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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Farewell Ukraine. Farewell suitcase.


I don't need food for a month. Breakfast this morning consisted of  cup of coffee and a small croissant. That's it. I'm sure I'll be hungry by 10 am but I don't care, I'm not going to continue eating the way we have been. I'll explode if I do.

We all arrived at the airport expecting all the dramas you hear about that happen in former soviet block countries. Once again it's all rubbish. The procedure was just the same as at Perth airport, but quicker, and with friendlier staff. I'm really tired of reading and being told stories about how bad places are. Every experience that we have had in situations like this have proven all the stories wrong. If you haven't visited somewhere yourself please don't tell people about it as if you are an expert.

Ukraine, in Particular Poltava, is one of the prettiest countries I've been to. The infrastructure has some way to go in some areas, but then you'd expect that after years of communist rule destroying the place. The people are wary of strangers and are guarded, but once they get to know you they are warm, friendly, and generous. The younger generation are just like our kids, happy and enjoying life. They haven't experienced that atrocities their grandparents have. The grandparents passed the mistrust and fear onto their kids who also lived under communist rule (my father) but it looks like that is disappearing now in the current generation.

If you have the opportunity to visit Ukraine I suggest you take advantage of that opportunity. I'm pretty sure you'll love it. But maybe go in spring or summer, not in the minus 32 degree winter. Maybe that's just me.

Goodbye Ukraine. We'll visit again soon.

Alitalia decided to cancel our original Kiev / Rome flight and fly us on a later flight via Milan with a three hour stop over. We basically lost half a day in Rome. Talking about losing things, they lost my suitcase, along with about eight other passengers. (They lost the suitcases, not the passengers). Not happy Jan, especially as I'd packed my camera my suitcase. I'll never do that again. Luckily I'd downloaded all last nights photos onto our computer in the morning. I felt really sorry for the two Japanese girls who were on their way to Sydney in an hour.

We stood in the que at Alitalia, filled out the relevant paperwork, and then went to our hotel. Alitalia promised they'd find it and deliver it to us. Good luck with that. "Where will you be staying sir?" One night in Rome, fly to Bristol, two hours in Bristol, ride to Dudley and the UK Face and Body painting Convention, three nights, ride to a friend's house in Stoke on Trent, two nights. "Can I have the addresses please?" NO, because all the info is on my lap top, which has a flat battery, and the charger is in my suitcase, along with the chargers for our phones (which are also flat) etc, so you can't call us.

No toiletries, no socks, no jocks, no shirts, etc. I had a good sulk. I really didn't give a rat's about all that stuff, I just wanted my camera. The Alitalia guy gave us a contact phone number and a website where we could check up on the progress of my case.

My dislike for Italy has grown even stronger.

(There are no photos in this blog for obvious reasons)

The Alitalia runaround.


First thing this morning we called the Alitalia contact number regarding my case. Of course it's an automated system, and it's in Italian. Unfortunately I don't know what Italian is for "If you want to find your lost case, push number three". The girl at hotel reception helped us but we had no joy at all.

Back upstairs Suzanne rang our HBF Travel Insurance people to let them know what had happened. The girl told us that we could spend $400 on essentials straight away, and if we didn't get the case back within seventy two hours we could spend another $400. Suzanne and I discussed what essentials were. She's thinking toiletries and clothes, I'm thinking a camera because we're spending the next three days at the UK Convention. A camera is a necessity. Suzanne won.

We were now due to fly to Bristol so when we got to the airport I fronted the Alitalia desk and enquired about the case. A lovely lady told me "Yes, your case arrived about half an hour ago. Please go to this desk and they will sort it out for you." Bloody ripper. After a bit of showing passports to security guards and police I managed to get to the desk she had directed me to. "I'm sorry sir, we have no reports about your case at this stage. But don't worry, it will turn up." Grrrrrrrrrrr! Now I'm angry and smelly, and I'm as crook as a dog with man flu.

We decided it was time to take advantage of our travel insurance money and headed for the chemist. Bloody hell. You don't realise how much all the bits and pieces in your toilet bag are worth until you buy them all at once. Razor, shaving creme, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, Suzanne's makeup (just a few basics) my cholesterol and blood pressure medication (I really need that right now!), and all the other stuff. It nearly cleaned out the $400 there and then. Of course this all sounds good, getting all this stuff for free. The problem is that if we get our suitcase back, we'll have all our original stuff as well. We're on the bike and we don't have room for anything extra.

Time to board our flight to Bristol. I'll just mention now that we flew Easyjet to and from Rome, and they are really good. Their staff are way, way above average and do a great job. I'm more than happy to fly with them again.

We were in the taxi from Bristol airport to our friends house to pick up the bike and the taxi driver asked if we were Australian. Once we said yes he got stuck into us about the cricket, the Olympics, and anything else that he Poms have done well in recently. It was all in good fun and we had a laugh. The next day the Aussie women's team won the 20/20 final. I wish I had his number. 

We arrived at Claire and Chris's just after 8pm and commenced what I thought would be about an hour job of sorting our gear, packing the bike, and hitting the motorway. I think we left just after 11pm. It was our worst ride so far this trip. It was chucking it down,  it was cold, there were no lights or cat's eyes on the road, and I couldn't see a thing. I rode until my visor was too dirty to see through, then flipped it up (it was freezing) then my glasses got too dirty so I pulled them forward and looked over the top of them. I can't see without them, but I couldn't see with them so it made little difference. Eventually I just had to pull over to the side of the road to clean everything. Within a minute there was an RAC van behind me, the guy got out in the rain and came to see if I was OK. Wow! Thanks mate, I didn't need help but I appreciated you stopping. Onward we went. We still had about an hour to go, it was six degrees, and Suzanne was freezing. I'm certain we won't be riding to Ukraine in winter now. 

We finally shivered our way into the hotel car park at about 12.45am. The hotel was a strange layout which meant we had about a hundred metre struggle with our gear through the hotel to our room. We were finally in our room and we decided that all the party goers at the convention would be in bed now. Then there was a knock at our door. I said to Suzanne "That'll be Jo". Sure enough. "There are about twenty of us still going and waiting for you" Jo said. Well, we had to do the right thing didn't we?

It was really good to catch up with friend we haven't seen since the last convention two years ago. Most of them were pretty primed as it was now after 1am. Poor Simon Smith fell asleep on the lounge. 

Falling asleep in a room full of face and body painters?
Bad idea Simon. (The photo above has been stolen from a friend's Facebook page)

The fun continued until a just after 4am when we all decided it was probably time to call it a night and go to bed. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those weekends. We're both looking forward to tomorrow and catching up with lots of people. I hope this man flu has gone by then.

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