The Romanian border to Uman

17th - 26th April 2003

Our introduction to Ukraine was a border guard who got most irate because we stopped 2m beyond the barely legible "Stop" sign painted on the road. Only when we had wheeled our bikes back to the magic line would she take our passports and talk to us. We were then given a form written only in Cyrillic but they didn't seem to mind that we hadn't filled it in and stamped it anyway...

Once over the border the culture change continued. We were stopped by the police within an hour of crossing the border, and the following day we were stopped twice. The second time was near farcical because the policemen had removed their uniforms for reasons best known to them, so they appeared to be three rather agressive blokes demanding our passports. We refused! Eventually they realised why we were being so uncooperative and showed us their uniform jackets. After that we were the best of friends and they twice put us back on the right road after we took a wrong turning (yes, they were watching us!).

Initially we took what our map marked as a "Minor road, surfaced" (see photo above) which turned to be surfaced with loose gravel. 40km later we could have kissed the tarmac when we finally reached it. Since then the roads have been good quality and not too busy, although it is early days still. A major find on our third day in Ukraine were some decent maps in a petrol station. The map we'd bought in the UK was dreadful!

People we met were incredibly friendly. They wanted to know where we were from, where we going, how far we'd been and how long on the road. One lady even gave Ju a red carnation. Just the thing to mask the smell of passing lorries!

Our first town visit was Kamayanets-Podilsky. It is famous for its 16th century fortress:

We found western Ukraine to be a well-wooded and not over-populated country. This made for pleasant cycling down tree lined roads and easy camping in the forests.

We had a nasty moment when a truck overtaking us hit an oncoming car. Both doors were ripped off the car but luckily no-one was hurt. Luckily too it was in no way our fault but we still felt bad because we should really have pulled over to make room for the truck.

Much happier was meeting these children in the village of Obodivka, they were intensely curious about us and our trip, and spoke enough english to ask our ages, how long on the road, etc.

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