Russia #4 – Arriving in Vladivostok – November 2014

March 8, 2019

It had snowed off and on all night in Khabarovsk but the snow plows had been busy. We considered putting on our heavy rear Pewag chains but we were heading south so maybe road conditions would improve. It wasn’t our first time putting on chains, but it is still not fun in freezing weather. Doing some last-minute shopping in the supermarket just across the street, we guessed not too many foreigners wandered through the isles with bulky North Face jackets on. An older store attendant followed us around like he suspected we were up no good. We finally cornered him in the liquor department and asked what he thought was the best vodka. He relaxed a little after that.

80 Gals. of Arctic Diesel fill our two

Transfer Flow Tanks

Thermidors snake their way along and over highways supplying steam to heat buildings and apartments.

Thermidors snake their way along and over highways supplying hot water to heat buildings and apartments.

Heading out of town on squeaky packed snow, we stopped once to fill both our Transfer Flow tanks with Arctic grade diesel. Our capacity of over 80 gallons would take us well into South Korea before we had to fill again. It was an easy 759 km, (471 miles). Except for a few muddy detours around bridges under repair, the highway varied from smooth to broken potholes.

Vladivostok was founded in 1860 as a Russian military outpost which translates to “Rule the East”. Beginning in 1891, it became the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, a seven-day journey from Moscow. During the Stalin era starting in the 1922 until 1953, millions of prisoners arriving by train were transferred to ships bound for Magadan to work in the Kolyma region’s forced labor camps. Few survived.

Vladivostok – closed to foreigners until 1992

The original Prince Nikolai Arch was built to commemorate the visit of the future Tsar Nikolai II when he officially opened the beginning of the Trans Siberian railroad construction and Vladivostok’s train station in 1891. The Bolsheviks destroyed the building and this is a modern copy of the arch built in 2003.

The original Prince Nikolai Arch was built to commemorate the visit of the future Tsar Nikolai II when he officially opened the beginning of the Trans Siberian railroad construction and Vladivostok’s train station in 1891. The Bolsheviks destroyed the building and this is a modern copy of the arch built in 2003.

Until 1992, foreigners were not permitted in Vladivostok. Today it’s a major Pacific port city overlooking the Golden Horn Bay near the borders with China and North Korea. Until the recent completion of the Amur Highway, this hub of commerce and Russian/Siberian civilization, has been mostly isolated from Moscow and the majority of the country by 7 time zones, (the country has 11), and 3991 miles, (6423km). Vladivostok is a free port, a status granted in 1861 and modified since. That may account for the many lines of semi-trucks loaded with cars coming from the port. We had considered shipping The Turtle V back to California from here, but stories of long waits in an unsecured customs storage lots gave us reason to continue to South Korea and ship home from there.

Customs and Immigration

Our Customs Agent, Yuri Melnikov owner of Links Ltd., took care of our Exit paperwork and led us to a truck wash.

Our Customs Agent, Yuri Melnikov of Links Ltd., took care of our Exit paperwork and led us to a truck wash.

Our first task was to contact our customs agent Yuri Melnikov of Links, Ltd., who led us directly to a truck wash. After nearly 4,000 miles of often treacherous winter roads from Olgii, Mongolia to Vladivostok, The Turtle V needed a bath. The ferry to South Korea had not docked yet so we camped in a local parking lot at the edge of the Golden Horn Bay. A little noisy!!! It turned out to be a perfect place for guys with “tuned” Hondas, Nissans and even BMWs to practice “drifting”, the art of spinning donuts at 5,000 rpm much of the night!! We guess the police allowed it because they didn’t want them doing it on public roads. After one night of this ruckus we moved to the port and spent another much quieter night, with time to walk around the city and admire the peaceful ocean-front promenade and the many beautiful buildings. It was actually a nice city, not the chaotic port we had expected. We even found an interesting open market where we scored a couple of our favorite Russian “vacuum cleaners” (brooms) and admired the hardware stores. Throughout downtown were many towering memorial statues paying tribute to various important people or events.

An almost identical Coat of Arms of the Tsarist Empire reappeared again after the fall of the Soviet Union. This monument stands near the Golden Horn Bridge.

An almost identical Coat of Arms of the Tsarist Empire reappeared again after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Golden Horn bridge is in the background.

Yuri Melnikov’s assistant walked us through the various customs and immigration offices to finalize our exit papers. Over the years, we have learned that it is always much faster to hire a local customs clearing agent than trying to figure it out yourself. They know the tricks of the trade and the agents. It took less than two hours to receive the final paperwork. (With plenty of time and patience, you can always do it yourself but if you do not speak the language and your visa expiration is ticking, it may not be worth it.)

We did it!

Our goal to drive across Eurasia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific has been accomplished.

 

A photo for the memory book, we had driven around the world the second time, well almost. Still gotta get home.

A photo for the memory book, we had driven around the world the second time, well almost. Still gotta get home.

We took a moment to reflect that we had just completed a two year adventure of driving from the rocky cliffs of Portugal on the Atlantic to the blue waters of the Pacific, crossing all of Europe and Asia, wheels on the ground, visiting 26 unique countries, and following the main routes of the Silk Road. Along that tortuous route we met many wonderful people, including the “Magic Girl of the Pamirs” in Tajikistan, whom we are now sponsoring in a prestigious private school in Khorog. All this, and we are not even home yet, with South Korea to explore and Japan with a visit to the “Snow Monkeys” high on the wish list.

Ferry to South Korea

Vehicles are being loaded into the belly of the Eastern Dream DBS Cruise Ferry bound for South Korea.

Vehicles are being loaded into the belly of the Eastern Dream DBS Cruise Ferry bound for South Korea.

Once the Eastern Dream DBS Cruise Ferry had tied up, The Turtle V was quickly onboard via the ship’s unique side loading ramp. We moved into our “Junior Suite” and enjoyed a leisurely dinner with Maéva and Remi, fellow overland travelers from France. 

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to “Russia #4 – Arriving in Vladivostok – November 2014”

  1. Just got back from Death Valley and Las Vegas. Back on the computer and checked out your post on F/B. It always amazes me reading your blogs. Worldwide travel is the BEST EDUCATION in the world!! To see how other people live and think instead of getting some false ideas as to what we’re told by the news media. I’m always trying to communicate with people from foreign countries (in the parks that I visit) in conversations, regardless if it’s actual conversation or sign language (did that once France). I’ve taken Monika’s advice that I read in Overland Journal once, to “step out of your comfort zone”! What a “KICK” it’s been!! Hope to run into you guys soon at a O/L Rally or I’m game for a trip to Baja again (hint, hint); so many questions to ask around a campfire cooking oysters or lobsters. Safe Journeys wherever the dirt roads or no roads take you. I’m always on the lookout for you postings.

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