Yesterday was a bit of an adventure. We left Odessa fairly early, hoping to get through Moldovia (there's no direct Ukraine - Romania border crossing) to the Romanian side of the Danube Delta and a hotel that had been recommended to us by a friend. I was a little dubious about the hotel as it looked expensive. We had a look at the roads on Google maps and plotted a scenic route, that looked fairly short by our recent standards. As we left Odessa we noticed a sign to Reni, one of the border towns, pointing in the opposite direction, but we decided to take the more scenic route along the coast.
The roads got steadily smaller and more pot-holed and slower, and we began to realise why you might want to take a more main road the long way around. At one point we took a wrong turn, but could have kept going, but we didn't want to have to drive past a, very colourful, funeral procession, so we turned back. At the crest of a hill, on a narrow, straight road lined with trees and mounds of earth, we could see what lay before us. Two mud tracks either side of a large concrete bridge. We decided to go for it.
I was driving and after a little while the car got a bit bogged down. We stopped and I suggested going back. Kai pointed out that we'd actually come a long way, and looking back I was amazed, driving it, it felt like no distance. We paced it out and decided to go on. Kai got behind the wheel and managed to drive the car up on to the brushy verge and got it to the bridge.
We had a look the other side of the massive slab of concrete that served as a bridge and decided that the worst of it was over. I took back control and drove. All went well until the track the car was straddling got larger and larger until the car fell in. The bottom of the car was now resting on the mud. This was when we started to realise how isolated we were, there really wasn't another person or building to be seen for miles. I started scavenging for useful items, and found some large rocks and a bit of old tractor tyre. Using the rocks as a base we jacked the car up as far as we could and slid the tyre under the wheel. With me lifting and Kai driving, we managed to get the car free again, and made it back onto beloved pot holed tarmac.
If you haven't seen them already, Kai posted a couple of videos last night in the previous post.
Even without that it would probably have been our slowest day yet doing just a couple of hundred kilometers in about eight hours. Reaching the border town Reni at about 7pm we were on the look out for somewhere to stop and spotted a sign for camping, swimming, a restaurant and a hotel. We spent the better part of two hours looking for that place. We did eventually find it. It turned out to be a poor small hotel with a yard, and a great big hole in the yard. Dispirited we left. Kai wouldn't hear of camping and we made it for the border.
The Ukranian - Moldovan border was quiet. We bought the "green card" insurance on advice and the Moldovans took their time searching our car, which made me very nervous, despite the fact I knew there wasn't anything in there that we shouldn't have. After getting into Moldova we drove the 100 or so yards to the Romanian border and spent a bit longer there waiting to get through, but didn't get searched. By now it was getting on for 10:30pm and we were knackered so went to hotel Galati on the Romanian side. As we pulled up we were surprised to see three other Mongol Rally cars already in the car park. It turned out that all of these teams had the same story, they needed to wait for a V5, or an official letter of permission to drive the car, before they could enter the Ukraine.
We took it easy this morning and after lunch made our slow way to the Danube Delta. Reaching our recommended hotel I again tried to persuade Kai that we should camp. He promised to camp the next night, but wanted to stay in the hotel. Unfortunately the hotel was full and I got my way. I don't want to tempt fate, but we found an absolutely perfect spot, and I am typing this, sitting on one of our £5 ASDA camping chairs, the sun setting behind me, the Danube Delta to my left and our car and tent to my right. The only thing we can hear is the occasional fish jumping out of the water, the odd frog ribberting and the odd wild dog barking.
P.S. Our night was only slightly marred by the cloud of mosquitoes that joined us after sunset, and we ate our second sitting of noodles locked in the car. The night went fine, although I have to say that the sound of dogs sniffing around the tent was a bit creepy.