8-12 July 2013. The shortest distance from Hokkaido to Sakhalin is just 43 km but the two islands and the two contries of Japan and Russia are like different planets. First of all, we had to wave goodbye to heated toilet seats and spotless clean public toilets everywhere! We also had to say goodbye to the Japanese art of precision (we never had one bus, train or ferry being late in Japan, never ever) and the special attention to detail. In Russia we greet with special pleasure the good Russian dark bread which we missed a lot. And for sure we will enjoy the legendary Russian hospitality!!! So we are sad to leave but we are happy to arrive!
The customs and immigration formalities in Korsakov were pretty straight forward, so we could step out onto the Far Eastern Russian soil late in the afternoon and had time to jump in Frida and drive out to the coast for a quick bath.
Now we are in Kholmsk, waiting to board the ferry to Vanino on the mainland. It is already two hours since we should have boarded but considering that nobody knew the departure time yesterday when we bought the tickets, it is not too bad ;-). We already met lots of friendly Russians going on the same ferry so we can relax and watch the busy coming and going here at the gate to the port. Even the FBI is here!
12-13 July 2013. We are on the Russian mainland! Now we have to take no more ferries, make no more shipments, we only have to drive some 20,000 km and then we will be home! Right now we are enjoying a coffee and WI-FI in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, a small pearl of grand Stalin architecture in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Russian Far East. From here we will drive down to Khabarovsk and meet the Transsiberian Highway. We will make a looooong detour up to Yakutsk, then down again to the Transsiberian and onwards to the Baikal Lake. These are the plans for the immediate future. First of all, here are some pictures from the ferry Kholmsk (Sakhalin) to Vanino. There is something about ferries, the light, the atmosphere, the smells…
Here is the nice cafe where you can buy refreshments and a few souvenirs.
The smoking corner outside on the deck.
Now the weather is a bit mixed, but we don’t care because we are eating pancakes with honey in a cafe in Komsomolsk-na-Amure! Devushka, more pancakes please!
14 July 2013. In a very far away corner of the far eastern part of Russia, there is a small pearl of a city with broad tree-lines avenues, Lenin on the square and well-kept Stalin era architecture. Actually, the city is nothing special, but the location is so absurd that we had to go to visit it on the way from Vanino to Khabarovsk.
We went on a tour of the murals of Khomsomolsk…
Here a nice Soviet worker makes electricity with his bare hands!
Trans Siberia – Far East
14-18 July 2013
From Komsomolsk-na-Amure, we drove down south to catch the transsiberian highway at Khabarovsk. The road is 10,000 km long from Vladivostok in east to Moscow in west. In the far east it is really just ONE road cutting across the inhospitable land. Fascinating. Further west it expands into a network of roads.
Honestly, we were not having a good time. We were struggling with zillions of aggresive mosquitos and horse flies and other biting flies – and otherwise we were struggling with lots and lots of rain. Basically it meant that we could not make our exercises outside, we could not run and then take a nice bath in the river without being eaten by the mosquitos, we could neither cook a hot meal for dinner because the mosquitos were so many and so aggressive!!! Here Marco is enjoying yet another bread, cream cheese and chili sauce dinner inside the car…
In Khabarovsk we bought a 3x3x2 meter mosquito proof tent! Look at how much Malene is enjoying our first dinner inside the new tent! Now we can cook, we can make exercises, we can even take a small bath inside the tent without struggling with the bloody mosquitos!
We had planned to make a 2000 km round-trip detour to visit the city of Yakutsk, but after our first week in the far east of Russia, we had made up our minds… Here Freddie is eager to go to Yakutsk and check out the girls there….