Monday, 10 June 2019

Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe- part one

Someone's great idea to spend a summer in Siberia with the added bonus of elephant-sized mozzies to try and steal the bike.
It all starts with the purchase of the WR250R being the getaway vehicle. 
Plan is to ride South korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Bulgaria then come home.
Now, if you are a stalker type then you can see within ten minutes of where I am 

Photo 1 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
The Arrival, delivered by MCR
Photo 2 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Lake Hawea for a quick spin on the new stead
Photo 3 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Being a fan of agent orange I have a 690 screen which fits the WR very nicely
Photo 4 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Seat cutting to bring it down to size, the WR is tall and I am not!

Photo 5 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Fabbing racks, yes I did replace the plywood.
Full specs of the build and gear is as follows, 
WR250R 2018
Panniers: AltRider 
Pannier Racks: Happy Trails SU
Wheel: Tubliss Front & Rear
Screen: KTM 690
Pegs: Pivot Pegz
Grips Oxford Heated.
Bars: Sunline
Protection: Barkbusters
Protection: GYTR Skidplate
Lowering: Zetalink
Large Tank: IMS18 L
LED Lights: Mox Lights
USB Power: Ali
Throttle: G400

Tent: Hilliberg Staika
Sleeping Bag: Exped Down Bag
Pillows: Sea To Summit
Bed Rolls: Exped 7 SL
Camping Cooking Equipment: (Non-hazardous).
Aluminum Bottle: (open, no lid or top)
Chair: Mox Chair blue
Head Torch LED Lenser
Bungies: Various
Wire Rope 4mm Stainless 4.5M

Riding Gear
Helmet: Klim Kros White
Jacket: Klim Adventure Rally
Pants: Klim Balands
Gloves summer: Klim Adventure Goretex
Gloves winter: First Gear Electric heated
Socks: Klim Covert
Boots: SIDI Crossfire 2
Wet Weather Gear: Motoline Jacket, Pants
The Start
Doing east Russia, ROB, Mongolia etc has been on the list for a while, this is one trip that Ellen would not enjoy doing being, wet, muddy, frustrating etc and involving sandpits and mud is above her pay grade.
Fast forward to permission granted I originally had my sights set on a Yamaha XT250, simple air oil cooled and basic, epic fail on the fuel tank capacity saw a rethink and the purchase of 45, the WR250R.
A very enjoyable few months prepping and building her up to my specs and requirements and a few challenges sorted along the way. I am fussy and I like things to be done properly to the best of my ability to avoid trouble on the road as best as I can.
While most things went well I did have a slight issue with the new Garmin 276cx which seemed to randomly turn itself off for no reason, full credit to Garmin they replaced the unit instantly and we received the second unit.
While fabricating a larger footplate for the side stand I had the bike up on a the bike lift, in order to get the perfect angle for the side stand plate I kicked the side stand forward then lowered the bike down to set it on the plate and tack it in position...that's went shit really went pearshaped BIG TIME.
The bike was due to go that following Wednesday, today was Thursday.
As I lent the bike over onto the stand side the bike rolled forward and went down like a lead balloon with the GPS copping the full weight of the bike right on the screen edge against the corner of a cupboard and smashing the new GPS and bending all the GPS mounts, yes ....that is what I was thinking too.

Photo 6 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Where the bike landed 8-(
Photo 7 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Mirror mount copped it too
Photo 8 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe
Yup shattered
Totally my fault for not pushing the stand forward enough but now my day had really caved in, I quickly took some photos of the bike and the GPS and contacted the insurance, I also contacted Motomox and got a new one ordered regardless of the outcome from the insurance as the trip would be difficult without it.

With outstanding customer service Motomox got one overnighted to me so the very next morning I had GPS No 3 in my hand which was a relief and a half, I remade and lowered the GPS bracket 50 mm lower to tuck it in a bit from suspicion.
The Paperwork....fuck me.
Plan A was to go via Japan, a country I have never been and everyone saying do it. With that in mind I proceeded to get everything going, the shippers had given me a written shipping time of 30 days, I duly accepted this only to find out it was actually a minimum of 42 days!!!
That meant that my crate that was supplied by MCR of Dunedin which was arriving on Thursday then gave me approx 4 hours to drop the bike down to size, cut the crate and make it fit and pack it, this simply could not happen.
Long story short so you don't fall asleep is Japan will have to be saved for another time.    
Plan B, go straight to Magadan, nup, no international shipments taken there, no problem, go one step back, Plan C go straight to Vladivostok....nup, nothing less than a full container internationally, my shipment being LCL (Less Than Container Lot) not admittable.
Plan D quickly implemented, South Korea, smaller country than Japan so less time to see it...done that will do fine.
Shipping time (actual) was agreed and I had one week to pack down the bike and make her small, pack in the gear and send her on her merry way to Busan, easy done.

Photo 1 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 2)
Yeap it's all going
Photo 2 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 2)
Packed nice and tight
Photo 3 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 2)
T h e n  the fun part started, the registration......I booked my ferry sailing from Donghae Korea to Vladivostok Russia, the Korean agent duly picked up that my WR250R was in fact registered as a 321cc.....???, the discussion ensued as to why the bike had been modified, ok, a good time for you to grab another beer.
The reason for the needed correction is to avoid any stupidity at the borders with the rego paper not matching their "system", also it makes a big difference cost wise when shipping, ferrying etc.
Discovering that NZTA had printed 321cc on my Rego form meant an MR16 form and why the change, paperwork emailed in marked urgent, after 3 days ...nothing, I call NZTA and they say I need verification as I can't just change it.
Go to Yamaha, Yamaha as it turned out had a wee paperwork glitch which had registered the WR250R as 321 cc, this cc rating is correct for the R3 which this bike is not.
Starting to run the knife edge of time I had to get that corrected, also to add on to this is the Carnet de Passage ...which require a correct Certificate Of Registration...which I didn't have so 5 weeks out from leaving New Zealand I have an incorrect Certificate Of Registration needing 10-20 WORKING days to process, a Carnet which takes 10-20 WORKING days to process and none of the necessary paperwork in hand. 
Now, add in Easter and Anzac as well as anniversary day and suddenly my paperwork was off into the abyss time wise. I have to admit stress levels were starting to exceed safe limits but one by one logically and methodically I put one fire out at a time.
Getting Yamaha on board to get the correct information supplied to NZTA was the first in the chain, Isaac (whose blood is worth bottling) from MCR Dunedin went above and beyond getting things sorted, Yamaha then got onboard with NZTA then suddenly NZTA managed to get it through fairly promptly in the next two days.
Awesome, one fire out, I just needed them to email the new correct Certificate Of Registration form while the hard copy snail mailed itself to our letterbox.
BOOM....another fire, NZTA had a system crash that would not enable them to email the Certificate out, their IT gang tried to resolve it but nah, that was on the Wednesday prior Easter and no one was available to fix their issue until the following week so no Certificate Of Registration till after're shittin me!!
Learning of the urgency after many phone calls along comes a saviour from inside NZTA who wrote a cover letter which firstly ensured I have my Ferry booking from Korea confirmed and secondly AA New Zealand who issue the Carnet de Passage learning of the slight paperwork flombar from the rego gods accepted the NZTA letter as true and correct, there was some hierarchy dealings which was so far above civilian pay grades that made things happen and while I was a little stressed being polite and explaining the whole thing to them got the required result.
AA New Zealand understanding the entire (prior) proceedings also pulled one out of the box, a very pleasant fello named Ian went out of his way making sure all my boxes where (correctly) ticked with the paperwork, normally for a sub 10 day turn around there was an extra $150.00 fee however they spun it around promptly in 2 days and sent it on its way without the surcharge.
So a few grey hairs getting to the finish line (that is the ones that have stayed cos the rest fell out), it was something I certainly could have done without but thems the breaks and sometimes shit happens and you have to pick it up and re-run with it if you have commitments and deadlines, no point in whinging you just have to dig in and do it.         
26th May close now and all paperwork complete and ready, finally I can get onboard with the Garmin Inreach so you fullas can follow me to within 10 minutes.
The Carnet And VISA
No pictures in this, just a record of events that may humour you.
Just when you thought it was safe....
With all the best planning in the universe you still have to rely on "others"
By others I mean no-one of any importance just the Korean Customs and the Russian Embassy.
So, Carnet in hand $1450.00 poorer for the bragging rights I send all the paperwork to Korea Shipper receiver, the lovely man and his wonderful sidekick come back and state my Carnet is not valid in Korea and only to be used in New Zealand...WTF?( a Carnet de Passage is essentially a passport for your bike and gear)
They also say it is restricted goods and DG therefore needs to go to a bonded secure warehouse (note EXPENSIVE) and that 18% tax will be applied which is non refundable, yes they wanted to extort $4730.00 dollars off me.
Now I have been dealing all the way from the beginning with Mainfreight and an email to them expressing my concern, some high powered discussions among the Star Bellie Sneetches they relieved the dishonest importer and customs men of their post and redirected the shipment to those who knew what they were doing and were not trying to buy a new car on me. 
All of this a week and half out from leaving New Zealand it was a surprise I didn't need.
Come Wednesday 15 May 2019 (leaving New Zealand date 26 May 2019) I had a call I didn't want from "The VISA Machine" the guys I had contracted to do all my VISA applications etc.
All VISA's approved bar Russia, the Russia company that does LOI's (Letter Of Invitations) was overrun and had not done my letter, my VISA cannot be processed until the letter is received.....gezz, takes 10 days for VISA to be approved from date of LOI and I had precisely 8 days left... yes ...that is what I said too but mine had an F in it.
Here comes the part of relying on "others", as "The VISA Machine" had my passport for 3 months and the Russian guys should have had their part done in two weeks this should have been done and dusted with enough space to fly a jumbo jet through, their reliance on the Russian side for the Russian VISA bringing our processing time into negative figures was not what was needed.
I seem to be in a phase of one fire after another none of which was my doing, on the positive side I won't need a hair cut and it has all fallen out with stress, I guess things are sent to try us and the best we can do is take the punch and get back up to get it sorted.  
Boxing gloves on a Plan A was still on the cards with The VISA Machine sweet talking the Russian embassy, a Plan B was discussed in case which I hope not to have to deal with.
Plan B would involve DHL overnight my passport from Korea to New Zealand, to the Russian Embassy and back to Korea before I board my Ferry at Donghae to Vladivostok, doable but lends itself to losing my passport or anything shitty happening and Murphy loves to ride with us as you well know so I am not keen on letting my Passport out of my hands….ouwh and yes what could possibly go wrong.
I became apparent pretty quickly my leaving time from New Zealand was needing to be extended by a week. The VISA Machine (although not their fault) said they would pick up the tab for my tickets reallocation, I have to do this regardless of their offer and full credit to World Travellers of Wanaka a minimal fee of $75.00 for the complete shift by one week got it sorted.
We were then all relying on the Russian LOI coming through on Monday 27th May, the stars started aligning and it happened, my Passport and LOI was taken direct to the Russian Embassy where in 3 days they turned it around and back to The VISA Machine.
With 10 days of heavy rain prior, Wanaka jetty going under water, snow on the horizon I made an executive call to have my passport couriered directly to Auckland Airport rather than risk it into Wanaka.
This was the Thursday leading up to Queens Birthday, fog predicted and some flights having already been turned away I knew it was the right choice, if the plane could not land in Queenstown on Friday my Passport would go back to Wellington and sit in courierland somewhere, now given Monday was a public holiday and I fly out on Monday night I knew it was the right choice however leaving home on an international trip WITHOUT my passport in hand was not my first choice and weird but the best choice I could make.
Big thank you to Flight Centre Auckland international for taking delivery of and signing for my passport, when the tracking came through on Friday afternoon as received and signed for we were stoked and I knew I was on my.
All stations go I packed the last stuff down and completed the few tasks at home.       

Wanaka To Auckland To Shanghai To Busan
Sunday morning, wake up, shag, shower, coffee, drill a hole in the neighbours planter so her house does not flood and we hit it to Queenstown.
Frost, grit and snow on the side of the road it was time for this sun lover and warmth seeker to make it out and go, destination Auckland, giving myself one day up my sleeve “just in case” I didn’t need it luckily so I had Sunday night in Auckland with a friend and Monday to boot before hitting the big tin bird.
A short flight to Auckland with only a few bumps and lovely fat lady beside me who took up half of my space as well…awesome.
Greeted by Rose and a fine Auckland day we set off to hers, 5 minutes down the road…. argh shit we meant to go to International to pick up my passport (how could I forget). A quick turn around and over to International I was a very happy man finally having my passport and VISAs in my hand, I had not seen my passport for 3 months and to pick it up the day before leaving was stress, I felt 10 ft tall and bulletproof knowing I had everything in hand and sorted.

Photo 4 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 2)
Yeah I know, but I was happy
Photo 5 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 2)
Correct, Russian VISA
Off to Murawai beach for the afternoon to watch the sun go down was brilliant and relaxing, a dinner, a wine and 10 o’clock I was spent, relieved and mentally pooed.
With no rush on Monday morning I crashed out till 9.30am (unusual for me), again Auckland turned on a good day and we were off to Piha beach for a cruze, for us inlanders the beach is a treat.
Some spectacular caves and blowholes going it was awesome, we decided not to cross a creek as I only have the one pair of shoes and didn’t want them wet and sit in them cold on the plane.
Rose has a dodgy right knee so I stepped down onto the beach from the rock edge and helped her, just as she reached for my hand…..ouwh no….rogue wave came in at mid calf height and soaked my trousers and filled up my shoes…with sandy water….yeah I know…r e a l l y!!!
Gezz, ouwh well no-one died.
Back to Roses, and kit desanded (mostly) and dried (mostly).
As at 5.07 pm on Monday 3 June I am now relaxed, mostly dry, partly gritty and stoked, I hit the hit bird at 11.00pm and off to Shanghai overnight, I wanted a seat up front with the dudes with the steering wheel but apparently you are not allowed wet shoes in their office so I missed out. 
Exiting New Zealand on the Monday night in Auckland it set in, a few tears for both joy and sadness.
Last minute calls to family to say goodbye and I was on my way, the flight to Shanghai I had a window seat and the seat to the left of me was empty…Ha!
Arriving at Shanghai the Chinese Immigration had 1 person to process probably 100 plus people, tensions were running high amongst those who needed to transfer to another flight, after some stiff words they finally bought 2 more people and the line started to move, I was (as was all in this line) purely passing through so ridiculous to have to get a 1 day VISA when not even exiting the airport, this left my 3 hour stopover with only 20 minutes to spare.
Connecting on to Busan, another window seat and another seat on the left of me empty….I think the travel Gods are noting that Ellen is missing from this adventure.
Arriving at Busan, 32 degrees and very humid, I am standing in my long trousers that I left NZ in, needless to say I was getting poached in my own clothing.
Having prebooked the Hotel in Busan my digs were sorted so that made life easy, the air cond bus dropping me 400 metres from my hotel…good times, the customs office, 800 meters away....perfect.     
Ok, that is the end of the big writing bit, more pictures from here on in.           
Busan And Customs
Going back to the horror stories I admit to feeling anxious, I had already confirmed with the shipping agent that there wasn’t any other costs so I was hoping that was true. 
Mr.Park, Korean, could speak a little English, still lots of communicating was done on Translate with Mr.Park being able read rather than understand Kiwi and he was a very polite and nice guy.
A 3 tier process started with him picking me up at 10.00am, which he did on time, it was off to the shippers, then customs, the rego and insurance people. 
One of the customs ladies was a little interesting to deal with and I was warned about her, doesn’t take much more than a Kiwi smile and a larf and she warmed up and opened up.
I got a cool document which makes no sense to me at all and a yellow sticker…WOHHOH.
Photo 1 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
Pretty eh
45 was sitting in the warehouse patiently for me, I had already examined her and things were looking up, I did however notice the pallet and racking etc had taken a real beating with 3 dimensional twists in the steelwork and 1 bolt had been sheared off….1 less to undo LOL.
Something had punctured the top of the crate and nailed the clutch/sidestand switch, not bad, still works so will glue it back in with RTV
Photo 2 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
Photo 3 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
Photo 4 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
All in all 1 hour later and 45 was standing to attention adventure ready, Mr.Park took me to a gas station and I filled my cooker bottle with fuel as the tank was empty for shipping, gas in and all systems go.
Photo 5 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)

Ready for action
Back to the hotel to tighten off, check, adjust, repack and get her sorted ready for the next day which was Thursday 6th June, public holiday in Korea and perfect chance to escape Busan with heavy traffic.
This feeling is one of excitement, shitting myself, twitchy guts and all, having been at the same hotel for the two nights I was local, it is hard to break away from that initial lifeline of comfort but sooner or later ya have to jump in and do it, not easy navving out of a major city and I will explain why.
In Korea motorcycles are NOT allowed on freeway, motorway, expressway so you have to take the back road which is perfect once outa town, GPS was doing its job mostly but the roads I were supposed to take now have a concrete median barriers and so on so there were a number of adjustments needed to get out and I needed to have my wits about me 500% due to the unpaid Busan stunt drivers.
Finally out of the city I hit rural, I wanted to see a combo of real Korea and some nice stuff too, into the back blocks, little traffic, rice fields twisty roads and fuggin HOT and stickie.
I did do an offramp fup at one stage, there was no traffic around at all so I did a little U turn and rode back up the side of the offramp….much to the surprise of the Police on the other side of the median…damn didn’t see them till I did the U-ey, funny thing was they didn’t know what to do either so I just gassed it and turned off at my correct offramp…no worries.   
Photo 7 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
45 in reception
Photo 8 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
Out of town ...burnoffs everywhere
Photo 9 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
...can you see yourself riding a moto...I can
Photo 10 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 3)
Yeap that is a shitload of pots etc on a house roof...must weigh a tonne!
Making my way to a tourist drive the day was turning grey, the smell and taste of rain, a local guy where I had stopped warned me heavy rain coming, 100mm they say…ok time to find some lodgings, being a pubic holiday lots of place were full, I found a hotel and negotiated a price, the place seemed slightly different and I think part of it is a place you rent by the hour, they kept asking if only 1…now it makes sense LOL.
Busan South To Sinjeon
The rain came to fruition, about 130 mm in 12 hours, I stood there looking at 45 as the carpark erupted with muddy water and she stood there with a river running underneath.
The wind had picked up too and water was flying everywhere, the hotel owners sandbagged the rear door which slowed the water down but it still came into reception.
Hoping the wind wouldn’t get much stronger as I didn’t want 45 to drop into the drink, luckily she was behind the hotel which blocked the worst of the wind.
With airplugs in I could hear the rain hammering down and the wind swirling around angrily so it was slightly disconcerting.
The following morning I woke to steady rain but the high volume stuff had left, the temperature some 20 degrees cooler than the previous day although still stickie.
I had an invite to meet Galen who was only 30km away from where I was staying so I hightailed to his place, had a coffee and a banana (thanks mate) and he gave me some pointers on where to go so I had a bloody good look around local stuff I would not otherwise have known about.
Highlight of the day meeting Matthew from Café Matthews, a Kiwi who has set up a café in Hallyeohaesang National Park. I supported him with a coffee and he was stoked to talked win.
Photo 1 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 4)
Matthews Cafe
Unfortunately with the weather system the cloud/fog stole my views of surrounding sea and islands, can win em all, was a great riding day exploring so no complaints.
As I made my way back to civilization I found a camping place so was going to put up the tent, all the sites have raised platforms made of timber, apparently you have to book the sites online and the weekends well ahead…never mind.
Finally settling at Tongyeong at a small place I set too and caught up with the paperwork and trip recording, it has to be done daily or it has gone into the abyss of memory dark lands.
Few pics of today.

Photo 2 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 4)
Nice roads to boot
Photo 3 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 4)
First official bit of gravel
Photo 4 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 4)
A small back road completely made of concrete and this small rock abutment towering over 45
Photo 5 of Korea, Russia, Stans To East Europe (page 4)
My "view" can just see a boat on the water

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