This was our second trip to Moldova, but the first time to its capital, Chisnau.
The preparations for this trip were as intense as always, with much to source and some equipment/machinery requiring repair or maintenance prior to our departure, all in addition to the work we anticipated during the days we would spend there.
On the really early missions we were able to sail from Rosyth, since then we have had to drive down to Newcastle (at least it adds another country to our list!) One of the ambulances struggled from disembarking the ferry at Amsterdam! The air suspension system on the rear of the vehicle failed to inflate and caused the convoy to be detained in a side street by the North Sea Canal. After some investigation, it was determined that overloading was the root of the problem. Sometime later, and after redistributing the equipment, we were back on the road.
Along the way, we rendezvoused at a service station in Germany, with three guys from Sussex who had prepared a machine of their own, we continued together to Chisnau. The guys had done a superb job, their motor was very well presented and equipped.
This city was one of great contrasts, Trabants and Ladas competed for road space with large (and new) Mercedes and BMW’s, the potholes were of biblical proportions, the trolley buses are hazardously quiet (I speak from personal experience after a near miss). And speaking of hazards… as a group we were strongly advised to stick together when out during the evening!
We were based, at a fire station across town, not particularly close to our accommodation, which brought its own challenges. It was out of the question to forget anything that you may need for the day before getting on the mini bus in the morning.
During the week myself and Ricky were asked to attend a breakdown in the city one morning, this was only an air leak and soon sorted, we were then whisked off (kidnapped) around and about the city’s other stations for the rest of the day, to be shown anything mechanical that was of concern to them! I had the unique challenge of fitting a new seal kit to a Reliant Light Portable Pump, on site and without any diagrams or clues. We had purchased the kit in the UK and after some fettling it worked fine.
This week culminated in a demonstration to the city and fire service dignitaries at the city bus department. This took the form of a smoke/fire and casualty, road traffic accident scenario – utilising on this occasion, an old bendy bus. As with earlier missions, this was rehearsed with and supervised by Sera instructors, but on the day the adrenaline within the students takes over and closer supervision to get them to slow down and not miss any stages of the operations is vital. This event was even televised and went very well.
On the last evening we were taken to a lakeside barbecue by way of a thank you from the local authorities for our efforts. As Moldova is a land locked country, this was on the shore of a large lake. The site was a tourist attraction and very nice too, unfortunately it was freezing cold and none of our guys had prepared to spend the evening outdoors. Later saw a mad dash to the hotel, then onto an all-night coach to Bucharest airport in Romania for our return flights.
On the whole, a valuable experience. The work and training requirements are more demanding in Moldova for a number of reasons but must continue.