The farther east I go, the nearer I am to starting the real adventures of the Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip from Britain to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Western Europe is so very passe, it seems, for the adventure crowd. At least that’s what the Mongol rally head honchos kept telling me. “Wait till you get to Kazakhstan, mate,” one chap told me. “Then you will see some true craziness.”
I wonder whether this chap has ever been to eastern Ukraine. I wonder whether he has ever driven on an eastern Ukrainian road. Driving a Ukrainian road is an adventure in itself, and that’s a good 800 miles from Kazakhstan.
I just spent 12 hours on quite a few of those roads. First, the drivers are — how do I put this diplomatically? — slightly nuts. I saw multiple near-misses on Monday. Drivers overtaking drivers on blind bends. Drivers swerving in front of oncoming traffic. Drivers doing nearly catastrophic things to each other and themselves.
Potholes — hundreds of them — add to the mayhem. If you thought the 405 was bad, you ain’t seen nothing till you have taken the E-40 in eastern Ukraine.
The good news is that I managed to safely navigate my way past the drivers, the potholes and the ever-present Ukrainian police. The bad news is that the hotel I am staying in (35 miles from the Russian border) has no running water and the bathroom comes equipped with cockroaches. The beds don’t have sheets and the walls are pockmarked with fist-sized holes. It looks as though someone had a session of anger management therapy in Room 212.
The next hurdle is to try to cross the Russian border. I don’t seem to do well with authority figures in this part of the world. Perhaps, as the above video suggests, I have a way to placate the authorities.