October 30, 2004 GMT
The space bar on a Japanese keyboard is very short (on this keyboard it's two-and-a-half ordinary keys wide), and you're ever so slightly inaccurate you end up typing in Kanji or something and can't get out of it and have to close the browser and start all over again. Grrrrr.
The following is a first-timer's take on Japan. I'm sure there's wrong ends of wrong sticks in there somewhere, but as always I can only speak as I find.
What the Japanese do really well
Trains: fast, cheap, punctual, frequent, clean, incredibly easy to navigate even for a foreigner. Without question the best way to get around. And stations have multi-storey bicycle/motorcycle parks.
Food: tasty, varied, cheap, plentiful (except after 6pm in rural areas, when you have to make do with a rather bland sandwich from Lawson Station or a 7-11).
Hotels: Western or mixed Japanese/Western 4-star averages around GBP60 a night, and if there are no single rooms they always give me a discount for single occupancy.
Loos (public and otherwise): heated seats are like heated handlebars - once you've experienced them you never want to be without. I've got used to the autoflush, but the jury's still out on the spray function and blow-dry.
Firewater: boy, does that stuff creep up on you. Probably why I didn't wake up until 10 this morning. It's made from potatoes but is definitely a cut above poteen. Only around 30% alcohol but you wouldn't believe what it does to you.
Facilities for the disabled: everything has Braille, from pavements (really, and very clever and simple) to beer cans. Wheelchair access and loos everywhere.
Courtesy: raised to an art form. Even the policeman who stops traffic to let you out on to the main road bows as you ride round him. Filling the bike with fuel involves all sorts of contortions to return bows whilst sitting on the bike with a full tankbag in front of you and trying to reach around it to get the fuel cap back on again.
What the Japanese don't do very well
Navigation aids: they could never have invented the GPS - it makes navigation too easy. Even with a 1:200,000 road atlas (Japanese) and a bilingual two-sheet map to crib from, the combination of abstruse road naming and ambiguous road signs makes navigation a nightmare. Even the locals confess to getting lost all the time.
Addresses: addresses in Japan are of the form x-y-z , where is the neighbourhood (surprise), for instance 'Henwick' as a neighbourhood of Thatcham; x is the numbered part of the neighbourhood; y is the block within that part; and z is the building number (of whatever size or configuration) within that block. Even taxi drivers can't take you to an address without going around several different blocks several times, so what chance do we have?
Umbrellas: if it looks like it might rain, up go the umbrellas. Everyone, absolutely everyone, totes a brolly. Although I'm of fairly average height for a Westerner, I'm a little taller than most Japanese, so I'm lucky I still have eyes (good job I wear specs); but I feel a bit like a voodoo doll when it rains.
Road design: instead of roundabouts there are traffic lights everywhere. Even on a quiet rural road, if there's a side turning there are traffic lights. They stick to their phasing as there are no induction loops or anything. If they junked 75% of the traffic lights on these islands and installed mini-roundabouts instead the roads would appear empty at a stroke.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:14 PM
October 29, 2004 GMT
We certainly felt Wednesday's 'quake. Not bad enough to spill the coffee, but it rattled pots and the ceiling lights swung for a few minutes. Glad I wasn't riding at the time.
In fact, if I hadn't consumed so much of Peter's firewater on Tuesday evening I probably would have been. Japan is feeling a bit battered - first Typhoon Tokage devastating the south, now the two earthquakes. The death toll isn't massive (but still too much) and there are thousands of injured and tens of thousands homeless. I'm definitely paying more attention to earthquake drill now - what do do, where to go, where the torch is in the hotel room, all that stuff.
Anyway, Peter's been totally wonderful with helping me to arrange shipping the bike to Bangkok. Mr. Asaumi at Nippon Express speaks excellent English and is very helpful, but no-one else involved speaks any and Peter's done all sorts of deals for me in Japanese. The BMW dealer up the road is giving me a crate in which a K1200LT was delivered, and a local company is taking it to the warehouse for me on Monday. I'll be there on Monday to crate the bike (there's a first time for everything), then I have to go back on Tuesday to do Customs and pay everyone. It's going to work out at around 170 quid altogether, which seems pretty reasonable.
The bike will be on a ship on Thursday (Wed is a public holiday here) and will arrive at Bangkok port on Nov 19. I then have to uncrate it and do the Customs thing with the Thais (which will cost more money but by all accounts not very much).
Meanwhile I'll fly to Bangkok (maybe via Taipei) and be getting very unsober with my cousins in celebration of my half-century, and sorting visas for Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Talking of which, if anyone fancies a winter break and can get a cheap flight, the drinks are on me. I'll email around as soon as I know which hotel the bash will be in - it's on November 16th.
Back to Mt. Fuji. Off the Wow-scale. I was luckier than a very lucky person indeed, as a) there was a nice dusting of snow, and b) there wasn't a cloud in the sky (although cold, but never mind, the roads are heated. Really).
Has a cracking ride around the lakes north of Fuji-san. Fantastic benderies, with a surface so good even the ancient G/S (now called Paddington as a result of the TransSib adventure) felt like it was on rails. Amazing view around every bend - must have used an entire film. As soon as I can do a bit of uploading I'll post a pic or two. Which reminds me, I succumbed to a decent digital camera in Tokyo. Produce your passport and sign bits of paper and you get stuff tax-free with English manuals. So, the latest Panasonic with Leica lens, 4x optical zoom, loadsa features (A/V, O/P to TV, yadayadayada). And a 256Mb memory card cost around half what a 64Mb one costs in the UK (ye gods are we ripped off).
If you haven't got bored with GPSs yet - I almost always update the group front page with the latest position, and tonight I'm in Nara which is the ancient capital, at the position on the group homepage. Tomorrow I'll be a good girl and do all the temples and shrines (no less than eight Unesco World Heritage Sites within a mile of where I'm sitting).
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:11 PM
October 25, 2004 GMT
Household names: I've so far been either to or through Toyota, Yokohama, Yaesu, Sanyo and Kawasaki. No, I didn't know half of them were places either. There are probably others I haven't come across yet.
At roadworks, unlike the Turks who have cardboard cutout police cars, the Japanese have plastic policemen waving lighted red batons.
Been having a lovely day out in the sun in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo. I've been to the top of the tallest building in Japan in the fastest lift in the world - to go up 69 floors it reaches 70 m/s (which equates to 45km/h). Makes one's ears pop, I can tell you. The view would have been stonking but unfortunately it was very hazy so it was just stunning. Never mind, eh. The south pier was designed by a British architect (dunno who) and looks like a seagull folding its wings; difficult to explain, really, but there's probably a pic on the web somewhere you can go and look at. It's pretty funky. I've been hit by the Monday thing again - everywhere in the world, all the really interesting musems and things are closed on Mondays. I must remember that and take Mondays off in future.
This is probably the most dangerous country I've been to so far. The typhoon (no.23) was pretty awful (billions of $ damage and 35-ish dead), but Saturday's earthquake in Niigata was catastrophic. Even the Japanese are feeling rather battered by all this, and they're used to it. I expect you've been seeing news reports about it.
On the plus side, Japan isn't nearly as expensive as I'd been led to believe. Even in Tokyo, beer is around the same price as in the UK, and last night I ate in the revolving Sky Lounge restaurant by the main railway station for a lot less than you'd pay in London (or even in Newbury, come to that). It was only the 15th floor but still a brilliant view of Tokyo by night in the hour and a half it took to make a complete revolution. Wonderful.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:09 PM
October 23, 2004 GMT
I could write a book about finding my way through strange cities in the Friday evening rush hour using meaningless maps.
Anyway, I'm here now, staying will Will Penrice's father-in-law Peter. As luck would have it there's a BMW dealer 200m up the road and this afternoon they did my oil change and checked the bike over, which has saved me a lot of getting mucky.
Now sorting shipping to Thailand (said BMW dealer can provide a crate), and when that's done will go walkabout through other bits of Japan.
Sat out the typhoon in Hiroshima for a couple of days (it was a bad one), then went to Himeji (magnificent castle) on Thursday. Next week I'll be camping at Mt.Fuji and visiting Sapporo and Osaka.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:07 PM
October 19, 2004 GMT
A Deer Ate My Map
And it was the bit I needed to find my way out of Hiroshima.
Went on a boat trip yesterday (despite the Antonina Nezhdanova experience) to Miyajima, one of the islands in the Inland Sea. Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site (you can do six of those before breakfast in most places in Japan). There are gangs of deer rampaging through the streets (never mind the monkeys - macaques, I think) but otherwise a lovely place a bit reminiscent (in a very Japanese way) of Portmeirion. Usual fabulous views - took the two-stage cable-car ride up the 530m Mt.Misen, passing the stockpot which has been going (allegedly) for 1200 years.
Typhoon No.23 (Tokage to his friends) has changed course and instead of hitting Taiwan it's heading this way, so today we have torrential rain (although not much wind; quiet at the back there). Never mind, it's still warm and according to the forecast it'll all fizzle out in a day or two. Mind you, that's according to the European Mid-Range Weather Forecasting Centre at Reading, so I'm not putting my faith in it. I know where those chaps drink.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:04 PM
October 17, 2004 GMT
The original one, that is, established 8:15 am August 6, 1945:
N 34 deg 23.699
E 132 deg 27.254
Had a lovely ride yesterday. Started down Route 157 from Kanazawa through the Hakusan National Park (wiggly and lots of tunnels) which looked like a great biking road. Sure anough, there was a gathering at a cafe by a dam, so I stopped and joined in. Even did the "There's a nice view, let's take a pic of it with all of us standing in front of it so you can't see it" thing (think I'm turning native).
Joined the expressway at Fukui. It's expensive, but the alternative was 350 miles of urban road through the Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe conurbation with death by traffic-light.
Japan has lots of great biking roads, all of which are completely spoilt by a) blanket 80km limit, b) most vehicles doing no more than 50km, and c) very little overtaking opportunity. Having said that, the scenery's fabulous so pootling is no great disappointment.
The Peace Memorial Museum here is to the bomb as the Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie museum is to the Berlin Wall. Simple, graphic, harrowing. Today's Sunday, and there are many groups of schoolchildren here, clearly doing 'projects'; it won't be forgotten (in Japan, anyway), and the overwhelming message is that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. There's an eternal flame; well, the hope is that it's not eternal really because it will be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon on earth is destroyed.
Can you believe a country where there are ciggy/beer/soft drink vending machines on every corner and the public loos are electronic, and absolutely nothing is vandalised? Re the electronic loos - the control panel buttons have pretty graphic legends regarding the spray functions. The one in my current hotel room doesn't even have a heated seat (it's a cheap hotel).
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:02 PM
October 14, 2004 GMT
Nice sunny pootle for 40 miles along Route 8 from Toyama.
The exhaust was still blowing from the joint which parted company on the voyage from Vladivostok, so as I entered Kanazawa I stopped at a Kawasaki dealer and showed them the problem (no English spoken but a blowing exhaust is a blowing exhaust in any language). The bike went straight into the workshop, and within 10 minutes was fixed at a cost of about a fiver. They were most impressed by the patent BMW exhaust ring wrench, and even supplied two replacement cable ties to fix it back on to the panner frame again. Can't see all that happening in Britain.
This is a pretty large city (pop. half a million). It's interesting how the old and new are right next to each other. Immediately behind the hotel, which is on a main drag, is the old Samurai quarter with its narrow alleys and traditionally-built houses and gardens. Beautiful. Had a wander around this afternoon.
Turns out I need a quad-band phone for Japan (tri-band is old hat) so I shan't bother - my phone works perfectly well everywhere else, and I can always use a public phone if I need one. There are ISDN phone boxes on every corner where you can plug in a laptop if you want. Amazing.
Predictably, all the museums are closed on Thursdays (and anyway it's raining heavily) so I'll do them tomorrow. Then it's off to Hiroshima on Saturday via whatever place I stop at. The JAF road atlas is spectacularly unenlightening due to my complete ignorance of Katakana.
I'm learning a few words of Japanese already but I keep getting mixed up with Russian. I'll no sooner get to grips with this than I'll have to start on Thai. Oh well.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:01 PM
October 13, 2004 GMT
Stop at the Cuckoo
Went to the barber this morning. Once they'd got over their surprise at having a Western female customer I was positively pampered. Had a no.3, and the barber was meticulous with the cutthroat razor on my neck and around my ears. Hot towels and absolutely no hairs down the back of my neck to irritate me for the rest of the day. And it all cost less than a standard at Melvyn's in Thatcham.
It's raining, although warm. I think it rains a lot here; there are umbrella-vending machines (the currently fashionable colour is white) and most establishments have umbrella stands at their entrance - like bicycles, they don't appear to go walkies. The middle-aged receptionist at the hotel keeps running out after me trying to make me use one, and was terribly worried about the bike, wanting to put it under cover.
Japan has been a culture shock. I didn't really know what to expect, but it's even more different than I had any idea of. The thing about going overland is that things change gradually - western Europe merges into eastern Europe, which merges into Russia. But the Russian Far East is very Western, and the 500 miles separating it from Japan is an enormous gulf; I'm in a different world entirely. The overwhelming impression is of immense courtesy and meticulousness.
Take being a pedestrian. Pedestrian crossings abound. At major junctions there's a countdown timer so you know how long you'll have to wait. Other crossings have bird calls. I haven't quite fathomed it yet, but I think you stop during the cuckoo and go at the other chirruping thing - but there's the usual red or green man signal as well. If there's no traffic control you just cross, and even a tram will stop for you. No-one blocks junctions, and if you're crossing a side street vehicles turning in or out just wait without any signs of impatience. No-one seems to be in a hurry, either; I imagine the big cities are somewhat different, but Toyama's a decent size - industrial city with a population of around 350,000.
I'm going to Kanazawa tomorrow. There's one of the best gardens in Japan, a Honda family museum (they were connected with the ruling clan a century or so ago), and other interesting stuff about the samurai, gold-leaf manufacture and ceramics.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:58 PM
October 12, 2004 GMT
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 04:56 PM
October 07, 2004 GMT
Singing for my Supper
Girls: The girls in Vladivostok are all around a size 6, at least 5'10" tall, with legs well beyond their armpits. And pretty. If any of you chaps ever consider coming here you'll have to have a slave tagging along with a mop and bucket to swab the ground behind you.
The only thing is this: if the fashion scale goes from Sloane Square at 1 to Newcastle at 10, with Essex somehwhere in the region of 7, Vladivostok is around 25. As Nicola (NZ woman around my age who arrived yesterday) said, they all look as though they were out clubbing last night and haven't been home yet. And the shoes - precipitous heels and unreasonably long pointed toes; some of them can barely totter, especially up the hills (see below).
Fitness: This town is like a baby Genoa, built on hills and cliffs around a huge bay and enormous natural harbour (the Amursky Gulf and Golden Horn Bay). In fact the 10-storey hotel across the road and down the hill has both its bottom and top floors at ground level. So I've been getting very fit, because there isn't a yard of flatness anywhere, not even along the promenade.
Visa extensions: Every bit as excruciating as I'd been led to believe. Three days, lots of queuing at different windows and in different offices, photocopying, translations, two visits to the bank, all the usual stuff (plus lots of climbing up and down hills). The Russians do queuing, and there are obviously rules but I've absolutely no idea what they are. And why does an immigration office dispensing visas for foreign nationals have all its notices and information in Russian only?
But I finally have the magic piece of paper allowing me to stay in the country until the ship sails on Saturday.
Beer: Good, and I especially like Baltika 3.
Vodka: What do you think?
Oh, and I sang for my supper at School No.13 yesterday morning: talks (both more or less the same) to two classes of 16-year-olds. Their English mistress Tatiana was very complimentary and said I was easy to understand because I speak with received pronunciation (her phrase) and that they find Americans and Australians very difficult. The kids spoke excellent English and asked very interesting questions. I rather enjoyed myself. It makes me more puzzled as to why it's so difficult to find a Russian who'll admit to speaking English. Perhaps it's shyness, but it's a bleeding nuisance at times.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:52 PM
October 04, 2004 GMT
Russian Farce Acts II and III
(with apologies to Dostoevsky, but I've just read Crime and Punishment as I've been that bored I'd have cleaned the bike if I had one).
Having already bought my ticket for the boat, but not yet for the bike, I decided (fortuitously, it seems) that it might be wise for me to investigate the station and find out train schedules (if there be such) and the whereabouts of the baggage facility; I had been enjoined, whilst in Yekaterinburg, to make strenuous efforts to meet the train and specifically the appropriate wagon, tended by Sergei and Tatiana.
On entering the concourse (small though it was, although well-furnished with comfortable leather seats) I noticed what appeared to my inexpert eye to be Arrivals and Departures boards; and on consulting my ever-present oracle (as purveyed by the inestimable Messrs. Lonely Planet) I discerned the one to the left-hand side of the central pillar to be that for the Arrivals.
Imagine, therefore, my consternation when I read, at the lower part of the board, the legend '904' (being the train number), together with a start point of Moscow and an arrival at the local time of 16:38. I was, at first, mystified; then turned to my notebook and made certain calculations. I had been informed in Yekaterinburg that the train aforementioned was to arrive in Vladivostok at the Moscow time of 4am, that being 11am local time (which information had misled me into purchasing my passage on the ship and making arrangements for expediting the machine through the Customs House); so my perception at that moment was that either a mistake had been made or that the train had been delayed for an as yet unknown reason.
My grasp of the local language being but faint, I ventured to send a text message to Stalina (of whom you have heard me speak), asking her to communicate at her earliest convenience in order for me to avoid the disgrace of a public hysterical episode. The lady thus contacted me and I explained the reason for my extreme discomfiture; she joined me at my lodgings, and after failure to establish by telephone the true course of events, we sallied forth to the station and to the 'Information Desk'.
Stalina there found that the Arrival time was correct, and was 16:38 every day of the year. I could then only surmise that my machine must be destined to arrive on the morrow (Monday) at the specified time. This, of course set all my plans into disarray, as the ship to the Eastern Land was to set sail at 14:00.
I thanked my saviouress profusely (my penance is to provide a lecture about my travels to the young pupils in her erstwhile place of education and edification) and retired to my lodgings in order to make my preparations for the morrow.
There I asked for an extension of my stay until Saturday, but they could not promise me accommodation until noon the next day.
On Monday morning I betook myself to the Marine Station and there met, as arranged, Irena; I explained my problem and that I was as yet unsure of the exact arrangements. She exhorted me to retain what humour I had left: "This is Russia" she said, smiling; and I laughed (for what else could I do?).
Irena intimated that as the Monday ship was no longer a possibility due to my precarious circumstances, I should see her the next morning at 10am and arrange to board the smaller ship on Saturday. This, of course, means that my official permit to remain in this country must be extended.
I quickly went to the station and established that the train would arrive at its appointed time, and at which platform it would arrive. I repaired to my lodgings and persuaded them that I could stay at least another three days (after which I may be able to persuade them of more), thus obviating the need for me to make numerous calls of other landladies for accommodation and of moving my goods and chattels thereto.
At 16:38 the train slowly drew into the platform on which I waited; yet such a long train was it that the wagons extended far beyond the platform to a narrow glass-strewn path alongside the track. I walked slowly along the train, studying the wagon numbers (mine was 82750) as I went. Suddenly I was accosted by a grubby youth who murmured 'mototsickel, mototsickel'; in truth, I think he may have recognised the apparel which I had donned that morning with the faint but still-existent hope that my machine would today be back in my hands.
The distance from the wagon to the ground was about four feet; and the path was narrow. However, having made use of wooden pallets and the hands of six men, my machine eventually set its wheels on the path; and with the lubrication (well-deserved, in my estimation) of a few thousand roubles, those hands willingly pushed the machine along the path and over several obstacles until it was properly on the platform.
I had my machine.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:47 PM
October 03, 2004 GMT
Stalina took me to her school yesterday, with a couple of her friends. It's traditional here for ex-pupils to go back to their schools, once they've left, with gifts for their teachers.
Inside, the school was light, airy, and full of plants. The teachers were all lovely, and seemed more like aunties than teachers. The gym mistress looked like every gym mistress you've ever seen.
Outside, the paint was peeling and the building looked almost abandoned; but as I said to Stalinka, it's what happens inside that matters, and anyway if you're inside you can't see the outside.
It was a wonderful morning.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:45 PM
October 01, 2004 GMT
Bald Heads and Hurricanes
Irena is the only person in the entire world who knows how to transport a motorcycle and its British rider from Vladivotok to Japan (recently taken over from Diana, who used to hold that distinction).
My worry is that not only is she far too confident but things have so far gone far too smoothly.
Russia doesn't have molehills; it only has mountains. When you ask for help with something only slightly out of the ordinary, the standard response (unless you've had the misfortune to approach a deranged harridan) is "That may be a problem".
Irena calmly informed me that the bike probably arriving only three hours before the boat sails will be fine. I go to her office at the Morskoy Vokzal (Marine Station) on Monday at 9am to do the customs stuff (at least I have all the paperwork about my person), and she reckoned the fact that I have a proper carnet will smooth things no end in getting the bike out of Russia (which is not a signatory to the international carnet convention thingy). Then at 11am the bike, allegedly, will arrive at the Boezd Vokzal (train station) next door and I should be able to ride it directly round to the ship, where it will be craned aboard (I don't think I'll watch that bit). At 12 I go back to the office to do the immigration stuff. At 2 the boat sails; it's 42 hours to Fushimi/Toyama in Japan. Not all that expensive, either: $210 for me, $100 for the bike and $100 service fee to Irena (and if she's right about how it will work she'll be worth every rouble). Incidentally, unlike the old days, prices are often quoted in dollars but payment is required (and preferred) in roubles; the rouble is pretty stable these days.
And a note to the whingers: in order to get here before visa expiry and in time to catch the boat I'd have had to ride 400-500 miles a day, every day, leaving no leeway for punctures, breakdowns, the odd meal, beer or kip, or anything else. And this way I've seen a lot of Vladivostok (including but not limited to the house where Yul Brynner was born and brought up), enjoyed the sun, had the laundry done (including the restoration of my riding suit from brown to its pretty grey/yellow/white); and gaped at the effects of the tail-end of the hurricane today on the tall ship anchored in the bay.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 04:40 PM