The good news is that on Saturday November 12th I reached the Ukraine-Hungary border at Vylok. The border guards were very touchy about taking photos so I have only included one of Bolashak and I entering Vylok, shown below. I am very happy at this achievement as it was the furthest point I was aiming to get to this year, as I knew it would give me the winter break to sort out arrangements for smooth start in the EU next year, probably in March.
However the problems have already started. When we reached the Vylok border crossing, we discovered it was for cars only, and although the horses could cross the border here, the lorry would have to go round via Chop, probably at least an 8 hour detour, not including time at the border crossing. We decided it was too risky to split up for such a long time and distance, particularly as it was getting on in the day. Vylok fatally and inaccurately told us that there was only a vet check on the Ukrainian side of the border at Chop, so we decided to truck the horses north and cross there.
We crossed through Ukrainian customs without too much hassle apart from a delay while they queried the stamp on the veterinary certificate in lieu of a Certificate of Transit. Luckily I still had the number of the vet office at Dovhzhansky, and they spoke to Vera who confirmed it was OK.
We arrived on the Hungarian side in the dark and were guided into the vet service compound while the resident vet (yes there was a vet check!) went off to get the paperwork checked as there seemed to be a problem. About 2.30am on Sunday morning he called me in. Big problem - the horses absolutely could not be let into Hungary due to EU restrictions on horses originating from Kazakhstan - no matter that they had been out of that country for nearly 3 months and the Kazakh vet had assured us that the paperwork would get us all the way through. Tim Cope had somehow managed to get his horses into Hungary at least for a while, but I had been unable to contact either him for advice, or the Hungarian vet contact I had been given.
There was nothing for it but to go back to Ukraine and think again. So in the morning we drove back across the river Tisza to the Ukrainian side. Even bigger problem - we were now not allowed back into Ukraine as they said the Ukrainian Certificate of Transit had now been used up, although I still had about 4 months to run on it. In vain did I plead that it was impossible for us to go westwards into Hungary.
Frantic phone calls to Natalia, my wonderful Kiev rotarian contact who got in touch with nearby Rotarians in Uzhgorod. But the Chop customs were extremely rude and unhelpful, would not give us advice on the best course of action or let us stay on the Ukraine side overnight while we tried to sort out a solution, and virtually physically ejected us back to the Hungarian side.
So here we are parked round the back of the Hungarian veterinary facilities, which I have to say are superb. We quietly got the horses off the lorry yesterday evening as they had been on the lorry for a day and a half, and tethered them on the lawn - luckily the ground is frozen fairly hard so they will not make too much mess.
Rowena and Matt got on the case immediately yesterday and are organising an application from Kazakhstan for a new Certificate of Transit.
In the meantime we are settling in for a few days wait.