivostok.
|Dick cleans out the toilet at our lunch stop before Vladivostok|
We drove through Ulssurilysk at 3pm with heavy traffic. The traffic lights have a brilliant digital timer which counts down in seconds to when the lights are going to change again. Now that is something that the rest of the world should copy.
|We saw many of these Soviet style apartment buildings|
|Driving through Ussurilysk|
|Timed traffic lights|
|Houses in Ussuriysk|
We also noticed the appearance of big colourful billboards beside the highway, advertising cars and speed boats and other things – capitalism is obviously rampant. We also noticed the first expensive cars we had seen since Almaty - Lexus, Mercedes and BMWs but no Bentleys yet! There were also lots of road side merchants selling small green bunches of some kind of vegetable and bottles of home made brew.
|A friendly lady selling onions and potatoes |
|Ladies selling green vegetables beside the road|
|Another lady selling her eggs, onions and various pickles beside the road in Dmitrievka|
|Old prams are used to carry the goods for sale beside the road|
|A little girl watches us drive past her home in Dmitrievka|
We drove past the big Russian sign for Vladivostok at 4pm and pulled over so Pip could take a photo – we had made it!! We continued on into the city past a huge Mercedes Benz new car sale yard and many other second-hand car, truck and crane sale yards. We continued on in very heavy traffic towards the peninsula that curls around the Golden Horn Bay. On the map in the Lonely Planet, we could see the location of the Hotel Hyundai where we had booked into for a bed and a place to park the Earthroamer.
|The traffic started to build up as we got closer to Vladivostok|
|Entering the city of Vladivostok|
The traffic was moving very slowly so we asked a few young people walking beside us if they spoke English, so we could confirm the directions to our Hotel. Many shook their heads but a beautiful young lady walked over to us, dressed in a very smart white slack suit and in beautiful English offered to help us. We asked her if she knew the way to the Hotel Hyundai. She said, “Yes,” and jumped into the back seat of the Earthroamer. Her name was Margaret Shumilina. We didn’t have far to go, just round the bend and down the hill but she insisted on coming all the way with us.
|Coming into the city centre of Vladivostok|
We arrived at the security gates of the Hotel at 5pm and the guard lifted the barricade for us to drive in. There on the right hand corner of the car park was an area roped off – for us. Dick parked the Earthroamer and we jumped out to take photos and to celebrate our safe arrival.
|Margaret posed for me when I asked her if I could take her photo|
|We made it!!|
We were only a few hundred meters from the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the ferry we are hoping to catch to Japan in 10 days time.
Vladivostok was a closed city between 1953 and 1991 – not even Russians could travel here without a special permit. Now it’s a cosmopolitan beehive of handsome young people and we are told that many of the girls are models – they look like it too!!
|A train came into Vladivostok Station|
Today 430kms 31,786 kms since Anchorage, Alaska.
Total trip so far 31,786kms or 79.3% of Around the World at the Equator.
6,339 kms total of this stage from Khovd to Vladivostok.
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