Once out of Romania, and we’d driven through all of 2km of Moldova, Ukraine began. As did the potholes. We bounced in and out of the holed roads all the way North, until we reached Kiev. Our hostel owner turned out to be a Norwegian ex-soldier, and offered to take us to his local shooting range to hit some target’s with a couple of ex-Russian special forces chaps. This was most entertaining. His Russian pals didn’t say much, but seemed very familiar around the weaponry.
I was informed that I was a ‘cold killer’…
Once we’d finished shooting our way out of Kiev, we headed down towards the Crimean Peninsular where one of the guys had heard about a disused submarine base at a place called Balaklava. More about this extraordinary place can be seen here.
Our work in Ukraine complete, the Matiz/Duke convoy headed on to the Russian border.
Russia didn’t start well. There aren’t really any photos, as we were too busy either getting stopped, being extorted by, or running away from the police. A wrong turn down a one-way street ended in me being driven round in the back of a police lieutenant’s car, while the level of bribe was negotiated. While the end amount was still high, it was significantly less than the originally suggested $1000 per car.
Then, the word was out. A couple of foreigners in stupidly awesome cars were driving round Volgograd, and the hunt was on. Police cars appeared out of nowhere, all intent on making some hard cash out of us for spurious and fictional traffic offences. This led to a few tense exchanges, and a hilarious conversation where I haggled a fine down from $600 to $32 with two young cops, with one of their girlfriends on speakerphone doing all the translation. If the novelty of this wasn’t fast wearing off it would have been nothing but amusing. So we hightailed it for the border, and finally made it to a hotel just before the road ran into Kazakhstan. Here we met up with Justin & Heather, and JP & Dave, both in Nissan Micras. Our convoy had doubled in size, and the start of some long-lasting friendships began on that evening.
We also happened to end up celebrating the birth of the hotel security guards first child. He wasn’t allowed off work until his shift was finished, so we provided him with moral support and a chance to mark the occasion. This involved a large bottle of vodka, which he drunk most of. I think he ended up so drunk that he probably lost his job, and his wife was doubtlessly seriously unimpressed when he crawled in the next day. Pleased we could help.