Early that morning we headed to the border, where the queues seemed long and a friendly Ukrainian man informed us we could not walk over the border, and showed us who to talk to about getting across. A friendly Polish border patrolman tried to negotiate for us, but to no avail. Acting as translator, he then found us a Ukrainian man and two women with space in their van who were happy to let us travel over with them. It was all very surreal, made worse by the length of the queues.
After about an hour, the Polish border patrolman came back and said he’d found a Polish couple in a campervan going over which would be much faster through processing, and so we moved all our stuff precariously over and no more than five minutes later found ourselves at Ukrainian customs.
That was when it started getting tense, beginning with our driver folding some Ukrainian money into the passports. For whatever reason we lost in translation, but if it was supposed to get us through without hassle it didn’t work. Everyone was in full military uniform, and one lady took Arjun and all the passports into a portacabin around the back of the main building, where for over an hour she questioned him via an internet translate app on her phone. Eventually she denied Arjun entry on the basis that his passport was fake, and then left us all stood between the borders, with no passports and no way of going backward or forward. Our driver, clearly distressed (soo sorry for everything!), went about the offices and after a while came back with all our passports and a man who said we were all cleared to pass, but only after a search.
We pulled up not twenty steps away and took out all our equipment. After having to fill out some declaration forms and watch a sniffer dog go around everything, two men, one acting as translator, ordered us to empty our bags and carts onto tables. They went through and questioned everything, from our pocket mirrors to our medical kit, which took a considerable amount of time. Looking at Kierans camping knife, they called over the woman who had denied Arjun entry, and then took Kieran into the office for questioning. For over two hours they handed around paperwork and questioned him on European knife law, all the while waiting on what they only explained as an ‘expert’, before eventually deciding to keep the knife and hand Kieran a receipt, allowing him to pick it up on his way back. Not really all that practical.
After seven hours of processing and questioning, with a very upset driver and no daylight left, we were allowed through. We got out of the van immediately past the fence on the outskirts of town, then got told to move on whilst setting up to take a photo of the border signs, and so with no knowledge of the area quickly found and booked into a hotel. As we were at the reception desk, three large men who we suspected were following us walked in. Thankfully they were undercover police, and after a passport check and few questions they left wishing us luck.
We bought crab flavoured crisps and gawped at the mobile roaming rates.