Archive for May 21st, 2008

May 21 2008

Separation in the Ukrainian steppe

Published by under World Tour 2008

Leaving Olivier
Leaving Olivier

Three days after we met in Odessa, Olivier and I must split because of the Russian bureaucracy: he still has 10 days to spend in Ukraine until his Russian visa becomes valid whereas mine has started running out 5 days ago and I only have 25 days left to cycle the 2000 kilometres to the Kazakh border in Astrakhan. It would have been great to cycle together all the way, maybe we’ll meet again next month in Kazakhstan where I will have more time to wait for him.

Today I also had to make a decision regarding where I will cross the border into Russia. I had initially planned to cycle in Crimea and take a ferry to cross the strait of Azov at Kerch but Olivier told me of another French cycle tourist, confusingly also called Olivier, who is a bit ahead of us and heading towards Rostov-on-the-Don (Ростов-На-Дону)in Russia. I will try to meet the new Olivier there next week and I am now following the main road to Rostov. The distance is about the same but the road may be a bit less scenic, although in Crimea I wouldn’t have had the time to visit the South coast which has the most dramatic landscape.

Ukrainian cycle lanes
Ukrainian cycle lanes

This part of Ukraine where I am now near the Black Sea (Show on Google Maps) is totally different from my first 10 days in the country further North. The road surface is better but there is much more traffic. I haven’t seen any horse drawn carriage on the road and the battered Ladas are now a minority. The green steppe starts here: the terrain is completely flat with a few trees here and there, finding a camping spot becomes difficult again! Although there are no hills and the road quality is good, I still can’t average more than 15km/h because of a headwind from the South-East. Looking at how the trees are bent this is a predominant wind which must blow year round. The temperature now reaches 37C in the afternoon.

Today I stopped in a small shop where I’ve been asked if I was French and was cycling to China. I am actually on the same route that a group of 120 French cyclists (Paris-Pekin 2008) followed a month ago. It will be hard to catch them up!

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