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18 January 2015

I woke up a little late, but this wodka stuff is amazing in that it gave me no headache, I felt totally clear. Wow, maybe that’s why the Russians drink it, to feel totally clear. Okay then, time for another bike ride. From Bikin I rode to Luchegorsk, about 60 kilometers. Now the area south of Bikin is some kind of nature reserve and there are bears and tigers supposedly. If you go to YouTube and you search for “tiger highway bikin” you will see a tiger on the highway near Bikin.

Khabarovsk 219 km, Vladivostok 549 km

Bears and tigers, right... But hey, not to worry, the bears would be asleep, and the tigers, well... the reason they put these movies on YouTube is because there aren’t many tigers on the highway, it’s unusual. Tigers don’t like highways.

But this highway was not very busy. Maybe four cars per hour, max. This thing about the tiger kept revolving in my head, I started worrying a little about the tiger. What if right now the tiger shows up and ... It feels very very lonely out there, Russia is big big big. Sure, four cars an hour is still four cars an hour, on the other hand I am sure a tiger doesn’t need fifteen minutes and also I am not used to this kind of emptyness, it was a little uncomfortable. Total silence. No cars, no planes, no birds, nothing. You stop biking and you only hear yourself, breathing, walking. There is nothing else.

Instead of getting eaten by a tiger, I got chased by some asshole dogs for about ten minutes. These were not friendly dogs. When they finally left me alone I stopped and digged a big knife from the bottom of my luggage and kept it within reach for the rest of the trip. Next dog is for me… And when I finally saw Luchegorsk on the horizon I was happy this part was almost over.

Numbered logs

In Luchegorsk I was looking at my GPS to figure out how to get to the hotel. Immediately an SUV stops, man steps out, says he is Igor, can he help? How does Igor know I am a foreigner? Anyway I explain that I need a hotel and he says “follow me”, brings me straight to a hotel. Super easy, very friendly.

Same house on Google Streetview

In the evening I walked around a bit to find a restaurant. I asked a man if he knew a restaurant. “Sure” he said, “I will walk you there”. He brought me to a restaurant and then of course I invited him for a beer and some talk. He was a navy officer with the marines from Vladivostok and we talked about politics and his work in the navy. He had to laugh about me doing sixty kilometers a day. “In the navy we also do sixty per day” he said, “on foot, in the snow”. These people talk very easy and openly. They often told me Putin may have been good for Russia, but they are not sure about the future. The last guy that I talked to was the taxi driver back to the airport in Vladivostok. Ilia, a Russian native speaker, also spoke Chinese, Japanese and English, and his English was totally ok. He told me that he doubted Putin would try to hold on to his power. Referring to the 1961 wall in Germany he felt that now it was the rest of the world building an economic wall around Russia. Putin is popular, but it is not that they don’t care and only absorb what’s on TV. Most of them that I was able to talk to seemed to be very well informed and I found that their perspective is not very different from mine, the main difference is that they are being lied to by RT and other Russian newspapers, while we are being lied to by the New York Times, CNN, the Dutch NRC and Telegraaf. Of course I only talked to the people that speak English, that’s not really representative for all Russians.

In the hotel they had double windows with two separate frames, you see them in France a lot as well. You can open both frames separately. They put old clothes between te window and the frame to stop the draught, which is very effective until some stupid tourist tries to open the window.

Old clothes as insulation against draft from the windows. Simple and effective