June 15, 2013 GMT
Folks Dancing across Siberia

Following our route change we planed was to ride across South Korea, but after our mistake with the Air Way Bill (both bikes on one to save money) the South Koreans would not allow them out of the crates at Incheon Airport, Seoul. Then the South Korean customs did not allow us to unpack the crates at Donghae Port because they were in bond, and insisted they stay crated until they arrived in Russia. This caused us issues because we needed to get a photograph of Mike's VIN number for the Russian customs clearance paperwork. After a good deal of discussion using our Agent in Seoul we were reluctantly granted access, with our passports as security, to partially unpack Mike's, get the picture and repack it. All the time under the scrutiny of the head of customs for the Port.

The next day we were able to enter the port with no security checks and wander around the area unhindered before boarding the ferry to Vladivostok.

At long last we had our hands back on the bikes, the previous three days were spent hanging around the hostel in Vladivostok awaiting the phone call to say that customs clearance was granted. During that time we met Dave (Diddy Dave) Thomas who is driving a heavily adapted 45 year old mini van around the world (incidentally he is originally from Irby about 10 miles from where I was born) and Dave Pilbeam who is driving a completely un-adapted Hillman Imp from Australia to the UK Imp rally.

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Now we began the task of dismantling the metal crates they had sat in for over 2 weeks and then re-attaching all the removed parts.

As we were fitting and repacking our panniers in the customs shed, Svetlana, our agent came over and told us that a local bike club would like to meet us, show us around and host us for the night. We really wanted to get going to Ussurisky City, 100 kilometres north, to have our new (pre-ordered) tyres fitted. But it was a “it would be rude not to moment” and we agreed it would be a good idea.

Waiting outside the customs terminal in the heat a Harley rider pulled up grinning and introduced himself as Dmitri. We both noticed the “Vice-President” badge , the “full colours patch” on his back and the “Support 81” logo. The bike club was a Hells Angels chapter :- Folks Russia.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

A second rider arrived, Llendi, his job was to ride behind us as we were escorted around the city by Dmitri and then to the club house where we were given gifts and an offer to use their mechanical services, staffed by prospects. Dmitri also gave us our first Russian lesson, he explained the alphabet and sounds in a way that made sense, so at least we now have a “starter for ten”.

Very quickly we realised that Hells Angels are not the same the world over. While stopped, as Dmitri explained the sea port to us, a car pulled up, a man got out and asked for a photograph of his daughter with the Harley and Dmitri.

The group grew as we rode around, at junctions one rider would jump to the front to act as a block while we crossed. No car drivers complained, they only waved. We later found out this may have been something to do with Dmitir running the biggest, armed, security firm in the region.

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Later we were treated to a full Chinese meal.

All the time; while at the club house, in the Chinese restaurant and later in a bar no alcohol was consumed. Only tea or coffee (with apple pie). The drinking only started later at Dmitri's when the bikes had been put away. Russia has a zero drink drive tolerance and the guys just like to talk and socialise.

We were not sure if we had been kidnapped or adopted. We were given a list of names and numbers that we can contact across the country, all different MC groups, for help and accommodation if we wanted it. In the morning we were escorted to Ussurisky where we were passed to Mikhail and taken to the garage. They knew the owner, Andrei, and we appear to have had some more preferential treatment, although I did loan them my tyre lever when I saw the mechanics struggling.

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They even organised the Hotel for us. However Mikhail seemed disappointed when we declined his parting offer of “Do you want any prostitutes ?”

Andrei suggested that he would meet us at 10:00 the next morning, and ride the 650 kilometres to Khabarovsk with us, at least a 10 hour ride with the road conditions. By 10:15 we were relieved that he had not shown up and left at our own pace. As nice as it sounded being handed over from city to city, it would not have been to our own rhythm.

Nice guys, the whole time we were with them in Vladivostok we were not allowed to spend any money on food or drinks, but in their attempts to be helpful we were not getting to grips with the task ahead. How to cover the vast distances, dodge the potholes and ride the often unpaved road, at our own pace.

A note on Russia/Cyrillic alphabet – Some of the letters are the same shape as ours, but sound different. For example “P“ is pronounced “R”.

This obviously throws the brain a touch, especially when reading menus.
C = S; Y = OO; N = P , so CYN is pronounced “SOOP”. That is easy, then we just have to guess what type of soup we will be getting.

Posted by Bruce Porter at June 15, 2013 01:08 PM GMT
 
 

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