Hear the crackling, then the crunching, through out all of that the sun on my skin doesn’t stop.
I aim at the village of Kolochava, Polonina Krasna awaits. Entering the mountains I can again enjoy roadside treats of free mineralized water, rusty sediment encrusts the place where water falls. While I drink a strong smell creeps up my nose and bubbles tickle down my throat. Seems I’m 25 years bellow the average.
Not many cyclists roll by me, in fact he was the only one I’ve seen so far, a bikepacker at that! Sasza if I recall. We look at each other’s bikes and bags and stuff, sniffing like dogs that just met. Opposite directions mark the end of our friendship.
Past Mizhhir’ya and up into the rainy clouds I go.
One hour before I reach Kolochava rain salutes my effort and stays for company. Riding into the village I catch a glimpse of an unusual sign, bilingual Ukrainian and Czech. Hospoda. Just what I kneed now, a cold beer. Creeeeck! Does the gate as we enter. A mix of locals and Czech backpackers had the same idea before me. There’s free WiFi, not to be underestimated in a place like that. Checking the weather forecast for next two days I quickly decide to ask for the room price. At around 4 euros for a single room, double bed, balcony and dry head it’s seems reasonable to stick around. Czech treats await me downstairs.
It’s a nice place with familiar artefacts.
Smažený sýr (friend cheese), beer, WiFi and Skype, that’s my evening dinner with a friend. One may discuss modern world electronics and their influence on our social life, but damn at times like these it’s nice to have this stuff around.
Next day brings more rain, I make use of a dry window and go for a ride around the area. A bridge and a tarmac road once went through this valley, until one day that river washed them away downstream.
I cycle down to a nearby reservoir
Past statues of mankind…
Four hryvnas a shot, horseradish vodka. My medicine. The big bartender has hairy hands, hairy face and a bald head and doesn’t appreciate my sense of humor when I ask for more medicine calling him my doctor. I’m looking at a sentence of no more alcohol. I need my medicine, my throat aches a bit, better cure it now.
Two rainy nights later the sun comes for a visit. We go and play.
Red and white points to green, green points up through other people’s gardens.
Looking down at Kolochava.
Gate to Polonina Krasna.
This is the view I mostly enjoy on steep ascends.
When it gets flattish I see this.
Much needed friends in times of solitude.
Down I go to Ust Chorna.
Grocery shop with fresh produce can just as well be found in someone’s porch.
Next morning starts fresh and misty. Clean, white fog seeps down into the valley grazing tree tops.
Gravel roads upon gravel roads wind through the valley of Brusturanka river. Trails to cherish as they’ll get me to the other side of Polonina Svydovets.
Water abound on the road side, with a fancy cup for those who have non.
Blue and yellow is Ukraine.
In the middle of nowhere. 3 hours of riding, pushing and carrying from the nearest village.
Up I go and encounter trails that might just as well be in Poland. I smile as I ride through my imaginative homeland.
Pass of Chorna Tisa (Black Tisa), just above town of Jasinia.
Riding into pasture land I feel as revisiting my grandmother’s youth, although she didn’t use a cell phone.
We need a wash, a clean, new look before heading into town.
Just before Rakhiv a shitstorm breaks out. I ride into town and look for a Turbaza (cheap hotel). I stand at the counter in front of a young, black haired and good looking lady, waving my Polish passport. Trying to make the best of my bad Ukrainian and her bad English. A small, bald, debonair man walks in, waves his Slovakian passport and shoots perfect Polish at my ears. With his help everything is clear. He gives the girl a Slovakian chocolate with gummy bears a Slovakian delicacy. Three euros worth of dryness also get me a shower, four beds to choose from and a local disco blasting laser lights and beats into my room. I choose the bed with Barbie bedding.
I spend the evening with Milan, listening about his travels to Ukraine, business with salami and chocolate, his women and numerology of relationships. He’s on the look out for the “old guy”. The next morning I join him on his quest.
I should stay, he says. Together we should enjoy an evening of partying in Rakhiv, I opt for having just a cold Kvas and hit the road.
Waving hills of Ukraine goodbye I put my eyes and pedals where to border to Romania is – Solovyne.
Mostly mountain biking for the past 1000km. Never mind the socks.
I stand at the bridge border crossing. In front of me Romania, more Carpathians, more riding, more solitude. I know that Nick and Lael are just about to head for Lviv and ride in Ukraine. Three is more than one. Romania, stay where you are! I catch a 16 hour train just about to leave for Lviv. 7 euros, no ticket, no place. I’m being thrown around from place to place by passengers with their Platzkartas, finaly find one free just to have some older guy rub his but against my feet. I flee up, to where my bike is. Hard, but cozy. I sleep through most of my way to Lviv, to Nich and Lael, to friendship.