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Old 01-03-2012, 03:47 PM   #46
Brent T
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Great report!

Enjoying your report very much - looking forward to the next installment...
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Old 01-04-2012, 12:10 PM   #47
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VERY cool report so far! In our rush to find someplace "exotic" to ride, we forget about the wonders to be found here in our own country. (I've got a couple of those "Bob's BMW" mugs around here somewhere, too...)

And now I'm eagerly anticipating the adventures you'll encounter on the other side of the International Date Line!
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Old 01-04-2012, 12:15 PM   #48
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can't wait for the silk road
ADV'ing from America's fine Crapital...
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Old 01-04-2012, 01:36 PM   #49
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I'm in.

When I'm retired, I can walk back home. . .

1.200m. . .

dä rumtreibär
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Old 01-06-2012, 07:15 AM   #50
Harti OP
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Take The Wrong Way Home


This is part II of my journey from Washington, DC, to Berlin. When I planned that trip, and I did some three years of planning, I decided to take the route to mainland Russia via Korea instead of Japan. First because I didn't like what happened in Fukushima and second I hated to carry a Carnet de Passage with me, which is required for Japan.

the first A 380 I ever saw in Narita/Tokyo

The airlift from Vancouver to Incheon, the airport of Seoul, was comparatively cheap, some 1,200 U$. For the crate I payed another 230 U$. That sounded good enough, if you put into consideration, that you get the bike at your destination without waiting.

So here we go. I updated my movie watch list in Business Class of United Airlines. Thanx to my miles account... 15 hours later, and one day because of the date line, I touched ground in Tokyo. Very confusing to get the date change into my brains. Watch TV and you see only old news. That's the curse when you wanna be the first on the globe...

I had a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji near Tokyo.

In Korea I had to deal with some very interesting but also troubling regulations. I had to pay a customs safety deposit of 1,800 U$, which I was told to get back when I leave the country. How that is going to happen nobody could tell me. They wanted me to pick it up in person when I leave. But they didn't understand the concept: I was going to leave at another port of disembarkation and there they would not give me any money back at all. So I was about to kiss my deposit good bye. My agent, a Korean who had translated at summits with the Korean and the American government (there was a picture in his office showing him with President George Bush sen.), promised me though to transfer the money to my German bank account. Was I supposed to believe that?

Anyway, this gentleman got my bike out of customs in exactly 23 hours. Why is that important? Because after 24 hours you have to pay a horrendous amount of money for storage... So he was worth every Penny, especially when the 1,800 U$ showed up on my account in full!!!

In Korea Germans are not allowed to drive any kind of vehicle due to the fact, that the Federal Republic of Germany didn't sign a certain treaty back in 1945 right after the war. But Germany was not even founded back then...

So I had to trick me through the process of getting a Korean driving license by pretending to be American. Since nobody ever checked my passport at that MVA, I got away with it. At the customs office they went ballistic about it, but the entire process was already in the final stage, that they couldn't stop it any more...

my temporary driving license

And I also got away with driving on a highway, because it's illegal for bikes to use highways.

Crazy, how different other countries handle the temporary importation of a bike. The U.S. were only interested in making sure that my bike met the EPA regulations and harassed me around with that. Nobody ever asked me for that paper, let alone knew what the hell I was talking about when I wanted a stamp at the border exiting the U.S. Canada didn't want to see anything. They waved me through and 5 minutes later I was in their country.

Tomorrow I'm going to leave for Donghae, the port from which the ferry to Vladivostok leaves. Nothing to worry about... only I may not use highways, and minor roads don't have international road signs.

Tonight I will try the Korean cuisine... At least sometimes you know what you order when looking at these billboards...

This is a typical dinner. Luckily they have some standards like beer and meat. Other than that you find garlic, sweet potatoes, seaweed, some sort of radish, hot sauces and some cabbage. The main dish, noodle soup with beef, is being served extremely hot. You get only chop sticks to eat with and a spoon for the soup. Very tasty...

my receptionist became my best friend cuz she spoke English

Yesterday I took the risk to cross over from Incheon to Donghae. Normally a piece o' cake, just some 180 miles...

But there were a few obstacles in the way. I can't read any street sign, pictograms are helpful, but there is a lot of guess work involved between elevation, speed or street numbers... and I'm not allowed to use highways...

And then the rain. Boy I got really wet this time... It felt like taking a shower with your best rain gear for ten hours... The worst thing is, that some idiots try to take a picture of you while passing. Just imagine the flood you are covered in when they take their time and the water level is 20 inches high...

Why am I doing this? I can't afford to miss that ferry to Vlad, because my driving license is only valid for one week and I have to be in Ulaanbataar to keep the rendezvous with Uwe, a friend from Germany.

After that day, everything was soaked wet. Well, my Korean bills got also a new watermark...


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Old 01-06-2012, 08:10 AM   #51
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I will follow this thread with much interest! You guys ROCK!!!!
One out of four people in this country is mentally unbalanced.
Think of your three closest friends. If they seem normal
you're the one!

2005 ST 1300--2006 250S--2006 XT 225
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Old 01-06-2012, 05:14 PM   #52
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Great report!! Thanks for taking us along

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Old 01-06-2012, 09:05 PM   #53
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Sehr guter Reisereport. Vielen Dank. Sehr schoene Bilder
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Old 01-07-2012, 07:27 AM   #54
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I've just discovered this thread and will be following your adventure from here on. Your comments as you crossed the US gave me a fresh, interesting perspective of many places I've been. Things look different when you didn't grow up here.

Free restrooms? Something we Americans rarely think of. And having to pay half a Euro to pee is possibly the only thing I DON'T like about Germany.

Keep posting. This is fascinating.
Tim in Arlington, Tx - '05 WeeStrom
"Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words." -- Francis of Assisi.
Proud member of 'Two-Wheeled Texans' and 'Ridge Riders'.
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Old 01-07-2012, 07:41 AM   #55
Harti OP
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Take The Wrong Way Home

Russia here I come

Once my gear was dry I got myself through the process of getting a ticket for me and my bike to Russia.

The harbor of Dunghae was easy to find. Has to be located somewhat close to the ocean, I figured... The ferry office DBS was closed for lunch and so I decided to also get some grub. And where do you find restaurants most easily when you are a stranger in town? Right. At the train station. But I simply don't understand why "station" is translated into the German "Bahnhof"... It makes way more sense to advertise in Russian due to all the tourists from Vladivostok. In that Korean Restaurant my self esteem had to face a real stress test. Everyone eyeballed me when it was on me to order. What's he doing and how is he doing it...? Well, I simply pointed to my neighbor's food and that took all the fun out of it. When the lunch came I had to eat my noodle soup with sticks and the spoon and first, everybody expected a disaster on my side, but when I dug in all the 25 workers from the station nodded with some respect... Right after lunch I strolled very controlled over to the convenience store across the street and calmed my throat with a huge portion of ice cream... that was a hell of a hot meal...

every restaurant should have a buzzer to call the waiter

Back at the harbor I got my tickets in no time. It was really cheap for me, but 500 bucks for the bike... give me a break... Anyway, next Sunday I'll be on that ferry to Russia.

On my way out I met Marcello from Italy. He just came from Russia and took exactly the same route I was going to take. Always good to exchange first hand information... Marcello had a serious accident in Russia on wet surface. He was okay, but his Gold Wing was taped together like hell. His bike had almost 450,000 miles on the clock. Bravo. And back to the weather: every media, TV and papers, reported about the ugly rainstorm on the day I had to cross the Korean peninsula. Floods, washed away bridges and tracks and broken levees, all of the above.

500 miles ago the BMW had the last service in Seattle. Why the break pads were completely worn, I don't know...

I had to kill a few days and that's when I thought I could catch up and see all the nice places I missed when I passed them in that rainstorm. Tidiness seems to be the number one priority. I saw the most beautiful fields of crop and people would pick up even the tiniest piece of paper...

Pyeongchang will host the Olympic Games in 2018. They even beat prominent competitors like Munich.

Back in town I visited a hairdresser. That was a lot of fun. I was complimented to a chair and I was asked something. No idea what, but when you sit in a chair like that, they probably want to know, how you want your hair cut. In lack of Korean I answered always with "snip, snip, snip", and I snipped with my fingers simultaneously thru my hair. That was too spooky for the girls and they managed to get someone on the phone with some English knowledge and we got it all figured out. When my lady was finished cutting she showed me in a back mirror, what she had done. Without my glasses I can hardly see and when I put them on I screamed for 3 seconds and the lady almost dropped dead, but than I laughed out loud and told her how much I liked her work and everybody in the shop applauded... We really had a lot of fun without understanding a single word...

My laundry day looked a little unconventional. I zigzagged a clothesline thru my hotel room and what didn't fit I dried on the bike...

Tomorrow I will leave Korea and see for myself what Russia is going to be like.



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Old 01-07-2012, 08:37 AM   #56
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real cool tour - great

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Old 01-08-2012, 08:17 AM   #57
Harti OP
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Take The Wrong Way Home

Vladivostok and Eastern Siberia

Why am I not surprised that it rained cats and dogs when I left Donghae? It's time to change my location entirely.

Druschba. I'm in Vladivostok. I had a completely different imagination of this city at the end of the world from a German perspective... Here you find everything you would look for in America or Europe... people speak English and sometimes German, you see skyscrapers, new bridges, cafes and restaurants with the whole variety of European and Asian food.

The paperwork in Vlad took us 3 days and with Svetlanas help, we managed to get customs clearing, immigration and insurance for the bikes in no time. Her German was excellent...

On the ferry I met an Austrian who told me, that Ulan Ude is just 3,200 km's away. I reckon a week will do for this part of Siberia.

Today we visited the C56, a submarine of the foxtrott-class. Vladivostok is the only Russian sea port that's ice free throughout the year. So this submarine, as little as it is, has some deadly weapons on bord... In the church next door, sailors sacrificed a candle for their safe return and their relatives even gave up some jewellery when their prayers were heard...

Yay, our documents are ready. Tomorrow we, a few tourists I met on the ferry and I, want to leave for Siberia.

final destination of the Trans Siberian Express: Vladivostok

Btw, I have tried to spot Sarah Palins house from here... no way...

And here she is, my beloved BMW. Customs released the bike early in the morning and I could finally stock up some groceries and beer.

I started at 11:00h from downtown Vladivostok and took some pictures on my way out. I followed the M 60 to Khabarovsk and found a small Gastinica after 760 km's. That did it for today...

Russia's finest

Siberia is not what I had in mind when I prepared my trip. There is nothing. No disrespect, but there is no sightseeing, no monument, no waterfall, not even a nice bar... really boring.

The gas stations operate with low tech. Guess how many liters you may be needing, pay at the cashier behind bars and hope, it's just enough.

Truck drivers avoid these kind of problems by using mobile gas stations...

15 km's to China

For the next 4,000 km's there is not much to report about. Birch trees as far as you can see, a Trans Siberian Highway in sometimes pathetic state, always following the Chinese border. Interesting: the people on this side of the border look very Caucasian, 15 km's away in China they look totally different...


Khabarovsk would have been nice to visit, but with that much rain every enthusiasm got sucked out of me...

River Amur

The people lead a poor life. They have to survive with only the basics. The restrooms along the highway are not really inviting, dental care has never been heard of, they trash the environment, the list goes on and on. Smoking prohibited...? Service...? Never heard of...

I saw a few horses, some cattle, some dogs, a myriad of mosquitoes, that's about it. Where is the Siberian tiger, where are bears and elks?

on their way to a bikers meeting at Lake Baikal

The closer I get towards the Lake Baikal, the more changed the landscape. No trees anymore, only hilly grassland, that looks like a golf course

I wished, I could turn my head left and right more often to see villages and playing kids, but careful. Before you know it, you have hit yet another huge pothole in the otherwise not so bad surface of the highway.

Baltik 3, my favorite beer

Today I experienced for the first time some motor problems on my bike. Maybe the fuel has been contaminated with water, maybe the black box is the culprit, I don't know yet...

Finally I am in Ulan Ude. Tomorrow I'm getting my visa for Mongolia... hopefully.

Ulan Ude

Why I didn't get it and how I moved on I'll tell you next time.


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Old 01-08-2012, 08:28 AM   #58
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Really enjoying this report! Subscribed
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:47 AM   #59
Harti OP
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Take The Wrong Way Home

Ulan Ude, Ulaanbaatar

Here they welcome you with a pack of cigarettes instead a drink...

The reason why I rushed it a bit in Eastern Siberia was that I didn't find it very intriguing over there. And I didn't want to miss my appointment with Uwe, a friend of mine, who I met 2010 in South America. We planned to share the challenge of crossing Mongolia, because it seemed a good idea to traverse not alone...

closed for a week

So I had to hurry to the Mongolian Consulate in Ulan Ude to apply for a visa. Hell, was I not prepared to that: the Consulate was closed for the entire week so that all the employees could attend the Nadaam Festival in Ulaanbaatar. Shit. I had all the visas for all countries I would pass except for Mongolia. But looking at the bright side... I took some nice excursions to a Buddhist monastery and to Lake Baikal.

my toothbrush needs 110V

And I had to service my bike. Strangely the engine didn't need any oil, the air filter needed to be cleaned and the bearing of the steering head showed some wear around the middle. That could be fixed, because I got all the tools needed.

The Ivolginsky Monastery is the counterpart of the Lamaism Monastery in Leh, Ladakh in India. The Russians granted the Tibetans in China asylum and tried to sandwich China ideologically that way... Looks all very similar to Dharamsala and Leh, where I was back in 1977. Except for the yurts. They represent the Buryatian-Mongolian style...

Lake Baikal provides 20% of all the freshwater resources in the world. It's also the favorite place of excursions for the locals. The tourist industry hasn't yet discovered the lake, but you can see already entrepreneurship once in a while...

Also noticeable: no trees along the shoreline. Probably used to build all the wooden houses around here...

They don't even care to get rid of the old ferry after they finished the new bridge...

Back in Ulan Ude, I did some sightseeing . Lenin and me.

That's my local competition.

And finally: my Mongolian visa. I decided to leave right after I got it in my passport. Uwe I'm coming.

... did I mention that I like Baltika 3?

I made it all the way to the Mongolian border, the border formalities I saved for the next day.

at the border

Sukhbaatar, the entry town of Mongolia

Mongolia managed to welcome me with rain. This part of the globe doesn't get a lot of humidity at all, because the Himalaya shields off all the moisture, that might be on its way up north. That's why they have the desert Gobi and only little snow with brutal cold in their winters.

3 hours for both borders is incredibly fast. I saw the first camels, and the yurts along the road make desire for more.

Sylvia, the boss...


Finally I met Uwe. His bike got out of customs okay and we took some time to exchange stories about how we made it here. Not to mention, that we celebrated with a Wiener Schnitzel and a few beers. The owners of the "Oasis" are Austrian...

All Terrain high heels...

We went to see some street life of Ulaanbaatar and the exotic mixture of ethnic and western lifestyle.

Uwe's bike

We took some time to upgrade our bikes, did some final preparation for the start tomorrow into the unknown of Mongolia, at least for us, and the part of my trip, I wished to do for so long...

...and that's our direction...

Tomorrow is the day...

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Old 01-10-2012, 09:12 AM   #60
Harti OP
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Take The Wrong Way Home

Mongolia the beautiful

When you hang out at the Oasis you get to talk to a lot of travelers, because this is THE magnet for hard core tourists. It's a safe haven to cure your diarrhea, here you can overhaul your truck or your bike or you can sent or receive a crate with your bike... So after a few days of relaxation I built up a lot of respect for what lies ahead of us. There was the American with the BMW 1200 GS with a broken frame for 4 times after gotten beaten up by the corrugation of the piste. Or the Dutch with s smoked clutch, or the Swedish guy with some problems in his chest after he got buried under his bike, the list goes on and on.

locker room bragging is a MUST in this scene...

I was lucky so far, no accident, no major damage on the bike. Although... I had some overheating problems, but it turned out, that a little cobble stone had jammed the radiator fan. That was it. I decided to leave the street tires on and save the knobbies for the Pamirs, hoping that the surface in Mongolia wouldn't give me too much shit to chew on...

One thing I couldn't quite grasp were the mysterious engine cutouts or misfirings after about 200 km's. No idea how to deal with that...

Uwe packed his bike for the first time for real and I know how long it takes to find the right place for each item. It appeared to me, that his bike wasn't balanced well enough. Everything he possessed he had to carry on the rear rack, while I had the luxury to store some heavy tools for example in the front panniers. Gives you a much better handling if the weight is divided all over the bike.

At around noon we finally left Ulaanbaatar. Traffic was modest, that left us some time for taking snapshots and for Uwe to get used to his BMW.

Rain was the least we wanted. Good thing the first 35 km's were paved and the monument of a famous horse was taken in our wet suits...

By the time we reached the piste, the rain had stopped and the conditions of driving weren't so bad after all. No dust for the other to swallow, no slippery mud for now. That all came later...

We passed flocks of sheep, cattle, horses, camels and yaks. Everything was really peaceful with a lot of space without fences and lush green rolling hills...

Every now and then we stopped at a conglomeration of yurts for a mutton soup or just a chat with fellow bikers.

the piste is where you are...

We still had some problems to adjust fully to the road conditions, because they worsened by the minute. Corrugated tin pistes, tons of dust, washed out river beds and rocks as big as grapefruits... no wonder that we had to call it a day after 215 km's.

Interrupted was our fight against the piste by a sudden thunderstorm. We were the highest elevation in the region and we were made of steel. I don't get scared easily but we both knew that it's dangerous to stick out when heavy lightening is striking in the area...

So we found a yurt where we could stay for the time the storm unloaded. Our hosts offered us some obscure cheese. Living cheese! Full of maggots... I refused with the excuse, that I had just recovered from a bad stomach... and 20 minutes later we were on the road again. Funny, they even had a satelite dish and a solar panel...

After an eagle's fight in the air we found ourselves a nice spot to set up our tents. Not, that there was a lot of competition or only a limited amount of space...

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