You know how during the Olympics or some sort of world sporting event countries put together their dream team of athletes together to win the gold medal? Canada does this all the time for hockey. We take the best from each team and put them together into one powerhouse team and expect them to dominate the tournament and trample their competitors. They are the best of the best after all and should play well together.
Most of the time things don’t work out that way.
You put a team of captain’s and all stars together and you end up having egos butting heads and everyone trying to run the team their own way with their own rules.
This is the case with 4 independent travelers trying to travel together on the Mongol Rally.
I am sure that we have more experience traveling than most people participating in the Mongol Rally, but I think we are failing miserably compared to the other teams.
I am certainly not implying that we are All Stars or a Dream Team by any means, I am just saying that like the Canadian hockey teams who should have won world cups or Olympic golds, we too should be doing better with all our experience traveling the world.
The Hotel Fiasco.
Take for example our experience trying to find a hotel in Odessa. We’ve all travelled before. We’ve landed in foreign countries and cities and found places to stay with ease.
So why did finding a hostel, campground or even hotel room in Odessa turn out to be an excruciating experience?
After failing to make a decision on what part of town we wanted to stay in or if we even wanted to stay in Odessa for the night, we finally decided to follow the directions on our CompeGPS Unit to a hotel named London in the downtown core. It took us to the front door, but it ended up being $160 per room. That’s a little out of our budget.
Dave was feeling like crap. He is the 3rd of us to catch this damn cold, so he stayed in the car to rest. Since I was driving, I stayed as well so that I could move the car if needed while Rick and Sherry went on foot in search of another cheaper hotel recommended by the front desk at London Hotel.
After about 20 minutes or so, they came back with no luck. Sherry said that they originally walked into the place where they were sent but it didn’t look like a hotel to her. After searching around some more, they realized that this was indeed the hotel recommended so they went back in. It was filled with a crowd of people pushing their way to the front desk and it was complete chaos of people yelling and pushing and shoving. It still didn't seem to look like a hotel and the chaos wasn't a lot of fun so they decided to leave.
We pulled out the Lonely Planet who graciously gave us the pdf versions of the countries we are travelling through and checked their recommendations. We followed the directions right to the address and looked dumbfounded as there wasn’t a building around that even remotely looked like a guest-house or hostel. We were in the right place, the book said that it was on this street right by the bus station and we too were right by the bus station on the street that the address claimed it to be. We moved on…
Okay, there was another Lonely Planet hotel suggested that was back in the town centre right beside the Continental Hotel. We set Bonnie, (our name for our GPS) to the address and followed the directions there. We ended up directly in front of the Continental Hotel at the exact address listed by the Lonely Planet. The hostel was nowhere to be found. Sherry asked the doorman at the Continental Hotel if he knew of the hostel we were looking for and he did. He gave us directions and it was just around the corner.
We followed the doorman's directions to the street that was just a block away and proceeded to drive up and down looking for the hostel. We checked out the address that he said. Did he say 50 or 15? It didn’t matter, we looked at both and neither even remotely resembled a hostel.
It was time to give up on the hostels recommended by the Lonely Planet, we just couldn’t find them and whenever we asked someone if they knew of a hostel, they just looked at us with a confused expression.
It was now time to take matters into our own hands. Sherry and Rick got out to look into all the doorways on the street. We knew there were hostels around, we could even see their signals on our iphones wifi! Sherry finally found a sign directing her to a big red door where she pressed the button and a few minutes later someone buzzed her in.
She disappeared for about 10 minutes only to return frustrated and exhausted. She explained that it said there was a hostel inside, but once she got in the building, she couldn’t find where it could be. She rang doorbells and knocked on doors but couldn’t find anything. Rick joined her inside to look and there was no hostel in sight.
It was now getting very late. We hadn’t eaten anything all day except for some Borscht, a peach and a small perogie for breakfast. At 8:00 pm, we needed some food so that we could think straight and eventually find a place to stay for the night.
Rick managed to find an internet signal and logged onto Four Square where he remembered getting a message from another team telling us where they stayed when they were in Odessa the night before. We got the address, paid our bill and made a b-line for a warm and comfortable bed.
We drove through a very busy downtown Odessa on our way to the hostel. Man, this town is club central. Women were dressed up in cocktail dresses and high heals while guys had their hair slicked back and looking on the prowl for a hook up. And this was Sunday night!
We didn’t have the chance to join in the festivities though as we were still looking for a place to sleep so we kept on driving.
We spotted the word Hotel on our way to the hostel recommended by fellow ralliers and sang a praise of Hallejulla, Sherry hopped out to check on the price and this one was even more expensive than London, so we kept on driving to our original destination.
Yes, we are still striking out here people!
We couldn’t find this hostel either. We went straight to the street that it was located on and we still couldn’t see anything that resembled a hostel. I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically to the point of hacking up a lung. (Did I tell you our car is the now the germ mobile. Dave, Sherry and I have been sick all week)
Here we are, four experienced travelers and it has taken us 5 hours to find a hotel and we still haven’t found a place to lay our heads.
We decided to head out to the airport. There has to be hotels there right? Wrong. We couldn't find any hotels near the airport and we realized that it was just too small of an airport to have any sort of hotel infrastructure. We had run out of options.
We gave up.
I made an executive decision as today's driver that we were getting out of Odessa and heading towards Kiev. I couldn’t take it anymore. Sherry asked some cab drivers at the airport if they knew of anywhere but I had enough and replied in a flat out “No, Get in the car we we're heading towards Kiev.
It was now 10:30 pm and if we kept driving 6 hours earlier, we would have been in Kiev by now instead of driving around a town that we didn’t get to enjoy in the first place. Surprisingly, I wasn't upset or frustrated, I was just ready to leave. Dave had been sound asleep in the back seat for a little bit now and he was content to drive the entire 600 km.
We hopped on the highway north towards Kiev and within 25 minutes we saw a sign for a hotel.
We stopped in asked the price and went to bed.