Ukrainian Roulette


I have driven on some pretty ropey roads. Komasi to Accra with monkeys hanging on your wing-mirror; The St Bernard Pass with Fiats three abreast trying to overtake a coach, but nothing quite compares to the Kiev – Kharkov road. It lulls you into a false sense of security – dual carriageway till the golden domes disappear in your rear view mirow and then about 500Km of gently undulating straight single lanes interspersed with the odd village and police radar gun team.Along the route small crosses and flowers – most fresh – serve as a continual reminder that air travel is much safer. 30 minutes may pass without incident then…the 50kph lorry belching smoke ahead of you moves out to overtake a 15kph tractor. A convoy of blacked-out jeeps approaches you – headlights blazing. At the crossroads 200m ahead, two oil tankers pull out crossing each other. Behind you a subaru flashes and moves to overtake. You are doing 150kph. You brake slightly. the subaru overtakes, brakes at the overtaking lorry and cuts inside to see the tractor, brakes and swerves onto the hard shoulder throwing up dust. The two tankers pass and like opening curtains, a gap appears through which the jeeps emerge at full tilt. You drop a gear, clear the tractor and lorry squeeze in as the jeeps motor past and wait for the next incident some 20 minutes later: 2 4x4s have collided head on and it is not a pretty sight.

The police are there having a cigarette.

Elsewhere along the route their colleagues are raking in 20 UAH “fines” as you were clearly going 96 kph – it says on his radar gun. Production of a UK driving license causes raised eyebrows and a hesitancy to require the fine – I pass unscathed.

This time.

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