Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Only when you have eaten a lemon do you appreciate sugar.


August 19, 2009 – Afternoon

I'm in the Ukraine and heading to Odessa! The border crossing was pretty easy in comparison to many others. It still took forty five minutes but it wasn't terrible. Unlike my new friend Mikhail from Italy who was heading up to Russia for work. They went through his vehicle with a fine tooth comb. They have two lineups for the crossing into the Ukraine. The “Red Line” and the “Green Line”. He was in the “Red Line”. You don't want to be in the “Red Line” because that's the spend a few hours getting to know your customs officer line. It has a pit underneath it so they can inspect your undercarriage as well. I chose to go through the “Green Line” and it was much simpler.

At this border crossing, the Moldovans and the Ukrainians share office space. I'm not sure whether I'm coming or going, I just float around and try to get someone to point me somewhere. After the Moldovans release me from their country the Ukrainians have me fill out a form to enter their country. I fill it out quickly and hand it to the officer.

“Where are you staying?”, he asks me.

“I really haven't decided.”, I respond,”somewhere in Odessa”

I can see the frustrated look in his eyes. “You need to have a place to stay”, he commands in his deep accent. You can not enter without a place to stay. He puts on his hat and gets up to leave his desk. He hands me my forms back and says quietly,“Hotel Odessa Black Sea. That's where you will stay.” He leaves the room and I fill out the form with his recommendation. I want to hand it back to him but he won't acknowledge me now. I get the feeling that he did me a huge favour and that he could get in trouble for it. I wait for the other officer to come and hand him the forms. He takes a brief look at it and...


Everything is good and I'm on the home stretch. I just need to wait for the inspector to come by and look at my bike and gear. While I wait my new friend Mikhail is reaching his boiling point. He's being quite belligerent about the process of getting through the border. Fortunately for him and perhaps me is that he's doing it in English. I must say I was a little uncomfortable talking with him because I didn't want to get into the “Red Line” but at the same time this guy was an absolute character and I couldn't help but want to talk to him. For all the borders he has to cross to get to Russia he's developed a great sense of humour. Of course it's mostly aimed at stupid border guards so I'm his biggest fan. We both get released at the same time and with that release we both shut up ad get in our vehicles as quickly as we can and burn out of there. There's a time for joking and there's a time for business. We both know how to discern between the two and we take off as if we stole our vehicles.

I pass the final checkpoint and I'm now officially in the Ukraine Republic. It has taken so much out of me to get to this point that it's hard to put into words how I feel. I will simplify it for you:

“I feel Great!”

(Very hard to say without sounding like Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes commercials.)

The roads are terrible, I can't read the road signs, and I'm probably lost but I'm in really good spirits. The weather is beautiful and for the first time since crossing the mountains in Albania I actually feel like I'm going to succeed.


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