Outside there were used Japanese cars everywhere. There were cars on the roof deck and cars on the bow, cars around the swimming pool and cars next to the lifeboats. Inside the pool, which had been drained the day before we set sail, were two identical SUVs sandwiching a white Honda minivan. Down in the hold were more used cars, eight circus tigers, five bears, 13 trained house cats, and hundreds of Alexei's tires. Judging from the bottle after bottle of expensive champagne that Alexei bought, shook up, and sprayed all over the circus girls, the tire business is lucrative.
Published: June/July 2008Road-Tripping the Trans-Siberian Highway
6,000 Miles to Moscow
Throat singers, track suits, circus acts, Buddhist prophecies, and car shepherds—a trip across the newly opened Trans-Siberian highway is a glimpse at globalization gone wild.
Photographs by Aaron Huey
I have a friend in the tire business in Vladivostok. Alexei Gorbunov is 26, bearded, and not much of a dancer, and when we first met in the bar of the M.V. Rus car ferry in the middle of the Sea of Japan, he was drunk out of his mind. He was not alone. The dance floor was filled with gyrating car traders and scrap metal dealers and a troupe from Moscow's Bolshoi Circus, which was taking the slow boat home after a tour in Japan. There were a few foreigners on board—a Finnish girl running from a boyfriend in Tokyo, a Japanese family about to take the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Germany, a Serbian motorbiker on his way back overland to Belgrade—but the vibe and pounding techno were perfectly Russian. The crowd drank vodka. The acrobats threw backflips.