Got to the border… got in line… at 3am we were 54th in line.
We watched the sun rise over Russia but we were still in Ukraine. The lady behind us actually spoke fluent English and so we chatted many times over the course of the next 7 hours that we waited on the Ukrainian side of the border.
Finally at 9:30, we were first in line and were given customs forms to fill out. We were not done with our customs forms at 9:31 so we were asked to pull the side… At 9:33 we were allowed into the Ukrainian border and finally got through about 15 minutes later. Then we were in line for the Russian border! This took a couple of hours of waiting but we finally made it to the guards and prepared ourselves with the inevitable pull over to the side and wait… Well actually it didn’t take that long at all and on July 31st, 2011 Bruce and Andrea made it into Russia for the first time (we will be going into it again before we cross into Mongolia) just in time for Bruce’s Birthday!!!!
Due to the coolant leak that we found early this morning (which only happens when we are driving and not when we are standing still…..) we drove into the first real city in Russia, which was called Taganrog. We found a supermarket and chilled out in the air-conditioning….it is hot in these parts! We got some basic supplies, but they don’t sell chilled water in the supermarkets….but have vast cases of cold beer….go figure. You have to go to small corner stores (magasins) to get chilled water. We then went in search of a mechanic and found a good candidate only to be summarily dismissed….and pointed across the road to another mechanic. This turned out to be a body shop only….however a customer there was extremely friendly and offered to lead us to a mechanic who would help us. We followed his Lada between the commie blocks and to the mechanic. Finally, after a discussion about how much the BBB weighed (which involved a phone call to Macclesfield to check the info on the internet – Thanks Dad!), to determine if their lift would support the van, a leak in the cooling system was diagnosed…..well, duh! Luckily in Russia they DO have the spiffy gel you put into the radiator which will clog any leaks after expansion….so we were driven to the local auto parts store and bought some of that along with some coolant and then back to the mechanic to have it installed. Ivan, Andrew and Andrew were super friendly and outstanding local mediators and translators! Thanks, guys!
Andrew studies in Rostov and was heading up there, so we were escorted out onto the main road from town as well….quite the service!
We found our way to Rostov on Don a couple of hours later and started looking for a hotel.
Well, there aren’t any Holiday inns in this part of the world and what we are realizing is that most motels look like they are run down or not even open. Well we found one that looked like it wasn’t even open yet and got a room. We totally confused the hotel lady with our English and sign language but we got the room none-the-less. Laundry was done, showers were taken, and sleep was had by all!
Off to traverse Russia and on to Kazakhstan!