Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Black Sea Beaches

Just wanted to chime in with a quick update from Odessa. Slepak is busy caning the Mini back towards France to resolve some paperwork issues - apparently he's also gotten the leak in the gas tank fixed so it doesn't smell like petrol all the time as well! We're hoping it'll get resolved relatively quickly and give Slepak time to catch back up to Cyrus and me around Sochi. In the mean time, it's making the trip map look quite hilarious: http://tinyurl.com/Safety3rdSMS Cyrus wishing the Mini good luck

Me pledging my allegiance to the Panda

Perhaps the last time we'll ever see the Mini (or Slepak)

So Cyrus and I decided to putter around various Black Sea beaches. From Galati (on the Romanian-Moldovian) border, we decided to head south to some Romainian beaches we'd pasted the day before. We had taken a ferry across the Danube the night before and decided to take the longer drive around to do something different. Unfortunately the signage around Galati and Braila leaves a bit to be desired and we ended up making a big loop and missing the beaches before ending up in Galati again. Cleary it wasn't driver error.

Unfazed we decided to press on to Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova, which is supposed to be a bit off the beaten path, but quite nice. Plus Cyrus had flirted pretty heavily with the border guard the night before trying to acquire insurance for the Panda and thought she might be coming back on shift. Slepak had taken the Lonely Planet with him, and Chisinau's tourist infrastructure is a bit lacking. But after a bit of driving around in circles, checking out all the BMWs and a Ferrari in this the poorest of European nations, we found a place for the night. In the morning we checked out their version of the Arc de Triomphe

and the White House

We then got on M14 - a well paved, lightly used highway that headed straight for Odessa. After 100km or so, we discovered why it was so lightly used - it passes through Transnistria. To quote wikipedia, "Transnistria is a breakaway republic within the internationally recognised borders of Moldova, with the official status of an autonomous territory. Although not recognised by any state or international organisation and de jure part of Moldova, it is de facto independent and functions like a state." I had remembered vaguely reading something about this in the Lonely Planet - now in the Mini somewhere between here and Paris - but the first indication that this was going to be in interesting part of our trip was the guy with a AK standing next to an armored personnel carrier in the middle of the road. After a little bit of BS-ing and a couple of Marlboros we headed to the second APC checkpoint before entering Transnistria proper.

The road stayed good and we decided that the best thing to do was drive straight and fast to the Ukraine - and don't turn off on any of those side roads with secondary check points. Heck don't even make eye contact! Finally we reached the border and discovered that "functions like a state" forgot to include the word "corrupt" in there. The border guard gave us crap for not having exit stamps from Moldova and said it would be 29 Euro each to leave Transnistria. Or could go back the way we came, go around and through an actual Moldova/Ukraine crossing for an extra 400km or so. So Uncle Ben Franklin came to the rescue and we went headed back out of the people customs office to the car customs office. As the guard there is leading us to "extortion room" Cyrus has a brilliant revelation, hands me our passports and tells me to get far away. He successfully convinces them that his Abe Lincoln and fat stack of Bulgarian currency are all we have left after we've been fleeced by the people customs guard. They take the fiver, leave him the Bulgarian (no one will change this stuff) and we head for the oasis that is the Ukraine.

Again we head into the city with no map at rush hour and see how things play out. We find our way to the train station where we find that there are no tourism offices in all of the Ukraine and curse Slepak again for having the Lonely Planet. Fortunately we run into another Mongol Rally team, Smaller is Better. They hooked us up with a map of the town and some leads on hotels. They're also running the rally in a small truck their company exports from Japan - in cargo containers!

If When the Mini finally makes it back to the East knowing knowing these guys will probably help get it across the Pacific. But that's a problem for future Slepak. Cyrus and Dave are headed to the beach for a little R&R.

Action Update: Slepak has discovered the car doesn't need to be in Paris to get the registration fixed, just him. So he's leaving the Mini to party it up in Bratislava with the Yugos while he wings to Paris to fix stuff up. With luck it'll all be straightened out shortly and we'll head east again!


Jimi said...

Hope things go straight with the bloody paperwork.. dont give up its part of the adventure Mini fans count on you xexe :-p

b mathew said...

Hey is that last picture of Lott at a topless beach?

dlott said...

that was a regular beach with only a few topless people. Some guys from the hostel went to the proper topless beach and said it was mostly dudes. What is this? Germany?

Lizzy said...

oh my god ıs that sandy beches ı see before my eyes!!!!!