(warning this text may contain strong language 😉
So after spending many hours border crossings in and out of Moldova we arrived to the Ukraine’s border. First we had problems to get into Ukraine as the Moldova border officer had forgot to put the exit stamp in the passports but after that Anders and me are showing our sweetest smile with the head slightly bent at one side he let us through phew….. we thought that was nerve-racking and that was before we got the chock of a lifetime which I will tell you about later.
Arriving to Odessa in Ukraine
We arrived to Odessa very late when it was dark and the traffic was just horrific. It had been a very long day and we were both very tired and very very hungry. Anders had nearly been in a crash twice just within a few minutes which scared me big time. The first hotel we found (there are no camping places around here) was rather rough so we decided to find another one, though we weren’t really capable of riding our bikes at this moment but we just wanted a hotel that were descent and most important that our bikes were safe. We found a nice one eventually and Anders manage to get half price for the room, he is very good at getting good prices for all sorts of things J. The bikes were locked in and there were a guard as well so we felt ok. The room was the smallest room I’ve ever been into but it was a room with a bed and I was so very tired.
Now to the disaster
Not sure how to tell you this without you all will think that we are completely nuts that managed to fuck this up so bad, and I don’t blame you.
Ok this is the story. We got our visas for Russia and Kazakhstan through VisaHQ in London. Anders talked to them over the phone to sort out what was required from us and what was important to think about. He got the information that we had to enter Russia/Kazakhstan within 90 days after the issue date and that the duration we could stay in the countries was max 30 days. He was also asked to provide estimated dates when we would cross the borders and also exit the countries and was told that it was just info that had to be filled in the forms. Anders didn’t really question that, as that is how it is for the visa for Mongolia and China. We paid a lot of money and got the visas… we where so relieved that another task from the to do list could be ticked. When I checked the visas dates later I thought it looked a bit strange with the 27th July but Anders told me that that is how it should be, and I believed him…
However, the guy at the Ukraine border who let us through with a missing exit date came up to us again and made it clear that the dates on the Russia and Kazakhstan visas were incorrect if we are not planning to stay in Ukraine for over three weeks. Anders looked at me and I’m not sure if his look said, Petra please don’t kill me or if he just was in chock like me. So now we were in Ukraine and couldn’t leave until the 27th of July and we couldn’t enter Kazakhstan until the 31 of July. With these dates there would be no chance on earth for us to reach the Chinese border in time (5 September) so at this time we started to panic a little bit. We heard that there was a Russia consulate in Odessa and felt relieved as we thought that they will of course sort out the date for the Russia visa, it just to move the date slightly, can’t be that difficult, can it? Of course they couldn’t do that but after many hours at the consulate they informed us that we could have a transit visa so we got relieved again. It should only take two days. When Anders went to the consulate after two days and waited for a few hours to get this sorted he was informed that the two-entrance visa we had has to be cancelled when we got the transit visas…. Then we would be stuck in Kazakhstan, as we have to go back into Russia again to get to Mongolia…. I had been very brave up to now but at this moment I just thought fuck it and were thinking I’ll go back home now when it occurred to me that we do not have a home to go home to… We were both so disappointed and angry with the VisaHQ in London. We actually sent them an email and the answer we got was ‘this was the dates we provided them with’ but the thing was that these were the dates they recommended over the phone, so fuck them, never going to use that visa centre again. Another sentence from the email from the VisaHQ was “I hope at least weather and food are good in Ukraine. Sorry for misunderstanding and any inconvenience caused.” Fuck them big time.
There was only one guy who could speak English at the Russia Consulate and he kindly recommended us to go to a visa centre in Odessa to get a tourist voucher so that we could apply for a new tourist visa, which we did and that cost us a further 360 dollars and did not included the actually visa.
The day after we headed to the Russia consulate again to apply for a single entrance visa to Russia which means that we will not be able to travel through Kazakhstan. I am really disappointed about that as this was a country I had really looked forward to, instead we have to travel 3125 miles (5000km) through Russia to come to Mongolia…..and that if we get the visas.
During the time we were trying to sort out the visa while in Odessa we met an American guy, who had lived in Ukraine for many years, at McDonalds. He offered to contact someone he knew that could get us into Russia, we were just suppose to pay a guy at the border…. You might think we are cowards but we don’t really want to end up in prison in Russia so we said politely no. Next time we talked to him this time on Skype he said he knew somebody who could give us visa to Russia for free…legal but we still didn’t think it was worth it considering the punishment we might have got if we had got caught as I’m pretty sure this is not the legal way to do it…
We didn’t only had the visa problems as Anders managed to bump into a car the other day and a guy came out at screamed $100 (guess that was the only think he knew in English) and then the police came and the police officers in Ukraine are not as the polite police officers in England or the correct police officers in Sweden, no they thought we should pay too. We had heard that the police force in Ukraine is very corrupted but they never asked us for money but they took our passport and told us (in Russia of course) that we should pay the guy. The thing was that the mark on the car, if it came from Anders bike, easily could have been wiped off by a tissue….
Now to something positive
The first day in Russian consulate, Anders met a guy Leonard Lidberg who had lived in US and could speak English. While chatting Anders mentioned the story about the visa and do you know what? The guy, without knowing us, offered us to stay in a flat, he owned, for free…. This would never happen in either England or in Sweden, of course I became suspicious and again I guess I have watched to many gangster movies in the past lol. However, Leonard took us to an area with lots of garages where they fixed crashed cars (there were lots which didn’t really surprised us considering the horrific traffic in Odessa. In this complex of garages he had an office and a flat. In the flat there were a couple of bedrooms, a sauna and one big assembly room that had a kitchen part, two huge sofas and the biggest pool table I’ve ever seen.
It felt very surrealistic as we were in the middle of a industrial sited we were told that the gates closes at 9pm and by then we had to be in as then they have seven watchdogs guarding the place eeek. The first night we were scared to hell and put chars and boxes in front of the doors. I even put a knife next to the bed.
The morning after both me and Anders felt a bit stupid as it didn’t look so scary any more. As the problem with getting the visa took much longer that we thought Leonard kindly offered us to stay in the flat as long as we needed though he was going to Turkey in a few days on holiday. Leonard even handed us the key to his office so we could use Internet. He is really a kind and genuine person, and before he left for his holiday he took us in the car and showed us around Odessa, absolute brilliant. At this time I promised myself to trust people more, but on the other hand we were told not to trust anyone so what ever you do I guess you can get it wrong but with Leonard we got it wrong the right way, that’s for sure 🙂
The people who were working for Leonard stopped us several times when we were passing and “forced” us to drink vodka snaps having a chat and for each vodka we drunk the better we could communicate lol. I so wish I could speak a little bit of Russia, actually I’ve learnt 5 words.
So what did the heading ‘When one door closes, another opens’ mean? Without the problems with the visas we would never met Leonard, we would never been able to stay in Odessa for this long, which means that we could get to know the city a bit more and we wouldn’t have had these crazy moments to share with you…
So did we get the visa to Russia or not…. To be continue 😉 or for you who follow us on the GPS tracking can figure it out lol…
Some pictures from Odessa