Apologies to everyone, it’s been a long time between post’s and much has happened, I won’t bore you with the details but instead try and dazzle you with the highlights!!
A quick overnight stop in Incheon South Korea en route to Russia proved really enjoyable. A relaxing stroll through quiet suburbs followed by a traditional Korean BBQ restaurant. Always nice when you’re the only one in a restaurant who seems to suffer from a speech disorder – making sounds that nobody understands. But after much finger pointing, laughing and some hand signals we left well fed and happy!
Aeroflot to Vladivostok and waiting for us at the airport was our internet compadre Vladimir! We had been in contact some months ago via the Expedition Portal website. Vladimir and his wife Nina have previously met other international travellers, I think they may become a Vladivostok institution! If you have the chance to avail yourself of their hospitality when travelling overland, then make it quick as shortly they are off in their Nissan Safari across the Stans to Europe, the USA and South America.
Our first lesson from Vladimir was purchasing fuel, hmmm it’s going to be tricky but we will work it out. Finally to our Hotel for a well needed freshen up. An elderly naked woman moving about in the apartment opposite from our hotel room proved an interesting introduction!
A little shopping and our first Russian Restaurant. Jen was saved by a savvy chef who recognised that chicken liver as ordered by Jen was probably not what she was expecting and that she maybe choose another picture from the menu……
Day 2 in Russia was met with some disappointment, our Russian shipping agent Yuri from Links Ltd, advised us that it would seem our Patrol had decided to spend some time sight-seeing Korea on it’s own! I had a suspicion that something was amiss as we had been tracking the container on the net! Vladimir, Yuri and some of Vladimir’s friends lifted our spirits with a lovely evening at a local restaurant including many pints of amber ale and an attempt at a vodka lime & soda.
On this point I must elaborate! In a country built on vodka we didn’t realise it is only ever consumed straight! As Jen is a fan of her mixed spirit beverages, she thought she would persevere in ordering this apparently alien concoction. Now with 4 Russian speaking translators for us at the table we thought we had it right, however as the return visits to our table from our waitress increased in regularity and discussions in Russian became faster and louder we were not so convinced. Example – what ratio vodka to soda, answer 20% to 80%.
I had to feel for the waitress when finally a shooter glass of vodka arrived with a separate glass 1/3 full with bi-carb soda! Much laughter erupted from our table when Jen explained that soda water is similar to tonic water. Sprite was subsequently delivered (close enough), an apologetic thank you to our waitress and Russian – Australian relations returned to equilibrium!
At this point after leaving the hotel, Vladimir and his wife Nina have chosen to look after us like family, and I mean family! We are staying with them in their apartment in Vladivostok and have been overwhelmed with Russian hospitality and generosity not only by them but by their friends also.
Prior to leaving Australia Vladimir had mentioned to me that his 4×4 club “Off Road Club Ussuriysk” were organising an event on the Saturday, no need to be asked twice. Friday it was into the Safari and 100km north to the event location, apparently we were to assist in setting up the event. However the ever hospitable Russians had other plans! The competition is to be held on private land owned by Sergey whom is also in the process of developing an archaeological site into a tourist attraction. Known as Emerald Valley – www.dvpark.ru. In a lovely gesture we were asked to plant some Birch trees in the Park as a symbol of our visit to Russia, a fantastic idea and now 8 birch trees commemorate our trip and will soon have a plaque with our names!
Lazyest Gallery cannot find IMG_0961 - ?????.JPG
To the competition location and yep it had to happen sometime, out comes the vodka and into the glasses it went continuously! Even a bottle of Champagne for Jen. And so it begins…
Lazyest Gallery cannot find IMG_1029 - ?????.JPG
Initially we were to be camping but Sergey would not hear of it so it was off to his large home in Ussuriysk, a 2 storey home full of rooms and the now unmistakable Russian generosity! Of course the 2 litres of vodka that disappeared over the next few hours is another story. My only comment on this is that Jen will have to write that post as I can’t remember anything!!
Lazyest Gallery cannot find IMG_1042 - ?????.JPG
Up early and off to the competition,5 clubs and over 30 vehicles of all sorts and sizes with a myriad of modifications!
Suzuki Jimny’s are a favourite here and when fitted with 40 inch tyres and Prado axles and maybe a few vodka’s they are fantastic to watch!
The stages progressed over the day and I had to make a concerted effort to avoid more vodka consumption! Jen seemed more than happy to enjoy a small shooter and slide onto the back of a quad bike driven by a six year old cart racing champion – we do have travel insurance!
After a long and enjoyable day I was informed that it would be lovely if I was to say few words at the presentations, wasn’t expecting that but with a dose of Malatsi (strength) I took the microphone and did my little bit for international relations! I think it was received well although as I write this there is a Mig fighter jet flying around overhead hmmmm!
Back to Vladivostok and a lovely meal prepared for us all by Nina! Smoked Smelt fish, Smoked Salmon, Fried Navaga fish, potatoes and salad with beer!!
Easter Sunday here is celebrated with a nice concentration of tradition! a breakfast of salami, cucumber, toast, cheese and boiled eggs was waiting for us. You hit the boiled eggs together before shelling them and place a dollop of caviar on top before eating! Takes a little getting used too!
We have enjoyed all of the meals here in Russia so far, there are the expected differences. We are not so used to the style of smoked fish or the roe! You can always find something that works..
The Russian people have been overwhelmingly inviting and generous, the longer we are in the city the more I have been able to pick the nuances. When you pass by in the street there is rarely a twitch of expression and watching Russians talking to each other you would not be out of order in thinking they were arguing quite fiercely! But this is generally just our perception, it is just the way they interact! They warm up so quickly once you are past the first awkwardness and then light up with smiles and handshakes.
Easter Sunday evening was capped off with a visit to friends of Vladimir and Nina’s in Vladivostok central, a lovely apartment overlooking the harbour.
Treated as long lost family will set the scene! Igor, Galeena and their daughters Leeyanah, Jenya, an Alyssa were to provide another injection of Russian Hospitality. A wonderful meal and home backed Easter Cake, washed down with Birch tree water harvested by Igor himself and of course vodka and liqueur. No need to have a dry night! The evening was capped off when Igor realised we had not yet been over the 2 bridges that catch your eye from almost anywhere in Vladivostok, so in to the car and off to Russky Island. 6 degrees C and 70kms per hour and there is Jen with her head out of the sunroof taking photo’s – only in Russia!
This morning has provided the news we have been waiting for, our Patrol has arrived and will hopefully be released on Wednesday! We are very much missing it and the clothes and sundries within it – we are really stretching our wardrobe at this point!
Hopefully we are on the road for the next update!