We woke up to snow - a very light covering and it was still showing - Donhollio From Winnipeg, Canada) - roared with laughter at this photo I posted on facebook - I dreaded driving in snow - and was trying to get the northerly stage finished to be able to dive south seeking warmer climes.
We walked in to town - early - bought some provisions and learnt that only Latvian reg'd cars could buy superior insurance cover beforehand and we set off - leaving Vladimir and Ludmilla's kind hospitality - to buy a Fire Extinguisher ( Co2 / powder ) and superior first aid kit - required by Russian law for cars.
Having bought these items at a garage outside of town - we headed north and east to the RU border - again seeing signs pointing out we were in a 'border zone' - as we first paralleled Belarus - then Russia.
Then the snow started falling ..... and we were on a minor road to cut a corner and test the roaming of our device - buy allowing it to switch between three countries..
The device worked fine - but I was thinking - BUGGER - I may need to splash out for winter tyres - as I followed in the tracks of a lorry - the only only vehicle that had passed recently. It turned out to be a bus !
We spent an hour on bumpy snow covered roads that turned to muddy slush covered roads and the snow stopped and the temp rose to 4C ! I longed for smooth, treated roads and the border.
Eventually, we spotted a tall observation tower on the Latvian side and passed the second car we had seen in an hour - before hitting the 'highway' to the border...... Isn't it funny how countries welcome you with grand highways that peter out into bumpy roads? Well Latvia seemed to be saying, ' Good bye' - with a wide, two laned each side motorway - with overhead gantry signs... There were few vehicles - until we hit a line of trucks....We could see the border ahead and waited in line...then observed two cars flew past - so we tentatively followed and found that there was a queue for cars !
We stopped at the fist barrier and was asked how many people in the car, and given a number - the barrier was raised and we stopped at a white line where cars were stopped by customs - before the driver and passenger(s) go go to a second window - to have the documents for the car and passports taken by customs - and be on their way to the Russian side
Our turn came and a young chap - who spoke Russian better than English asked for our passports, my drivers licence and car docs - he took them over to the first booth and entered into a chat with a superior.
After an age our vehicle was checked and searched, including a careful examination of the car's engine number and VIN plates were were made
All seemed OK...
But then the more senior guy came over and said, "These documents do not prove you own the car"..
I was wasn't concerned- I had checked - I had bought the car 10 days earlier - had the new buyers half of the UK V5C car's documentation - a new one is issued within a month - the debit car receipt and invoice, MOT certificate showing the VIN number tying the car to the vehicle and my insurance docs, plus my driver's licence matched the address to which the V5C - car log book...
" The Russians will not accept this - you cannot cross" - he continued ... There followed a my repsonse - translated into Russian and a compromise was agreed - I could obtain a Temporary Vehicle Registration Document - by email from the UK Driver Vehicle Licencing Authority ( DVLA) and they would allow us to cross on foot to the Russian side - to see if THAT would be acceptable.
A kind lady in the customs office allowed us to use her PC and I emailed scans of docs to the DVLA and digitally signed a doc giving them permission to send the Temp Reg Cert to 'another' email address- other than mine which was on their files.
During the wait - we were given only 10 mins more - before we would be 'refused' - but a further 30 mins was negotiated - no thanks to the kind lady - who spoke v.little English - but I could speak in better Russian and Misha filled in the holes. She had a sister living in Edinburgh - all seemed good and the Temp Reg Docs for the car were printed off. It quite clearly showed it is valid in all EU countries
Confident that all would be fine - or at least we would get a chance to ask the Russians we handed the Docs to a Police Inspector and waited...
He returned and asked me to sign a document in Latvian that said, I was being refused transit and that I had not proved ownership of the car and was being fined - he was being kind by making it the minimum - 3 Euros
Now, bearing in mains I had checked the Docs situation - as we left before the V5C change of ownership doc arrived - and that the Docs I had would be accepted - this was indeed a surprise and I refused to sign the doc.
Now, the inspector was not amused - but he went off to his office and I called Europa Direct the citizens help line - who told me my Docs were good and to call the U?K embassy - who told me to contact a lawyer - who told me to insist on English translations of any 'infringement' and not to sign
The inspector came back to check - we informed him of our stance - shrugged and disappeared. 20 minutes later we decided to go to his office even though the door was marked - staff only - and enquired if we could go to the Russians to ask if they would accept our Docs ? "No, your have no proved to me this 'Temporary Registration Document ' - anyone can just can a false passport or document" .. It was pointed out that we had used a Latvian customs email address - which the DVLA had checked for authenticity and that is always emailed. ..Plus that we had plenty of evidence tying the car to me
He offered a compromise - he would issue a warning and I could write my disagreement and have 10 days to appeal. This was agreed.
Another 15 minutes ensued and I signed - with my protest and we got in the car headed to the Russian side- but having to do a u-turn within 20m - as the form I signed stated that we would not try to cross the frontier pending production of an original document ...
We handed back our number - given so long ago on arrival - and headed back west - with Misha checking for accommodation - It was had to drive given the rage I felt inside - we knew of others who had crossed in the same circumstances.
I wasn't thinking straight and when stopping to withdraw cash for the accommodation at the ATM - managed to lose a Bank Debit card - didn't realise until we got to the hotel - and couldn't care - I just stopped the card - having moved any funds in the account to a saving account - found a company that could courier the V5C doc - that had ironically arrived 1 day after our departure - and crashed ..