We’d been waiting for this very badly: We got our bikes back!
It took the container three weeks to make it from Magadan to Vladivostok.
We were lucky. While some bikes suffered transport damages on this route in the past, our motorcycles were tied down professionally. All good.
There was time for one daytrip only before we’d have to load the motorcycle onto the ferry to Japan, so we wanted to make the most of it. We decided to go to Chassan, where Russia borders with China and North-Korea.
For a border region with the world’s most provocative regime, Chassan was remarkably laid back. There was no military check point. It looked like a perfectly normal Russian village.
We were surprised how close we got to North Korea.
The Russian border police was surprised too. Because we had violated a closed border area. We were escorted to their barracks.
Here we had to explain for an hour why we entered the area without having a permit. Truth is: we did not know we needed one. The friendly policemen told us that we failed to see a sign indicating the need of the permit. When they let us go, we went to look for the sign and found it five kilometers outside of the village.
It stands two meters away from the road and best of all: not a word about the special permit. We had our “personal IDs/passes” ready… Anyway. We got fined. And we were in a hurry. Because we wanted to see Vladivostok’s 2nd division football club Luch Energia battle against FC Tambov.
We made it to the stadium 15 minutes after kick-off and witnessed a poor 0-0. Luch Energia’s recent performances had a weird effect on the crowd: they don’t take their team seriously anymore. When they failed, the fans would not yell angrily but start laughing instead.
The next day we had to pay our fine for entering the border zone. And it was time to say goodbye to Vladivostok.
We brought the bikes to the harbour – and behind bars. Unlike every other ferry we’d taken before, we were not allowed to ride them onto the ferry ourselves. We had to leave them in a closed area – with the keys! Harbour workers would later ride them onto the ship. We were a bit worried. But we had no choice.
Then we boarded the Eastern Dream, the ferry that would be our home for the next two days.
The intruders were leaving. We had been in Russia for 51 days, by far the longest chapter of our journey. No surprise. Siberia is huge. It’s been a great experience. We received so much help from Russians who did not know us at all. And while we liked Siberia very much, we were also looking forward to new experiences. The crew of the Eastern Dream was Korean. So was the food. And most of our fellow passengers.
The passage was pretty smooth.
The next day we arrived in South Korea around midday.
Shortly before we reached Donghae, a pod of (what we thought to be) dolphins cruised by. There were about twenty or thirty of them.
They dived under the ship which carried on to the harbour. In Donghae we were able to leave the ship for a couple of hours. So South Korea became the 22nd country of this trip.
There was just enough time to go into the city centre and have lunch.
We boarded the ferry again. It took another overnight cruise to get to Sakaiminato.
At the harbour, Japanese Customs officers performed a drug test on our motorcycles which turned out negative.
And then we were officially in Japan! Ready for the last chapter of our trip.