Siberian cold cannot overtake me cause I reach legendary Vladivostok (but everyone calls it Bladibostok or maybe should I hear Bloody Bostok), after all the
conquerors of Europe have passed here at
this strategic bay, and made room first to the Japanese, then to the Bolshewist
armies, then the USSR Marine, then the ex-soviet mafia and now the occasional (Australian) tourist on his way
to/from the legendary TRANSIBERIAN Railway start/end-station.
50-80km amidst the taiga and autumn leafed forests a barrack or 2 with
sometimes a kafe and/or gas station
thrown in. The good cheap food keeps me going first to Khabarovsk cathedral with a nice setting at the river, before the
lousy roads force me to throw away 1 of my spare wheels, and repair 2 of the
sturdy off-road tires.
To get to
Vladivostok takes from Lake Baikal
exactly 3.869km –luckily in the sun or a bit of rain after the higher hills- on
partly excellent partly very rough tarmac, and unfortunately despite all of Putin’s promises to the contrary still
some 200km of this M55/M58 bad or real bad non-tarmac/in-bad-need-of-repair!
Many trucks, and even more new or very recent Japanese righthandsteeredcars/vans but mainly big SUV’sbeing driven to a happy customer upnorth.Passing nice river-town Khabarovsk with its blue and golden churches.
Szvrazjdvoudje once more, from Russia with Love, on km
290.366 or 30.800km fromthe start
with 007 on big Mercedes G or M or Lexus. In ‘large’ cities such as Ulan-Ude or Vladivostok
the Siberian diamonds and gold fields, and the Sakhali
Island’s ever richer oil fields pay off, at last. No more dissidents or
other convicts in the (still open to visitors) Gulag, although: one might get the impression cause most of the
people you meet in West till East Siberia are on first side either stiff frozen
or ready for jail, and all the +20 year old constructions seem to be kept more
or less in shape by its (fresh) paint only. But all Siberian really are very
friendly, going out of their way to help with a smile also this crazy foreigner
in his old Toy.
From the world’s
deepest freshwater Lake Baikal (not
as beautifulas I expected but still OK)
where I visited also a very derelict Thermal Spa Health Centre, old soviet
His successors made a mess
again of this empire, but joined some Chinese to start from 1640 the later Qing
dynasty, good for 50 years before the same Mongolians had to retreat in todays
borders till the Soviet period ruined all the dreams. Only in 1990 it could get
rid of the Russians, to become in 1996 a ‘democracy’. Only the last years it has
overcome the deadslow economy.
No wonder even today Gingghis is worshippedsince centuriesby all Mongolian for the law and order he imposed, the dream he
realised… so he is today used as the symbol for the local currency, beer, rock
bands and …souvenirs.
And sorry for the Chinese and
Soviets, but the mineral richness’s of Mongolia are kept inside to make more
people richer, (illegally) digging gold or other ore.
Before the winter also there
breaks in let’s move to Lake Baikal, after the equivalent of 40 Euros in local Tegreg to replace 1 of the broken
rearsuspension leafs, hopefully with some nice sun early October.
And to know that all this todays wealth
originated …. with the 12th Centuryfamous Gingghis/Gengis Kahn,
the OCEAN of Wisdom. Not only did he conquer tribes by sword and more elite
troops, but he subdued all populations from Hungary till the farthest part in
nowadays China with hisfair laws for
free trade (hence the Silk road!!), low taxes, free religion incl. shamanism, and
immunity for ambassadors.
Here in its capital Ulaan-Baatar world travellers and
overlanders alike meet on their sometimes epic journeys to/from China for some,
for most Kazakhstan/Russia.
17 Years ago at the end of its
soviet satellite life it was just a huge nothing, with no water, no houses,
just 1 small restaurant, and the remains of the soviet buildings for the
Mongolian to build around their capital. All modern stuff had to be container-imported,
the NGO’s had their hands full with the poor, the sick and or
tuberculosis-dying elderly. Now it is a complete traffic chaos till 10pm, with
luxury cars and hardly any Moskvich/UAZ
left. No scooters, just a few motorbikes, and crowded with hip youngsters and
the occasional oldfashioned elderly. Of course the odd millionaire can come and
buy his Vuiton suitcase, or Hummer or Lexus, no sweat! And women are all-modern,
smoking cigarettes! Just a few kilometres away or even in the backyard of the
new wooden constructions the yurts are still functioning, with the ‘central’
On the Mongolia side of the China border it took a mere 2 hours in utter confusion/chaos, but there
I was driving again, now in the steppes, literally amidst sheep, occasional
yaks in the first autumnsnow, and lots of free horses and yes, even a few
gers/yurts, cause the 700km dust/mud/sand/offroad to its Capital has only 250km
of tarmac and the occasional village of 3 aka city of +10 houses along the legendary
At the bordertown of Erenhot my agency managed to ruin it all
again, and since it proved impossible to get my Toyota out on my own even when
I tried harder, at last I got it finally safely out minus 554Euro!
the Mongolia side it took a mere 2
hours in utter confusion/chaos,
the Drum Tower with a life performance; and the
Lama and Confucius Temples again with a small theatre performance for free.
Finally close to the car was the fine PolyArt Museum with exquisite but few top
And to get the last paper, Beijing gave me 2 days for (re-) visiting the Summer Palace and the
obligatory Forbidden City and Tien’AnMensquare (this time WITH the
Flag-lowering Ceremony). I also threw in a few hut’ungs, a night photosession over the hills and garden of the
Datong is a MUST for its superb
full-colour Buda-grottoes: 50.000 in all size from 10cm till 17m high, some
inspired by good old Shiva (Hindu), and meters high pagodas also hewn in the
rocks. Especially caves 5 and 6 up to 15m high with central pagoda are Kodak-coloured.
Again unfortunately the tourist crap before and after the tour are a real waste
With a new compulsory guide on
board with ‘all new’ papers to compensate for the 20 days overdue in China, off
I chose the motorways, partly
out of consideration for the gearbox, partly to speed up the exit days, partly
to gain time for a few visits.
First re-visit the Terracotta
Warriors in Xi’an. What a difference
from 10 years ago. Now it is chockfull of Chinese tourists, marblefloored halls
over the 3 pits, and the small museum now has been extended by a factor 100!
Priced at 150Yuan, no discounts, you pay roughly 0.14Yuan per excavated and
reconstructed warrior, and get the few war and parade chariots thrown in for
With this terracotta army the
late emperors did a bit like other powerful Pharaohs etc. And being at the
Easternend/start of the Silk Road they
could afford it… and obviously wanted to protect part of their wealth in
afterlife as well!
film-décor town Pingyao,
one of the last remaining ancient cities spared from eternal destruction by the
bulldozing Chinese authorities. It comes with a full-fledged 6km long +5 m high
wall (incl. towers with still traces of the 1930’s Japanese shells ), some
serpentine-like gates, a few rich bankers’ mansions (up to 300 rooms for those
families who back in the 18th century started the Chinese financial
systemintroducing paper money) and many
old hut’ungs, shared by a few 10.000
tourists day after day.
it might become a kind of Chinese Opera indeed, OR I might need some chinese ACROBACY to get me out of this mess....
Cause due to wrong part delivered by Toy Brussels (a smaller than the obvious straight 4th gearshaft AND with another topend even I could tell the difference at first sight!!), the wait was on once more for another + 3weeks for yet another part (TNT, DHL ChinaPost, DeutschePost are all equally to blame!), the right one this time coming from an old German Toy’s gearbox with 200.000km!
Because of this delay,
a)The car’s permit was WAY beyond its valid stay in the PRC
b)Garage became more annoyed c)The agency I had to use for his guide/interpreter the first 20 days, refused to prolongue its services
d)The ferry I had booked to JAPANwas definitely gone, and the other available ferry costing more, to be paid for once more
e)All my precious timing (1 week Mongolia, 1 week to Vladivostok, 3 weeks Japan and 2 in South Korea, then return ferry to Vladivostok to start the +6.500km journey back to Poland Warschau or even more to Brussels BEFORE the SIBERIA cold strikes)… it all collapsed thanks to the now sure-cold weather in October, but more importantly the SURE-Siberian-WINTERSTORMS/COLD/ICY ROADS before I could make it back on time.THANKS AGAIN Toyota!