Leaving Sevastapol, rolling past Balaklava on dirt roads, following a GPS track from Vital. It begins as an honest search for the ‘right’ path– the way the Vital had gone before. In time, we’re lost on a game trail or footpath, pushing uphill towards the ridge. We should have turned around and found the way, but two of the three of us is the type that like to look around the next corner before turning back, and there is always another corner. We are the type that end up coming home past dark or running low on food or water. In actuality, most of the time we know better– from experience– but the tendency is still alive.
The allure of wooded singletrack is too great to pass.
Although, it leads to an uphill struggle on loose dirt tracks. The hillside is a popular downhill route, not ideal for uphill travel. This structure is a decade or two old.
Gaining the ridge, new obstacles arise. An old barbed wire fenceline raises our suspicions.
A small concrete bunker satisfies them.
But then, there’s more!
Atop the ridge, there are assorted concrete structures looking out over the coast. It becomes apparent that this entire mountain is a fortress.
We discover a series of garages, linked by rail with a larger underground system. This garage will provide adequate cover for the night, and saves us from having to pull out our tents.
Leading from the garages, something goes in here.
Through about 100m of tunnels.
To an opening.
This is the same opening we discovered from above. We discuss ten different ways in which this could, and must have been, a missile launch site. Certainly, we reason, these must have been nuclear missiles. Whoa.
Close the door behind you.
Aside, this remote beach is only a few kilometers from Balaklava.
Doubletrack trails blanket the area. Presumably, these are old jeep trails and tank tracks.
A few more steep pushes lead us above the sea, with unobstructed views in three directions.
And moments of picture perfect singletrack.
Winding along coastal cliffs, we encounter more remnants of past military activities.
We stop at this fence to take photographs, posing as if using our cell phones and doing the Moonwalk, as is prohibited by the signs on the fence. Two young guards appear from the forest. They ask for passports in Russian. They demand to see Przemek’s photos, unamused at our comedic nature. We are asked to follow the younger man. Rolling our bikes alongside, he leads us to his leader, where other young recruits are sweeping leaves from the roadway with branches. Signage describes proper marching technique, and celebrates the Ukrainian military. After a few brief questions from the superior officer, we are dismissed out the front gate, away from our intended destination. The Ukrainian military is not the same force that constructed the massive bunkers of the Soviet era. Nonetheless, the experience completes our tour of the coastline, lending a sense of reality to the places we’ve explored.
Having been turned away just a few kilometers from our intended campsite on a cliff above the sea, we find a roundabout means to reach our goal. The campsite, Vital’s recommendation, is supreme. High above the sea, we prepare a meal as clouds form on the horizon.
Naturally, we sample another variety of Ukrainian horilka. This one is flavored by bison grass, like the popular Polish zubrowka varieties.
Returning inland the next day, we pass from zones of moisture to zones of aridity, and back. Physical changes of climate and geology are rapid in Krym.
Back on a signed hiking trail, in uniquely pleasant forests. At times, there is a Californian calm to this place.
Every morning, I awake to find Lael reading on her Nexus tablet inside her sleeping bag.
Ukrainian magazines, or stores, are stocked like an old-time general store, with a wide assortment of items. These structures are often relics from Soviet times, and most goods are only available from behind the counter. As such, it is always a good time to practice Ukrainian or Russian. Most women are happy to work with our basic language skills, especially if they realize we are American. Polish, Czech and other European tourists are not entirely uncommon. Americans visit with less frequency, although most Ukrainians are excited to learn that we are from America. In fact, most Ukrainians know more about the USA than the French. Once, when asked where we are from, Lael replies, “Alaska”.
The man repeats, “Alaska?”– An-cho-rage!
Most French people think Alaska is part of Canada. In Ukraine, the dollar is more common than the euro. Many Ukrainian are familiar with the basic geography of American cities and states.
I love these colorful matchboxes.
And assorted preserves.
Crossing from drainage to drainage across the foothills, we enjoy short climbs and fun descents on crumbly limestone roads.
Each valley with its own surprises; each valley with stunning cliffs.
This one with abandoned orchards. Post-Soviet times have not always been easy. This place could, or should be teeming with fruit.
Turning off-pavement, back onto another footpath.
A particularly tacky mud arises at certain intervals, as we cross certain geological zones. Voluminous 2.35″ tires fit the frame, within reason, although the front derailleur runs close to the tire. The result is a muddy drivetrain.
A rock and an acorn are wedged in the front derailleur.
Lael’s bike features similar clearances, although a narrower tire and a double chainring setup leaves a little more room for mud. Note, a clean drivetrain. Thinking about an offset double for better mud and tire clearance.
Looking for a campsite, we encounter this established site. What luck, as it features spacious sites with tables and fire rings, and we have all of it to ourselves.
It stands as one of the best of the summer.
Crocodile dragon pig in the sky? What do you see?
Leaving camp, we pass the spring on our way to Bakchiseray.
Some more images from the bountiful, historic region near Bakchiseray in my previous post “Bountiful Krym“.