Vladivostok


We have rolled into the car park of the Hotel Vladivostok a day later than planned, I have used every scrap of energy I have left getting us here through heavy traffic and I collapse in a chair by the lifts dripping wet with sweat, filthy dirty and looking very out of place. Karen goes to reception to try to book a room and grab a bag off the bike for a change of clothes. “Hello Roof” I look up and it’s Scott looking showered and in smart travellers clothes. He nicknamed me Roof after we first met as he didn’t quite catch my name and on looking back saw Roof written on my helmet we both thought it quite apt so the name stuck. We swap stories and agree to meet once we have had a shower. We go to our room and work out what we have to do, the hotel is expensive by our standards and we cannot afford to stay more than a night or two so we have to make the most of the facilities which means a marathon clothes washing session in the shower and a photo uploading and blogging session whilst we have wifi. We would both dearly love to collapse and do nothing as its been a hard couple of days but we just cannot. We eventually head out to the bar to meet with Scott as planned he greets us with * Hi I know some guys who look a bit like you only they are a lot dirtier* we catch up over a cold beer or two and head down to the restaurant for dinner on him. It’s a buffet dinner in the Hotels restaurant which is really nice and definitely the biggest choice and nicest food we have seen for months. Having just travelled through Siberia where things are pretty basic Vladivostok and the surrounding area is an eye opener, suddenly you can get stuff again, the shops and businesses are well stocked almost to western standards because supplies come via the port.  After dinner we get back to our chores as Scott has things to do as well, he is leaving for Zarabino a port 250 km south tomorrow bound for Korea to arrange shipment for his bike to America.
In the morning we go down to wave him off and give him a small present as it’s soon his birthday. He has been good company and we are sorry to see him go. Our room looks like a laundry with stuff hanging everywhere and we concede we are going to have to stay another night. Armed with directions from Scott we set off to find the ferry terminal as it’s walking distance tucked behind the railway station. We are also armed with instructions from the Horizons Unlimited website, which company to use and who to ask for but when we get there its all changed since the last traveller came through here. That company no longer sail to Japan but they direct us to the Dong Chun Ferry company a couple of doors down. We are in luck it seems there has not been a ferry service from here to Fushiki for months but they have just started sailing again but only every couple of weeks. We are fortunate that we pushed on to Vladivostok as its due to sail in five days time and there are  still customs formalities to sort out for the bike which requires it to go into customs even earlier.
We purchase our tickets and arrange to come back with the bike in two days time relieved that we got here with enough time left on our visas. Our next pressing need is to find somewhere cheaper to stay, Vladivostok is huge and very busy.  An internet search reveals there is only one hostel so we go in search of it following the directions which are mainly aimed at backpackers. We start at the station and follow the no. 81 bus 7 stops as directed, surveying the scene and comparing it with the directions we realise something is definitely up. We backtrack to the station wrestling with the heavy traffic and discover that the no. 81 goes in two directions from the station and you guessed it ?
Following the correct bus we find a typically Russian looking 10 storey concrete apartment block, Karen locates the buzzer and presses 123, a Russian guy answers he speaks no English but it’s clear he knows nothing about any hostel. Karen comes back a bit dejected and tells me her tale of woe, I say you told me the number was 133, she trys again and eureka. She goes up to check it out and re-appears on the balcony with a big thumbs up. I grab the drybags and follow her up, the Seeyou hostel is run by two great Russian guys Uri and Max and it is perfect for our needs and much cheaper than any hotel. The only slight worry we have is for the safety of the bike as there is graffiti on the walls all around. Uri says we can pay for parking in a compound nearby it will have to do.  We have to dash back into town to try to get a few things arranged and on the way back to the hostel we come across a big traffic jam, we have a Vladivostok street map by now and Karen says turn right and we will find a way round the traffic, we wind our way through some backstreets avoiding the jams when I spot a Suzuki garage sign, the alternator has been playing up intermittantly again and as it comes from a Suzuki supercarry minivan I pull in on the off chance.
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