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.
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
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
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
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
Sam. Shut up Linsey.
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”
Japan customs call me and tell that Switzerland people not allowed to ride bike in
“oh ok I check
I not know this until after boat sailed from Vladivostok, so not possible tell you
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?”
just take a taxi then?”
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
“how do we get
there? Can we use your bicycle?”
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
permitted to ride motorcycle in Japan?” asked Tatiana
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”
customs??” I asked
“herro, I man
from Korea from yesterday, have you been permission to ride in Japan?”
course, no problems” I lied again.
problem??” he was surprised
problems, thank you goodbye”
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
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
“you need to
pay Y50,000 for parking” Tatiana translated
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
“he says no,
it must be 50,000”
“ok then, what
about 80,000 for 2 bikes” I asked
“no, he wants 50000 each”
please tell him that I’m not interested and will park the bike somewhere else” I said, now trying not to
looking Japanese man.
“no negotiation or bike stays
“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.
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.
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.
isn’t nearly as interesting as the road of bones now is it. There’s a highway here, who gives a flying
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
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
My list of
things to do.
1) Visit the
Honda museum for Sam Sam
3) Buy some manga
porn because no one at home is going to believe this shit.
shipping to Thailand
5) Find a new
Written from the hostel kitchen in
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.
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
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
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
"ikura?" how much I
"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
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
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
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
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
Gdnight all xxoo