A more comprehensive guide to yesterday:
I packed up the gear and at about 09:30 left the sleepy Ukranian border town of Reni for the 4 hour drive to Odessa. The plan was lunch and internet in Odessa, then do about 100km more and find a home for the night.
The cook in the hotel warned me the road was pretty bad. Certainly the road out of Reni was in bad shape, but once on the open road it was comfortably manageable. The first hour or so was weaving in and around lakes and channels in the Danube delta.
A young female car driver stopped me for a chat after spotting me taking photos of some local villagers, insisting I take some photos of her, before she zoomed off to Kiev at a high rate of knots.
I had to take a route along the coast, as the road between Reni and Odessa crosses into Moldova briefly a couple of times – which is easy for locals, but a bureaucratic hassle for a foreigner like me. I sighted the Black sea for the first time, along with its beachy shore. The beach didnt look too inviting tho today. It was cold weather. No rain, but about 10 – 11 degrees all day.
Eventually I reached Odessa, about an hour later than I thought, and it took a good half hour to get into the centre of town, where I knew I could find internet. I parked outside a cafe with wireless internet advertised on the streetfront, took my 2nd wallet out of my tankbag to reshuffle what currencies were in my reserve wallet and what ones I carried witth me, and sat down to have a pizza, coffee and catch up on 5-6 days of internet absence. There was a lot of catching up to do, and I spent a good 2 hours updating pics and text and responding to urgent emails.
When I got up to leave and pay the bill, I noticed my jacket pocket (my jacket had been draped over my chair) was open and both wallets gone. It was a disaster. All my cards were in the two wallets, along with drivers licence and about 750 eur in eur, usd and rubles. It must have happened when I popped inside for 30 seconds to have a quick slash, and I kinda suspect the waiter himself who was covering the balcony area (of which I was the only customer).
After a frantic search, I called to cancel the cards. I will get new ones sent out in due course, but that will take time, and I may not be able to have a reliable place to send them until Almaty in 5 – 6 weeks time. Fortunately the bank is able to wire me some emergency funds by Western Union. Unfortunately, it was now after 6pm on Saturday and those funds would not be accessible until banks affilliated with western union opened on Monday morning here in Ukraine.
I found 200 reserve EUR I had tucked away in a safe place and changed half of it into Ukranian hryvna so i could pay the cafe bill and top up with fuel. I made a search of the alleyways around the Grand Cafe where I had the wallets stolen in case someone had just taken the cash and thrown away the wallets and cards, but no luck.
For both travel and business I had been to the former soviet union (FSU) over 70 times in all, and never been robbed. I had been swindled out of a 50 buck “donation” by a dodgy Russian immigration official once, but in over 70 visits in over 15 years, I had never been robbed. I guess while most people are paranoid about security issues in the FSU, I had gone the other way, and treated Ukranians, Kazakhs and Russians like trusted brothers. Certainly the friendliness and hospitality I have always received in these parts has always been first class. It seems I had relaxed a little too much.
I drove to the main pedestrian street, Deribasovska, where I once knew a couple of western guys who had an apartment business. I guess I wanted to see some friendly reassuring faces. By now it was after 8pm and I needed to sort out accommodation. If I couldnt find the guys I once knew, I would just ride out of town and into the night, stopping at a hotel by the highway.
By total luck I stumbled across 20 or more bikers having coffee and some food by the side of Deribasovska. They loved the sound of my Remus exhaust but on hearing my sad story, they insisted on giving me a home for the night and had a whip round for some cash. I refused to take it, but they shoved it in my pocket, insisting “bikers always help other bikers”. This is an attitude I had seen several times while on a bike in Russia, and it seems it was no different in Ukraine. They are always very generous and helpful. After their street meet split up, a guy called Sasha from the Motor-Life club in Odessa (http://motor-life.ucoz.ua/) told me to follow him. He had a ground floor apartment and a secure garage.
It was good to feel looked after and to have a home for the night.