Less than a month before going to Kiev to watch the football, I'd been stranded in the northern Greek town of Florina and had sworn to myself that I'd never hitch hike again. Here I was though, having been easily convinced by a friend who cared to make her hitch hiking debut. Perhaps I would have been harder to convince had it not been in Ukraine and Poland, two countries that I have quite a lot of hitching experience in and had nothing but pleasurable experiences.
HitchWiki is a mine of information, written by hitchhikers for hitchhikers, it tells you how best to exit a city and where best to wait, with no prior knowledge of Kiev, I used it to find the way out of the city and trusted it.
I boarded the red Metro line at Kreschatyk and took the metro to the last stop of Akademmistechko, walked up the stairs and left the metro station in search of a marshrutka (mini bus) to the suburban town of Irpin. After waiting about 30 minutes, a bus pulled up with a sign for Irpin on it, the driver got out and went for a coffee and begrudgingly began to let customers on to the bus. It soon became apparent that we had managed to find the most bad tempered marshrutka driver in Ukraine. To make matters more complicated, he had taken a different route to Irpin from the one mentioned on HitchWiki, questioning him about the road towards Kovel was fruitless as he just muttered grumpily and we ultimately found ourselves at the terminus which was sort of in a field outside Irpin.
The only other customer to get off there was an elderly man who by the smell of his breath, was clearly very hungover or had just had a few early morning vodkas, a nice old man, he was not local and walked back towards Irpin whilst discussing where we should go with various people who all said it was very far. We were in deep discussion about how to get there, when a man having a coffee nearby suddenly told us that he'd drive us to the place. Racing through the bumpy streets of Irpin in his new sports car proved to be our saviour and it was only minutes til we were in the right place, as pictured on HitchWiki.
We waited in the sun for about 30 minutes and then a man of few words, with a cross proudly dangling from his rear view mirror stopped in a Lada and took us about 100km to a Traffic Police point (DAI) near Malyn. Queen and meditation songs played out on an old casette player. The DAI check points are pretty useful for hitchhikers, the smaller ones stock cold drinks, have a toilet and at least one police employee, the bigger ones consist of more and often a petrol station.
I asked a driver who had stopped for a cold refreshment whether he was going towards Kovel and it turned out, rather unsurprisingly that he was driving in that direction. Although initially reluctant to take us due to having quite a lot of stuff, he soon had a change of mind and took us to the village of Litki that was about 70km away. Litki, where his grandmother lived, turned out to be one of those memorable little villages with very little going on. Dropped off at the bus stop, we soon began to generate interest. First in the form of three local drunk guys who cadged a cigarette from my friend, then a well dressed church-goer (it was Sunday) who introduced himself as Vlodimir, after a bit of chit chat, after signalling with a gulping throat, he asked for money for a beer and seemed content with the 1 hryvna I had left in my pocket and probably wouldn't have used anyway. Our third friend, was a little more persistent, keen to invite us to his house, he settled for puckering up towards my friend to reveal his large golden slabbed teeth, this rather amorous local proposed to her despite sporting a rather chunky wedding ring.
After a while, a family turned up at the bus stop and Mr. Lover retreated to the nearby pub, probably in fear of the mother of the family gossiping about his antics to his wife. In the distance, I spotted a petrol station and decided to walk to it, this turned out to be an ingenius plan. Not only did a local car stop to take us there but it turned out to be another DAI place, the police woman, a rather voluptuous blonde woman became rather involved and radioed another DAI station and with cars few and far between, she suggested that we go back to the previous DAI station and asked the drivers of a car going to Kiev to take us over there.
Several minutes later and 15km or so and we were back near Korosten, the officers discussed Euro 2012 with us and we spoke about whether we thought England and/or Ukraine would qualify from the group, they told us to sit down in the shade, while they would sort out a car for us. After 20 minutes or so, one of the officers marched into the middle of a road and pulled a truck, the truck had Polish plates and they asked him to drive us to the border. A long, calm drive of 410km to the border ensued, only broken up by a stop at a road cafe, where the driver, 'Pan Mietek' in an outburst of generosity suddenly decided to ply us with champagne, chocolate and coffee to celebrate England's victory against the Swedes.
We discussed a great deal of things with Pan Mietek, who was convinced that Poles don't drink enough vodka these days and that people are too busy ponsing around in new Volvos. His enthusiasm for driving in Ukraine and Russia was unmatched with any driver I've met before and he was certainly a happy go lucky guy. 7 or so hours on and we parted company, he had to sleep for the night at the border but not before a final bit of drama where for some reason he decided to drive on the opposite side of the road, in order to park up much to the disgust of the local border guards. He also managed to ground his truck, but by now the border guards who returned armed with a shovel to dig him out had mysteriously turned from foe to friend. Meanwhile, we needed to get a ride over a border where it's forbidden to cross by foot and there were no cars.