7/10 - Vladivostok
I'm all packed, into what I fear will be an absolutely crippling pack weight, and I've got my pocket gear well organized. It remains only to finished getting dressed, strap up, and go check out. Even with that hill, I don't want to start before 10:30 -- I don't anticipate more than half an hour for the hike, and this should leave plenty of time for ticket exchange and that last souvenir before boarding at noon. Thus, a fairly long time sitting tight and watching the Russians murderate everyone at the Universiade.
0619. Last balcony view.
0620. One more into the anchorage.
The outside temperature has cooled down a little, but my pack is just crushing. I have to get rid of that huge glass Scotch bottle ASAP, and I'm really glad this is the last hike I'll do with a full water bottle down at the very bottom of everything.
This notebook will be exhausted either before I get to Japan, or shortly after arrival. Fortunately, the next one is packed in the top pocket, right under my jacket. Short changeover, keep rolling. Most of the time, I don't finish a full book per trip, but this was three weeks out and change, with a lot of stuff I'm not going to see or experience again; I'm not going to need all three books, but it's better to have and not need than to need and not have....and I'm definitely going to write a fair piece into the second book.
After pulling my right lace apart again yesterday, I bit the bullet and halved the left lace, then relaced both boots from it. This should be ok well into Japan, and lets me avoid opening up the main backup lace packet. If possible, I'd rather leave that as late as possible to avoid cutting laces in airport terminals where I can't pull out my knife and a bunch of old leather and fix something up.
0621. The brilliant blue of Amur Bay.
0622. "You're going the right way, comrade!" Lenin points the way to Japan.
- DBS Eastern Dream -
After minimal struggles with souvenirs (success), the exchange desk (fail, I'll have to change at prisoner rates on board), and port staff (success), I've now officially left Russia for the ship I'll be living on for the next 2ish days.
0623. Aboard the Eastern Dream. After the train, this is just an immense space -- even for 8 people.
It being 8-up, and me in bunk 4, I do want to wait until either the cabin fills up or we get underway to go back on deck. It's good to know who your bunkmates are, and it's easier, as a rule, to rifle unattended gear if you aren't putting a face to it. All my really important stuff is on my person, but you take care anyways.
A random strap came off my pack in the boarding process. Nothing came apart, so it's probably not real important, but still.
The dude in 7 appears solid, even if he's packed what looks like a bookcase or bench or something. Weird as all get out.
0624. Seriously what is that even?
Through the hull, through the walls, through the pillow and my jacket, I hear the thrum of the engines. To one like me, at least, it's more lulling than the muzak they're putting over the loudspeakers.
So far, five of the eight bunks are taken. I'm the only one with an upper. We'll see who else shows up before we push off.
And just like that, we're under way. Up to the deck!
video15: Farewell, 'vostok!
0625. A look back into the harbor.
0626. Ships at anchor, close.
0627. Along the container port.
0628. Ship headed in past us, and out into the strait.
0629. Containers and port control tower.
0630. Closeup on the Orion, out of Nakhodka.
0631. Port control tower on the southern hill.
0632. The bridge over the Eastern Bosporous, before we turned into the track.
0633. Bridge, closer, and ro/ro ship.
0634. Old trawler in the middle of the channel.
0635. North foot of the bridge again.
0636. South foot; this is almost but not quite a stitch pan.
0637. Container ships in quay, southwest Vladivostok, behind us.
0638. Buoy and wake in the channel.
0639. Harbor panorama.
0640. Back to the south corner.
0641. Tramp container ship coming in.
0642. Old trawler coming past.
0643. The Chan Tai Hong lumbers through the channel.
0644. Full side-on view; note the seagulls swarming the bilges.
0645. Past; for a ro/ro headed in to Vladi, she's incredibly high in the water (usually, cars come in this way; maybe it'll be lugging Russian trucks to China), and listing hardcore to port.
0646. Coming up on the bridge span.
0647. Container ship, about to pass us by under the bridge.
video16: Transiting under the Eastern Bosporous bridge.
0648. Container ship from 0647, broadside.
0649. Another control tower, headed out.
0650. The green end of the southern landmass.
0651. Past the bridge, headed away.
0652. Distant lighthouse rock.
0653. Exposed rock shows how the land's been forced up from the water.
0654. Lighthouse closer and in better focus.
0655. Last habitation; we're headed out to sea.
0656. Container ships at anchor, waiting their turn to come in.
0657. Lighthouse, headed past.
0658. Chinese submarine tender Hongzehu, coming in.
0659. Lighthouse and ships beyond.
0660. Russian coast guard ship, feeling the seas. I estimate about 4' seas (base to peak, duh; for interested physicists, wavelength was about 5m), which is obviously a lot more significant in a 100-foot cutter than a 300-foot liner.
0661. Tug in our wake, probably taking off the harbor pilot(s).
0662. Freighters sitting out.
video17: The bow cuts foam out of the waves.
0663. Town and factory smokestacks.
0664. Closer to that freight convoy.
0665. All five ships in the frame.
0666. Sky above, ship below.
0667. Rills in the waves in our wake.
0668. Shadows of distant mountains. We have to take a very easterly course out of Vladivostok, because the Korean border is perilously close, and this is a South Korean vessel (albeit registered in Panama). DBS doesn't make money if their ship gets rocketed for violating something the DPRK can claim as their territorial waters.
0669. Receding shore from the starboard side.
0670. More mountains in the wake.
0671. Hills probably around Nakhodka, fading away.
Being somewhat out of interesting things to take pictures of -- we are in the Pacific goddamned Ocean after all -- I went below, failed at getting snacks, then repaired to my bunk to write up the views of the passage out. It's about 3 now; I can get some reading in, then eat dinner from my provisions. Five meals will be tight, but it's not like I'm burning calories sitting in my bunk or anything.
A Few Words On (71):
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (E.R. Burroughs)
In this one, Tarzan provides the springboard for a cut-down Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a tale that even by normal Tarzan standards of hidden cities in darkest Africa is really reaching. Burroughs, of course, does not care, and thus courtly knights clash for the favor of beautiful ladies in the middle of the jungle. The rest of the plot -- Tarzan tracking down Arab slavers -- is pretty good, but it still feels mroe perfunctory than anything else.
A Few Words On (72):
Tarzan of the Apes (E.R. Burroughs)
Burroughs does less world-building here than on Mars, but there's less world to build. Free of the later gimcrackery of lost cities and primeval remnants, this is Tarzan as a creature of the real world, living as an ape man at the turn of the colonial century would have, ceaselessly battling forest beasts, terrorizing cannibal natives, and coming to grips with civilization. This is the roots as well as the origin of Tarzan, and the more Burroughs got away from it in later books, the more the character suffered. This, though, is good stuff -- the utterly unnecessary mammy character apart -- and will continue to stand the test of time.
A Few Words On (73):
The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw (E.R. Burroughs)
This short story is the bones of what, after the barrack-room edges were sanded off, would become The Eternal Lover. The plot is slightly more plausible, if underworked, and if the gimmick is underdeveloped, it's at least grounded in real Soviet science of the period. Ultimately, though, this idea exists in a better and longer form -- if with a much stupider frame -- and at present the story mostly just serves as a vehicle for Burroughs' virulent and burning hatred for liberated women. After they get the caveman out of the ice, it's probably ok to stop.
It's only six, but with no samovars on offer, there's no reason to get up. Bored bored bored.
A Few Words On (74):
The Return of Tarzan (E.R. Burroughs)
This book starts out as a tiresome fin de siecle spy novel, drudging through Paris intrigues and the desert with the Foreign Legion before Tarzan finally gets back to Africa (well, his part of Africa; the Maghreb obviously is not Tarzan country) and finds itself. Here, he befriends the Waziri, discovers Opar, fights apes, and eventually saves Jane and her party of castaways. Given how good Tarzan can be when it's actually Tarzan doing Tarzan stuff, it's puzzling that Burroughs didn't write more of it here.
A Few Words On (75):
The Son of Tarzan (E.R. Burroughs)
Once the initial scene-setting has gotten jammed down, this is all Tarzan, root and branch, even if the namesake character barely figures in the story. This is Jack/Korak's book, and it's he who does most of the Tarzan stuff, and well -- almost too well, but Burroughs is a caste/class-conscious Lamarckian as well as a racist, and the son in that system inherits the developed as well as latent virtues of the father. The end is a little too neatly tied up, but the rest of the novel more than compensates for it.
A Few Words On (76):
The Tarzan Twins (E.R. Burroughs)
This story is a bit of slap-bang kid lit that is pitched, obviously, at a younger audience than Tarzan -- and, indeed, the great body of Burroughs' work -- generally is. The main characters are unlikeable cutouts bumbling through the jungle, and even at that, they spend most of their time in captivity. This should not be counted as canon Tarzan, really, and only on a long boat or train trip does it even ascend to "worth reading".
A Few Words On (77):
Thuvia, Maid of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
After that crappy pretend Tarzan, it's a greater feeling than any to be back on Mars, this time following John Carter's kid as he battles green Martians, finds an ancient city, serves as a panthan with his enemy, and finally wins the woman he loves. This is pure, rip-roaring, Martian swashbucklery, and if the gray-eyed hero is only half human, what difference does it make? This is Burroughs' best setting, and this book is one of the better tales in it.
A Few Words On (78):
Warlord of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
This one picks up at the cliffhanger at the end of Gods of Mars, and doesn't stop until John Carter has battled literally pole to pole and defeated every race and nation on the planet. Truly that title is earned. Also interesting is the way that Burroughs, frequently quite racist on Earth (and super racist on Venus), can consider different races of equal virtue on Barsoom. Of course, anybody can be equal if John Carter can cut them into hamburger, but Burroughs is a world builder, so it's the thought that counts.
This finishes all of the Burroughs. I have a bunch of Bulwer Lytton waiting, but it's nearly 11 -- nearly 9 more like, we should be on SK time here, but whatever -- and the combination of late hour and this author is an excellent inducement to go the hell to sleep.
7/11 - Eastern Sea
0672. Morning on the waters.
It's about 5:30, so the sun is somewhere out there in the fog, maybe below the horizon still, maybe above. We're about four and a half hours out of Donghae by the schedule, so we're still running mostly south; there isn't anywhere on the boat with more light up than the port beam.
With regard to sleeping, there's pluses and minuses relative to the train. On the plus side, the bunk is wider and a tad longer than on the Trans-Sib. On the minus side, it kind of has to be, because there is no dedicated gear storage space in the cabin at all, and all of my equipment is in the bunk with me. I ended up sleeping with my coat and pillow on my pack, and my boots and shoulder bag alongside me on the wall. The others have no such problems, because they can reasonably claim bits of the floor; in an upper berth, you're properly entitled to basically the footprint of your sandals/slippers in that regard. I slept decently for all that, but in some ways I'd rather have booked the second led, to Japan, in advance. I'd've had a better chance at a lower berth, and I'd've known that I'd have to pack up my gear and debark in Donghae, even just to reboard, which would give me time in town. That would've been much more expensive, though -- Japan, relative to the cost of Vladi-Donghae, is like an eighty-dollar throw-in on the current ticket -- and not only am I quite willing to sacrifice comfort for adventure, I'm also cheap as all get out.
My watch is now on what should be Seoul time; we'll see if I can confirm onshore. Vladivostok felt about two hours off from actual time, though, so I shouldn't have too many problems adjusting.
A Few Words On (79):
A Strange Story (E.B. Lytton)
Lovecraft wished that he had not been of the 20th century. I for one am greatly thankful that he was, for if he had been born earlier, he would have been Lytton, who has got to be about the most tiresome idiot to ever abuse the English language in the service of the supernatural. This book is about three times longer than it needs to be, filled up with religious philosophy, useless society posturing, and footnotes on goddamned footnotes. This is intolerable and insane garbage that more than anything else, made me want to stab the author over and over again. The germ of an idea here is done much better, in like a tenth of the pagecount, by Lovecraft's "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward", and when you get the action in this line, it's decent, but dragging this stuff out of the Victorian bloviation is like distilling gold from seawater. Worse than useless.
It's shortly before nine, and we left about an hour early. Time for a turn outside; at the very least, I don't have the heart to approach another Bulwer Lytton right now.
0673. Haze to the southeast.
0674. A look along the wall of the ship.
0675. Oppa Gangwon style.
0676. Fishing boat on the starboard side.
0677. Impressions in the distance.
0678. Life preserver and registry.
0679. Cut-fit sauropod sculpture on the upper deck, because ok.
0680. Waves boil in the wake.
0681. Curvature of the earth.
0682. SK picket ship, on guard.
0683. A hopeful try at a better view, attempting to get the sonar "tail".
0684. First sight of land -- we'll see if the camera picked it up.
Re-embark is 15:00, but I plan to be loitering long before that. Full pack wears on you after a while. This, though, is the end of this book at least; Korea and Japan will start on the first page of the second volume, making this the appropriate place to cut the post.