Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

21 Jul 2012

Crossing into Ukraine and loneliness

Posted by Will

I’m writing from Lviv, a beautiful old city in the west of Ukraine, having finally torn myself away the hostel in Zakopane. The south-east of Poland is hilly and what I’d expected to be a lot of downhill freewheeling turned out to be a long series of lung-busting climbs. And all on shrunken legs that suddenly aren’t so used to cycling. However, the physical challenge of getting back on the bike hasn’t come close to the mental aspect. Loneliness has eaten away at me as I’ve cycled further and further from my friends in Zakopane.

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The weather didn’t help me leave smoothly. On Monday morning, rain poured down off the mountains and soaked the swing cushions on which I’d made so many memories. The grey clouds told me not to leave as did certain members of the hostel staff. Midday came and went and beer o’clock grew dangerously close. Then, a fatal ray of sunshine and I was gone, wheeling my bike down the familiar drive and feeling the first pangs of ‘going away’ since leaving home. A half-hour long downhill in the sun helped me get going but the momentum couldn’t last. The rain started again and trapped me shivering in a bus shelter with nothing to eat, nothing to do and worst of all no one to talk to. After a couple of hours I slunk back out into the open with my spirits on the floor, cycled a few more kilometers, and then prepared myself for a night in the tent.

I have to say I didn’t feel much better the next day but at least the hills kept me occupied. A bit more rain and I wrote myself a soppy poem about loneliness (which secretly I’m quite proud of). While pedalling I couldn’t keep from asking myself: “did I have to leave? if I was having such a good time why did I leave?”. But the hours and kilometers ticked by and sooner than I thought I reached the Ukrainian border.

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The E40 border crossing into Ukraine from Przemysl was fairly amusing and fortunately hassle-free. I began queuing in a long line of cars but was soon spotted by a high-viz-jacketed tough guy who managed to communicate that I should pass through the walking section of the border controls. I walked my bike past a gaggle of old women trying to either sell or smuggle vodka and continued a kilometer along a fenced passage until I reached the Polish exit building. Helpfully, a sign written in English indicated that bicycle tourists should use the wider disabled entrance (the alternative was a football stadium style turnstile). Unhelpfully, the disabled door was locked. So, I left my bike propped up against a railing, pushed through the turnstile, gave my passport to the official, asked him to open the door, which, after a small puff of the cheeks, he did. I wheeled my bike through. Poland exited – easy.

A small walk through no man’s land took me to the Ukrainian entry building. Sadly, and predictably, this has no disabled entrance and I certainly wasn’t going to fit my bike through the waist-level turnstile. Undeterred, I strode up to the official, waving my passport at arm’s length like a golden ticket. She looked at my passport, then at me and then at the bike. “Teereeste?” she barked at me. “Pardon”. “Teereeste?”. “I’m sorry what did you say?”. “Teereeste?”. “Ya is, er, Angli”. “Pah”, she shrugged and then, to the poor group of border-hoppers unlucky enough to be in line behind me, said something in Ukrainian/Russian. They grabbed hold of my fully-laden bike and lifted it over the barrier, all while the entire queue waiting to exit Ukraine on the other side watched on. I received a stamp in my passport, passed through the turnstile rather more easily than my bike had, jabbered thanks to the now sweaty group behind me and then, suddenly realizing what the official had meant exclaimed rather too loudly “yes! yes I am a tourist!”. The exit queue sniggered and repeated: “teereeste”. A short, uninterrupted walk through customs and I was off into Ukraine.

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I’m not going to write about Ukraine now as this post is already far too long. I’ll end by saying that I have high hopes given what I have seen so far. The main road to Lviv was wide and traffic-free. Lviv itself is a stunning old city which I regret not having the time or space to write more about. It reminds me very much of Riga or Tallinn; I can’t decide which. I’m going to have to cope with towns being a lot further away from each other, perhaps even more so than in Sweden and Finland. The weather is due to be hot and the wind looks like it’s going to be blowing in the wrong direction. Tomorrow, I’ll start the 600km ride to Kiev.

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6 Comments already on “Crossing into Ukraine and loneliness”
  1. 5:24 pmpermalink
    22 Jul 2012

    Mumsey

    Hope today is brighter for you Mxx

  2. 7:34 pmpermalink
    27 Jul 2012

    Fran

    Dear Will,
    I’m sorry you’ve had a tough time mentally. I hope by now you are feeling more positive and lifted by new horizons and better weather!
    Lots of love, Fran xx

  3. 6:02 pmpermalink
    03 Aug 2012

    barry Raab

    I have many friends in Lviv. if your still there let me know
    Barry

  4. 6:07 pmpermalink
    03 Aug 2012

    barry Raab

    Kiev too

  5. Will

    6:50 ampermalink
    04 Aug 2012

    Will

    Thanks Barry – in fact I’m now in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova! Hope all is well state-side!

  6. 2:03 pmpermalink
    10 Aug 2012

    richard

    Ill be leaving uk soon to travel round the world, am 28 i would love to have been travelling with you my friend .Shame you so far away and in ukraine, maybe we can meet up at some point.
    all the best
    Richard