I am never going back here EVER!
10.08.2009 - 12.08.2009 32 °C
We woke up early and started heading out of Budapest. This was a mission in itself with a massive network of one ways and no entrys we didn’t experience on the way in they clearly didn’t want us to leave. We managed it after 1.5hrs of being stuck in traffic nightmare. We got stuck behind a toxic fiesta at one point which was pumping more fuel out the back than burning. We had to move as we nearly died from asphyxiation!
The road to the border was ok not too busy but there were a hell of a lot of vans on there with lots of people in heading back to the Ukraine. When we got to the border there must have been 100 odd vans queuing to get in but as a car we skipped the queue and went to the front. Getting in was fairly painless a little confusing as they spoke little English but we passed with little trouble.
Dale was driving and for the first 200km or so the roads seemed pretty good until we nearly crashed into a pothole of death while going 80mile per hour with a lorry on the other side not nice! Shortly after I took over and this is where our trouble started! We checked the water and noticed it was really really low on the car panic struck! We topped it up and thought we would check it in 150miles. That we did and it was really low again. With no breakdown cover for Moldova the only way to complete the road trip was to minimize our time there so that meant going right through the Ukraine almost to Kiev then south to Odessa. This seemed better than going all the way back to where we started so off we went. Now the roads were getting pretty bad…no correction VERY bad. Their idea of a motorway is one which you can’t do at more than 30mph due to bumps holes and livestock on the road. It is shocking and not something I think people would believe till they saw with their own eyes although as you’ll read on I don’t recommend visiting the Ukraine!
We both really started to feel uneasy at the point and if we’re honest a little scared-most scared then I was in Joshua tree national park in USA with no other living soul for about 10mile radius and no one expecting to hear from us for two weeks. Everytime we stopped for directions as all the signs were only in Russian and not English (no good with an English map on a tiny scale!) no one understood us. Few even knew where they lived on the map itself, it was pretty bad. Dale took over after I had done about 250miles and we had tea of pasta and butter the staple diet of this road trip so far. About an hour into our Journey and a police car pulled us and 2 other vehicles over. They let the others go but were keeping Dale in their car. I was pretty scared at this point. Dale came back and told me that basically they wanted a bribe. Apparently over taking cars in the Ukraine is illegal and unless we give them $100 or €100 they will take his license for 1 year. We tried calling the British Embassy but they were closed or just over run by other law abiding citizens being abused by the corrupt Ukraine law enforcement. So by this point we were really in the shit. I had $11 and after telling them we were going to go to the station then and I would need a full receipt for the ‘fine’ they backed off and said ok $11 and go. Their English suddenly was a lot better than it was when just Dale was with them. I thought under the circumstances we handled it well but it was enough to put me off the place! Those police were rubbing their hands together as soon as they saw GB on the car it makes me sad to think a country so corrupt as that is part of Europe.
We went on our way shaken but in one piece. We then decided it was safer for Dale to drive as who knew what else the police would do for payment if I was driving. I was genuinely frighted that if taken into the car with them I would be sexually assaulted or worse. We stopped in a lay-by/restaurant car park to check the car again it was ok! Thank god one bit of good news we thought! We then found a person who spoke English (Oyla). She was great and told us overtaking is not illegal and that the police force is totally corrupt there. She wrote us a letter saying that we were doing the road trip for charity and that we had no more money. She also gave us her mobile number and for that we thank her greatly as it made us feel a little more secure that at least someone could translate for us. She and all the other locals we met although our way were really friendly and nice even if they couldn’t help or understand where the Ukraine is on a map of Europe they were nice people trying to help us. It is a real pity anyone there with power chooses to abuse that power.
We drove on and stopped when we could drive no more. Still about 600km from the border we were looking for not good ☹ We were shocked by the number of tatty Lada’s on the road the things barely looked like they would drive but they were going…smokey but going! Seems that it was the car of choice I don’t think I have seen one in the UK for about 10 years lol! We pulled up on the side of the road this was really scary and I certainly didn’t sleep well that night. We were woken up at 6am to find women herding their cows around our car that was very scary! We were in a kind of field on the side of the road but they just kept on their way and as soon as we had gathered our thoughts we were on our way. Dale was a legend today and drove for around 18hours on 5 hours sleep! After checking the car every 50miles for ages we decided that it was ok and went for the shorter route straight through the centre of Moldova.
Issue number 2, border control in the Ukraine. They seemed all nice but again they wanted money. They kept us there for ages and wanted to see all our money they even saw me hiding the last of my Euros! Cheeky buggers! We showed them the note and eventually they sent us on our way without a bribe. Border control 2/4 was Moldova ‘Declaration’ writing. We had to fill in a form which was only in Russian with LOADS of details. They wanted to know more than a passport application! At least someone there spoke English but again they wanted a bribe. €5 for the car €5 for entry and €3 Tax! Well that’s what they called it. We were eventually on our way and moved on to the next station. This one was fairly straight forward and took little time. We still didn’t have a passport stamp though and were getting a little confused with the whole process this was one dam big border as it was about 20km between stations! We made it to the 4th and final station and at this one we had to see three different people and register the car for migration into Moldova! Then these other guards told us we had to pay €5 for the car! I told them no and that we already paid and that I had no money so tough basically. That seemed to work but no passport stamp!
Moldova was our biggest shocked on the trip. The poorest country in Europe practically with a GDP per person of under $1800 we were expecting it to be terrible. We dreaded the roads as after the Ukraine it had to be worse given that income. To our surprise it was not. Great quality roads by comparision and a nice clean capital city! We saw a sign for McDonalds and headed for it. We were right smack bang in the Centre of Chisnau and the people looked well dressed the streets buzzing and traffic heavy. After our food we managed to find an English speaker (of which there were many but we needed one fluent to try and describe how to get out of the city!) she took us to a taxi and arranged for us to pay him 50lei to take us out and where we needed to be. Fantastic! He did try and blag an extra 10lei which was really silly as he saw us get the 50 out of the cash machine but he was pretty sound otherwise. The road he got us on was not the one we wanted but it was good quality and about 50km shorter! Result he was probably worth the extra 10lei!
Getting out was really easy thanks to a young man named Stefan. He spoke fluent English and helped us through the process even paying the 5 lei for the boarder as we had none left. He told us we should have had a stamp at the border on arriving but getting our was not an issue and thank goodness we were not stopped. I never thought I would be so glad to see Romania the country where I used to send shoe boxes as a kid, but watching that EU flag flapping in the wind was AMAZING!
We were heading towards Budcresti and got within about 100km of the city before we had to stop this time in a lay-by. What was shocking in this country was the number of Horses and carts on the road! There were so many and we started a tally of them for personal amusement back in Poland when we saw the first one. The lay by was more comfortable and I slept a lot better.
Bribes paid: $11, €13
Cute puppy found:1
Horse and Cars:51