Alison Mary Walker
We have now been in the Ukraine for 15 days after a 30 hour marathon bus trip with other cyclists from Warsaw. The temperature inside the bus was actually hotter than outside but even this did not flush out the heavy cold I caught in Vilnius. Arrived in Odessa a large Port city and stayed in the Alpine Club headquarters. This was puzzling until we arrived to find most were camping beside a high climbing wall while Brian & I took a seaside hotel room a last resort to regain good health.
Next day 35 of us headed off through the city traffic for a couple of hours before reaching the flat open countryside of wheat & sunflower fields which were to be such a feature of the next week’s ride. We stayed in a huge gymnasium in quite a large city and were greeted by a diplomatic team with flowers and a ceremony of eating fresh white bread with salt. I think I overdid the salt. This was followed by a TV interview at which I was selected to represent the group. Actually Brian was also called upon but to his later embarrassment he had already disappeared to a local bar. Next morning the local Police led us out of the city for at least 30km.which was quite a help as the rest of the day was far from straight-forward. Hot long straights and a race to catch a boat before 6pm. The boat turned out to be a 20 ft tub which carried 8 bicycles and 9 people. We finished the day with strong head winds at about 7.30pm but the last arrived after 10pm.
The rest of the week consisted of 100km + rides (mostly flat, monotonous scenery with few restaurants along the way) and we were starting to ask ourselves if the trip had been a mistake. However things have improved especially our health and fitness. We finally reached the Crimean Peninsular. Beaches at first were quite a shock – hundreds of holiday makers covering every inch of sand; some beaches so shallow they had bathers wading out 100m to get their knees wet. They have improved but it’s still difficult to find accessible coastline that’s not crowded with Ukrainians & Russians.
As we found in Romania & Bulgaria the women here are not shy about body fat. Hardly anyone wears a one piece suit so I am an unusual sight especially with my tan finishing above the knee. Another surprise is the amount of beer that is drunk. You see young women drinking beer at 10 in the morning. Not so surprising because it is almost the cheapest drink and the fridges are full of beer. Today we had an excellent Brut Pinot but we had to buy it yesterday and refrigerate it. The wine is also displayed behind the counter and Brian was severely reprimanded for stepping behind the counter to examine the labels.
After a tough ride the other day which ended with a 350 metre descent to the camp site which neither van could manoevre we have pulled out for 2 days R&R in a very pleasant hotel. The track was so rough that much of it was unrideable and several people fell with their bikes. The next morning I was determined to have a swim which was down another 100 metres. It was agreed that most people would be unable to push their bikes back up so they were transported by truck. By the time this was completed it was 11am and we had an 80km ride into the mountains. We decided to be older and wiser and meet up in Yalta in a few days. It’s proved to be a good decision and very relaxing. Visited the main winery in this region Massandra but can’t say the wines impressed. Enjoyed a very good Brut Pinot champagne the other day when we stayed in a seaside apartment.
Must hit the road.