Very early start. Bike stops before even leaving the hotel car park, till I remember I turned the fuel taps off while it was parked. Then I nearly run out of petrol, forgetting I only put in 10 litres last time, not the usual 20, due to a translation cock up. And then I get lost trying to find the right road in the dark, and start to worry that I’ll miss the ferry.
No need to have worried at all, as I end up 3 hours early and have to sit and wait for the office to open. While I hang around, I notice the front wheel is quite buckled and has loose spokes. Then I see that the rear is even worse, and though it gives me a problem to solve in Canada before I can ride anywhere, I’m really quite relieved to have made it to the ferry port.
This is really the end of the outward part of the journey, I’ve done all the riding I need to do until Canada, so I’ve made it, just. I’ve been so close to disaster with the frame breaking and now the wheels on the verge of collapse, but I’ve made it. All the preparation has paid off, and I can surely get the wheels sorted out in Canada. They won’t last long if I don’t.
Getting on the ferry is slow, but easy, interrupted by an inquisitive young korean who seems utterly astonished when she finds out what I’m doing, and fetches more people to talk to me. By 5 I’m in my cabin, and glad I bought first class as economy means sleeping on the floor sharing with about 20 koreans in 2 square yards.
The ferry is much better than the caspian sea ferry. They exchange currency, have a shop and a restaurant. There’s a TV in the cabin but it’s entirely undecipherable. I get the impression Kim Jong Il has died, but it’s not clear, then there’s a rocket launch that they seem quite excited about. Dinner is 5000 won. I have no idea what that is, which coincidentally is all I can say about the dinner. It smelled fishy, but to be fair I don’t smell great in biking gear that’s been damp for weeks.
It feels very odd to be leaving Russia. It’s the end of the big challenge, the rest won’t be anything like what I’ve just done and where I’ve just come from. I’m looking forward to the next stage, but what I’d really like to do right now is go back to Tajikistan and begin again from there. I wonder if I’ll have an opportunity to ride in scenery like that, on roads like that, ever again. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia. They were very, very special places to ride a motorbike and the memory of those experiences will stay with me for a long time. It’s hard to imagine anywhere else ever matching it.