As many of you will know Jeremy, Root One’s owner, and his friend David volunteered to drive a van load of vital supplies to Ukraine, here’s how they got on:
Notes about our Trip to Sueceva Romania
Day One – Moulsford to Nuremberg
Set off at 6.am. It was a rainy wet miserable morning and we made our way to Folkestone via the M4 M25 and M20 and arrived about 9 without any particular hold up.
We went through the freight channel and handed over our paperwork and passports etc and then boarded the shuttle amazingly without much delay. In Calais we were required to exit via the customs for our consignment to be approved by the french authorities. This involved getting out of the van and taking all the above paperwork to a desk and getting it checked.
We took the road east and travelled on the motorways (no tolls anywhere) without any major delays or incidents leaving France and passing through Belgium (Brussels) Holland (Maastricht) and Germany (Cologne Frankfurt). We stayed basically in a Services Motel near Nuremberg arriving shortly after 10pm having lost an hour with the time change. The place was adequate and served its purpose but they had stopped serving food at 10 though we did manage to persuade the lady to heat up a toasted sandwich!
Our goal was to get to Timisuara in Romania and stay with friends of David. We picked up a coffee and croissant and set off at 8am. We were keen to avoid Austria where we had been told the authorities might take an interest in us in we were overweight! I’m talking about the van not David!! We went through the Czech Republic (Prague) Slovakia (Brno)
Crossing into Romania was relatively straightforward at the border. We were lucky the queue was short and we were only held up for 25 mins or so. We had to show paperwork passports and driving licenses. They asked if the goods were new or second hand! We didn’t know what the right answer was so we said both! It seemed to do the trick and we were eventually told we could go on. The road to Timisoara was single track and winding and it was dark and raining so difficult conditions and plenty of concentration required. The clock goes forward another hour in Rumania and it was after 9 when we finally arrived at David’s friends apartment. They kindly took us to a local restaurant for a much needed meal and glass of vino.
Day Three – Timisuara to Suceava
This is all single track and pretty windy. In addition its mountainous so from time to time you are climbing or descending and you can only go as fast as the road and other traffic on it will allow. This feels very frustrating at times but it is what it is. We had a lot of rain on our trip so didn’t see the countryside at its best but there are some beautiful parts. You do tend to go from one town to the next with very little in between and there are a lot of lorries and reckless overtaking (not by us of course!)
We arrived at checkpoint Charlie at about 18.40 and our contacts were already waiting. We were in the car park of a large Costco type precinct called Selgros.
Assisted by 3 members of staff and the Ukrainian driver and his Rumanian sidekick we unloaded all the boxes and transferred them into their vehicle.
Our mission was accomplished! Apart from them small matter of getting home!
We stayed the night at the Continental Hotel which sounds grand but wasn’t!
(9 Hrs 40mins).
Day Four – Suceava to Budapest
We had to get home by the most direct route and in the shortest time for work commitment reasons etc. Google Maps sent us on our way via Budapest which we set as our first stopover point. Todays drive was the hardest of all.
We set off at 8 and for reasons already mentioned above the route was tortuous. It was also raining pretty hard for most of the day and it took us over 9 hours to get to a road that was more than single track. This was after about an hour and a half after we had crossed back into Hungary. The border crossing was relatively ok – although having been given the ok to leave by the Rumanian border officer and we almost fell foul of the Hungarian official by setting off! He was sitting in the second part of booth he shared with the Rumanian (about 3 metres apart) and angrily let us know that that was Rumania but now we were in Hungary and it was his turn to examine the paperwork!!
After a very challenging drive through the rain and dark and narrow road in poor shape with no visible lines we finally got to the motorway. Suddenly we could get going and cover the remaining miles to Budapest where we arrived at 8.10 local time having got back an hour when we crossed the border.
Day Five – Budapest to Bonn
Today we covered almost 700 miles. Setting off at 8 it was all motorway which sounds boring but after yesterday felt like a treat. The roads were mostly excellent and with very little traffic and no significant hold ups at all. From time to time lower speed was required to negotiate roadworks but in general these were well managed. Having set off in bright sunshine we did progress through grey leaden skies with drizzle and eventually snow! Outside temp was at times minus 1 and there was snow lying on the verges and dusting the trees into frozen silhouettes.
Bonn was quite an ambitious target but we made it just before 8 in case the hotel restaurant was closing! As it turned out the Hotel NYCE which was otherwise excellent didn’t have a restaurant! Instead we were directed to a Nepalese place 5 mins walk away which was very good.
Day Six- Bonn to Bristol
We set off this morning at 9. We’d booked a Eurotunnel slot for 1.50pm which gave us just over 4 hours to get to the terminal at Calais. All perfectly straightforward – we’d opted for passenger not freight because we were empty handed and that worked fine although the British did check to see that the van was indeed empty! Even so the process was a little slow and so we were shifted to the next slot at 2.20
The Uk roads took us inefficiently back home in heavier traffic than we had encountered on the whole of our trip!
A total of 70 driving hours there and back, and circa 3,400 miles.