My arrival in Ukraine was once again a strange one. As expected the bus got in stupidly early – leaving me to wander the looming bus station under night’s last hour of darkness. It was eerily quiet and the only other people present were those from my own bus. None of them seemed remotely Western. Russian was the lingua franca here and I was, once again, out of my depth, misguided and mute as I searched the different levels for some clue as to how I might get into town.
In the upstairs waiting room I found a man passed out face down. He was still kneeling and his forehead rested on the bench where it must have fallen during this silent prayer for salvation. The empty vodka bottle clasped in his hand confirmed that his plea had gone unheard and I went back downstairs.
My first taste of the metaphorical open road was to be Oriental in origin, with a long planned sejour in South East Asia the perfect segway into Europe. Of course, it wasn’t to be anything intrepid, with a greater emphasis on hedonism over hardship. Still the trip promised much, and with the brothers I planned to meet there already three weeks hardened I was anxious to arrive.
My final night in New Zealand coincided with the last day of the corporate year and it was with little surprise that I found myself still in town at the witching hour, wobbling back to the familiar Freemans Bay villa I had called home for the last two years. An early alarm, some last minute checking and I was off, my hangover momentarily placated by the remaining buds of nature’s panadol.
Then the first of what would be many queues, impatient proles shifting restlessly behind me while the line slowly snakes forward. A greasy dose of chicken to ward off looming nausea and some painkillers, then customs, safety announcements and settling into my budget sized seat –finally I was in the air, but it wasn’t without some sorrow that I bid my beautiful nation good-bye.