Keiv to Vilnius, across Belarus
As the challenge continues into its 10 mammoth day, the old banger’s mileage counter gets higher and higher, whilst Simon and Alex’s energy reserves get lower and lower. This was one of the most challenging days yet, with 450 miles to cover and 2 borders to cross!
Naomi saw Alex and Simon off, before jumping on a plane back to England.
They continued through the Ukraine, a country described as among the three most corrupted nations in the world. So unsurprisingly, but still unnervingly, the boys were in for a day of bribes. Apparently most of the population is used to paying bribes to police, health officials and public workers. The police pulled Simon and Alex over 3 times in as many hours and even wrote suggested bribes on the banger’s boot.
The next task was to cross the border into Belarus. They navigated through the difficult border, and were faced with a road which seemed to journey back in time. It led into a country stuck in the time warp of the Soviet era with obvious, grinding poverty.
They drove for miles and miles searching for something to eat and drink, only to to find a barren and empty landscape staring back. They had to rely on the last few flapjacks that Simon’s wife Angela had sent with them!
Flapjack fueled, they headed to Minsk, only to find their road suddenly blocked with no explanation. They fired up their backup Sat Nav, and tried their iPhones, but with no signal they eventually had to turn back and rely on their own sense of direction.
They drove for miles and ended up on a dirt track. The had to concede (temporary) defeat, turn around and try again. Eventually they found a road out of town, and further on, a sign to Minsk! Hurrah!
Miles later they reached Belarus’s capital Minsk. As you can see, the city was made up of huge apartment blocks, all merely numbered – nothing named, nothing personal – all a complete throw back to the Soviet Union.
Their VISAs expired at midnight, so they had no time to stop and explore the city. They continued to drive through the city and out into the countryside.
They were keen to exit this troubled country and to get to Vilnius to enjoy their evening. But as the border approached they realised that this would be no easy exit. They saw ahead of them a long line of lorries and trucks queuing to the border. They were hardly moving, and Alex and Simon began to fear they’d never cross in the few short hours they legally had left in the country.
At around 7pm, they joined a queue and sat in their 19 year old car, engine off, in the freezing cold and darkness. It took a good few hours before they reached the front and were met by fearsome-looking officials in peaked hats. Eventually by 11pm, they made it though the barricade and sped into Lithuania.
They were greeted by beautiful countryside and within 30 minutes it was as if 50 years had flown by and they made it to Vilnius, a beautiful, modern city where life seemed altogether more decent.
Here’s to a goodnight’s sleep before the journey to Gdansk tomorrow – they’re getting closer and closer to home!