Usually we will not be giving day by day accounts of what we get up to but Friday makes for an interesting story.
Having successfuly made it into the Ukraine we woke up on Friday morning in good spirits. In the morning Dave and I had a relaxing time listening to Test Match Special in an internet cafe while Spike went to do a favour for a friend. We left at about one, hoping to cover about 300km before our first wild camping experience (camping not in a campsite). With ‘Born to Run’ playing and the road looking pretty good we were making good time, and thinking about a lunch stop. The next thing we knew we rounded a corner and were waved down by a very grumpy looking policeman. He came to the window and from a lot of sign language we established that we had come round the corner at 90kmph and the limit was 50kmph. This apparently was going to be a problem. So after more inventive communication (and thankfuly some laughing) Spike (who was driving) followed one of the policemen into the station.
With little else to do, Dave and I got out the tea stuff and started to make a brew. As it turned out this was unsuccessful as we could not get the stove to light. But soon Spike came out with a big smile on his face saying we should leave. So we jumped back in the vehicle and off we went. Once on the road again Spike recounted his story. He had walked in with the Russian phrase book and the officer had had a good laugh at the ‘Can i pay an on-the-spot fine?’ bit and said he could not. Next he asked how many dollars we had, then euros, then finaly Ukrainan currency, to all of which Spike said none. Finally after a lot of ‘i dont understand’ from Spike the guy got bored and let him go. So for doing nearly double the speed limit in a notoriously corrupt country we did not even have to pay a fine. Bonus!!!!
After a quick lunch stop we headed of again and managed to complete the rest of the drive without event. At around 8 we spotted some woods of to the left where we would be able to camp and headed off the road down a logging track. Spotting a good site in the trees to the right Dave took the vehicle off the track and it promptly got stuck. Spike and I jumped out to face the onslaught of mosquitos to try and talk Dave out. After lots of backwards and forwards action we where still stuck so we decided to ‘let our training take over’. As Mike our Land Rover Experience Guru taught us we got lots of sticks and brush under the tyres and then drove out easily (Mike you’re a Legend). So finally in the woods we set up camp, cooked dinner and got a fire going. Half way through cooking we heard a logging truck, as we weren’t sure we wanted any attention we switched off all the lights and sure enough it drove past without stopping. Just after dinner Dave and I were getting the sleeping stuff from the vehicle while Spike was tending to the fire and we heard another vehicle. Again Dave and I turned out torches off, but the lantern on the table 30 meters away was still on, and then there was obviously the fire. The vehicle stopped.
Dave and I stood in the dark swearing, and trying to get spike’s attention without making too much noise. This was pretty unsuccessful, but there had been no movement from the vehicle. I jokingly suggested that he was probably getting his gun. Then a torch switched on and we heard a gun being cocked. This became less of a joke and we decided to make ourselves known. I opted for a loud Hello, and the man replied, slightly shocked, also with a Hello. He came over shining his torch in our eyes, looked at us and the vehicle and burst out laughing. After a lot more laughing and him telling us we were crazy he went to get his friend who apparently spoke French. His friend came over and with more laughing told us we absolutely could not stay there. They explained that we were on a government game reserve, and the laughing man with the gun was the game keeper. On seeing the light he had loaded his gun and come out ready to shoot expecting us to be poachers. Fortunately they found it so funny that we were crazy enough to have set up camp in a mosquito infested swamp, they let us stay. They left with a packet of Marlboro Reds and more chuckling and we had a cup of tea. It seems a lot of smiling and a bit of crazy gets you through most things!
After a fairly sleepless night of thinking poachers were going to walk into our hammocks, we left early the next morning and made it to Kiev by lunch time.
Pete (the illiterate one)