Heading out

At long last, I was on the road again!

I caught the overnight ferry to Melbourne on the mainland, had brekky at my friends' place, then off to the shipping agent's to organise the shipment of the bike. All sorted, with it set to be flying out on Wednesday or Thursday night. Should be in Seoul, via Bangkok, for collection probably Friday. So I booked some flights for myself to suit: MEL to SYD on Qantas domestic; SYD to Japan (HND) on Qantas, upgraded to Business Class. Then Asiana Airways from Narita (NRT) Japan to Seoul (ICN) .

Such a shame that even with the "lie flat skybed" I was still unable to sleep! But I had a vacant seat beside me, and plenty of room to spread out.

Why the higgledy-piggledy flights, you say? The flights out of SYD suited me better timewise - much better to arrive at 3pm from SYD than 5.30am from MEL. Unfortunately, I didn't realise that the flight into Japan would arrive at Haneda, as this entailed catching a shuttle bus the 76km from Haneda airport over to Narita airport, both serving Tokyo. Oh well, it filled in some of the 7 hours between flights, I suppose, and I saw a little of the countryside of Japan.

It was hot in Seoul, and I was really feeling the heat by the time I eventually managed to get a taxi to the hotel at Yong Yu, about 5km away from the airport, down at the beach on the southern end of Incheon Island. But the hotel had wifi, so I was happy, and was able to fill in my time getting everything ready. Then I found out that the bike wouldn't arrive until Sunday night. Then it wouldn't arrive until Monday night. It finally arrived on Tuesday morning! I hadn't been given the Airway Bill document or even the number of it. In all the shipments I've made - doing everything myself without agents being involved - I've never had these problems! Suffice to say I was not overly impressed.

On the Tuesday, I caught the hotel shuttle (in company with an Aussie family on their way to London - hi guys!) to the Passenger airport, and completed all the Customs work there, with the help of an interpreter staff member. Then another shuttlebus to the cargo area. At the cargo terminal C, without the wonderful assistance of a lady who just happened to be having a coffee with her friends in a cafe when I was asking where AirCanada was located, I'd probably still be there! She took the timeaway from her job (as CFO at Swissport) (about 1hour 15mins) to try to sort out just where the bike was and where I had to go to attend to all the paperwork before getting access to it. Eventually, she found out where we had to go, so off we went on the long walk, with me carrying all my luggage. Need I mention it was hot? Papers here, papers there, FAX this one, get that one FAXED in. Finally, it was all over, and they brought the bike out. The kind lady insisted on waiting around until the bike appeared, to see what all the kerfuffle was over. She was impressed!

Then I had to reconnect the battery and repack the whole bike. Although the tank was supposed to be drained before flight (never had to do this previously!), it had a tiny amount of fuel left in it, just enough to get me to the nearest servo about a km away from the cargo terminals. Little did I realise at this time that the staff member at KAS cargo had actually retained my Customs issued Temporary Import/Export Document, which I would need to get the bike out of South Korea!

The road system is a bit complex in South Korea. Motorbikes are not permitted on the expressways. The only two roads on/off the island of Incheon are BOTH expressways! So I made my way to the little ferry, which they kindly held up, waiting while I bought my ticket. Then it was a matter of negotiating the twists and turns of Seoul - in peak hour traffic. What fun - NOT! But at least I learned that I could trust OSM (the free Open Street Maps) mapping to get me through with no dramas, except when I missed a turn or was in the wrong lane or whatever. But it brought me back on track very quickly.

It took three hours to travel just 100kilometres! When a flashing neon word in English appeared out of the darkness, I slammed on the brakes, did a u-ey through a servo and turned back into the driveway of a MOTEL. I'd found my bed for the night.

The next day, I'd only travelled a couple of km when I saw a flash of something in my r/h mirror, on the roadway behind me. I felt around with my left hand, nope, all's good. It was only at the next traffic lights that I reached back with my right hand - and touched fabric, instead of the pannier lid! Back I went, trying to hold the packsack containing my heated jacket from flying away. Another u-ey brought me to the pannier lid, damaged, but possibly fixable. I netted it on, and away I went. I travelled the remaining 250kms or so to Mangsang Autocamping Resort, on the eastern coast of SK, about 10km from where the ferry departs for Russia, at Dong Hae, without incident, and set up camp.

Here I stayed camping the three days until checking out on Saturday, when I moved into a motel in Dong Hae,as I had to be at the DBS ferry by 9.30am on Sunday to complete all the Customs paperwork involved in exporting the bike. Fortunately, my "helper/agent" in South Korea, Wendy Choi, is worth her weight in gold, and managed to get everything sorted, including having a FAXed copy of the "left behind" Temp Import/Export document being sent to Customs at Dong Hae. Phew!

We went through all the formalities involved, including a full check of the bikes. The Customs guy wanted me to take all my bags off to go through the scanner. Nope! I'd spent a whole day on Thursday getting it all sorted how I wanted it and I was not gonna cut off all the cable ties I'd used. He relented in the face of fierce female resistance, and I then unloaded each bag for his inspection. Much to my disgust, he took all 6 cans of camping gas which I'd just bought days before without thinking of not being able to take it on the ferry. Duh! My mascot, Woody Bear, was not impressed at having his tummy squeezed, checking for ... whatever!

At 2pm, as the ferry was about to depart, I realised that I didn't have my clothing packsack with me on board! Panic! I raced out and explained what had happened to the crew at the gangplank, some of whom spoke a little English, so they rang Information. Yes, it was on board, fortunately, as we'd now departed! What could possibly happen next?

There were three bikers on board: a 67 yo Japanese chap with a Kawasaki 400 who had been through Russia and Mongolia 5 previous times by bike, and was off to visit a friend in Germany, and his normal deveryday transportation method was by his bike; and a young 33 yo South Korean guy on a Sym 125, setting off on his first international bike trip- right across Russia and into UK, possibly beyond. So I'm not the only "wrinkly" travelling through Russia!

The ferry is overnight to Vladivostok, about 23 hours total. I was travelling 2nd Class, which meant a bed in an 8-bed female dormitory. Quite adequate with full privacy curtains, and I got heaps of sleep, as there wasn't much else to do on board. Meals were provided, but I was not inclined to try things of types unknown, so stuck to the boring stuff like crumbed calamari, chicken and fish.


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