Posts Tagged ‘crossing’

A day at the border

14th September 2010 by Helen

Tuesday 14th September

A boring day spent at the Mongolian / Russian border

Come morning I awoke from a lovely night’s slumber.  Paul is bleary eyed from sleeplessness, the wind only having apparently abated while the rain beat down.  He says that the protector in him won’t let him sleep deeply if he fears the tent may be weather damaged.  After a breakfast of apples we headed off for the border again.

Today’s border crossing was both easy and tedious.  The easy bit was the absence of any hostility or antagonism from the various border guards and customs officials.  One ‘charge’ of 100 roubles to process a form might have been seen as a bribe but the exchange rate suggests this was only a little over £2.00 and so not something we baulked at too much.

The tedious bit was that the whole process took eight hours.  Our longest border crossing yet!!

Having parked so close to the border we had arrived easily at 10.00 am on the Mongolian side.  There were a few cars and small trucks already there but significantly nobody seemed to be moving.  Occasionally a car or a truck might be called through, however not necessarily in order of arrival.  There were lots of people walking around, and we were pestered quite a bit by money touts trying to get us to buy Roubles from them.  We didn’t want any Roubles as we already have about £60 which is enough to last us until we get to the next main town and an ATM where we will undoubtedly get a better rate.  Several dogs were also running around, stopping beside cars to sit and watch the occupants.  Sometimes they were successful in persuading the car occupants to pass on some crumbs or tastier morsels in this way.  We donated two biscuits, one to a young female dog who looked as though she had not long had a litter and another to an older dog on the grounds that most people fall for the puppy appeal.  A much younger puppy was running around drinking water from the puddles and playing, not yet having learned either the art of or need for begging. 

Finally we were called forward and we drove through the first set of gates.  Our passports were checked and we joined another queue.  And so it went on, first through passport control and customs on the Mongolian side and then through passport control and customs on the Russian side.

No doubt some of today’s delays were because it is only possible to exit Mongolia at the same rate as cars are processed entering Russia as there is in effect no no-man’s land.  With only about 20 metres separating the two border controls this has to be the narrowest no-man’s land we have seen so far, and in complete contrast to the Russian/Mongolian border in the west which at about 25km is probably the longest we have encountered.

But eventually we were through and once again we were driving through Russian countryside.   We later work out it has taken about 8 hours to get through.  Unfortunately neither of us has a working watch any more and all certainty about time has gone.  The battery on my watch died a few weeks ago, whilst Paul dropped his in the shower at the Oasis and he proved the ‘virtually’ element of his virtually indestructible watch!!

The scenery is so different here in Russia.  So quickly we have left the barrenness of Mongolia and are now surrounded by trees and small forests that line the road.  The signs of autumn are much stronger now, there are trees of gold amongst the green, while smaller bushes and shrubs of bronze line the roads we travel.

Although the sky is grey and overcast in the distance there is a small patch of blue sky through which the sunset is beginning to be visible.  As we turn a corner the hills ahead of us are bathed in a deep rich redness, reflecting the setting sun.

Although we are heading for Ulan-Ude where we need to stop for a couple of days to register our visas, we are planning first to visit the enormous Lake Baikal, to honour a commitment we made while we were in Astrakhan to take some photos and email them to someone we met who helped us.  We have entered Russia on the A165 but plan to cut west across between the A165 and the M55 (which runs alongside a part of Lake Baikal), following some of the secondary and minor roads on the map.  But it’s a long drive and eventually as the darkness is enveloping us more we finally pull over to camp for the night.  It’s cold but not windy or raining and for that we are grateful.  Paul at least is hoping to sleep better tonight than last night.

Campsite – Gusinoye Ozero

Distance travelled – 132 km

Border crossing into Ukraine

22nd June 2010 by Helen

Tuesday 15th June

After a day off from travelling yesterday, we headed once again towards Ukraine today.  Much to our surprise, when we arrived at about 6.30 pm we found the border still open and sailed through from Poland into no-man’s land.  All in all it then took us two hours and five different sets of checks of passports and car documents to get through passport control and into Ukraine.  Oh, and a $10 bribe for not having a green card (we didn’t need one).  The conversation went a little like this:

Official: Green card?

Paul: I don’t have one.  I didn’t know we needed one.  Here’s my insurance.

Official: Green card?

Paul: I don’t have one.  Do I need one to drive in Ukraine?

Official: shouts for Roberta

Roberta: after talking to official in Russian: It’s like this, you need a green card with Ukraine mentioned in to drive in Ukraine.  You don’t have one so you can’t drive in Ukraine.

Paul:  Where do I get one?

Official: (through Roberta): You have to go back to England and buy one there

Paul: That’s a two week drive.  Can I buy one here?

Roberta speaks to official then says: it’s like this, you have now to make an offer on how much you can pay.

Paul: you mean I can buy one here?

Roberta shrugs shoulders and says: You say how much.

Paul: Aahhhhhh.  I understand. How do we do the deal?

Roberta takes passport from official and says: You could slip it in here.

Paul thinks to himself he has between $10 and $100 dollar bills in his back pocket, reaching in he slid a note from the pack and slipped it into his passport.  To his relief he noticed it was a $10 bill!!

The official simply slipped it beneath the table, stamped Paul’s documents and bade us on our way.

Seemples, as the meerkat might say.

We drove off into Ukraine to be stopped by a police patrol car.  Pretending not to understand his request for money we were waived on again.

By now we are into early evening with no hope of finding a campsite so we drove as far as we could into Ukraine and with the light fading try and keep an eye out for somewhere to park up for the night.  Taking a short drive down a side turning we notice several rather colourful and attractive signs along the side of the road.  Thinking these rather pretty and noticing the Orthodox cross symbol on most of them we think they may relate to some religious festival or other.  Turning round and driving back again we notice that they actually have pictures of tanks on them and maybe they are markers for the boundary of some army tank training ground!  No parking here then!  After a couple more odd turns we pull in to a disused petrol forecourt and park in the opposite corner to another car we think is in the same situation (having noticed several other cars doing the same tour of the countryside seemingly looking for somewhere to kip for the night).  Dozing off in the cab we can hear giggles and such like in the distance and realise it’s coming from the other car.  Not wanting to investigate too closely we never did find out if it was a private party of some kind (drugs, alcohol, whatever) or a courting couple, but after about an hour they drove off anyway and we were left in peace.