Monday, 30 June 2008


Distance traveled: 15664

I departed Khabarovsk at 8, on a sunny morning, for my last trainride
in Russia, the train would take me north along the Amur river, well of
the transsiberian line - the effect was obvious, Russia isn't exactly
crammed with tourists, but on this train my presense was such a a
novelty that everyone on the adjoining carriages ended up knowing
there was a Daniya on board, and even though the combined english
vacabulary of the train was probably a 100 words or so, i ended up
chatting broken English all night. When we arrived in Vanino on the
coast early next morning i was exhausted. This was no good as it
turned out, as buying tickets for the ferry was no easy feat, dear
audience i kid you not, it took 20 minuttes to issue each ticket, and
with 60-70 people lining up, it was well into the day when somebidy
realized i was Danish, and had a reservation, as it turned out this
was the keywords into a land of milk and honey, as soon a Russian girl
shouted something and everyone made way for me to bypass the whole
que, curriously my ticket took only a few minuttes to issue. The
waiting time for the que to finish was infinitely more comfortable
with a book, a chair and my trusty iPod , after which 200 people
boaded a bus for 70, with luggage too, we practically was in layers. A
bumpy ride later we were by a rusting old ferry in the port, it turned
out the reservation from Khabarovsk, was for a deluxe cabin, with two
rooms, private shower and ocean view - with the aid of my saviours
from the ticket que and my portable speakers this turned into
something of a party pad :-) a 150 kr extra, but well spent. When i
woke up the next morning, we had stopped sailing, i looked out the
window and connected the lack of movement with a 2 meter visibility
outside, due to a thick heavy fog. It was 7 o'clock and we were
anchored just outside Kholmsk, but it was 11 before we made the final
kilometer into port.

At disembarkation we had our passports checked for some unknown
reason, and suddenly i found myself without a passport, it took a good
20 mins wait and a "interview" with an angry Russian lady who only
spoke Russian to get it back, quite perplexing as Sakhalin is laden
with foreign expats working in the booming oilfields.

We made our way to the island's primary city Yuzhno Sakhalinsk where
Antoni & Anja lent me a sofa in their quite nice 1 room flat downtown,
it was a bit akward as they didnt speak more than a few phrases of
English, it turned out to be a great deal more akward when he was
showing me around town in the evening, as it turned out he was a small
time gangster type, we drove around in a taxi, to one shady looking
shack after another, at one of them this guy disappears for half an
hour, and comes back so high as a kite, so much so that he couldnt
stand up straight! Made me quite pissed as half an hour earlier I had
lend him 300 kroner to buy food for their empty fridge, so we could
have some dinner, it was quite obvious that the money had gone to his
addictions instead! We wen't out to some clubs, and came home alot
poorer and late to their appartment. Next morning I made my escape for
a Hotel as soon as I woke up, I decided to get my ass to Korsakov, as
Yuzhno Sakhalin was really getting on my nerves, as it turned out my
feeling was justified as my "gracious" hosts had relieved me of my
reserve stock of Euroes, and the 10.000 rubles I had withdrawn for the
ferry ticket and hidden away in my backpack, but since this was
Russia, and you just don't deal with police here voulenteerly, there
was not a darn thing to be done about it, it was not like they would
have understood me anyway. So it was quite simply a question of
getting over it (rather hard considering the amount) and see it as
another late night travel tale.

My days in Korsakov, was spent preoccupied with buying ferry tickets,
which was no easy feat! After walking around town for a full day
asking around to no avail, everyone unanimously gave me the same
confused look when I mentioned Wakkanai and Japan, so much so that I
began wondering if service had been withdrawn? Next day I shifted
strategies, and was fortunate enough to find some Internet in the
postoffice, after a great deal of research I found a place down in the
port, that was supposed to sell tickets, but as I went there, and
asked around, All I got was a Njet and the same confused look. That
was until an old grandfather type worker from the port in Kansas
outfit, took me under his wings, and pumped some old ladies in an
official looking office for information. They agreed on the Mozvokzal
(sea terminal) which I found rather useless, as my visit there the day
before, had resulted in a Njet and a shake on the head. However,
undettered the old man showed me in his truck, and drove me there. At
first the equation, ended in much of the same result, until the lady
suddenly she conferred with a colleague, and pointed to the adjoining
office building along with some fast incomprehensible Russian.
Reinvigorated I went there, but soon came tumbling back to earth, as
my road to the land of milk and honey was blocked by a security
officer who's vocabulary only seemed to extend as far as 'Njet!', when
even 'open sesame, open' failed, I gave up, and decided to wait until
the Mozvokal ladies 1,5 hour lunch break was over.

After a bit of convincing, I got her to come along, the reason she
only needed a bit of convincing, was probably due to fact that she got
to yell at the security officer! ;-) I got in at last, only to find
the office closed!! I went up to a vantage point overlooking the
harbour and desperately scouted for the ferry, which I was sure was
certain was supposed to arrive at this time, but no ferry was in
sight, and I began contemplating on my options getting out of this
mess, none of them seemed particulary attractive.

However when I returned, the office was open, and Anna in there, gave
a confused look at my hands folded in prayer, as she answered that
they Indeed sold tickets for the Wakkanai ferry. Half an hour late a
walked past the security guard with a triumphant smile on my face?
Tickets for tomorrows ferry at hand! My smile was even broader, next
morning when I with a fresh exit stamp in my passport, walked over the
ferry ramp, and the staff gave a bow and a 'irreshaimase' as welcome,
beneath a Japanese flag lightly swaying in the seabrease. Ferry was
Modern, clean - not a speck of rust, and the staff friendly and
smiling, I could even understand them, it was culture chock

- Stefan

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