Posts Tagged ‘television’

Hotel Vladivostok

15th October 2010 by Helen

We’ve had three nights staying in the Hotel Valdivostok.  Bit over our daily budget here but price includes secure parking, free Wi-Fi and unlimited breakfast, so in the wider scheme of things it’s been worth it.  We’ve actually watched some TV since we’ve been here.  First we’ve seen since we left the UK.  The most popular channel appears to be the fashion channel and we’ve been critiquing the 2011 Spring-Summer fashion shows.  In fact, it’s not just the hotel that has a fascination with FashionTV – it’s on in most of the cafe’s too.

The hotel laundry service is laughably expensive so I’ve been doing hand washing in the bathroom sink and keeping the housekeeping service at bay while we have washing lines up all around the room!!  To wash a couple of T-shirts and the pile of underwear I’ve washed would have cost £54.  Cheaper to buy new in the local markets and throw them away afterwards. 

There are some stunning views across the Sea of Japan from the hotel bedroom window – shame about the cranes and other building work evidence that gets in the way!!

We’ve met up with some other travellers we met earlier in the journey.  The Amsterdam to Tokyo group sailed off to Korea on Wednesday.  They’ve been an amazing group.  A Cabriolet club from Holland they’ve raced their way through to Valdivostok from Amsterdam in 2-3 months.  Mostly in only slightly modified soft top road cars they’ve covered what passes for roads in both Kazakhstan and Mongolia.  It sounds like they had a lot of fun on the way.  One car with two ladies (at least one of whom is retired) broke down, were helped out by a lorry driver who let them sleep in his cab before they could get to their next hotel stop.  Now I am jealous!!  But it justs adds more evidence to our experience of how considerate other regular road users are to each other on these often isolated roads.

Jo & An, who we met in Ulaanbaatar, also set off on the same ferry on the next leg of their journey, heading to Africa via South Korea.

Jo & An heading for South Korea

Jo & An heading for South Korea

In the footsteps of the famous

4th October 2010 by Helen
our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Well, after our departure from Khilok we headed off to Chita, as you know.  We’ve spent about a week here, camping alongside various lorries outside a cafe just outside of town.  It shows up well on the route map if you zoom in.  We’ve been told by one of the young women working in the cafe that a few years ago Rosie Swale-Pope ( camped outside their cafe when she passed this way during her five year run around the world.  In the footsteps of the famous, eh!!  And we’ve introduced the cafe to the idea of lemon and sugar pancakes.  It took a bit of miming and they had to watch us eat them as they’d never heard of this combination before!!  Pancakes are usually filled with either savoury (meat – see also below) or a thick stodgy jam or served with mayonaise.


our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Sadly, we’ve had to call of our Road of Bones section.  After the delays in Kazakhstan, then Mongolia and now Siberia, our visa times have got tighter and tighter.  We have to be out of Russia by 27th October and it’s just not possible to get to Magadan and then down to Vladivostok in the time we have left available. 

Paul in particular is gutted, it was his primary reason for travelling in this part of the world.  However the incident with the horse was the final straw.  Hopefully he will have the chance to try again in a couple of years time.  Only trouble is, with the new road having been built the old road is getting more and more impassable with time and we don’t know for how long this will be achievable.

We’ve divided our time between our ‘campsite’ and the city centre, catching up on writing sponsors reports, working on our next round of sponsorship negotiations, refining our schools project to take into account what we have learned so far (and expanding to include additional schools who want to take part), taking a look at some of the sights, such as Lenin Square, and doing a bit of shopping for a second pair of warm trousers each as we head off into still colder climes.  Doesn’t solve my general misery at finding myself clumping through a fashionable city in my hefty walking boots though!!  Young Russian women have got keeping warm and stylish down to an art.  The older ones look more stereotypical though, so maybe I should just accept my age and go with the flow!!

We have been delighted to find a Coffee-Mall with free WiFi.  The food’s not particularly cheap but it is good quality and for once it is possible to order a meat dish and get something that hasn’t been chopped up and processed into something else.  Paul is also delighted to have found decent coffee as well.  Unfortunately the service is largely desultory, but, hey, you can’t have everything!!

We have had many conversations along the way about our different approaches to food: Paul enjoys good food well cooked and lovingly presented.  He is surely the darling of the true chef, fully appreciative of their art.  I enjoy this too but as Paul will point out I have a much higher tolerance to the whole Central Aisian ‘food is fuel’ approach: meat (don’t ask what sort, the answer is usually ‘meat’, they don’t know), processed into some kind of burger, possibly wrapped in pasta, often served in some kind of stew (goulash), often with assorted arteries still visible in between the gristle and fat – served with either pasta or mashed potato, and a couple of slices of cucumber and tomato.  Virtually everything comes served with mayonaise.

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Anyway, even if the food isn’t exactly cheap the free WiFi makes up for the cost as we’d have to pay even more for the amount we’ve been using in the local Post Office provision.  At least we can use our own laptops, which is usually quicker than the ancient computers otherwise available, which makes updating blogs, sending emails, etc, etc, so much easier.

We did have a bit of excitement on Friday.  We were approached by a young man called Simon on Thursday asking us if we would be interviewed for a Russian TV programme about extreme travel.  Simon is involved in and – we could probably have done with knowing them when we were stuck

view through Lenin Square, Chita

view through Lenin Square, Chita

in the forest!!  One of the staff, Julia, at the station speaks good English and acted as an interpretor for us.

The weather varies between very cold and almost balmy.  In the city it can reach mid 20’s.  Outside the city: overnight it can drop below freezing and

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

sometimes we have woken up having to scrape the ice off the inside of the tent.  Reminds me of the days before central heating when my mother used to coax me out of bed to look at what ‘Jack Frost’ had painted on the inside of the window!!

We’ve been told (by Julia) that although English is the official second language, here in Siberia Chinese is much more useful for business and trade.

Through numerous emails and phone calls Paul is currently negotiating to ship Landy out of Vladivostok, probably to either Vancouver or Seattle, possibly via Japan or not.  Our plans to ship straight to Anchorage have been foiled by no-one shipping to there at present (it varies year by year).  Either way Landy’s journey will take about six weeks and so he will arrive sometime around the beginning/middle of December.  In the meantime we will be flying (we are not allowed to travel on the boat with Landy) to Anchorage, from where we will make some kind of combination journey using public transport and the ferry down to Billingham (just north of Seattle), from where we can get to the port so we can be reunited with Landy again.

I’ve missed my proverbs so had to slip one in, just in case some of you haven’t got anything better to do than ruminate on the meaning of these things!!  Rational animals of the genus Homo who have ceased to exist also ceases to recount connected narratives.

More two steps forward, one back

13th April 2010 by Helen

Well, Paul’s done his philosophical bit as he struggles to cope with the abundance of doom and gloom questions from the kids.

What with us both being ill when we got back our preparation progress has got a bit behind.  Despite that we’ve still managed to get some more of our vaccinations done (almost complete now).  There’s been a delay in the receipt of our Russian Letter of Invitation, which will mean a delay in getting our Russian visa.  We have however, received our new laptop which we will be taking with us, thanks to the folks at TVP.  Paul has managed to get outside and do some more work on fitting out Landy’s rear storage compartment.

The ‘great book clearout’ is now closed and I took all the remaining books, plus a load more that we had sorted out, to our local second hand bookshop who took about half of them off our hands. 

Having followed up some previous enquiries about the sale of furniture we have now sold off almost all our furniture except our bed (which will go into storage), a sideboard and a bookcase.  Paul had a novel experience last weekend when I opened the house up as a giant boot fair and various people turned up and rummaged around our personal items, buying some and leaving some as they felt fit.  Still, it brought in nearly £200.  To put that into context, that will fund around 4 days’ travel.

The TV has gone on long term loan.  In trying to cancel my TV licence it is quite apparent that the TV Licencing Authority have no concept that anyone can live without a TV.  When I lived without a TV before they kept writing to me warning me in strong terms that watching TV without a licence is a criminal offence.  Only in the small print is there ever any mention of not needing a licence if you don’t have a TV.  I’m expecting a battle in trying to get the refund I’m due.  Maybe those kids who kept asking, “won’t you get bored without a TV” know something we don’t!!

We now have a former lounge full of various bits and pieces either being advertised in the front window, on eBay or heading for another boot fair.  We have a former dining room with a growing corner of stuff that ultimately needs to be packed into Landy ready for departure.  The other corner has two camp chairs and a large plastic crate pretending to be a dining table.  It feels like camping indoors.

Finally, I would like to thank James for the following to add to my collection of proverbs.  As usual, if you know what it means, feel free to reply in a post.

Refrain from embarking upon the education of a senior citizen, to whom you are related, regarding the removal by the application of vacuum, of an unfertilized foetus of a flightless bird, from its protective ceramic shell.