Juvimax adventures

An account of our lifestyle and family adventures around the world


Orhei to Odessa

Posted on October 26, 2008 at 10:10 AM


October 26, 2008

Orhei (Rep. of Moldavia) - Odessa (Ukraine)

We have paddled 3853 km in 52 days since we left from France.

We enjoyed a gorgeous day off in Orhei (Republic of Moldavia), and left the next morning in the rain. On our way to Tiraspol, we were very excited to see the first road sign showing Odessa at only 175km away.

Aproaching Tiraspol, a city shown on the map as part of the Moldavian republic, we unexpectedly arrived to a Military checkpoint protected with a tank covered by camo nets, before crossing the Dniester river. The military guard opened the gate for us without asking any questions. We noticed that after the checkpoint there were grass and trees growing on the cracked road, showing no vehicle traffic for a long time. People were crossing the bridge by foot. On the other side of the bridge there was another Military checkpoint with a tank covered by camo nets, where again the gate was opened for us without any questions asked. We had no idea what was going on and where we were. Especially when we saw the flag and the plates on the car were different from the Moldavian ones. Also we noticed everything was written in cyrillic. We were wondering where we were and what was going on as we noticed many military people in uniform around us. 10km before arriving to Tiraspol we saw a group of cyclists. It had been a long time since we saw other cyclist so we worked a sweat trying to catch up with them, which we did. They pointed us to the neirest hotel, since it was already getting dark. Once arrived at the hotel we discovered that here they were speaking another language and had a different currency (Rubles). We checked the rubles and translated the cyrillic text on them, checked the maps and our 'Eastern Europe' book, trying to figure out where we ended up, but nothing made sense.

We learned later that we were in Transnistria, a part of the republic of Moldavia that has proclaimed themselves independent in the 1990's with the Military support of Russia. They have started a war with the Republic of Moldavia in 1992 and this ended up in a cease fire the same year, which is still an unsolved conflict. Transnitria is still not recognized by any other countries in the world, therefore we have not found any information in all the maps and the book we had about this part of the world.

From Tiraspol we thought it would take us another 2 days to arrive in Odessa, because we were expecting long line ups at the border. The bordercrossing was interesting, it made us realize that the European 'open border' system is unique. We had to fill in some forms and were called into the immigration office after being passed by the border control. In the immigration office we had an interesting experience. When we crossed the border into Transnistria we were not asked for anything, but apparently we were supposed to get a stamp in our passports. So the immigration officer was sending us back 240km to get the stamps in our passports! Well there we were, 80km from arriving to the Black sea, having to go back 240km, we were very dissapointed. Then the officers started talking about 'Philippe present'. We soon understood what they meant when they put a note in front of us saying 10 Euro... So we payed the 20 Euros to avoid making a 240km return trip just to get the stamps.

Thankfully at the Ukrainian border they were nice. After a few hour delay to cross the borders, we paddled and paddled against the wind on a very dangerous road. Looking for a place to camp or a hotel we found no hotels and only cultivated land. We ended up arriving in Odessa in the dark. We stopped at the first hotel we found, a little dissapointed that we had to arrive to this landmark in our trip this way. Exhausted and hungry we went to the Mexican restaurant across the street, unable to walk any further, we looked back on this crazy day while enjoying some excellent Mexican food.

The driving here in Ukraine is the worst we have seen so far. People drive very fast and are constantly passing eachother. No matter if there are cars coming on the opposite side of the road or not. We have seen some cars driving in the ditch to avoid the carr passing car someone on the opposite side of the road. We have seen cars making detours trying to hit an animal on the side of the road. Also we witnessed many very 'close to lethal accidents' situations and we have felt very unsafe.

Today we have spent our sunny day visiting Odessa, which is full of historical buildings and monuments. On one of the squares there were 3 different couples having their wedding pictures taken, which reminded us of our dreamwedding almost 6 months ago in Haines. We visited the harbour and have been thinking about our next step from here. We have arrived one day late for the ferry to Istanbul, but we will be spending the week here to wait for the next ferry on Saturday. At the same time we are working on arranging ferries and bike routes to make our way back to La Tapie on time for Christmas.

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