The final weeks were hectic and stressful just getting to the start line. But I got there with a load of help from my support team, advisers, helpers and friends. It was truly a team effort to get me on my way. And I just like to say a big thanks to everybody involved. I couldn’t have done this without you all.
We departed from RGS last Saturday with my support team and a few friends there to wave Boris, Kiwi (a toy bear dressed as an All Black, from my godson), Nathan and myself off. It was a great send off and fantastic to be on the road finally.
Nathan had proposed the question of joining for the first section of the trip a few weeks ago. I was happy to have him onboard for his technical advice so the chance to utilise his skills while on the road was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Since Saturday I’ve covered 1,337 miles across England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland and now Ukraine. The last 5 days have given Nathan and I a good chance to go over pretty much all of the set up and preparation aspects of the trip. From truck layout, equipment testing to security and safety approaches. We have done a bit of filming and even had time for a laugh and a bit of silliness too. We have stayed at couple of campsites both paid and wild, and spent a couple of days at a hostel. Boris is getting settled and I’m getting into a routine. The only thing that is of concern is a pesky oil light that stays on. We have been all over the car and checked the oil daily. There doesn’t seem to be any problems and we think its more likely to be an electrical problem. Boris is still carrying half of Africa with him, so I expect further electrical problems along the way.
I left Nathan in Krakow yesterday morning and headed for the Ukraine border with Boris and Kiwi for company. Nathan was a fantastic support and has brought a real level of professionalism to the trip and its preparation. I’d highly recommend him for anybody doing something similar on the future.
I was feeling a range of emotions when I said goodbye to Nathan. Nervousness, apprehension, excitement and adrenaline to name a few. It didn’t take long for me to settle down as Boris and I instantly made friends with Oleg and Victoria from the Ukraine. Oleg is a member of the Brno 4×4 club (www.brno4x4.cz) in the Czech Republic. He owns a 1991 Landcruiser so he came over to check Boris out. Looks like I might have to make a detour through the Czech Republic on the way home in December.
The Ukraine border crossing went fairly smoothly even though I was the only one to have his car inspected. The first guard smiled and wished me luck with a devilish smile when I told him my plan. The inspection I suspect it was more down to a curious guard, once I told him what I was doing. The female guard couldn’t decide if I was the person on my passport since I’d had my hair cut off. She stared at me and I stared back at her, trying to restrain myself from using my masterful border guard charm to make jokes and engage in witty banter. Crossing these borders is a serious business and there is no time for having a laugh it seems!! The only thing I haven’t managed to do is buy some road tax that apparently I need. I tried and failed at the border so just headed into Lv’iv. This made me weary of the supposedly dodgy local cops, so much so when I happened across on I tried to lose him by stopping at a petrol station. When he pulled into the station as well, I thought here we go. Fortunately nothing happened and I just seem to be a novelty. Most people so far are intrigued by the trip. However when they hear I’m going by myself they shake their heads and give me a look like I’m slightly crazy.
As I write to you I’m sitting in Boris’ roof tent outside a dodgy hotel called the Jockey Hotel in Lv’iv, Ukraine. It’s on the site of what looks like an abandoned race course but its wifi reaches into the carpark.
Tomorrow I head for Kiev and my first couple of nights of couchsurfing with a local called Lev. Couchsurfing is an experiment that I think will play a major part on this trip. It combines that opportunity to meet the locals, save some accommodation costs, (hopefully) improve security and prove regular internet access for planning. It should add to the adventure.
Don’t forget you can follow my live progress via the Delorme Satellite Tracker under the route tab.