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Ukraine Recce 2011 Report

Paul

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Yes, this is the one you've all been screaming for so enjoy :thumbup:

Aim:
Some time ago a few of us decided that a trip to Ukraine was needed as the Morocco thing has been done and while very good, is nothing new and is flooded with lots of people doing exactly the same trip so we would save that one for later. Originally it was me, Tommo and Greg from Land Cruisers Overland. We had a very loose plan as most of us had only one or two places we considered a priority and would like to fit in so it was decided to do a large round trip and cover as much ground as possible with a point of view to do more comprehensive locations on future trips and after sorting all this our timescale became clear that we would only have 10 days due to clashing schedules. This kind of adventure always starts with everyone very keen and then tends to wane off nearer the time or when commitments are needed (learnt from bitter experience) so we all seized the opportunity to go with the best plan for everyone to secure the trip happening even if it meant sacrificing some of the places we needed to go.
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Planning:
This initially involved all of us and would be a trip including the following:
Europe (no one cared about stopping but has to be done.)
Bosnia and Serbia etc
Romania (off roading, mountains, altitude and the infamous Transfargaran Pass.)
Ukraine (rough roads, Chernobyl! And quite a bit of nostalgia for me.)
Russian Border (to check out for the future.)
Poland (Desert, yes a desert!)
Europe (if time then to visit some WWI and WWII battle sites and beaches.)
After long deliberation over maps and guides the whole magnitude of what we were doing became real so the compromises had to be made. The first to go was the Russian Border and secondly was the Bosnia and Serbia exploring in favour of getting into and through Romania especially as Ukraine could cause problems on the border, after some time it also became apparent that we would have 10 days instead of the 14 we thought we would have.
So here is the map of the actual trip, not too accurate but it gets the point across.
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Preparation:
Without question the Land Cruiser was the vehicle of choice, mainly because we already own them. Me in my 80, Tommo in his 95 and Greg in whatever he would be running at the time as he was dependant on his business.

Vehicles.
2003 Toyota Land Cruiser 95 Series 3.0 D4D Auto
Ironman Suspension upgrade, Package B, 2’’ Lift
Safari Snorkel
ASFIR Underbody Protection
CB Radio
General Grabber AT2 All Terrains 265/70/16
Tomtom IQ Routes XXL Europe
Winbo Roofrack
OZTENT RV4 in Oztent Waterproof bag
70 litre water bladder
Recovery gear (hi-lift jack etc)
Jetboil
130,000 miles

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1996 Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series Manual
4.2 1HDFT
Ironman Suspension upgrade, Package B, 2’’ Lift
CB Radio
BF Goodrich Mud Terrains 285/75/16 and full polybush
Tomtom IQ Routes XXL Europe
OZTENT RV4
Thule Roof box
4 x 10 litre jerry cans
Recovery gear (hi-lift jack etc.)
Custom transfer case bash plate (Gav special)
Jetboil
African Outback Drawer System
3-way Fridge
250,000 miles

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Concentrating on mine and Tommo’s, the two vehicles were already just about done as they are used for playing and off roading and were actually to quite a high standard already with all of the modifications listed above. Of course there are all those little jobs to get done and the all important packing. The decision was made very early to share the equipment out between us and be careful not to double up too much as this would be a waste (except items like recovery gear and our all important Jetboils.) The 80 being the pack horse that it is would carry items such as tools and the 95 had things like a very comprehensive medical kit and the large water bladder as this kind of distribution also fitted with the individual skills of each driver as I am an Engineer and Tommo is a trained Medic (amongst many other things.) The differences in the way the vehicles were packed were very different though, a drawer system in mine and bergans and boxes in Tommo’s. Time would tell on that one.
We also decided that to properly cover the distance we would have to include co-drivers. I asked my mate Dave and Tommo asked Les (his father in law) which would complement the trip well as both are skilled in vehicle repairs and could only strengthen the group capabilities.
The question was raised about what we should exactly take and what constitutes a “prepped” vehicle. This is a debate that raves on and on especially with the very different types of vehicle, and getting even more specific, the very different types of tyres, transmissions, suspension, engines and even vehicle aerodynamics and weight. As this was a Recce mission the diversity was actually welcomed as long as everyone realised that if weaknesses were seen that it was the group that had to succeed and use the knowledge learnt for the future as this kind of experience is just too valuable. Opinions to these questions will be at the end.
As a final prep a hasty trip to Salisbury Plain was organised to stretch the legs of both vehicles and make sure nothing was left to be done. On return from the Plain, the vehicles were then parked on my drive and were serviced to within an inch of their lives (some would say that is the best “prepped” vehicle you can get.)
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It was about now that we realised that Greg would not be able to make it due to Land Cruisers Overland being so busy. So the teams were set, 2 vehicles with two guys in each.
The Teams:
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From left to right: Les Howard, James Thompson, Dave Burgess and Paul Bowles

Trip Daily Report:
Friday 8th April Day 1
Meet at Tommo’s at 19:00 and proceed to Les’ and head for 23:30 ferry at Dover, arrive at Calais and head for Frankfurt nonstop consuming lots of coffee. The ferry option was taken as it turned out being so close to Easter that all crossings were busy or premium prices. The cost eventually for each vehicle was £105 return.
While charging through Europe it gave everyone time to settle down as it was quite an experience, it would also be the first time Dave had ever driven an 80. Being from a farm the agricultural gearbox posed no problems.
After the night time stretch it was decided to stop for breakfast as a rest was needed and food required. It was also about now that we settled into the stopping after 250ish miles for fuel. This was more as a time saver as you might as well fuel up and sort any issues each time you stop, this also let us discover some surprising fuel facts but more on that later. After breakfast it was time for vehicle checks and practising what I have preached for many years, oil, water and visual checks will be done every morning without fail. During these checks and consider it fortunate or not, we discovered a CV boot split on the 95. The evidence was everywhere but the split was small and on checking further there was still plenty of grease in the joint and with the very good weather conditions it was decided to carry on but on each fuel stop to search the services for a suitable grease to replace what was lost.


Saturday 9th April Day 2
Carrying on through Europe we managed to cover an immense amount of miles and so far had passed through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic (with the never ever ending up hill stretches!!) Slovakia and into Hungary. Surprisingly, it was very difficult to even see when crossing borders, as now in Europe it is free to travel even though we expected some kind of cursory check.
While passing into Czech Republic, we were getting lots of attention from the locals and had suitable smiles but after some time the same guy in a car kept overtaking us, backing off and overtaking again. We overtook each other in an effort to see if any of us had obvious vehicle problems and put it down to the driver being a bit crazy. Eventually we overtook him and he was holding up a sign saying “Lights On” so with many expressions of “Ah I see” over the CB we all turned our lights on and continued. Lesson learnt.
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As evening approached we were on the lookout for somewhere to stay, as became usual for the trip whenever you actually needed somewhere there were none to be found, even after passing hundreds of places during the day and saying “Ooh, that looks nice, we should stay somewhere like that tonight,” and what also became usual was to find a place to stay and then drive another couple of miles as there was always a nicer place over the next hill!
We eventually stopped in a couple of places as the going rate for somewhere decent was 15€ but the problem of secure parking was an issue. Just when all seemed lost, we stumbled on a place that was perfect, decent rooms and good prices and with a good car park as we wanted to attack Tommo’s CV boot with the grease we had purchased. There was also a small (excuse the pun Les) side story but I will let Les explain that one as I am far too politically correct to go into details.
Distance so far: 1100 miles in 24 hours.
At this stage I will include a picture of the hotel bathroom, unknown to me, my relationship with flooding hotel bathrooms would become somewhat of a joke for the future as it happened on a few occasions.
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So, with Tommo’s truck jacked up and wheel off, we inspected the problem. I always carry some aircraft grade adhesive, so with the boot clips removed, boot cleaned down the adhesive was applied and joint repacked and secured with new clips, then left overnight to dry. We were not sure if it would last but it ended up doing the entire trip without failing including some pretty tough conditions.
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Sunday 10th April Day 3
The next day was a refreshing change after a good nights sleep. Breakfast was good and the incident with the coffee pot will soon be forgotten. Then we checked over the vehicles, spread the maps out and decided on our waypoints for the day. This became the norm as the whole plan was quite loose and the route could be changed to cope with any problems or desires, working this way does not sit with some people, but this was a recce trip after all and being fluid was a key to the whole thing.
We hit the road after checking the vehicles over and the CV held perfectly. We also had the backup up plan of contacts I know in Romania and Ukraine (as I have worked in those areas for years) in case of any trouble I could call ahead and have any parts ready or have parts sent in by Greg to someone I knew. As said the CV was fine for the whole trip.
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Another day of fantastic driving involving some quite spectacular lowland mountains with miles and miles of switchbacks and hairpins, blighted slightly by the trucks but was also entertaining as there is nothing like the sight of a fully loaded artic overtaking you on a blind corner with oncoming traffic, especially as one seemed to have a problem with an Audi A6 which was a flashback to the film Dual.
We crossed into Romania with a proper border crossing this time that took all of about 30 seconds and we were on our way. The stark contrast with roads and buildings was instant after the places we had just been. Common sense would say that Romania would at least tidy up the areas near borders but no, the evident poverty and lack of services was quite a shock as this was supposed to still be Europe.
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Out came the guide again and the target waypoint was Cluj Napoca. There were some campsites listed but we had no luck in locating them, while looking for the final one it started to snow and almost simultaneously we drove past The Hotel Paradiso on the main road, so we stopped and booked in. A bargain at 15€, and the food was great. Unfortunately yet another bathroom incident but the flood was contained before any real problems.
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Monday 11th April Day 4
Next morning the usual vehicle checks but this time in the snow, we were already way above sea level and the objective for the day was the Northern End of the Transfargaran Pass in Cartisoara. We had been forewarned that the pass may be closed due to the weather as the normal closure is from September to May so seeing as we were not far from these dates we went for it.
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After much more stunning driving where the mountains were looming all the time in the distance (a very imposing site and also a renewed determination to get to them) we reached the start of the pass. The closure signs were quite evident but we carried on. We all paused at the start of the road, the sight of the mountains in the distance was overwhelming and the scope of what we were doing set in with much excitement. All cameras were checked as this was not to be missed and we carried on.
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Very quickly the terrain changed from peaceful village to obvious desolation and the road introduced itself to us. The classic twists and turns started almost immediately and the temperature dropped, before we knew it we had passed the 1000m point and a quick glance to the right just took my breath away. We stopped and took in the views from the side of the road, the view was just stunning and we had the realisation of how much further could we go as the ground was frozen and the snow seemed like the type that was almost permafrost.
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We jumped back in and continued for a while, climbing all the time, obvious that the conditions were worsening and so were the aged concrete guard rails! There were no second chances if you went over the edge. Progressing on, the snow became thicker and more consistent but not too deep up until the point where we came upon the closure, large concrete blocks had been placed across the road so there was no going any further.
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We decided to get back down below the snow line and have a look at some of the logging tracks we had passed on the way up as there was some off roading fun to be had. We settled on one and turned off the highway into the woods, after all the excitement a brew was needed so out came the jetboils and we talked out the next plan of attack.
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As our way was blocked, we could see on the map that there was a very long way around the mountains and we should try again at the southern end of the pass, it was also noticed that there were some other roads shown that would keep us off highways and be a more direct route so it was settled to try for these, little did we know what was waiting for us. We proceeded off the mountain and started the skirt around, the scenery changed yet again to beautiful wooded mountain valleys with a substantial river running through that we would need to cross soon. The crossing came in the form of a clearly neglected bridge and we crossed. This was the first hint and the village after it was just as bad, the road condition was reasonable tarmac which simply disappeared after a couple of miles and turned to mud, this was the norm for the next 100kms with probably one of the best driving roads we had been on, not too challenging for the vehicles we were in, but not knowing what was coming and how long this would last just added to the experience. It was on this road that we saw the real Romania in places such as Titesti and I have to say it was just stunning and the people we met from the villages could not have been friendlier.
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We emerged from the road after a couple of regrouping stops to check maps as the road was actually listed as a Euro Route from the start but became a lesson in dead reckoning toward the end as none of the villages were shown on the map so we picked a direction and stuck to it. After some time we arrived exactly where we planned in Curtea De Arges which was the Southern end of the pass, time was getting on so we decided on the hunt for somewhere to stay. Using our method of pushing on as places only improved, Tommo spotted a house with a large Union Flag outside and flags from various other nations so we stopped and knocked on the door. Unknown to us this was a kind of guest house called a Pensiunea and Romania was covered in them. They had space for us and we checked in. While cleaning out the trucks a guy came roaring past on a moped with British number plates and stopped as soon as he saw us. This turned out to be Steffen, a local guy who works in London as a builder, he also has quite a collection of vehicles he bought in the UK including a very fast two seater track day car that he ferried us to the local restaurant in one at a time. Very quickly.


Tuesday 12th April Day 5
We met up with Steffen in the morning so we could meet with his friend who had a tricked up 70 series SWB Cruiser for use in the woods, mountains and snow. As he was busy changing his tyres that morning it gave us a chance to review pictures and regroup as Steffen had internet access at his house. Just to make it clear, this was the first time we had net access on the trip which was the reason for the lack of picture posting on the forum, so we put one on in the hope of satisfying the hungry picture leaches but all I can say is come along next time and see how busy things can get.
Anyway, eventually he turned up and we set off. It turned out that we were quite close to the large dam that has created the lake; this is the famous one as featured in Top Gear where the boys apparently slept and would be our start/finish point. Close to here is the castle that is recognised as being one of Dracula’s homes, although if you believe all the guides then he lived in a new place every day of his life.
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After the requisite picture taking and jokes that the Dam might fall down at any point we set off. The start of the drive was highway but in itself was a feat of engineering as the tunnels through the rock and the elevated roads were dictated by the water pipes as the dam is used to produce hydroelectric power.
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We carried on and up into the woods using logging tracks which were in not too bad condition except where they loaded and unloaded the trucks, the track circumnavigated the lake which we did the whole of in two stages, one of 38kms and one of 73kms with a covering of snow in places. It kept a very stable altitude and was mostly mud but had no safety at all so if you slipped off then your only hope was to grab a tree before you hit the water. This wasn’t really an issue until you came across areas that had been washed out by the rain as their concrete channels had disappeared long ago. This civil engineering project was not contained with just the dam, the whole area and its environment had been manmade as can be seen from the constant reminders of concrete structures to stop the mountain slipping into the lake. At times it looked like a losing battle.
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In between the two stages we managed to head up the Transfargaran pass, this time from the Southern end. The terrain started as we had just experienced near the lake and quickly turned back into tarmac but was steadily climbing. It kept climbing and the snow covering was getting thicker and fresh snow was falling all the time, it had been ploughed but was tough going as the whole area seemed to get darker as we climbed higher and visibility dropped. The snow became thicker and we managed some respites under what looked like concrete framed tunnels that were located all down the road but had to be very wary where we stopped as the gaps in the concrete had allowed water to pass through and most of the icicles hanging down were over 1m in length. We managed to knock a few off with rocks and as they hit the ground it sounded like smashing glass, not the best thing on the roof of a Land Cruiser! After sometime the roads were no longer ploughed and the snow was up to about 1m in depth, this is when the vehicles just kept going on and on until we all had to stop at what looked like a ski lodge. Everyone was keen for a picture which seemed like a good idea until we all lined up in the snow and were freezing, so a quick snap and back in the trucks.
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We then proceeded down the mountain and finished off the trek around the lake and stopped for lunch in the most fantastic new hotel perched on the side of the mountain with stunning views of the lake. After arriving back in the village we said our goodbyes and headed for Brasov. We arrived late evening after more stunning mountain driving and found a truck stop with a hotel to stay in, after the normal searching for somewhere nice but with secure parking.
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Wednesday 13th April Day 6
During the usual checks we decided to strip down the antenna on the front of my truck as I had been losing range on the CB every day. Once in bits the corrosion was quite bad under the base so once cleaned up all was good.
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Next the maps were out to decide on a plan of action, I called my mate in Bucharest to see what was happening and even as a local he recommends not to visit the city, I have been there many times before and unless you have a specific need to see Churches and museums there is no point in going really, it is also one of the worst cities to drive through I have ever been in so the plan was to drive around the ring road and use the new big highway straight to Constanta and have a beer on the beach ,this also involved a little detour to the local Toyota Dealer but only for a photo opportunity.
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We carried onto the beach and this time saw signs for the Ibis Hotel and decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel in a new place as the usual routine of finding somewhere to stay was wearing everyone a little thin at times and being early we took the chance to get rooms and get out on the town to have some free time from the driving and get some beers into us, this we managed in classic Brits on tour style in the local Irish Bar.


Thursday 14th April Day 7
Next was the route to Ukraine. I spoke to my mate in Bucharest as we needed advice on the best way to get to Odessa. This is quite a problem as Moldova sits right in the way. There is a route along the Black Sea coast and is quite direct but we were warned of off this route as being impassable so the other option was to head though Moldova itself, this was a viable option but as Moldova was described as a nation of thieves and bandits we gave it a miss. This would also have involved an extra border crossing that could potentially hold us up badly so the decision was made to not go to Odessa and proceed to Chernobyl. This we did and headed for the border crossing at Siret.
After a day of the most horrendous headwinds and driving rain which was starting to take its toll on each vehicle and us (see report at the end) we arrived just short of the border late evening. As everyone was very tired we made the choice to stay somewhere locally and cross in the morning as the crossing would probably be stressful and an awkward border checkpoint is not the place to be when you feel like that. We pulled into the services and asked for advice on somewhere to stay as unusually there were no obvious hotels or guest houses as had been so common on most borders up until then. I had a chat with the attendant who didn’t speak English so I tried my rusty Russian as we so close to Ukraine and it worked. He told me somewhere local which we went to find and ended up right back at the services so the attendant very kindly called the place for us and the owner came to meet us and guide us in. As it will turn out, this was one of the best decisions of the trip.
When arrived at the place (http://www.pensiuneadowntown.ro) the owner jumped out of his car and spoke perfect English. He too had worked in England as a builder and had created his place from an old railway station in what was as close to an English pub as you could get. We went in and it was great, pool tables, cold beer and comfy beds not to mention the food that was incredible.
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Friday 15th April Day 8
The next morning we had been promised an English breakfast and what came out was as close as you would get and was more than welcome, especially as we were getting ready for the border crossing into Ukraine.
Vehicles checked and off we went. The exit from Romania was quite painless and into no-man’s land where things became a little more confusing. There were all sorts of vehicles and what seemed like no organisation but quite ordered queues so we joined one and hoped. As the vehicles progressed we were in the check point and at the mercy of the border guards. My rusty Russian came out again and things started happening although there was an issue with insurance. After some time the head man came down and we were told no entry to Ukraine without insurance as we should have bought it in Romania, something the Romanian border guards failed to mention. When I explained that we were just passing through Ukraine to Poland everything changed. Documents were stamped as long as we promised to buy insurance form the little kiosk 50m after the border (which we did for about £20) and charged on. As we were behind schedule we chose to head straight for Chernobyl on the Kiev road and the introduction to the state of the highways hit us straight away, the good bits are very good and the poor bits are very poor so making progress was tough to start with but once in the grove we made good speed as this is what the vehicles were kitted for and the Ironman performed flawlessly.
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After a stop for some much missed Ukrainian cuisine (I even cook it at home) we continued up through the country. As we were making up time I was going a little fast and a local police man decided that maybe I shouldn’t so jumped out and pulled me over. Initially confused as he went to the wrong side of the truck he had me bang to rights doing about 100kph in a 60kph zone, so I had to sit with his boss in the waiting police car and received my Highway Code lesson. To thank him for his trouble in showing me the error of my ways I made a contribution to the Policeman’s Charity Ball and drove off.
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We drove into the night as we wanted to knock off the kms and get close to our objective that night, the route we took deteriorated progressively and so did the light, not a good combination at that stage of tiredness so thank god I fitted the Roo Lights on the front of the 80 as they were perfect and led the way. The objective became a town called Zhitomir which we reached and found a hotel late that night after the usual search. As everyone was working in local groats we had to pool all our money to get a meal and then all crashed out.


Saturday 16th April Day 9
Usual procedure in the morning with the vehicles and as there was no breakfast on offer we hit the road and made a brew on the side of the road in true Overlander fashion.
All the way through Ukraine there was an elusive road that the maps showed but could never really be found as either the maps were wrong or the road had not been built yet, this appeared again on the way to Chernobyl and we ended up taking the long way round. Not too much of a problem and after a quick regroup in the fuel station where a local boy at work with his mother became a translator to practise his English from school we moved on.
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Lots of apprehension on the approach as even though we knew the risks through careful research and some good intel it was still an imposing place to visit. The drive after the last civilisation was really nice and was almost a tourist route, right up until the time we came across the guarded checkpoint. A quick chat with the guard and we were told that we would need a special pass from Kiev to go any further as everything was closed, I did ask if a contribution to the Security Guards Charity Ball was needed and that received a resounding no so after some speculation and reading the guides it appeared that this was almost to the day 25 years ago that the accident occurred. A big disappointment, but as said, this was a recce trip and some more lessons had been learnt for the future.
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So what to do next? With the maps out once more the Polish desert was calling and looked like quite a trek. According to the map there were several routes that we could take. We settled on the one that seemed on the map to be decent highway most of the way so we chose this one, we navigated to the main road and went for it. Maybe too much in some cases as Tommo promptly drove straight in a Police speed trap but managed to get away with a free Highway Code lesson this time and we were all on our way again. The road was big highway and we made very good time right up to the point when someone forgot to finish the road. There was evidence that one had existed in the past and a major attempt had been made to repair and widen it but that’s where they stopped. It was the Ukraine version of the road of bones, and quickly became evident that driving on the soil and sand hard shoulder was far more comfortable than the road itself, it was just a blessing that no trucks were using it and we wondered where they were, we would find out in a bit.
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The non road carried on for a couple of hundred kms and in places just disappeared completely and coincidentally the changes in road surfaces would correspond with the markers on the side of the road denoting different regions of the country, so maybe someone hadn’t paid the bill or contributed to the right fund.
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Eventually the road came good and we charged on again toward the border. We had an idea we were close when the line of trucks started and continued on for well over 5 miles so we proceeded down the side of the queue until stopped by a border guard who said we had to go back, but after a bit of persuasion we made it straight through to the border checkpoint and the formalities started. All seemed to be going well, we were proceeding through what was a very organised operation and hopes were high, right until the point when I was called back as there was a problem with my documents. After some time many officials had come and gone and it turned out they didn’t like my passport photo but the beauty with checkpoints is that there is so much going on that eventually we were all handed back our documents and proceeded through to Polish Border control. This too had a queue but not too bad as 7 cars at a time could go through after a cursory check for immigrants, they did ask us to open the bonnets and then he put his thumb up and said “nice trucks” and let us straight through, wonder if land Rovers would get the same reception.
Anyway, on into Poland and the amazing line of trucks started once more, this time clocked at 5.9 miles long and going nowhere. We made it clear and found a great hotel on the main road so stopped for the night, and yes, bathroom incident here too.
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Sunday 17th April Day 10
Normal start to the morning and the maps and waypoints were decided upon. The desert was the objective but considering where we were then the question was raised about places such as concentration camps. We referred to the guide and there was one very close by called Majdanek so we headed there. Mixed emotions and opinions on this one so I will post some pictures and let you decide as we all know the history of these places, suffice to say, it is as bad as you can imagine.
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Next was the desert, which started proving harder to find than we thought and the hunt was on. Reports were that it had all but gone and was completely forested but we still wanted to see it.
That’s when the news we had been dreading came over the CB, Tommo had been recalled to the UK early and if you know what he does for a living you will understand. Not too much of a drama as we were on the final leg of the journey anyway but disappointing all the same. We continued the search for the desert but to no avail so a meeting was called.
In case of problems we all decided to head for at least Germany as this was at least considered civilisation and Tommo and Les would drive through the night for Calais. So after giving them all my energy drinks and pro plus we all headed off and Dave and myself would stop when we wanted to as we had no restriction on time.
So basically this was the end of the trip, even with 1000 miles left to go but most things on the check list had been done so overall a great success. Me and Dave actually drove through the night also and had a shopping trip in Holland so I could stock up on goodies and then headed to Dunkirk to see the beaches and then the obligatory Hypermarket shopping in Calais and then onto the ferry home.
The white cliffs of Dover were a welcome sight.


Summary Details:
Total Distance Covered: 4500 miles
Average Fuel Consumption: 80 Series 24.43 mpg 95 Series 26.67 mpg
Countries Visited: UK, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine, and Poland.

Equipment Reviews:
Tyres:
This is always going to be a contentious issue and with the varied terrain we covered they were put through their paces. The General Grabber AT’s performed perfectly and coped with everything thrown at them. The BFG Muds also performed exactly as expected in all situations except the snow at low temperatures. While they have been used in the snow in the UK and did very well when new, (and had recovered numerous vehicles and large trucks without issue) it was noticed on Salisbury Plain last year after some wear that they could let go in some circumstances and when on the Transfargaran Pass the 80 did actually start sliding backwards down the pass after stopping and when pointing downhill even with the fantastic engine braking of the 6 cylinder in low range was a job to keep under control until lower down the mountain with better temperatures. As expected in very deep snow there were no problems.

Suspension System:
Argue this one all you like as the Independent Front Suspension versus Solid Front Axle argument is as old as the systems themselves, both work perfectly in all conditions and is really a matter of preference. Personally speaking, I think the real comparison is the type of steering that goes along with each system and not the suspension type itself. Rack and pinion is always going to outperform a multi link system for the highway stretches but there was a quiet confidence when things became rough (rough roads rather than off roading) and if doing a thousand miles in African terrain may be more comfortable and certainly more bush repairable, but in this trip, taking the steering into consideration I think the IFS was top dog.

Suspension Performance:
As listed we were both running Ironman +2” Type B kits. As we already knew from off roading, the Ironman performs with no issues but then at slow speeds in moderate mud/clay/sand most systems will do the job. When it comes to carrying weight and putting up with the corrugations that were quite similar to outback Australia it also handled everything thrown at it, and the real test is when you see that pothole or rock at the last minute and have to throw the vehicle to the side to avoid it. Again no issues and due to this, overall high speeds were maintained in some pretty poor conditions.
Final opinion? Absolutely no issues and if I was fitting suspension to another vehicle then Ironman would be top of the list, the fact it is also one of the better priced systems makes it a clear top performer.

Engine:
Ok then......... 3.0 D4d against 4.2 six cylinder 24 valve. It’s at this point we will have to get into things like fuel as these are the facts in an imperfect comparison. As you can see from the chart, some of the fuel efficiencies do confirm some opinions and dispel others. What is more interesting is when the figures occurred, obviously different drivers had a huge impact but the major factors were things like weather and fuel quality. After a particularly horrendous full day of headwinds and driving rain when heading to Ukraine the 80 fuel efficiency was considerably better than the 95 which should keep some people quiet, but there was a noticeable compromise in performance and as we surmised at the time, the 80 had to be driven harder to work against the weather and on the 95 the engine simply adjusted fuelling and carried on as normal. When in places like Ukraine however, with what we know was not poor fuel quality but “real” fuel (something we do not know here) then the 80 once again outperformed the 95 on consumption. This said though, on average and certainly on the European highways the 95 was the overall winner.

Transmissions:
Manual versus Auto, I’ll leave that one up to you.

Oztent:
Well, the review on the tent itself has been batted around enough. The surprise was the waterproof bag that is supplied as standard by BOAB when purchasing the tent. The term “waterproof” is too well used as I just found out with my “waterproof” solenoid pack on the T-Max 12500 Outback winch, playing the long game on that one with the importers, but saying that I actually put my Oztent in a Thule roof box and Tommo just had his strapped to the roof rack and after a quick check from a full day of driving rain and headwinds, the tent was perfectly dry. The Thule box will be staying home next time!

Vehicle:
The 80 versus the 95. In danger of getting lynched, there was no conclusive difference. The whole trip covered just about every terrain possible and it was a complete swings and roundabout argument. Tommo loves his 95 and I love my 80 and to be completely honest everything comes down to the feeling the vehicle gives you. It has to; otherwise no-one would buy a Land Rover.
 

Paul

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Morocco and Northern lights i think
 

Crispin

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cracking post! Looks like a lot of fun. Bummer about the recall though.

I was suprised at the fuel though, I would have expected a larger difference. Tyre pressures?
 
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Paul

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What the average fuel figures dont show is that the 80 was doing 30+ mpg in Ukraine.
 

Tommo&Claire

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Crispin said:
cracking post! Looks like a lot of fun. Bummer about the recall though.

I was suprised at the fuel though, I would have expected a larger difference. Tyre pressures?

I was running 29psi all round and Paul mid 30's. Tyre pressure didn't make much difference to the consumption figures, but they make a hell of a difference in ride quality!

Fuel consumption was surprising but like it says in the report, for the 80,fuel consumption was pretty constant but the variable was performance, depending on conditions. For the 90 fuel consumption was the variable whereas performance was the constant.

On some of the tougher section be it the day we had horrendous weather or when we were doing some pretty serious hill work, Paul was having to really work the 80, constantly through the gears etc but in the 90 (although the auto gearbox was no doubt a factor) we just seemed to be pootling along with no effort and loads of power in reserve.

Similar with fuel quality, now i know there is a perception out there that D4D's are fussier when it comes to fuel? But...if you check the user manual there is a section on the back about minimum fuel octane. The D4D requires lower Octane fuel than the old 1KZTE. Which backs up what a mate told me about the D4D Hiluxes they were using in the Congo, which ran on Diesel with leaves floating in it!

The difference seems to be the much lamented ECU's, when the going gets tough or the fuel gets bad, rather than slow down, the D4D tweaks the amount of fuel delivered to the engine and the driver barely notices the difference in conditions.

To illustrate the point, Paul's fuel consumptions varied between about 22mpg and almost 31!!

Mine varied between 19.6mpg and 32.

So as he says, utter swings and roundabouts, neither is better, the D4D is just 20 years more advanced!
 

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Shall i post this on the other site?
 

Jon Wildsmith

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Did you use your tents at all? Sounded like you stayed in hotels a lot, was that to save time or there weren't many places to camp?
 

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We generally paid around 15 Euro's per night each in hotels, which wasn't far off the campsite charges anyway. And one thing we didn't account for was just how tired we'd be after 14 hours behind the wheel every day, so much so, that as soon as it started getting dark we were all looking for a B&B, food and sleep. The thought of setting up a camp and cooking did not appeal at all.

We all took camping gear to give us the option, as there was no 'plan' as such, and as it turns out, it's all so cheap that you might as well stay in a B&B/Truck Stop anyway!
 

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Great write up Paul. You guys had a great trip by the sound of things... now we do of course need a bit more info about showers and Les :think:
 

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Ah, you actually read the whole thing then ;)

More later
 

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Paul said:
Ah, you actually read the whole thing then ;) More later
Oh yes, terrific write up, :thumbup: once I started I couldn't put it down, and that PC monitor is very heavy :lol:
 

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Tommo&Claire said:
We all took camping gear to give us the option, as there was no 'plan' as such, and as it turns out, it's all so cheap that you might as well stay in a B&B/Truck Stop anyway!
Much as I like camping it does sound like B&B was the better option for your trip and a lot more relaxing! Shame you didn't have more time but then seems like only the very rich or retired can go slow and stay a long time. Did you keep a GPS log or will you be saving that for guided trips?
 

Tommo&Claire

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Not a GPS log as such we just have a list of places to head for, where if you plug them into your SatNav then you'll follow largely the same route. It's so diverse out there that it's really irrelevent which road/track you take, the scenery is just as stunning.

Also, as explained to us by Steffen, the laws are different on camping and off roading over there, so unless there is a sign and a fence specifically telling you to keep out, you can drive/camp wherever you like and there are an abundance of logging tracks to play on everywhere.

Difference was, this was very much a recce trip more than a 'go out and do lots of off roading' trip.
 

Jon Wildsmith

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Interesting, another area of the world on the list of places to visit :)
 
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