Taxi for two from Bangkok to Brighton? Ants Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxter aim to cross 12 countries by tuk-tuk, and raise £50,000 for Mind.
At last, Ants and Jo sense that home is within reach.
The Russia / Ukraine border between Rostov-on-Don and the Crimea
Ants writes ...
Another border, another pair of underpants, as Jo would say. After 16 days in Mother Russia we have eaten our last eggy breakfast, been stopped by our last Russki politzia and drunk our last Russian beer. Now for country number six, the Ukraine, which lies merely a field from whence I now write. So near but yet so far; with 35 cars between us and the barrier we could be in for a long wait. But at least the sun is shining and we know that on the other side lies the Crimea with its beaches, Silk Road fortresses, cave cities.... and naturist beaches.
Our last night in Russia was spent in a field, watching a harvest moon rise over the trees and listening to a cacophony of insect life. Several of which stung and bit us. Once again the tent experience led to little sleep, but was most enjoyable although unfortunately I left our cutlery in Volgograd so we ate our pasta with toothpicks. There are few things more pleasurable than sitting outside on a warm summer's evening under a full moon. It seemed an appropriate way to be ending Russia and Jo and I sat and chatted about the last two weeks and the three and a half weeks we have left on the road. Time is slipping by so fast and Brighton is looming out of the future at an alarming rate.
Thanks to another five police stops yesterday and two today I won our bet as to how many cop stops we would rack up in Russia. Jo said under 30, I said over 30. Our final tally is 34. Jo's forfeit is to pose for a photo for the blog wearing no more than the Yi apron. Ho ho.
"Today, I won our bet as to how many cop stops we would rack up in Russia."
Police were one of the things we were most worried about in Russia, but on the whole the stops have been no more than an excuse to have a closer inspection of Ting Tong. A cursory glance at our dokumenti is always accompanied by the usual tukking questions and disbelief that we have no 'moosh' (husbands) with us. One policeman yesterday was a keen collector of coins so we added to his collection with some Yuan and Tenge. So far that is the only money we have had to hand over to men in uniform. At the next stop the policeman, half-joking, asked us if we had any 'heroin, cocaine, narkotiki'. Yeah right. If a smuggler were to dream up the worst accoutrement to smuggling they could imagine Ting Tong would be it. Today, however, we met our first bad egg and it was quickly apparent that he was determined to extract roubles from us. He examined our documents, asked to see the engine number, bombarded us with tiresome questions, then marched off to the police station with our passports. But since our docs are perfectly in order and he could find nothing wrong we headed off in the direction of the Ukraine with our wallets and tempers intact.
All in all Russia has been a great experience. Rain, spark plug issues and technological hiccups have not dampened my enthusiasm for this country or its people. More than anywhere else the Russians have loved Ting Tong. Barely five minutes has passed on a Russian road without people laughing, shouting questions out at us, begging us to stop and chat, asking to swap cars and whipping out video cameras. Some classic comments have included, 'What is this apparition I see before me?' and 'Is it a car, is it a motorbike, is it a tractor?'. Some Russians have also been just as surprised to see 'Anglichankas' (English girls). In Yekaterinburg one man lurched up to us, beer can in hand and said, 'Eenglish, never before have I seen an Eenglish' then just stood and stared. Most bizarre. Apart from the odd Communist fossil or sulky waitress I have found the Russians to be fun, positive, kind and welcoming - a far cry from the cold, hard stereotype we feared. Hopefully the Ukrainians will be the same.