We all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men. Yep, they go to hell in an AdamsCart.
The plan to drive our Rover 216SLEGTI from Bucharest back home seems straightforward enough. To collect the car from Team Sward who took it out to Romania in the first place – and drive back to England. I’d already said that despite all the good advice to contrary, team mate Andrew Elphick and I’ll be head north, cutting through Ukraine and heading to Poland. Easy peasy.
When we set off this morning getting out of Bucharest is actually pretty straightforward. It’s a big city, but the traffic is light, and before too long – and not before spotting a couple of ‘Sherpa’ vans – we’re heading north on the main northern road out of Romania, the E85. And to be honest, we’re enjoying a lovely drive along some long, rolling and well-finished roads. All the grim tales of the wild east have been severely over-egged, and we’re finding the driving to be perfectly acceptable, and the people who we have come across have been absolutely lovely.
Yes, the place obviously has its areas of great deprivation – and a real issue is the sheer number of stray dogs wandering around the place. And, er, quite a number of dead ones are by the roadside, bloating in the sun. But that’s another matter. The villages we came through have been charming, and I really could like the place. Overall impressions of the scenery – vast open plans. Punctuated by the odd interesting pocket of hilly driving. Boredom and fun in equal measure then.
I’m guessing that it being a Sunday has helped the traffic situation somewhat, and that come tomorrow and the onset of work, things might be somewhat different. We’ll see.
We decided as while enjoying one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen heading into our planned stop-off of Suceava, that we should actually carry on and head for Ukraine. But something strange happened as we crossed the place. It went dark. And at that moment, the light mood is lifted a little as we start playing a game of dodge the pothole, while remembering to give a wide berth to darkly dressed pedestrians in the road. Some of whom are taking their cows for a walk.
But we carry on regardless. And after a further 3o or so minutes, roll into the border crossing. Getting out of Romania is easy – we flash our passports and are waved through. Then we get to the Ukranian side. After taking our paperwork and passports away, and searching the Rover, we’re ushered through to Customs. Who, after 30 minutes or so of umming and ahhing, punctuated by loud Russian shouting, decide we’re not coming in. Bugger. The problem is straightforward. The Rover is registered in someone else’s name. That someone else isn’t with us. The result? A failure to proceed.
So, we’re turned back. And of course, there’s a half-mile long queue to get into Romania. And it’s not moving quickly. In fact, it’s moving very slowly indeed. So much so that Elphick’s now saying ‘you c***, you c***’ at every opportunity. And I can hear his stomach rumbling from my side of the car. Maybe another hour or so, we make it to the border. Our passports are taken off us again, and Elphick’s looking worried. A minute later, the customs official returns, smiling. We’re free to return into the – lovely, glorious, wonderful EU.
By now, it’s dark, and we’re both ravenous. And worried that we’re not going to get a berth for the night. A few miles out of the border and in the middle of nowhere, I stop the car for an Elphick comfort break – he jumps out, but within seconds is running – and I mean running – back to the car, chased by a baying stray dog. Oh how I laughed.
But we’re back in Suceava, and have managed to find a wonderful Communist era hotel. It’s concrete on the outside, and brown on the inside. And for me, that’s just perfect. We might have wasted three hours going somewhere we didn’t need to go, but I’m looking forward to another great day’s driving through Northern Romania, into Hungary, and onwards to Austria and perhaps Germany. Still excited. Still enjoying it.
Not sure about Elphick, but we’ll see tomorrow.