and  the


2 Brothers
 2 Motorcycles
  7 Months
   4 Continents
    30 Countries

a travel tail




October 2010


Thursday 21-10-10     


I’m writing this from the bar in the ferry that’s taking me to Japan.  A beer here costs US$5, although that isn’t so bad because I don’t feel like drinking anyway.  It’s now Thursday, Paul left early on Monday morning and Barton on Wednesday.   


I really miss the guys, and hope they’re managing ok being back home again.  This morning I walked down to the cargo deck to check on Betsy, she said she was ok, although not impressed with the ropes thrown over her seat to hold her down.  Then she asked me where Patsy and Trusty were, where were we going, and when would we be riding somewhere cool again? 


I had to explain that they had gone home, and we were on our own now headed for Japan.  I explained that from now on she would have to try harder to stay upright because I can’t pick her up on my own, and she’d need to keep running like a dream because there would be no one around to help if something went wrong.  I also had to admit to her that Japan would be almost all paved roads.  She’s a great girl and she took the news well, but I think I spied a tear in her eye as I walked back up to the deck.   


Bikes are people too you know. 


At the ticket office last week they told me to come back to pick up my boarding pass on Wednesday at 1pm and that the boat sailed at 5pm.  I woke from a bodka haze on Wednesday still trying to work out where Paul and Barton were, and groggily made my way to the ticket office, a 10minute walk from the hotel.  They issued the boarding pass and told me to proceed straight to customs because the boat was sailing at 1:30… 

1:30?!! WTF??  With a  headache that was really cranking I had to run back to the hotel, pack my bag, check out and then run back to the ticket office to clear customs.  I bought a cheap bag to put all my riding gear into in Magadan, it’s actually a snow board bag, long and narrow – completely useless.  So there I was running down the streets of Vladivostok with a 2m long sausage bag trying to get to the boat before she sailed. 


I really should know better though, as this is Russia, and of course I made it there just in time to join the other 200 people lined to clear customs, so having really given the hangover a kickstart, I then had to wait in line for about 2 hours before boarding the boat. 


Once onboard I got a nice surprise to find that I have a bed rather than a mat on the floor, although the beer is pricey.  There were 2 other bikers on the boat, Valerie from the Ukraine on an Africa twin, and Chris from Switzerland on a TT600.  Valerie got off the boat this morning in Korea, but Kris is still here. 


Last night we also met three Polish guys travelling on bikes, although they have left theirs in Vlad at the clubhouse of the local motorcycle club, ready to be ridden back to Poland after the winter.  The Poles were keen to finish all the booze they had bought with them so we sat up until late drinking vodka and swapping stories from the road, I woke up this morning not altogether sure about how the night ended, sleeping in the wrong bed… 


Shut up Sam.  Shut up Linsey. 


This ferry stops in Korea before continuing to Japan, and in Korea for some reason we had to leave the boat, pass through customs and immigration (1hr in the line), wait an hour and then repeat the customs and immigration all over again (another hour in a line).  Unbelievable.  As we were sitting in the line, a Korean man in white overalls with an Eastern Dream badge on them (name of the ferry) came past and asked if we were the 2 bikers going to Japan.   



“Oh, you not be allowed to ride the bike in Japan” 


“ahh yes, Japan customs call me and tell that Switzerland people not allowed to ride bike in Japan” 

“I’m not Swiss” 

“not Swiss?” 

“No, Australian” 

“oh ok I check for Australian” 

“Am apologise, I not know this until after boat sailed from Vladivostok, so not possible tell you stop” 


It turns out that by some crazy twist the Swiss government doesn’t have an agreement with the Japanese government for driving licenses, and as such Swiss people are not allowed to ride on Japanese roads unless they pass a full Japanese driving test.  Kris knew this already but assumed he’d be able to work it out somehow… I guess we’ll see in the morning. 


Pulling the riding gear out of the wardrobe in Vladivostok I was struck by how filthy it was, I suppose that after the Road of Bones adventure that shouldn’t be too surprising, but I didn’t see myself as being dirty at the time.  Strange.  So tonight I found a shower in the boat, and took the suit into it to give it a scrub.  As I hit it with the water spray I could actually smell the road of bones again, it made me smile.  An hour later I walked out of the shower with soaking wet riding gear that’s sort of clean, although the pants have a big hole from an exhaust burn that will need repairing at some stage. 


I don’t actually know anything about Japan, except that they drive on the left, so I’ll have to get used to that again sometime soon.  I think there are some mountains, and I guess it will be modern compared to Russia, but’s that’s literally it.  Looks like it will be Lonely planet to the rescue. 


A little tired now so will finish it here.  The boat gets in at 9am, then I need to clear the bike through customs which apparently involves first taking the Carnet to a Japanese Motoring Organisation branch, and then back to customs for clearance… I think it will be frustrating at best.  


Mule out. 



Sitting in my tent camped on the side of highway 9 in Japan.  35,21,57N, 134,48,20E.  Yesterday the customs clearance was quite a process, I arrived at the Sakaiminato port at 9am, and was intercepted on the way into the terminal by an acutely apologetic man in a fetching blue overall wanting to inspect the bike.   


He had both Kris and I bring the bikes into the terminal from the boat (btw Betsy started first shot, good girl Betsy!).  Shortly after we had them parked by the customs building, he was joined by an equally enthusiastic guy with a black Labrador who wanted to check us for drugs. 


That over with, we passed immigration and customs, and proceeded to the counter of the Eastern Dream cruise company to find out how to get the bikes out of customs.  We were greeted by Tatiana, (a young lady originally from Irkutsk who was chuffed that we’d been there and could speak some Russian) who explained that we would need to get the shuttle bus to the train station, then catch the ??? bus to ????.  When we arrived there, we would need to find the JAF office and have the customs release completed there.  By then it was 11am, customs closes at 5pm, it’s an hour there and an hour back on the bus (plus the shuttle bus), and the releases would take a few hours. 


“Oh ok, are customs open tomorrow?” 

“No, not for another 3 days, so try very hard to get back before 5” 

“do you think we will make it?” 

“no I don’t” 

“should we just take a taxi then?” 



Tatiana was nice enough to get us a cab and even gave him directions and a map to the JAF office, we thought this was fab until the directions turned out to be totally wrong.  Another cab across town to the JAF office and luckily the guys there knew what a carnet is and how to verify one.  2 hours later, another US$70 cab fare and we were back at the port with the documents we needed.   


“you have the documents?!”  Tatiana was shocked.   

“yes they are all here, can we go now?” 

“no you need to take them to customs first, see that red building in the distance, it’s behind that one” 

“how do we get there?  Can we use your bicycle?” 

Confused look on Tatiana’s face. 

“it has only one seat… (laughter) ok my boss will take you” 


The guys in the customs office were efficient and friendly and pretty soon we were back at Tatiana’s again, this time with the right docs to get the bikes out of the lockup – but not before paying another US$50 for port fees!   


“are you permitted to ride motorcycle in Japan?”  asked Tatiana 

“yes of course, at the JAF office they said it was all fine”  I lied. 

“I have man from Korean customs on phone to ask some questions” 

“why Korean customs??”  I asked 

“herro, I man from Korea from yesterday, have you been permission to ride in Japan?” 

“yes of course, no problems”  I lied again. 

“rearry?? No problem??”  he was surprised 

“yes no problems, thank you goodbye” 


Tatiana looked very suspicious but didn’t stop us leaving, we later learned that she was fully aware that Kris is riding illegally, and had a contingency plan to put him back on the boat to Korea, but since we feigned approval she decided it was our responsibility and let us go without making any problems – I love Russian people. 


We did have to pay another Y50,000 (US$50) for port fees before they would let us out though. 


it is 50000 for each bike”  said the customs guy to Tatiana 

“you need to pay Y50,000 for parking” Tatiana translated 

“that’s quite expensive, how about I give you only 20,000?“ I offered 

Tatiana is now trying not to laugh, but dutifully translates this to Japanese 

no it must be 50000”  said the customs man 

“he says no, it must be 50,000” 

“ok then, what about 80,000 for 2 bikes”  I asked
“no, he wants 50000 each” 

“ok then, please tell him that I’m not interested and will park the bike somewhere else” I said, now trying not to laugh too 

Very confused looking Japanese man. 

no negotiation or bike stays here” he said 

“you do not have a choice, you must pay or the bike will remain here” 


By then it was almost 5pm, so undeterred by her previously bad advice we asked Tatiana about hotels and dinner in the area.  As it turns out, I am now in Japan, where everything is written in JAPANESE!!  So even finding a hotel is incredibly difficult.  On the up side, the Japanese themselves are incredibly helpful, and a parking attendant left his booth to drive us to the nearest tourist information centre where another Russian lady (from Noivsibirsk) initially tried to direct us to cheap hotels, but seeing the dismay in our eyes at the prices, (and on hearing that a couch would be just fine too), she made some calls and found some sort of guest house for US$30ea.  It was clean, warm, had hot shower and inside toilet.  Nice. 


Now that I’m carrying some of the previously shared luggage, Betsy is a little too full, so this morning I spent some time trying to make some more space.  Unsuccessfully.  I’m considering parting with my bear proof thermals acquired in Yakutsk along with some cargo pants from Turkey, but so soon after losing Paul and Barton I can’t quite bring myself to lose anything else just yet. 


Today I decided to ride with Chris as far as Kyoto, from where he’s doing some hiking and I’m going to head off solo for a bit.  So we’re camped on the side of a highway about 150km from Kyoto, having eaten overpriced instant noodles for dinner along with overpriced beer.  


Gee, this isn’t nearly as interesting as the road of bones now is it.  There’s a highway here, who gives a flying fu


Goodnight all.  xoxo 




Arrived in a nice backpackers in Kyoto this afternoon, but not before leaking a pool of oil in the pristine driveway at the local flashy bmw motorrad dealership (looking for tyres/chain).  It was mostly from the Scott Oiler I have turned to max to try and squeeze some miles out of the poor chain, they did not look impressed though! 


Good girl Betsy! It’s kind of like letting your dog shit on the neighbours lawn J 


I bought a map, dictionary and Michelin guide (the lonely planet is invariably wrong about everything so I have jumped ship) this afternoon, so with renewed enthusiasm I will set off in a day or so to explore this peculiar island. 


My list of things to do. 


1)    Visit the Honda museum for Sam Sam 

2)    Visit Hiroshima 

3)    Buy some manga porn because no one at home is going to believe this shit. 

4)    Organize shipping to Thailand 

5)    Find a new chain




Written from the hostel kitchen in Hiroshima.


I spent 2 nights in Kyoto, and have come to the conclusion that being a tourist is not for me.  There must be about 1000 things to see and do there, but I only managed 2 excursions.  On the first one I got totally lost looking for a palace of some sort, and on the second I raced through a golden temple because it was full of people, all the while trying to work out why the hell they were all there.


Then I got it.  This is what people do when they're on holidays.


Chris headed off with a mate to do some hiking, so for the first time in months I'm totally on my own over here.  It's going to take some getting used to, but I'm happy enough still.


The bike is in need of some maintenance work, routine stuff like final drive and tyres, and it's all stuff that's actually made in Japan so I figured this would be a good time to buy it.


Think again.


Nil stock of chain in Japan. (the KTM has a L  O  N  G chain) Nil stock of sprockets in Japan.

Nil stock of tyres in Japan.


Yes that's right folks, in the country the houses DID, RK, Bridgestone, Dunlop, AFAM and Supersprox I can't buy anything off the shelf for the bike.

It all needs to be ordered and will take a week.


Not even riding around for 2 days to find several enormous bike shops solved the problem, so I think I'm going to need to have it sent from home, or possibly stop past somewhere on my way to Malaysia to pick up some stock.


In any case, I left Kyoto and rode maybe 100km to Osaka and stayed the night in another backpackers.  Next morning I had planned to head off early because I wanted to get to Hiroshima that night, about 400km away.


Of course I ended up mincing about all morning looking for airfares on the internet and trying to work out what I'd do for the 3 weeks the bike will be in transit, so I didn't leave until 2pm.  Then took several wrong turns on the way out of Osaka, before finally deciding to get the motorway to Hiroshima.


I'm not usually a fan of highway miles, but for the first time in weeks, I was moving at speed, with a good days ride ahead of me and a purpose at the destination, and it felt GOOD, so good that I didn't stop until I had to pay the toll exiting the highway at Hiroshima.


"ikura?" how much I asked.

"5000" she replied



That's about AUD$70 to travel around 350km on a motorway. I'm sure it would cost less to fly!  I asked many times, and even had the nice lady write it down for me before I coughed up and moved on.


So it will be b roads from here on in for me!


Today I went to the atomic bomb museum and garden area, it's quite sobering.

AS you probably know Hiroshima was the target of the first use of nuclear weapons on mankind, and the memorial they have constructed to the victims is quite moving.  Also quite disturbing.  If you ever get the chance check it out.


Following this I rode about in gradually increasing circles looking for someone who could weld the crack in my pannier rack before it went right through, and eventually stumbled upon a workshop of an air compressor hire company where they had some welding gear and just enough knowhow to make a mess of the repair.


Although they did give me good directions to KTM in Hiroshima!  I went to check it out in the hope they might have a sprocket and chain, mine are really on their last legs, and I don't know if they'll get me through Japan.

Of course they didn't have any stock but they were super friendly, at one point I looked outside to see that Betsy was ok and my heart skipped a beat when she was missing, only to find that the guys had wheeled her into the workshop to oil the chain, check tyre pressures and give her a once over for me!


They were chuffed that I put their sticker on the tank and even gifted me an oil filter :)  The chain and sprocket situation is not good though, it's making this whizzing noise that sounds a little like a bicycle, it can't hold out much longer before I start losing rollers from the chain, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  The contingency is to buy a new chain (the ones they stock are too short), steal the little piece they have on display and use 2 joining links to get the length I need.  Then put the old rear sprocket back into service and hope for the best.


I have shipping into Malaysia arranged too, there are boats every few days so the schedule is no issue, and the cost is not horrendous.  They will do all the customs clearance stuff, crate the bike and ship it for US$1300.

That's still almost twice what it cost to get to RSA, but the crating alone is $500, and it's based on a larger crate so I figure the cost is reasonable.


I considered trying to find a crate from somewhere but it's super difficult dealing with people here as most don't speak English at all, and they're too restrained to get into miming something out for me, so think I'll bite the bullet and ride it into the packing yard and walk away.


On the up side the same company can arrange the shipping from Malaysia to Indonesia and say I can reuse the crate so that cost is shared between both trips at least.


It's late now, I'm in a room with 4 heavily snoring asian men who are getting up at 4am to catch a train, time to put in my earplugs and get some sleep.


Gdnight all xxoo


Photos Here