Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Images of Odessa

A strange little bridge where it appears lovers write or engrave their names onto locks and fix them to the railing; hundereds of them!

Tips for travellers in the Ukraine

Thought I'd document a few things that might be of help to other travellers:
Language: It would be extremely helpful if you can read a little crilic; just to be able to decipher the road signs, because they don't translate into what you would expect in english. Most people do not speak english; a few words if that. Sign language gets you by.
Roads: The highways between major town are quite good; usually 4 lane type freeways. Get off the main roads and they become narrow, potholed and bumpy, with very few advisory warning signs, especially approaching sharp corners/bends; so slow down. The roads in some of the older villages and especially in major towns are paved with granite cobblestones - they are extemely slippers, and combined with tram and railway tracks, it makes riding tricky.
Road signs and navigation: Road signs tend to spring up just before a turn and don't give you much time to prepare. The signs are mostly in crilic and again don't necessarily correspond with its english equivalent. The easiest way to get around is the road numbers; eg. E65, M05, etc. I have a TomTom Rider and the only roads that show are the main arterial roads with the road number. These tend to disappear when you enter a large city. The compass on the TomTom is the best way to navigate; also lokking at a road map attached to my tank bag. I found if I have a fair idea which direction I want to go and loosly follow the compass direction, we eventaully get there. When driving on a major road; stay in the right lane at all times; and make real sure it's clear before overtaking or using the left lane, because you never know when that Mercedes or V8 Audi will come out of nowhere at a million miles an hour.
Petrol stations: WOG or Lukoil are best and most reliable service stations to obtain petrol. All have 95 octane (green pump). The usual procedure is: the is usually a guy near the pumps; he will fill your tank. Get off the bike, open the filler cap, select the pump and put it into the tank. Either tell the guy how much you want (in money, and pull some out of your wallet and flash it in his face) or go to the cashier's window and hand over enough money to pay for what you want. The guy will fill your tank. If you've overestimated, you get a refund! Most stations don't take credit card. At the time of posting this, a litre of 95 octane is about 6.3 Ukraine thingamejigs (about AUS$1.50).
Miscellaneous: Smokes cost about AUS$1.50 a pack. Coffee is execptional and cheap. Don't drink tap water.
Cops: They are everwhere; especially approaching service stations. They mainly stop trucks. Most have small hand-held radar, and most drivers flash their lights to warm you. I've always stayed under the speed limits (not really sure what they are, but slower than the average car!) and haven't been stopped yet.
Money: most larger hotel take credit card and also have an ATM. Lots of bamks with ATM's. Most places only take cash. One Australian dollar is 4.4 Ukraine thingamejigs. Everything seems to be quite cheap; breakfast $5, coffee $1, smokes $1.50, big diner with glass of wine $25.
Hope this helps . . .

Goodbye Kiev - Hello Odessa!

Left Kiev this morning is pissing down rain; 9 degrees and cold; and every car and truck in the city were on the road blocking our way out! Managed to navigate our way ( using a compass) out of the city in 2 hours! Then onto the highway south to Odessa. 500km took us 9 hours!
Note for anyone coming this way from Horizons - The Black Sea Hostel in Odessa no longer exists - the building is being torn down. It took us an hour driving in circles around town after we got here to find it didn't exist - pissed off Fred!
We're staying at the Hotel Passage - very old Russian style, but great sprung beds!
Parked the bike on the footpath by the front door and flicked the security guard 50 thingamejigs to watch it for the night (about 10 bucks).
Off sightseeing tomorrow - so stay tuned for more photos.
Change of plan from here - decided to head north across the Ukraine and run directly towards Moscow - should take us 3 days after we leave; so will be Moscow by the weekend.