'Don't Worry, You're Alone'

Trip Start Apr 22, 2012
Trip End Nov 05, 2012

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Where I stayed
Campsite 15km west of Kiev

Flag of Ukraine  ,
Monday, April 2, 2012

First chance I've had to get access to the internet since leaving last Wednesday from home.  I did better when we were cycling!
First things first - well done to Roger and pals who worked hard to enable me to have a campervan to go away in.  A triumph out of adversity.  Mindyou it was about 1pm wednesday afternoon before I was able to start to think about putting anything into the camper - not helped by minor and slightly more major problems in the mrning.  Roger and I went to fuel up 'Sylvia' - did I mention that the camper is now called Sylvia? (after all she is maily silver in colour) and I spotted drops of diesel dripping - luckilly it was just a jubilee clip that needed tightening up.  Then we filled the water up - we don't usually bother with this - the one and only time we did, last miue before a trip to Mauritania we had a major flood inside the van as the top of the tank wasn't screwed down and I quite innocently went on filling anf filling the tank up from outside, amazing athow much water it held....   This time thought we had it sussed and Roger detailed to keep an eye on the inside (but - I forgot he can't see very well at the moment...) - and yes, we had another slodhing of water inside  could have been much worse though as spotted sooner rather than later.  Had to bale out a few litres, but then Roger, not able to see very well, slopped most of it over the fridge - so that wasn't working after this....  Luckilly this dired out by the time I reached Europe and was working again.
Then the next thing was Roger was showing me how you pump diesel out of the new spare tank into the main tank - but didn't work when he went to show me - needed a bigger fuse but all ok after this.  So after a few minor tantrums from Sue as everything seemed to go pear shaped with an hour or two to go before I had to leave to get the ferry, I decided to ring the ferry people up and see if i could delay the crossing another 24 hours.  'No Problem, Mrs Shuttleworth' but on top of the 133 for vehicle, passenger, cabin and dinner you've already paid, it will be another 220 ontop of this!!!  Concentrated the mind and managde to leave by 3.30 (an hour later than the time I'd said I wanted to leave by - but as I gave myself 1-1.5 hours lee weigh as I knew I wouldn't get away ontime, I was actually probably sooner leaving than I thought I might be...) - had to just throw everything insde the van - luckilly all my preparations made this much easier than it might have been.  Amazingly the weather was still really good - I'd expected it to rain on me as soon as I wanted to put stuff inside the van.
Was very strange to be leaving on my own and waving goodbye to Roger.  Ipod on, diet Coke and a bag of Wurther's Originals to keep me company as I drove along the M62 to Hull.  Arrived in Hull about 6pm and was on board by 6.20 and having my evening meal before 7pm. Out on the sundeck as the sun went down - like a summer's evening. Was very suprised just how busy the boat was - compared to the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holand that the new Zealander's, Eion and Liza took which had the grand total of 12 vehicles on it. Lots of alcohol was being drunk and certainly it was noisy n and off most of the night as they all trooped past my cabin later on. Next morning took ages to get through passport control etc as the police were busy breathalysing all the young lads and ? checking them for drugs? I must have looked too old ladyish to warrant being breathalized!

Then spent the next 8 hours driving 700km across Netherlands and Germany to just south of Berlin to a campsite at Schwielowsee, only a couple of miles off the main route I was following eastwards across Europe.  No one else there, no one at reception - in the trees, very spooky.  I'd emailed them to ask if i could camp there and they'd said I could so put the barrier up and found a spot and put the roof up on the camper for the first time, put the stands down, connected the electricity up and got the gas on - made a cuppa and got the heating working.  Was feeling good that I'd managed all this, tok a photo on the phone and sent it to Roger just to proove that I'd managed so far...  Did my self confidence alot of good. Locked up and went for a walk - dropped my phone and the back fell off, then when I tried it after this wouldn't work!!! Took the back off again and discovered the battery was missing - so backtracked to where I dropped it and there was the battery. So again, a very minor thing but pleased that I managed to suss it - I am a complete Luddite with anything mchanical or electronical.
Had a lovely walk along the side of the lake and discovered the Fischer Kirk - with a golden ship as a weather vane.  Even managed some occasional running.  I decided that once I met up with the New Zealanders in Poland I was going to eat very sensibly and healthily once again, but to keep me going across Europe it was a diet of chocolate and Coke and Cuppa Soups.....

Felt very snug locked inside the camper van reading my Kindle and drinking cuppa's that night, despite being on my own.  On the road the next day (Friday) by 8am, and originally I had planned to stay at Krakow in Poland at an all year campsite I'd found on the internet - but only when went to the loo somewhere and they wanted some money off me for the priveledge did I realise that Poland is not in the Euro and all the Euro's Ihad with me were of no use there.  Able to pay for fule and chocolate with the Post Office card, but no hole in the walls etc on the main Euro route to get any Zlotties - so worried that if I got to the campsite no one would peak English (no one did in the service stations) and they wouldn't let you pay by card.  As it was on;ly 3.30 pm when I arrived on the outskirts of Krakow it seemed like a good idea at the time to keep going the extra 3.5 hours estimated driving to the Polish Ukraine border where I'd lanned to meet Eion, Liza and Ivan. As it was to turn out, not one of my better ideas. The weather had been very overcast and occasional showers up to then but now the weather turned quite nasty - cold and wet and wintery. I'd quite forgotten that it was Friday afternoon and it was gettting towards ea time - the road deteriorated, road works, detours, unmade bits of roads, lots and lots of container trucks using the road, lots of cars ? on their way home to the Ukraine for the weekend? - very very slow movn traffic, saw 6 different accicents of which at least 3 looked very serious - incuding a burnt out vehicle. Ambulences, police cars etc with sirens wailing in all directions. Then it went dark - eventually managed to find a spot to pull off the roqad and ring Eion and Liza who said they would meet me on the road near to where they were parked up and show me the way. All went much easier than it might have done and 800kms or so later that day I was drinking a much appreciated cuppa in their lovely warm van, camped on a small village green type area in a small cluster of houses just off the main road.

Got the roof up on the camper in the pitch black etc and christened the porta potty for the first time - works amazingly well.  It lives next to the fridge (!) - with a wooden divided between them, under the floor which constitutes the front 3/4 of the camper back - it is raised up about 18 inches.  The front 1/4 of the camper back is at a lower level so you can slide the porta potty onto this area - make sure the back door is locked and there is just room to sit in state on the porta potty then. Wouldn't be a particularly pretty site if someone opened the back door on you though...

When I went into one of the toilets on my way through Poland a small poster was on the back of the toilet door that said in English 'Don't Worry, You're on Your Own!' - everything else was in Polish so no idea what it was all about.  A bit creepy though....

Saturday morning the weather was revolting, pouring with rain and incredibly cold.  We had alazy morning and I made a bit of an attempt top try and sort out everything inside the camper van, but still awaiting some dry warm weather to make the task a little easier and make use of all the lovely lockers Roger has created for me in Sylvia - they're all relatively empty at the moment so can make it easier to find things if I distribute them around the vehicle when I get the chance.

Saturday afternoon we went the 20km up to the Ukraine border - couldn't gp across until Sunday 1st April as the New Zealander's need visas for this country and this was when they started.  As usual at thee eastern borders a very long line of trucks waiting to be allowed across the border - cars just bypass them and go straight to the front of the queue. We parked up in a huge parking lot next to a very new looking shopping mall. Inside it transpired it was the opeing day of the mall - and a whole load of Polish/Ukrainian dancers singing and dancing there. Only about 15% of the shops were in use but there was a supermarket so managed to get fresh fruit and veg, and also some lagers. Didn't take credit cards though but there was a modern cash machine in the mal so was able to get some cash to pay with. The toilets were very gratefully received - very modern. You take advantage wherever you can of toilets. We decided to stay in the car park overnight - no one said anything. I dubbed us the Three Bears - Ivan's van is Daddy Bear, Eions and Lisa's is Mummy Bear (they have quite a gsarden growing on their front dashboard) and Sylvia is very definitely Little Bear. Ivan is on his own until we get to Kiev, where his Russian wife Luda is visiting her father who lives there. Her daughter (aged 33 I'm told but looks about 18) and her 9 year old son have travelled up from 3 hours south of Kiev in Russia to meet up with her as well.  Ivan and Luda left New Zealand at the same time - Ivan to the Netherlands to pickup his camper and Luda to USA to visit her other daughter before flying onto Kiev.

An early start to reach the border by 8am.  Took about two and a half hours to get across the border - they seemed to find the Toyota Hiluxe particulary fascinating - giving it much more of a going over than the other two camper vans,  What a cold hole it was - a Siberian cold icy snowy wind blowing right through the undercover area.  As usual a very complicated ritual to be followed to process yourself through the system - no logic and no one really speaks English so frustraing on all sides at times.  There eyes go up when they ask where you are going and I reply 'China'. I love the way they get a twinkle in their eye when they ask if my name is 'Suzanne' - they all like to say that name a couple of times - liking the way it sounds I think.

Then spent all the rest of Sunday heading resolutely east towards Kiev.  I've found the place I like to be - tail end Charlie of the three vehicles.  I leave Ivan mainly, with Eion and Liza doing the navigating - my GPS is a waste of time and they both have a very interesting Samsung smart phone with downloaded maps etc on - brilliant bit of kit.  Stopped for lunch at a small wayside cafe - empty except for one other diner.  We were struggling to communicate as to what food we could have but in the end spotted what the other person in there was eating and asked for 4 of those - chips and batetred something ot other, very very tasty with sweet beetroot pickle.  Eion and Ivan had an icecream for afters (and no -I didn't have one...), and this was my main meal of the day - otherwise had fruit and soup - and Diet Coke.  Took a photo of our meal which proved useful again today when trying to communicate what we wantred to eat.  Not something Roger and I would usually do, stop for lunch but relatively inexpensive (juts over 2 Euro's each), give us a chance to meet up as so cold we all keep to our own snug campers in the evening, not wanting to venture out.  Also allows us some interaction with the locals.

Spent last night at the very romantic truck stop on the side of the main E40 route eatwards.  Another cold hole, lots of trucks there and also plenty of wild dogs livng on the scraps taken from the rubbish bins all around. This morning I went to put some rubbish in  - as I walked towards the bin Lisa shouted me a warning - and out popped a dog from the rubbish bin like a Jack in thre Box - Liza had been worried I'd put my hand in and get it bitten.  The dog looked so sweet though - really wished that I'd got my camera with me..

Problems yesterday for me - the heating refused to come back on (did I mention it was VERY cold...) - after phone calls to roger worked out it was probably because I'd drained the leisure battery as I'd had the computer on, and was also charging my Kindle and camera.  Tried putting everything off (was pitch black) and running the engine but Roger did mention it might be that the leisure battery wasn't being charged as we drove along.  Which is what it turned out to be as when we got here in Kiev and onto an electric hook up, there is a green light that should come on - and it didn't - had a flashing red light instead.  So, roger set to problem solve for me at the end of the phone - turned out it was a fuse that had gone.  Replaced the 10 amp fuse with a 15 amp one - greeen light came on for 30 seconds or so and then blew the fuse again.  oger suggested tuning the charger off and on and using a 20 amp fuse - the green light was still flashing away when I left it an hour or so ago.

At the moment we're sat in the lobby of a hotel on teh outskirts of Kiev - the first campers of the year so have had problems getting the electric and water on for us - they are opening a room up for us to have a shower, Probably a lovely place in the sunshine but although not as cold here in the trees as it has been still fairly miserable.  Have met up with Luda, her daughter and grandson and they say it is unseasonably cold - you are often in T shirts at this time of the year.

The main road east from Poland to Kiev is in most parts a dual carriageway but is still being constructed in others, and plenty of container lorries thundering both ways with goods.  Added in are horses and carts, bicycles, old Babushkas wrapped up well bent over walkign along, lots of old men in flat caps.  Churches galore, the poorer a village looks then the more richly and colourful the two or more churches seem to be.  Plenty of was memorials, Russian style as you drive along.  Amazing trees lining the road - thought they were old birds nests to begin with but they wern't - little bundles of greenery in bare looking branches - see the photos to see what I mean.  There are also lots of roadside stalls selling what look like bunches of twigs and leaves - are these what they use for beating themselves with after a sauna - it's a particular sort I know birch?) from when Roger took sauna's on the Kola Peninsular - they went out hunting the correct sort of twigs. Also bottles of vodka (homemade) on sale all along the side of the road and occasional stalls with large very colourful stuffed toys for sale. 

Off to explore Kiev tomorrow - were hoping to get a tour up to Chernobyl but have a feeling we are too early in the seasonfor this to be a feasible option. Will upload some photos - but as many aret aken fron inside the car as I am driving along, please exuse them!

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Laurence Jervis on

Hi SueZanne,

Sounds like your adventure has truly started. Look forward to reading your updates as you go.

Take care of yourself.. and don't forget to lock that back door!

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