Odessa, Ukraine

Whenever things are going really well, that’s a sure sign things are about to get worse. We didn’t realize that was the case as we breezed out of Macedonia and across Bulgaria to the black sea resort town of Varna. Everything was peachy, topped off with a rest day on the beach and a regrouping of most of the teams on the Black Sea Run, plus a two day reunion with the Legend who took a bus to meet us there.

When we left Varna yesterday it was our last big day of driving as we headed north across Romania and Moldova and into Ukraine. This is where the roads and the borders become more challenging and where our problems started yesterday. Our car has temporary Hungarian plates valid for 30 days, and the border officials in Ukraine, we discovered yesterday, have a big problem with plates like this. Almost all problems in Ukraine can be solved with a well placed 20 euro bill (we’ve heard), but this plates problem is unfixable even with several of the far more coveted 100 denominated bills (we have reason to believe).

Undeterred by our rejection at the first Ukrainian border we turned back into Moldova and began driving to other Ukrainian borders further north. By the time yesterday finally ended (which was actually 5am this morning) we had been driving for over 20 hours, covered 700 kilometers, slid off the road into the ditch once, nearly killed one dog and one fox (no harm done), cleared passport control 14 times, and been rejected entry into Ukraine three times.

Trapped in Moldova, our survival instincts kicked in and we headed to the bus station this morning to investigate our options. After finding tickets to Odessa , Ukraine (where the other teams are) for 8 euros each, the decision was a no brainer. Our beloved Volkswagen is now an orphan and sits abandoned on the road directly in front of the bus terminal (see pic) as we bounce down the Ukrainian roads for the first time in the back of an eastbound bus. We do this with mixed emotions – we’re happy to be inside Ukraine finally, and grateful to the other teams who will take us the rest of the way to Crimea, but we do miss our loyal Volkswagen (probably much more than it misses us).