We leave the Asian Continent
We met Marina at the Earthroamer at 8.30am for the half a kilometre drive to the wharf. Dick commented before we left that we would be stopped by the Police and sure enough he was right!! After a quick check of the paperwork, including the officer actually finding the foldout page of the international drivers licence, we were on our way. They opened the gates and we drove onto the wharf and parked close to the loading ramp of the M/V Rus (pronounced Rooce).
|The Earthroamer parked on the wharf next to the M/V Rus with a truck being lifted over us|
|Unloading the last of the Japanese cars off the front deck of the M/V Rus |
Being on the wharf close to the ship doesn’t mean that you can actually get on the ship. It was to be nine and a half hours before we drove up the ramp and into the ship.
|Dick and Marina with the Earthroamer parked on the wharf|
In the intervening time Marina made a number of busy trips to the Customs, Border Control and shipping agents offices on our behalf. Pip packed up all the tins and packets of food that we had in the pantry cupboard, some we had bought in the USA and the UK and some from Australia. We thought it was most likely that no food would be allowed to be taken into Australia so Marina took it to her home.
Even though we were sitting in the Customs Control Zone we were able to walk on and off the wharf by using the ‘white coat trick’ – that is, you look like you know what you are doing, never make eye contact with the guards, and keep walking!
Marina had to escort one of the Customs ladies to our vehicle so she could inspect the vehicle’s identification number. As you will recall, we had experienced the drama last week of the Customs lady discovering that the number on the Vehicle’s Permit Certificate (issued by the Russian Customs) had been typed incorrectly and didn’t match all the other paperwork. The Customs lady had to climb up on the front wheel of the Earthroamer in her high heeled shoes to peer at the bottom of the front windscreen to read the number. She then checked the vehicle’s Alaskan number plate and said it was all OK. Marina then kindly went back to the customs office to get the needed stamp put on our export papers.
|A close up of the Customs sticker put across the main door of the Earthroamer|
We were told to wait with the vehicle so we sat watching the wharf in full action all around and over us. The crane was lifting cars off the front of the ship. It then came down to where we were parked and lifted a truck that was parked right next to us, up and over the top of us before swinging it over the fence and loading it onto the back of another bigger truck. We waved to the crane driver and made sure that he knew we were down below him – he gave us a smile and waved back. There was also a constant flow of Japanese cars being driven past us out from the hull of the ship.
Just on 5.30pm as the last pallets of goods were taken off the ship, Dick was asked to drive the Earthroamer up the ramp and park, blocking the entrance to the remainder of the ship. The reason soon became obvious – we were the only vehicle being shipped to Japan. Hundreds of vehicles came in, taking nearly two days to off load and only one going back.
|The only vehicle on board - the Earthroamer parked at the stern of the ship|
|We were concerned about blocking the entrance - however it wasn't a problem!|
We would like to specially thank Marina for the incredible assistance she gave us. She has enormous get up and go and is obviously very intelligent and a delightful person. If we didnt have Marina we are convinced our Earthroamer would still be in Vladivostok for many months.
We were then instructed to take our bags outside the wharf and walk along to the Ocean Terminal. It was another fours hours of sitting around waiting before we were processed by the Immigration and Customs control (two separate organisations) and finally allowed to go on board.
The ship itself is clearly ‘Old Russia’. The crew all stood in a line watching as we lugged our bags up the steep stairway onto the ship and even when we were escorted to our cabin, with Pip struggling with two bags over the two raised doorways, the young stewardess made no offer to help her. The décor of the ship is 1960s old Soviet style, with about 200 passengers – mainly Russian men going over to Japan to purchase cars.
|Our cabin with the 1960's decor|
|Looking back towards the city of Vladivostok|
|Cranes waiting on the wharf|
|The bow of the ship empty of cars|
As the ship finally left the wharf at 11.30pm (only 2 ½ hours late) we were given dinner.
Fortunately the sea is perfectly smooth – The Lonely Planet reports this ferry trip can be one of the roughest voyages in the world. We have a nice cabin on the port side up near the bow and fortunately can open a window as the ship is very hot.
We are very pleased to have finally loaded our Earthroamer on the ship – after all it has now been ten days since we arrived in Vladivostok . The Eurasian Continent is now behind us, Japan and Australia are ahead!
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