BACK HOME FROM HOME AND ON TO JAPAN
OK, I stole that line from someone else on Facebook but it really felt that way. We had such a great time back home in Austria and Switzerland, seeing friends and family again for the first time in more than 2 years, celebrating our wedding with everyone and enjoying tons of good food and more meat than we saw in the last two years resulting in a serious increase in body weight and decline of climbing ability. Maybe the incredible amounts of alcohol we consumed during all the nice dinners, birthday parties and hangouts also played a role. Never mind, the body weight is back to normal, only the memories of ever lasting barbecue nights, boat rides on the river Rhine and wonderful days spent with family and friends remain. The last time I had spent so much time in my hometown Trofaiach was before I graduated from high school, which was a few years ago.
End of August it was time to head back to our home, Rouletout, bravely waiting all alone on a parking lot in Busan but carefully watched by Christoph and Dong-il for two tropical Korean summer months. Our flight brought us to Seoul, Mutlu and his cradle plus 120kg of luggage would have made our onward journey to Busan a little painful but here he was, Mr. Kim, organised by Dong-il, was waiting in front of Incheon airport for us with his van and off we went to Busan and directly in front of our home. Being back in Korea really felt like another homecoming. Only now we realised how much we missed the food, the smells, the easy going lifestyle and all our friends we made during the first 3 months of our stay. We cancelled our stop-over in Turkey due to some still unexplained event called by some an attempted military coup and so we decided to have our teeth checked and fixed in Busan. Korean dentists are very famous and very skilled, because they are used to chop sticks we learned. This and the fact that we had to organise a few other things was the reason we stayed in the south of Korea for another month. Climbing in our favourite
and some new spots, partying with the old friends and organising our ferry and paperwork for Japan - something that sounds easier than it is. First, the ferry company does not want a dog on its ferry, then the Japanese are not sure if we need a Carnet de Passage or if there is another way to temporarily import a car, just days before the journey the ferry company says we have to find insurance for Japan by ourselves and lastly the Korean vets are afraid of the Japanese regulations for dogs and take days to complete the papers but finally, everything worked out and we were almost ready to go. But wait, there was one more thing - we had to say good bye to everyone. Dong-il decided that this can only happen at a decent farewell party and quickly a date and location was set. Friends from Seoul to Busan flocked to Miryang to one of our favourite cliffs, duck meat was barbecued and lots of soju, beer and whiskey consumed. We received an amazing farewell gift - an oil painting by Mijeong Field of Dong-il and us in front of Rouletout - exchanged hugs and spent the last two days shopping and preparing for Japan. Thanks again Korea, we love you!
It was a dark and rainy night when the New Camellia left the international ferry terminal of Busan, in her “belly” our Rouletout, in Rouletout our Mutlu and the two of us in a Korean style cabin for the overnight journey to Hakata (Fukuoka). I think the employees of the ferry company were at least as excited as me, it doesn’t happen very often that a foreign car makes that journey, and so they made sure that everything worked out perfectly - almost though, in the process I got a new name - my ticket was for “Schwerer Motorwagen” (heavy truck, no idea from which document they copied it) which confused immigration in Japan a bit, but never mind. Customs in Korea took just minutes, loading Rouletout (we were the only non-cargo vehicle on the journey) was a breeze
and we were ready to enjoy our Asahi beer on the windy deck. When the crew woke us to drive Rouletout
off the ferry we were already in Hakata port. At 07:00 the bridge went down and we went through immigration where already someone from the Japanese side of the ferry company awaited us and guided us through the process. Bringing a dog to Japan is also not done routinely - especially through Hakata as the ferry companies normally don’t take dogs. Therefore our first stop was the animal quarantine officer.
I had exchanged lots of e-mails with her and we had the pre-approval of importation, needless to say that she was well prepared and Mutlu was the first to be cleared for entering Japan, in less than 20 minutes. The plant quarantine officer was mostly interested in our fridge and confiscated eggs and apples (and our rubbish) - all other vegetables and fruits received a Japanese sticker and were approved for entering Japan. The only thing left was sterilising the tires of Rouletout and Güclü - our motorbike - (and of course the spare tires) and by the time this was done we received our C5014 temporary import forms for our vehicles, placed a Japanese sticker on the plates and drove off the dock - once again on the left side - into Fukuoka. The whole immigration didn’t even take two hours.
To our surprise the climate was quite different than expected, tropical heat and humidity awaited us and while we drove through Kyushu - the southernmost of the bigger Japanese islands - you rather feel like driving through Thailand than through Japan. Bamboo forests, crabs, surfers, endless sandy beaches and sea cliffs dominate the scenery and we had quite a hard time to get used to Japan. So many things we had learned to love and got used to in Korea were different or non-existing and even though the two countries are less than 200 miles apart by now we can already tell they are very different. This makes Japan - presumably our last Asian country on this journey - an interesting place to explore. But as always, more on that in another blog entry.