Getting this show on the road in Vladivostok
As already posted to Facebook & Instagram, our 4wd was aboard the ship that arrived into Vladivostok from South Korea. This trip is now officially underway!
All is going to plan thus far and essentially on time, though not without one or two complications along the way. Just prior to arriving in Russia I was warned to expect some difficulties getting the vehicle unloaded and on the road, this owing to the failure by our chosen New Zealand based shipping company to comply fully with Russian requirements; apparently despite prior warnings. This did rather annoy and concern me. I was being told that an otherwise avoidable inspection by Russian Customs would now be required and could lead to a cascade of ill effects, including the drone that I use for filming videos potentially being deemed not allowed here.
I had prepared myself that we would likely suffer a short delay... but then something changed... the weather. On Monday 20th May poor weather hit Vladivostok, bringing wind and rain. As the mooted inspection by Customs was due to take place outdoors, their interest in conducting it seemingly evaporated and we were permitted to have the container unpacked without restriction. Pleasingly, this also meant we could attend the unloading, which was something of a highlight that we certainly preferred not to miss.
There was just one final thing our vehicle needed before it was ready to set off. 24 hours prior to loading in New Zealand it had been discovered that one wheel had a faint crack. Try as I might, I hadn't been able to find anyone at home able to undertake the repair with such minimal notice. I preferred not to delay shipping just for this and figured that Vladivostok, being the industrious port city that it is, should have a few competent welders about. Getting the wheel repaired in Russia worked out well. This repair would ordinarily cost $300 in NZ, but here a competent TIG welder specialising in wheel repair did the whole job (including grinding and remounting the tyre on the wheel) for about $17 - and he did it same day!
With the wheel repaired our vehicle was ready to hit the road by Wednesday 22nd May, but we decided to stay on in Vladivostok a couple more days while the kids caught up with schoolwork, I completed an interview with Rhino-Rack (which will be posted to the website) and we fitted in some local sightseeing too.
I digress here slightly, but I feel compelled to say something about security at the Russian apartment we rented in Vladivostok. It's on the 8th floor and we felt quite safe tucked away up there. So why did the apartment have three progressively more impenetrable doors? (in addition to a steel plate door at ground level).
The inner door was ordinary enough, being about what we're used to. The middle door was super secure. It had a thick plate steel outer and numerous locking bolts all around, which secure into a frame constructed from thick steel set into concrete. This door would already be enough to successfully resist a police battering ram, not that they'd get that far... owing to the outer door! The outer door was made from solid steel plate reinforced with welded on angle iron. I'd say it should resist a bomb blast; bullets would merely chip the paint.
Were we occupying the 'panic room' of the apartment block? No, all the apartments in the building featured this level of security... which admittedly had us Googling the neighborhood, though nothing worrying was found. It's just how it is here. Vladivostok had something of a mafia driven past, but as far as I know it's much improved these days.
For us, the adventure really begins when we leave the roads behind and enter Mongolia at an infrequently used border point in Mongolia's north east; presumably infrequently used owing to there being no road on the Mongolian side for a few hundred kilometres. But we have to get that far first, which entails a 3,000 kilometre drive through the Russian Far East to get up around the top of China, as depicted below.
Over the next couple of weeks we're simply going to enjoy taking our time meandering on-road through the vast and seemingly endless forests of the Russian Far East, with its interesting and unusual little towns and villages dotted along the way. We obtained 30 day visas for Russia to allow us extra time in case the arrival of our 4wd was delayed. As delays did not arise, we are not up against a deadline to exit Russia.
Where are we now?
We finally departed Vladivostok on the evening (yes evening!) of Friday 24th May and as at the time of posting this blog have reached the city of Khabarovsk, about the only other big city in the Russian Far East, 750 kilometres to the north of Vladivostok.
This post, mainly describing our time in and around Vladivostok, couldn't be posted earlier owing to difficulties getting online. I have much to say about our first few days on the road and already have some interesting experiences to share, but will conclude this post here and save it for the next post, which will hopefully be published very soon - here's one photo to set the scene of what's to come in the next post.
The following photos depict our time in Vladivostok