After an evening of carefully watching the woods around us for wild animals (we saw a fox and a deer, no bears!) we set off from our makeshift camp and continued to head North through Romania towards Moldova and the Ukraine.
The crossing into Moldova saw us leaving the EU for the last time (on this trip) and as such took quite a while, with our papers being inspected thoroughly (our ICMV being dismissed again!) and a cursory inspection of our cargo by customs.
We didn’t know much about Moldova, it seemed to be missing from our research notes, the SatNav only offers mapping for main roads and the scale of our other road maps has decreased. We paid a small vignette to enter (approx. £5 for five days) and both the road and tractor quality have increased significantly, although a lorry travelling on a newly surfaced section of asphalt has scattered our windscreen with small chips, which we should look to get repaired before the roads get any worse.
Whilst the tractors may be better in Moldova, the trucks certainly aren’t, indeed they seem to be of such poor quality that they are actually prohibited from driving on a lot of roads when its hot, around midday, at night, in the afternoon, or generally quite a lot of the time!
Moldova is a strange place, at one point we were travelling down a fairly major road, when we passed a crossroads with a small police station. 100 yards ahead there were “Stop” gates across the road and a rather menacing military checkpoint with armoured vehicles and heavy guns pointed out. We reversed back to the Police station, he tried to explain why we couldn’t proceed straight on but our international sign language wasn’t up to it. He directed us off the main road to another route to the border with Ukraine.
We followed the directions given, down a gravel road, but quickly came to another military checkpoint . this time with several military guards with automatic weapons and an armoured vehicle. They waved us through with some suspicion after showing them the map and our intended route.
After a few km we came to another militarised border point, apparently this was the border point into “Transniestria” (sp), which is some kind of separate state between Moldovoa and the Ukraine. They wouldn’t let us pass into this area without some kind of carnet, the guards were very friendly and gave us directions from Odessa, and a local let us follow him back through part of this “gated” community. We crossed another militarised border point, and seemed to re-enter Moldova (not really realising we had ever left), having to present our passports and Moldovan vignette again.
This was a very different Moldova to the smiles, flowers and well maintained roads of the western areas, our guidebook indicated Moldova had a number of breakaway regions within it, we hadn’t accounted for the difficulties this would bring to our route, or that the SatNav (and Google Maps) would try and direct us through military blockades!
After the long detour around the non-internationally recognised country, we eventually crossed into Ukraine with relative ease. We headed for Odessa, with a cheap hostel in mind, unfortunately when we arrived it was closed so we ate and left, driving into the small hours of the night before pulling up just off a main road and all slept in the bus.