16 January 2015 I rode from Khor to Vyazemsky, about 55 kilometers. It is not a long trip and while the temperature was below -20º Celcius, there was little wind and a blue sky. In total I think it took me four hours to do the 55 kilometers so speed was low. Why so slow? Low temperature, four layers of clothing, icy road, one centimeter of snow on the road, and thirty kilo luggage on my bike.
15 January 2015 After these two days in Kiinsk I made my first bike ride. Important day, now the trip had started for real. Russians have a saying “you better have twenty friends than twenty rubel” and therefore I was not allowed to go to a hotel. Instead the family where I stayed made a phonecall with a friend named Tamara in Khor and I was supposed to ride to Tamara’s house, only 37 kilometers away.
9 January 2015 On the 9th I took the train to Khabarovsk, an eleven hour train ride. These trains are comfortable, relaxing and they are not expensive, I paid 40 euro for 800 kilometers. I shared a cabin with three other passengers. Some spoke a little English. Each wagon has an attendant that makes sure we have blankets and coffee and tea. There is a hot water machine in each wagon, an impressive piece of equipment.
7 and 8 January 2015 7th and 8th January is Orthodox Christmas. My agenda: buy a train ticket to Khabarovsk, go shopping for extra shoes and gloves, and attend a mass in the Pokrovsky Cathedral. I start with buying the train ticket. In the Netherlands all websites warn that train tickets must be purchased over the internet in advance, because once in Russia you pay double prices and the trains are fully booked.
6 January 2015 I spent some time in the hotel fixing the jetlag, and then in the evening I took a cab to downtown Vladivostok. Just for fun I try getting there with the bus, but after about one kilometer the bus leaves the highway and drives into the village of Trudovoye, and that’s the end point of this bus. Trains don’t run tonight, so all I can do is take a taxi.
On 5th January 2015 I flew from Amsterdam to Moscow, then to Vladivostok. I had an Aeroflot ticket and I thought I would sit in a Tupolev, but surprise, Aeroflot doesn’t have any Tupolevs. Aeroflot has 16 Boeings, over 100 Airbusses and 16 Sukhois, and the Sukhois are the smaller planes for the short distances. KLM from Amsterdam to Moscow That was the first sign of a Russian industry that has been marginalised over the last couple of years.
My daughter was in Vladivostok for three months for her studies and I thought that it was a nice excuse to make a little bike trip from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok, 800 kilometers. Usually I spend sufficient time in the preparation of trips, but unfortunately this time I rushed it a bit, and in the hurry I overlooked one tiny detail: the fact that in January it is a little cold over there.