Finally in Vladivostok! Envgenii is waiting for us, a young geography teacher who hotes us in his little apartment for the next two days. Envgenii travels a lot, he has already crossed Russia from Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg on a fixie, a bike has only one speed! He has also been to Japan and South Korea. To animate his courses, he shares his experiences and those of the travelers he hosts to his lucky students. We talk a lot about travel, a bit of Russia, politics and propaganda … He leaves us the keys to his apartment when he goes to work, we feel at home!
Vladivostok is a relatively new city. Very different from what we saw in Irkutsk. In the harbor, we saw large merchant ships and an impressive military fleet. Above, on the hill overlooking the city, there are pretty Orthodox churches topped with whipped cream.
Big biiiiiiig boat
The whipped cream
We buy our ferry tickets to the port, the exchange of our rubles against our ticket is done in an unusual serenity. The next day, at seventeen o’clock, we are aboard the Eastern Dream, a two-week-a-day passenger ship between Vladivostok and Donghae in South Korea. Our cabin is a dormitory of about eighty places. We have access to a disco club, where only a few couples of the first class cabins dance at a small step on a kind of jazz, a sauna and a restaurant. In fact, when you are inside the boat, you have the impression of being in a shopping center whose floor has an unfortunate tendency to lean. All the outside of the boat is covered with a thick layer of ice, as if it had passed through a snowstorm before arriving at the port.
Bye bye Vlad’
Among the passengers, we note a number of Russians, some discrete korean and some tourists who go to South Korea for the Olympic Winter Games. Ha, yes, it’s true! In three days, it will be the beginning of the Olympics! And we thaught stupidly “Yay, in South Korea, there is” South “, so it will be warmer and we can pedal easily”
We were not completely wrong, certainly it’s cold, but we pedal easily. South Korea is covered with bike path as much as France is by Camembert, which makes it a true paradise for cyclists! And since Koreans are perfectionists, we regularly find public toilets and shelters to pitch the tent. Well, these shelters certainly have another use, but we see it as an extra roof for our tent.
Korean people are very hospitable, although a bit more reserved than our Kazakh friends. Our different hosts make us discover their city and the delicious Korean cuisine!
At Jenny, Jaime and Harry’s, we make pancakes for dessert: Team Nutella vs Team Jam
To reach Seoul from the coast, we must go through Pyongchang, the city that hosts the Olympic Games! While we had decided to sleep in our tent by cold temperatures (minus twelve degrees …), we receive a message: colleagues of the brother of a friend of Elsa can accommodate us! They are nice people, who love Pastis (a famous alcohol from South of France), they came to work for the Olympics, they have an extra room for us. Eventually, we stay in their apartment for three days instead of one.
Pancakes and pastis party with our new friends
We are down the ski slopes and at ten minutes by bus from the Olympic events. We are both completely excited to be in the middle of what seems to be a global event (while we were unaware of its existence a week ago) and at the same time a little disappointed. We are immersed in a world as ephemeral as artificial. The snow is crispy and covers only a few slopes, the buildings will be dismantled in a few weeks, others will be abandoned. The few Korean people we talk to are a bit worried about their mountains.
The third day, we take the road again. Our next host is waiting for us a hundred kilometrers away, which is the double of what we, supporter of slowness, are used to cycle. That day, it is minus ten degrees when we ride our bikes. Ouch, it’s gonna be tough. And wham ! to put us a little more in the mood, a strong wind blows us right in the nose. This day, most of the Olympic events were canceled, except the event “bike against the wind”. So we continue. Even downhill, we have to push on the pedals. We left at nine o’clock, an hour and a half later, fifteen kilometers away, we are exhausted and frozen.
Trying to warm up in the wind
We are aiming for a village hoping to find a coffee to regain strength. Heck, there are only houses. Too bad, we’ll ring the doors to ask for hot tea, we’re unable to continue right now. We find a door, we ring.
– “Hello, we ride a bike and …”
– “Hello, do you want to share breakfast with us?”
And hop, without asking us anything, here we are sitting with twenty Russian around a breakfast. Egg, bacon, cereal, coffee tea … As you eat, we warm up slowly. But we keep our coat while all the others around are in pyjamas and do not seem to suffer from the cold. We actually ringed at a parish, all these Russians are missionaries come to preach. They see in us two lost sheep that a divine action would have pushed towards their door. While we swallowed this second breakfast, one of them tells us the Bible in Russian, another is translating and one comes regularly to say to the talkative guy “but leave them, you bother them!” then turning to us “I’m sorry, my friend is very talkative!” But he does not bother us, we wisely listen to his interpretation of the Bible, that he does not seem to try to impose on us. We are too happy to warm up. This kind of meeting, out of nowhere, at the very moment when we are at the end of the rope, it is perhaps what we missed the most during our three months without cycling. Their kindness and warm welcome are the driving force of our trip. We leave them an hour later. It is now too late to travel the distance that separates us from our host before dark but we now feel stronger!