Day 12 “This isn’t a road its just a series of craters “
Set off following the main roads along the south coast of Ukraine towards our border crossing with Russia. The roads varied wildly in quality, and large cities were a nightmare to navigate with potholes that could swallow Bertie in one, ridiculously complicated junctions and some of the worst driving standards we have seen yet.
Ukraine is a vast country, and to be honest we found it rather dull and were quite glad our route only saw us skim the edge of it. We spent pretty much the whole day driving along the same road in a straight line, passing through only a handful of towns. Huge concrete monuments to the regions we passed through were the only thing that broke up the otherwise flat farmland, we saw similar things in Moldova so we probably have Mother Russia to thank for them.
We’ve had our first mechanical problem, no doubt due to the shaky roads, our engine fan has come loose and is rattling around erratically. We had a quick attempt at fixing it with some chemical metal, but really it needs to set overnight to be of any use. In the meantime it doesn’t seem to be having any detrimental effect on Bertie.
We arrived in Mariopol, the last big settlement in Ukraine before the Russian border. We decided to go for a hotel again as we’ve not showered or had wifi in several days. We ate out in a nearby restaurant where we chatted with some local Ukrainians who ended up buying us some Russian vodka. Drunk with salty black bread this was very tasty indeed.
We’d heard a lot of warnings about Ukraine; hassle from the police, hassle from the locals, crime, etc and so far we’ve seen no evidence of that at all. We were stopped once by the Police today, but they simply wanted to check we weren’t lost and sent us on our way after a quick chat and a look at the map. As with many of the other eastern European countries, the people seem to be exceptionally friendly and many of our suspicions and fears unfounded.
Day 13: We’d enjoyed a good sleep in proper beds and a hearty Ukranian breakfast in the hotel. We bumped into some English steel workers who were also staying in the hotel, turns out they worked with the Ukranians we’d shared vodka with the night before. After the usual LDV jokes they wished us well and we set off for the Russian border.
The border crossing was uneventful, if slow. We did pay our first bribe, the Ukranian customs officials asked if we had an UK coins, it seemed like he collected foreign coins. We gave him 4pence, he was delighted… Crossing the Russian side took a very long time, and the process was rather confusing, but we made it through eventually.
The drive through Russia was very uneventful, much like Ukraine but with far better roads. The cities were noticeably more vibrant, although even more confusing in terms of traffic management than Ukraine! Also, the tractors here are ENORMOUS. Tom is quite envious.
We camped up about 1km up a dirt track off the side of a main road near Rostov-on-Don, we may have inadvertently stumbled across the local makeout point, but they didn’t hang around for long once they’d seen us….
Back to the BBQ now, baked potatoes and spam fritters for dinner today…