Balaklava to Bakchiseray, Krym, Ukraine

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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.

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The allure of wooded singletrack is too great to pass.

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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.

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Gaining the ridge, new obstacles arise.  An old barbed wire fenceline raises our suspicions.

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A small concrete bunker satisfies them.

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But then, there’s more!

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Atop the ridge, there are assorted concrete structures looking out over the coast.  It becomes apparent that this entire mountain is a fortress.

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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.

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Leading from the garages, something goes in here.

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Through about 100m of tunnels.

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To an opening.

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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.

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Close the door behind you.

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Aside, this remote beach is only a few kilometers from Balaklava.

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Doubletrack trails blanket the area.  Presumably, these are old jeep trails and tank tracks.

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A few more steep pushes lead us above the sea, with unobstructed views in three directions.

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And moments of picture perfect singletrack.

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Winding along coastal cliffs, we encounter more remnants of past military activities.

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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.

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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.

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Naturally, we sample another variety of Ukrainian horilka.  This one is flavored by bison grass, like the popular Polish zubrowka varieties.

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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.

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Back on a signed hiking trail, in uniquely pleasant forests.  At times, there is a Californian calm to this place.

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Every morning, I awake to find Lael reading on her Nexus tablet inside her sleeping bag.

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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.

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I love these colorful matchboxes.

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And assorted preserves.

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Crossing from drainage to drainage across the foothills, we enjoy short climbs and fun descents on crumbly limestone roads.

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Each valley with its own surprises; each valley with stunning cliffs.

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This one with abandoned orchards.  Post-Soviet times have not always been easy.  This place could, or should be teeming with fruit.

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Turning off-pavement, back onto another footpath.

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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.

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A rock and an acorn are wedged in the front derailleur.

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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.

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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.

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It stands as one of the best of the summer.

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Crocodile dragon pig in the sky?  What do you see?

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Leaving camp, we pass the spring on our way to Bakchiseray.

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Some more images from the bountiful, historic region near Bakchiseray in my previous post “Bountiful Krym“.

12 thoughts on “Balaklava to Bakchiseray, Krym, Ukraine

  1. Thanks for sharing your travels. The photos are lovely and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more of the spots where you camp with you both and your kit in the picture.

    • Dexey, I’ve been saving these photos for a special project. I feel like they get lost in blogland sometimes, especially the less glamorous campsites in unremarkable woods, so I’ll be compiling them into a post entitled “100 campsites across Europe”, or some such thing. Soon (although maybe not for another month or two when I have time to dig into the back catalogues), you’ll have more than enough camp photos to browse. You can also expect some discussion and images of our kit.

      However, I can’t promise too many photos with both of us. I wield a camera most of the time, hence a lot of pictures including Lael and others. Lael packs a camera, but doesn’t always have it on hand. We rarely take self-timed photos of the two of us, and I never solicit anyone to photograph us. But now that sounds like a good idea…


  2. You guys are having quite an adventure! I am enjoying following your posts and look forward to more of the same. Try and stay safe out of the clutches of the military if you can!

    • These guys are more like boy scouts than military, although we would be happy not to run into them. I suspect that if we hadn’t been goofing around at the signed entrance to ‘something’, we might not have been deported from military property.

  3. Your adventures are so amazing they are finding their way into my dreams. I had a dream last night that I was riding home and passed you on your bikes. It took me a minute to realize who I just passed and then I turned around to catch back up to you and we all rode on. Thanks for the numerous great posts!

    • Thanks Ryan, For some reason I suspect you live in CO. Is there any chance you actually passed us on your bike? We’ve been in the Denver area for over a week, heading west to GJ and Fruita today.

      • I do live in the Springs as of this January. I wish I could make it up there and ride with you guys for a bit. Maybe we will actually cross paths some day. Safe travels!

  4. You’re blog is truly inspiring! When you find yourself in Glacier National Park Mt, you should stop into Apgar Village. Would love to say hi! Keep riding!

  5. Hey Gypsy, hope your trip West is going smooth. I was thinking about riding from Colorado Springs to San Diego in the beginning of November, wanting to stay south along the way. Knowing that you lived in New Mexico and have ridden around this area quite a bit just wondering if you have any recommendations on routes or anything. Would like to stay off-road as much as possible, but don’t need to.


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