Russia – Far East

Sakhalin

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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!

Getting on the ferry in Wakkanai, Japanese customs. DSC00364_small

On the ferry….sentimental.                                                IMG_2076_small

Arriving to Korsakov port, Sakhalin.                            IMG_2099_small

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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.                                           IMG_2110_small

Onigiri and umeshu with a view.IMG_2118_small

The next day we met up with Elena whom we met through a friend of a friend. She took us out on the back roads of South Sakhalin for shashlyk / barbeque on the beach. DSC00391_small

Shashlyk with Elena.                  DSC00388_small

Pavel went fishing for crabs.                                           IMG_2139_small

Three big crabs ended their days in the boiling water right there on the beach. Delicious!!!IMG_2136_small

Sunset on the beach over the Sea of Okhotsk.                                                            IMG_2144_small

The next day we drove up north along to coast to Tikaya Bay. IMG_0842-1

Ladies were selling lots of crabs along the road. DSC00395_small

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Enjoying Elenas home made sushi on the beach in Tikaya Bay.IMG_0877-1

Yesterday we bought tickets for the ferry to the Russian mainland and then we found a nice river for a good shower! After the shower we made pancakes with the home made jam of Miwako! IMG_2158_small

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!

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Domoi!

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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…

The Sakhalin-9 ferry from Kholmsk to Vanino (mosaic in wood).IMG_2200_small

Frida and Marco board the Sakhalin-9 ferry bound for Vanino on the Russian mainland.IMG_2172_small

The ferry is actually a train ferry but it takes also trucks and passenger cars. It is quite dark and grim down below on the train deck.     DSC00419_small

The wife had to walk on board! The city of Kholmsk in the background.                          IMG_2177_small

We departed in beautiful weather. The trip takes 18 hours so plenty of time to enjoy and explore the ferry!IMG_2191_small

Here is the nice cafe where you can buy refreshments and a few souvenirs.
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A wonderful “Russian corner” where the ladies of the cafe has decorated a bit with green plants.DSC00448_small

The smoking corner outside on the deck.
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The day was bright and sunny…..but unfortunately, our 3rd class cabin was deep deep down…DSC00425_small

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Better to spend as little time here as possible!                                                     IMG_2203_small

By the time we arrived to Vanino, the weather had turned grey, maybe to match the colour of the not so attractive looking city. IMG_2223_small

Vanino has a busy industrial port. Here they were loading coal.IMG_2230_small

Since the ferry is built for trains, everyone has to reverse out. A bit of a mess, especially since there is nobody to direct anything.IMG_2255_small

And then we were on the road! First it looked like this.IMG_2262_small

Then like this…                                                    IMG_2264_small

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And finally like this when we were hit by a big storm and the rain just poured down on us and the day turned dark like the night. DSC00456_small

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!

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Komsomolsk-na-Amure

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.

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“Interkom kom ind”                          IMG_2288_small

Pancakes and coffee. And ice cream. As for the soundtrack, you have to imagine for yourselves the loud pumping techno music. IMG_2289_small

We went on a tour of the murals of Khomsomolsk…
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Here a nice Soviet worker makes electricity with his bare hands!
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Frida with Maersk-blue Lada in Komsomolsk.        IMG_2270_small

Komsomolsk-na-Amure is located on the large Amur river. In the weekend, lots of people are out fishing, swimming, drinking, making shashlyk and throwing lots of garbage.IMG_2304_small

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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.  IMG_2324_small

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…IMG_2327_small

On top of that, our dog started drinking…..IMG_2332_small

And the soldier suddenly disappeared! We found him behind the loud speakers, dead drunk and with an empty vodka bottle in his hand. Things were starting to fall apart in the car!!!IMG_2330_small

Here yet another nice storm is sweeping across the taiga. This one bombarded us with cm-sized pieces of ice.IMG_2335_small

Here we passed one of the road side attractions…. Life in the far east is rough!IMG_2320_small

Poor the bear!!!                                 IMG_2321_small

We arrived to Khabarovsk and enjoyed a breakfast outside the car without (or almost without) mosquitos. DSC00473_small

Khabarovsk was a pleasant surprise in the middle of the thickly forested, swampy, mosquito infested far east of Russia! IMG_2318_small

Frida and Marco in Khabarovsk. Ready to take action! Marco is smiling because he had a plan, a plan for how to survive our trip through Russia!     IMG_2307_small

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!DSC00479_small

But the mosquito tent alone doesn’t do it….. This is the other thing you need plenty of to survive Far Eastern Russia….chocolate! IMG_2350_small

Two minutes later…                        IMG_2352_small

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….DSC00498_small

But the wife is saying noooooooo!!!! Yakutsk will be a place to visit in winter, a nice cold minus 50 degrees winter day without any mosquitos. Now we are heading for the Baikal Lake!DSC00502_small

 


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