Having nothing better to do than sleep for the time being I decided to explore what would be my surroundings for the next three days and nights. I walked the narrow hall and found car after car looking exactly like the one I was in. I went on for about six cars or so before deciding to turn back–there obviously wasn’t much to see here. A few cars before I hit my own I heard some English voices and peeked in a berth while passing to see four white faces. “Ahh–nice to hear some English!” I remarked, sticking my head inside for a second. “It was actually Dutch, but no biggie” replied one of the guys in the room. They invited me inside and we introduced ourselves before breaking out a bottle of vodka. Turns out they were from the Netherlands and Belgium and had met up in Moscow when boarding the train. We had a nice chat before fatigue got the better of me and I retired to my cabin.
Tags: alan bator
, border crossing
, siberian express
, trans-siberian express
Besides taking a couple wrong turns we had little problem getting to the Tajikistan border. The greatest thing was actually the border itself–everyone was so friendly! After our not-so-great experiences of the past we never knew what to expect when crossing into another country, but we were pleasantly surprised by this border. Everyone was interested in what we were doing and chatted with us as they expeditiously handled our paperwork. We were into the country within an hour or so.
It didn’t take long to reach the Uzbek border the next day. All of us arrived and started the six-part registration process with no problem (other than in the middle of our applications the border guards having taken a two-hour lunch break). We had been there for over five hours and I had just finished the car import paperwork when I saw Collin standing outside of the border zone. I motioned for him to come over to complete the visa-stamping process but he motioned for me to come to him. He had just been rejected entry into Uzbekistan.
So, keep in mind this is all in sweltering heat–not even the commander’s office had air conditioning. We hadn’t eaten much more than some granola bars and dried fruit over the past twenty hours. Neither of us had gotten more than a couple hours of fitful sleep in the car. We were low on water. We were dirty from road dust. We just wanted to get through this stupid checkpoint and make it to Odessa before nightfall to check in to our hotel.
Why couldn’t our car accompany us in? Why, we didn’t have a passport for the car of course! It turns out that all cars registered in this section of the world receive a card that allows them to drive through other countries. As the car is a US car and also registered in the US, and because this ‘car passport’ doesn’t exist in the US, we didn’t possess one.
Here’s where the fun begins.
So we completed our one mile tour of Moldova and entered the Ukrainian border check point. To our surprise we see not one but three other rally cars waiting there. As there is a line about ten cars deep I go over and talk to the guy in the nearest rally vehicle. Their teams were from the UK and he sad that they had been there almost six and a half hours, as one of the three cars in their convoy had some vehicle registration papers that didn’t seem to match the numbers on the car. Oops! Each one of them had had their car’s contents inspected and had been fined for numerous offenses, including having money stowed in the vehicle ($15US fine). He was just waiting on the final paperwork to be finished before they could head off.
Things are getting a bit tougher.
First off, the good part: Romania. After driving all night we entered the country a bit before sunrise. I was lucky enough to watch the sunrise over the hills while driving towards the east. This was the first stretch of land where you really felt like you weren’t ‘in Kansas anymore’. A very agrarian society to this day, we were traveling through villages where people were leading their cows to pasture, and horse-drawn carts were sharing the road with cars. We had origially planned to travel to the capital, Bucharest, but as we were already a bit behind schedule we decided to sick to the northern part of the country and push on towards Moldova.