June 26, 2000 GMT
Russia

Zaporozhskaya (15-06-2000) till Soci (26-06-2000)

The next day I went to the east end of the Crimea to take the ferry to Russia. I arrived just after the ferry had left and the next one was leaving in 3 hours. Waiting and waiting. Finally we were able to go aboard and had the 20-minute trip. Because I was on my motorbike I was able to leave the ferry first but it had no effect at all as my immigration was the most difficult one by far (because of my visa) and I was put aside and had to wait till all others had passed.

The next stage was to get insurance for my bike and to get the temporary import declaration of the custom officials. The advantage of being the last one was that the customs officials were busy playing cards so they waved me through without any luggage inspection at all. They only asked if I had any weapons with me.

My first intention was to follow the Black Sea coastline and go directly into Georgia on to Turkey. But I had one complete week so I decided to spend some days in the Caucasus Mountains. And I was really glad I made that decision because the scenery was beautiful. Rough mountains complete with glaciers between green areas of grass filled with all different colours of flowers. The most beautiful place was Dombay. It was the furthest south I could get and getting no too close to Chechen.


Bike with the Caucausus mountains, on the background the village of Dombay.

Bike with the Caucausus mountains, on the background the village of Dombay


Driving back a couple of hundreds km. to the Black Sea coast as the roads through the Caucasus Mountains do not exist. At the border post below Sochi I was refused to pass. The border was only open to locals because of the tensions between Georgia and its rebellious district Abghasia. I could take a ferry in Sochi to Batumi or use the Vladikavkaz - Treblisi border (which was a 1000 km. detour). Because of the overland nature of my trip I chose for the second option and I was able to make it to the border post just in time before expiring my Russian visa. And also carefully avoid to camp too close to the Chechen problem area (Although with exception of the frequent police roadblocks and checkings I haven't noticed any tension or what so ever.

At the border post they refused to let me pass again. Saying that ALL overland border crossings were closed to foreigners (there are only 2, and I tried both of them!). The Russians refused to let me leave the country, so the Georgians were not to blame. Their argument was: government rule from Moscow. But they said the situation in Georgia was too unsafe because of the many Chechens who left their homes after the Russian attack. Only crossings by sea or air were possible. So I had to go back to Sochi again, driving the same 1000 km. back. But... my visa was expired. The military guided me to the OViR office in Vladikavkaz for visa extension but they were closed.

The next day they first said I was too late because my visa was already expired. I told them the whole story and also some super hot-shot was involved. Finally they agreed to give me 4 more days to reach Sochi again. The also expired temporary import form of my motorbike was not any problem at all.

In Sochi I was lucky to catch the next day ferry to Trabzon in Turkey, as there were not any ferries to Georgia at all. From Trabzon it was possible to take the ferry to Georgia but that was useless to me and my Georgian visa was almost expired as well.

At the check-in at the ferry there was a huge problem about my expired temp. import form despite earlier sayings. My motorbike was illegally in Russia and they were able to confiscate the bike. The solution was found in me signing a paper saying I parked the bike on the customs depot for four days. It costs me USD 48. But they also knew I had no choice at all.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at June 26, 2000 03:04 AM GMT
 
 

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