October 12, 2004 GMT
Japan

Whew.

Well,I made it.

The MV Antonina Nezhdanova sailed from Vladivostok on Saturday at around 6:30pm local. We had dinner at around 7:30, and at 8 she stopped and dropped anchor in the Amursky Gulf. No clue what was going on, but lots of Russians yacking into mobiles. Turns out there was a typhoon the captain )wisely, in my view wanted to miss, especially as the ship is a complete rustbucket (although perfectly OK inside) and considerably smaller than anything going across the English Channel (it's 500 miles to Japan). So we stayed there all night, and I was woken at 6 on Sunday morning by the anchor chain and the engines starting.

Bad sailors should skip this bit. It was a HEAVY sea. At lunchtime on Sunday there were only 12 of us to eat out of around 150 (max passengers is 200). Marina the barmaid was so impressed I was calmly sitting in the bar and reading that she gave me free beer and coffee. Several times the bows were out of the water and came down with a terrific bang. I reckoned the bike was OK because this ship brings 150 cars/vans/bikes back to Vladivostok every time, so they know how to secure everything (in the event the only damage appears to be a detached exhaust pipe, which took 2 mins to fix). The ship was doing around 11 knots most of the time according to the GPS.

One advantage of being a lone foreign woman was that I got a cabin to myself; and not only was it an outside cabin but the porthole opened so I had fresh air. Not very much water came in. And the crew came and spoke to me , the Japanese chap and the two Swedes in English to tell us everything because the announcements were in Russian. All pretty good, really.

So we were delayed - should have been in Fushiki/Toyama on Monday morning, but we eventually arrived this morning (Tuesday) having spent the night at anchor in the roads. It's taken most of the day to do the Customs thing with the bike, but I'm now in a hotel in Toyama. The Customs thing involved taking a taxi 30km into Toyama (total cost GBP100) to the Jap Auto Fed office for Carnet authorisation, then back again to the shipping agent, then to the dock. I've done so much bowing today I think my back might give out.

I was supposed to pay the Captain $90 to ship the bike, but he refused payment. A result there, then. My phone can't pick up a network here so I have to assault Vodafone (they assured me it would work). And all the keys on this keyboard are in the wrong place.

Petrol's fairly cheap (cheaper than UK, anyway). Beer isn't too bad.

Small world: according to Horizons Unlimited the lady in Vlad who arranges bikes on boats is Diana. It isn't any more, it's Irena (who's also very helpful). But on Saturday, between doing Customes and Immigration, I killed a couple of hours at my favourite cafe. An American chap arrived with a Russian lady and we got chatting. The Russian lady was the aforementioned Diana, and she remembered the Mondo Enduro/Terra Circa boys and othe RTWers. I told her she's famous and gave her the website URL.

I've bought a road atlas of Japan (from JAF) which is very detailed (1:200,000) but all in Katakana. So homework tomorrow is writing the Romaji names in it next to all the places I want to go. Luckily a lot of road signs are in Romaji as well, and roads are numbered which helps. Otherwise I'll be back with the Fukawi tribe, just like in Libya.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at October 12, 2004 04:56 PM GMT
 


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