Sunday, October 26, 2008

From sea to shining sea!

Have you ever driven from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Pacific? Lots of people have - you just take the interstates all the way across the US of A and cruise into the California sunset. I hear someone has driven the 3,000 miles from New York to Malibu in just over 30 hours...

Or you can be a bit more adventurous and head down to Central or South America likely making the route shorter, but almost certainly more exciting. But if you should really happen to be looking to make your life interesting (and difficult!), you don't go West into the California sunset, drive East from London and aim for the sunrise over Mt. Fuji in Japan!

Well, I haven't actually reached Japan yet (and still need to spend a day dealing with Russian customs before they let me and the mini onto the ship heading there), but:

The English Channel, Atlantic Ocean: July 20, 2008

Golden Horn Bay, Sea of Japan, Pacific Ocean: October 26, 2008

So, after a little more than three months, I have finally reached the other end of Eurasia! The totals:
- approximately 25,000km traveled (including 22,000 driven and the other 3,000 by train)
- number of breakdowns/visits to repair shops: I've lost count
- 28 countries visited, even though I still don't think I spent enough time in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Moldova for them to really count
- continents visited: 3. I got to go to Africa while waiting for the registration documents to be corrected...
- total bribes paid (so far): 500 Rubles in Russia, and ~$10 worth of Ukranian money in Ukraine
- armed conflicts breaking out along the way: only 1. If I hadn't spent 10 days de-touring back to Paris to fix the car documents, we may just have been in Georgia when Russia invaded...

Being here on the other coast still feels entirely surreal - I don't think I've quite come to accept it yet. Yesterday morning, went to pick up the car - it has arrived in Vladivostok on its truck seemingly without any problems; started right back up and ran about as well as normal to get across town. Today, it was auto-driver day in Vladivostok - I felt I probably deserved to participate, if only they had told me ahead of time! It also doesn't quite qualify as the total end of the road yet - presuming I can get all the customs paperwork squared away tomorrow morning, I will be boarding the fine vessel 'Rus' Monday night and arriving in Toyama, Japan roughly Wednesday morning, which will present me with another 500km of road East before I really reach the Pacific Ocean and the total end of the road, but Japan actually has roads, well-paved ones at that, so that seems more like a chance to do a bit of extra sight-seeing than real driving!

In the mean time, a few sights of Vladivostok I've been able to find in between the visits to various customs offices around town:

Beautiful arch in Vladivostok built to commemorate the visit to the city by Tsar Nicholas II in 1902. Of course, destroyed by the Communist regime, but recently rebuilt, in all its original beauty and glory

A WWII Memorial, now flanked by a small gold-domed church

A nice display at the top of a hill overlooking the city and the bay

And this is the view overlooking the city and the bay. Vladivostok has been the home of the Russian Pacific Fleet since its inception over a century ago. The ships still standing guard in the bay. The non-military ship to the right is the 'Rus,' which should be taking me to Japan tomorrow evening.

The Pacific Fleet museum is housed inside of an old Soviet submarine... with 10 kills on its resume apparently.

Well, I doubt the most famous of Russian poets, Aleksandr Pushkin, had ever visited Vladivostok, but they do have a nice statue commemorating him.

The most noteworthy thing about the city of Vladivostok, however, is the port. In fact, if the term 'port-city' is to ever make an appearance in a dictionary, Vladivostok is the city that they should use as an example, not Hong Kong, Baltimore, Odessa, or any others. Not only is it obviously the home of the fleet and Russia's main Pacific-facing shipping artery, but the entire city appears to be built around the port and the business of shipping things. It starts with the cars - enterprising Russians have started bringing used Japanese cars into Russia a number of years back and Vladivostok has always been the primary port of entry. As such, it is absolutely impossible to actually find a Russian-made car on the streets of Vladivostok. But if you want to find just about any car built in Japan (and increasingly South Korea) over the past twenty years, you might be more likely to find it here than you would be in Japan itself! And the vast majority of the businesses you find all around town are in some way or another enabling this steady flow of vehicles. So, I felt this pictue summarized the city reasonably well:

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