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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Leaving My Wife

Gunita turned up to take the key when we left, which was of course especially sad.  Even though I tried not being zentimental saying goodbye to my new wife was of course specifically hard. I had to have words with Jonathan because well, he seemed to think he can just go around hugging other people’s wives without discretion on such occasions. Sometimes I think that the whole eating salads thing is just a front.

And then we left.

We got lost heading out of Liepaja, but once again, we managed to find our way by taking every possible road until we found the right one. OK, actually we just stopped and asked someone for directions. I say “just”, this isn’t as easy as it may appear when you don’t know the language. In fact it can be quite entertaining.

As we hit the road proper, having experienced the mildest Latvian winter for a millennia, the snow started to come down properly. It was the kind of snow where, as you’re driving along in it at night, you can pretend that you’re flying a space ship at near light speed as the stars fly past in the ebony void. Ok, maybe that’s just me that does that. Although, now that the idea is planted I’d like to add that if you do try this, remember to be on the look our for other cars in space that aren’t doing light speed, as running into the back of them when planet hopping can be seriously embarrassing, not to mention, can cause quite a bit of physical anguish as well.

And that’s how it continued until we hit the Lithuanian border. A lovely lady came out to greet us. I handed over the passports, she checked them, and then in traditional border guard style, checked us, and then she asked for … an auto passport. I suddenly had a distinct sense of déjà vu. We explained the situation as best we could and then she called a couple more guards out of the office who came to have a look. They then checked the passports, and then checked us, and then all three of them went inside. With our passports. Oh Joy.

We could see them through the office window as they looked through various documents, and checked computers, and then about five minutes later they came back, handed us our passports, and the lovely lady suggested it was ok and we could go. Sighs of relief all round. As Jonathan wound up his window, and they headed back in out of the snow, one of the other guards turned and said very matter of factly, “good luck”.

Now we both wondered about that, but you can’t complain about people wishing you well. The problem being the way that he said it suggested that he knew things that we didn’t and that those things may very well not be good. We set off again into the snow, with a mild air of trepidation, but at least with one small obstacle overcome. Of course, we still had to get across the Lithuanian Polish border, which was where we’d had all the fun the first time around.

The trip across Lithuania was pretty non eventful. We carried on driving through the night telling each stories, recapping things that we’d done over the previous week, pretending we were in a space ship traveling at near light speed as the stars fly past in the ebony void. Perhaps that was just me. After a while it stopped snowing.

After another while, it also stopped being Jonathans birthday. We then realised that if we could make it to the Polish border within the hour, then due to the time difference, we could make it be Jonathans birthday again. So suddenly we had a race on our hands. It has to be said that racing is not really the sort of thing that your average Ford Transit is actually designed for. Especially in the snow.  As the minutes ticked away, and we didn’t actually seem to be getting that much nearer to the border I found myself working on a more subtle solution. If I could keep turning the van clock back a few minutes at a time while Jonathan concentrated on the driving, then I might just be able to convince him that we’d made it. Unfortunately, we were a lot further from the border than either of us had anticipated and eventually he noticed me doing it. “That’s OK” he said, “the vans clock was a few minutes fast anyway”. Little did he know it had already been shifted about twenty minutes but heh...

It didn’t matter anyway. Even with the added help of traveling at near light speed through the snow, and subtle alterations to the clock, we still didn’t hit the border until it was gone one o’clock. Jonathan would have to wait another whole year, just like the rest of us.

We’d decided to take a slightly different route on the way back. There was a larger road that went over the border that we’d missed on the way up, and we assumed that a larger road meant a larger border crossing, and therefore more chance of getting someone who spoke English if we had to try and explain our predicament again. It made sense at the time.

As we pulled into the border crossing, the car in front of us was being taken apart, piece by piece, by a couple of very efficient looking men in army uniforms. There was a car to one side that was also being taken apart. As we sat and waited patiently, noting that it had a British registration, a van full of men in army uniforms turned up, jumped out, and preceded to help with the serious business of pulling things apart. This is going to be fun, I thought.

So when they’d finally put the car in front back together enough for it to drive away, and we edged forward to the window I smiled my most innocent smile at the guard as I handed over the passports. He looked at them and then looked at us, and then, needless to say, said …

“…auto passport”.



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