“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” —Mark Twain
After what happened to me at last year’s Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip from Britain to Ulan Bator, some people may think it’s slightly unbalanced to have played a return engagement. And there may be some truth to that when you consider we had a near-fatal car crash in the dusty roads of a Romanian village. But being unbalanced keeps life interesting and fun, which helps when you encounter what we (Steve Priovolos, my partner in crime) did at the Polish-Ukranian border.
As I was driving from the border town in Poland to Rivne,Ukraine, I may have strayed a little over the speed limit — about 30 miles over, in fact. My new friend the policeman didn’t hesitate to tell me about my transgression.
Then he asked me for 500 euros — about $614 — on the spot. I politely informed him I didn’t have 500 euros, which I didn’t. He politely informed me that he didn’t care and pointed to the handcuffs on his belt. I took this to mean the fine was going to be 500 euros. The situation was not looking good.
One of my books on the Ukraine said the traveler should be wary of policemen who levy ridiculous on-the-spot fines. At the time I dismissed this as the writer’s overcautiousness. I was wrong.
I looked my new friend in the eyes and started to bargain. I had 100 euros — about $123 — in my pocket, but I told him I had only 50. I told him that if he were going to arrest me he should do it then and there. Or he could have the 50 euros. He looked at me and smiled. “You English are crazy!” he said.
Maybe. But he did want the money. I signed a document, which he didn’t bother to fill out. Then I was on my merry way, albeit 50 euros poorer, but at least I wasn’t sitting in a Ukranian jail.