Moldova & Ukraine
Getting into Moldova lead us over our first non-EU border crossing. Arriving at the border early morning (10:30), we passed through the Romanian border quickly and ended up waiting in "No Man's" land for one hour in the scortching sun. Suddenly the Moldovian border police waved everybody through, which resulted in everybody trying to push infront of the other... total chaos... Our car was searched and gestures were made, in the end after a two hours we were on our way having paid 2 Euros for an undefined tax. Eventhough we were now officially in Moldova, we still had no car insurance, so Simon ended up going to a hut which was marked "Carte Verde" and was repeatedly asked something that sounded like 'machine, machine, machine', by which he apparently ment that he just wanted to know our engine size.
After our long and tiring border crossing we ended up driving through the capital Chisinau to an apparently "fancy" resort in Vadul lui Voda. The roads were just as bad as in Romania, so it was no surprise that we got held up by a van which had burst into flames in the middle of the road. We felt bad as we had no water/fire extinguisher, although there were already 15 Moldovans trying to put out the fire with theirs. The fire was successfully put out, and as we drove past we saw that a huge blackened hole in the bonnet where the flames had errupted from.
Arriving in the region of Vadul lui Voda, we realised how close this town was to the self-declared republic within Moldova called "Transdniestr", when found ourselves on a bridge guarded by their own border guards... who were quite heavily armed... We quickly turned around and tried to find a campsite with no luck, so we quickly settled for a hut in a resort complex as the sun was going down. We kept on running into the border police, at one point that evening we were stuck in a dead end with roughly 30 soldiers heading towards our car. The other "clients" of the resort complex were particularly interested in our car, with two kids wanting a photo with us.
We left Moldova the next day, passing through the Moldoven border in a speedy manor, being left in "No Man's" land between Ukraine and Moldova. One would have thought that you couldn't get lost in "No Man's" land, but we proved that theory wrong and spent 30 mins driving in endless circles, until we finally found the Ukrainian border some 5 km away. The Ukranien border police were friendly, but it still took us one hour to get all the paper work sorted. We then headed for Crimea a Peninsula in the Black Sea.
As the Sun was setting in our rear-view mirror we realised that we were not going to make to Crimea that evening. So we spent our first night sleeping in the car outside a petrol station. Being woken up by the sun rise and a relatively stiff neck.
Recovering from our night in the car, we spent most of that day sleeping at the beach or trying to cool ourselves down in the Black Sea, as the outside temperatures reached 35+ degrees. Nevertheless, in the evening we ventured into the town of Sevastopol, which is also the port for the Russian Black Sea fleet. We were all pleasantly suprised with how nice and lively this city was, which was toped of by fireworks and a shooting contest between the three of us in a fair ground.
As we can only enter Russia on the 31st July we decided to stay a second day, during which we visited the famous Khans Palace, the Uspensky Monastry which is built into the side of a cliff and the 6th century cave city of Chufut-Kale. Having under-estimated the distance we had to walk and the heat around midday, we found ourselves dehydrated and retired to the beach for the afternoon. While on the beach a friendly Russian started a conversation with us and asked about our planned route for the Mongol Rally, when we told him he simply laughed say "Oh, sh*t... very bad roads". It seems each country thinks the next has worse road than itself...
Here are a few interesting facts about Moldova and Ukraine:
- Moldova has virtually no road signs, hence us driving in endless circles
- There is a self-declared republic of Transdniestr within Moldova. This republic has its own currency, police force, army and borders and is one of the "last surviving bastions of communism in the world"
- Ukraine is the first country we have visited which uses cyrilic, which makes things extremely complicated for us
- Ukrainian police can be found at nearly every large intersection, along with a few official check points along the road
- The port of Sevastopol is the base for the Russian's Black Sea fleet. The Russian's have a lease until 2017, by which point they will apparently 'leave', a likely story...
Unfortunately we discovered that war has broken out in Tajikistan which requires us to completly replan the second part of our route! We will keep you updated about the situation...
That is all for now, as we head for the Russian border.
Simon, Scott and Sean