15 May 2016
Donghae (South Korea) to Vladivostok 6kms travelled = Total 538 kms
This morning an early up, packing, loading the bike and off to the ferry terminal.
There I bumped into four young Korean men. Three of them on motorcycles, one driving a big Toyota 4-wheel drive. They had met over the internet, all up 6 young men and decided to make a very similar journey to mine: destination Spain overland. This morning they had met first time face-to-face. The Toyota is loaded with the gear of the motorcyclist, so they can happily ride sans luggage. One rides a DRZ650 Suzuki, the other a small-ish tracker-style bike, and the 3rd a 125ccm scooter. A mixed bunch of bikes, but it shows one can conquer this route with any type of two-wheel transport.
All were very welcoming and invited me into their group without hesitation. Another two joined in. Both rather more my age, a couple travelling in a Campervan. I am yet to find out if this couple will actually travel with this group, but we’ll see ….
The bike-check@Customs was pain-free, although they went through all my gear. Once done, we rode the bikes into Eastern Dream’s hull.
A much abgetackelt (old, used and almost de-commissioned) rust-bucket sailing under a Panamanian flag (doubtful?) belonging to a Japanese DBS cruise line.
A book, I’ve read when I was a teen, ‘Das Totenschiff” by B. Traven came to my mind, where it talks about ‘Seelenverkaeufer”.
Somehow, having seen their website, I had expected a slightly more glamorous ship. Once parked inside I handed-over my keys to the attendant and won’t see my bike until past Custom Clearance at the Russian end. Anything between 2-4 days I am told.
Our small group then went to lunch finding the closest kitchen-eatery style place. I noticed that no specific meal was ordered, rather there seems to be a daily fixed meal and that was brought to our table. It contained plenty! Rice, raw fish on a white root vegetable sprinkled with sesame seed, Kimchi, shrimps in egg, spicy Korean sauce to dip in whatever you liked to dip-in, a soup with a green vegetable or was it sea weed?, and several other dishes mostly a type of vegetable. I really liked this! It felt most appropriate to have my final Korean meal in such an ‘authentic’ way, a place so similar where I had my very first Korean meal in Seoul. A good (meal) closure. Cost was negligible: 5.000won ~ $A 6,20.
We boarded around 13.00. Eastern Dream left on time one hour later commencing the 22 hours trip. I found my allocated space in an 8-man cabin, bunk bed style. Seven of them already taken – all by Russian men. In Germany one could say: “da war ich mit hundertausend Russen in einem Raum …” Well, just seven, but interesting. So, like on a half-filled plane, once the gate had closed, I looked for better ‘seats’. I wandered through the ship, trying almost every door, most locked, but then found another 8-bedspace with only one person in it! It happened to be one of the group, the scooter guy! Great – my lucky day! Now, I am sitting in my bunk bed, almost in my own private room, and write these lines.
I’d like to complete the rest of this blog with some observations I made specially connected to my four mostest important women in my life: my wife Louise and my daughters Vanessa, Johanna and Alexis. (Yes, I know there is also sister Gaby and mother .. I accept). Naturally I do miss them and I reckon this void is likely to increase. However, when I see/experience things around me, quite frequently something triggers me to think of them and I can connect in mind with each.
During my train trip from Seoul to Busan I was sitting beside a young female teacher. She travelled home to her family and naturally we talked. Also on my trip to the DMZ I met a young Australian man who was teaching English in a Korean school. With both I spoke about education, schooling university and so on. I learnt that school is similar to ours: primary and secondary then – not for all – university. Primary school seems the place to be, as secondary school is much more demanding in terms of time and learning pressure compared to Australia. Kids start school at eight in the morning, and especially in the senior years of secondary school, frequently study at school til late, 22.00 in the evening! The race is on to get near-perfect marks to enter one of the four most prestigious unis, as entry and a qualification from these almost guarantees employment afterwards. The pressure is so intense, that the suicide rate of senior secondary and university students is the second-highest in the world! Only topped (excuse the pun) by Japan.
I guess this is related to the nature of Korean (Asian?) striving, almost super-striving in order to succeed whatever it takes.
For me, and being aware that this is a superficial evaluation based on less than a handful of conversations, I’d rather be in a different, less competitive system …..
I just got interrupted with a Public Address System call for dinner. A buffet of mainly Korean food, but it also had potatoe-salad. 6.5 out of 10 it was, better than expected and part of the fare. That means tomorrow’s brekkie and lunch is also already paid with my tix.
A little after was the DBS Cruise floor show!! “I want some hot stuff tonite …” was part of the repertoire and a Hats-off! to the crew members doubling as steel-guitar soloists, singers, dancers, drummers and a bass-man. Entertaining it was and I wonder if one first needs to be an artist (dancer/musician) and then a crew member fulfilling welcoming and chaperone duties.
BTW, for the occasion I allowed myself a cocktail: appropriately I opted for a Black Russian – to get the noetige Bettschwere (a sleeping pill kind of 😉
You are fore of my mind when I wander through street markets. In China and particularly in Korea seafood is a stable diet. So in Busan there are streets like Lygon St in Carlton (have they won another game yet??), although not with Italian-flavoured offerings but seafood offerings. Therefore you see tanks of alive fish – live and all kinds of different ones, also shells of many sorts, sea-gurkens and these other ones difficult to pronounce: the one which can change gender: here’s a picture.
So in you go and pick the fish you want and then & there is will be prepared for you. I attempted this once, pushing my bad conscience (towards your values) aside. However, divinity intervened: the woman wanted to charge me almost 60 bucks Australian for two fish …. not on my Nelly, so I went without this experience.
In the markets you see big, really large plastic bags filled with dried sea-horses, one after the other. I didn’t even know so many sea-horses existed!!? They must farm them!? I believe they grind’em into food to achieve … godwhoknowswhat?? Plenty of more dried fish, all species, in bundles and buckets of sardines in all sizes, some so small you could inhale them.
I also see tubs full of turtles of different kind and size. This appears to be less for eating, rather more for pet-ting. Well, that’s how I try to make sense of it.
So seafood in all variety is first-and-foremost a food source! No one seems to care about its well-being – they just eat it!
Well, as you would have received my recent pic about the ‘Grand Opening’ of the McDonald’s store in Donghae … it was an old banner I photographed for you. Later the same arvo I found the store and since it was my last evening in Korea, I decided to sacrifice my preference for a Korean meal and instead opted for a 1951 Burger meal. Cost is about on par with Australia, ~ 8-9 dollars. Taste is about the same, and the stomach feeling of a cold lump in my dummy afterwards was also the same. Nevertheless I shall continue to be the Burger-martyr and promise to seek out a Maccas in each country I will travel through. Moreover, I shall burden my digestive tracks with a Whopper or similar, take photos and report back to you. So you’d better start a collection of worldwide McDonald’s pix. Perhaps you can already add the places away from Australia you’ve eaten one, i.e. Munich??
In terms of school and/or Uni well, see above. I trust you bite hard into your own Uni-challenge and give it a red-hot go!
Well, my lovely Lou – I do miss you already.
All of it I miss. So today when I met this group of young Koreans riding a bike/scooter to Spain (one has just learnt to ride a bike) an older couple joined us at loading the bikes: Must be our age or a fraction beyond, man & wife, standing 153cm tall, together .. just joking ‘each’, BUT travelling in a Campervan again to Spain. Clearly a well-sought after destination. I presume it is this coast-to-coast attraction, spanning the Asian and European continent.
So my Loui, what am I trying to say? we shall travel together, perhaps even a little longer and further as before. Our 32-day walk will mark a start in October. After that, I would wish that we can tick-off the walking box. Next perhaps roller-skating long Route 66 or so?
No matter by what means, but together is the idea.
Did you get the Spot messages? and where you able to see on a map where I was?
I’ll switch it back on, once I am sitting back on my bike, I hope I two days or so.