That day I planned to cross the border was snowing. What a luck. It just turned out right that I changed the rear tyre with the snow tyre. The upcoming days would show me whether the decision of taking only one snow tyre was clever or not (Schwalbe Marathon Extreme).
At the end I came across with snow, that’s good. I have decreased the number of equipments/gear I’m carrying in my bags by time and decide according to the weather conditions. Since I didn’t face with a heavy rain yet, I still carry the poncho I bought in China. Now, it is time to test my jacket (The North Face), my new Gore-tex pants and gloves.
The Soroca border between Ukraine and Moldova is rarely used mostly by the villagers residing on both sides of the border. A river is making the border line between the countries. Since this border is only seldomly used an attempt to establish a bridge over the river was not worth. My internet research resulted that a ferryboat was used for the border cross. Anyway, I shall go and see. Meanwhile, it started to snow really very heavy. It is time to use the products of The North Face.
This jacket is a two in one Summit Triclimate series. I remove the polar part of the jacket because it is only minus 5 degrees, will only use when the temperature falls below minus 12 degrees. With my speed of 20 km/h on the bicycle, together with the front wind the temperature I’ll be feeling is much lower. For example, for minus 30 degrees the temperature my body feels will reduce to minus 50 degrees. Therefore, I wear also a balaclava and to protect my eyes from snow and wind as well sun glasses. In summer I wear my glasses to protect my eyes from the sun, flies and little stones drawn by passing cars. Generally, I hadn’t used glasses during winter before, except when snowed. Actually, it is wise to wear all the time when cycling. Another experience I gained during my journey; my eye lids got burned due to the front wind! Turned black and blue.
It is difficult to guess how cold the air I face is, can only tell from the chilling tables. I had never encountered such a cold wind before. This is a great new experience for me also. I’m not kidding, it is really very cold. J I will be using a different type of glasses in the next days, since my recent glasses do not protect my eyes thoroughly. My eyes get wet due to melting snow. I mentioned in my previous tour why I was using orange colored glasses. These colored glasses sharpen the view in foggy weather and make you to realize the ice reflected on the asphalt. For sure, I gained some experiences during my first journey, but it seems that this snow experience would be quite different.
No snow plower is passing by, interesting. It is 2 pm only, seems it will get colder. Humm minus 10 degrees. I don’t want to stop to change my clothing. I managed to arrive to Soroca before it got dark. Actually, there is the Soroca Fortress established by Stephen the Great worth to visit, but it is too cold minus 13 degrees. Dude! At night it would be going to drop further down. Pofff.. It is snowing in flakes like crazy. I stop at a gas station just outside of the city, need to get some food. The workers at the station come next to me: “Are you Turk?” “Yes, I’m.” “Aaaaaa” They show me a newspaper. After shooting photos with me they invite me for a cup of coffee. Also, don’t let me pay for the chocolates, wow. I ask for the border gate. It is not far from here. By the way, I pedaled 47 km today in this snowy weather. This means that, under snow I would be able to pedal only for 45-50 km per day.
It is 4:30 pm. Last 15 minutes for attaching the front and rear lights. Go on Gürkan! You need to find a place to camp. Look around. Come on…. Yesss. Behind those trees. Good, there is also a “no entrence” sign. No tracks of any vehicles indicate that it is not used. I pass the trees and run into a two stories old building. The window glasses were broken and the wall paints came off… Goodie, I’m going to camp inside. All of a sudden 6-7 dogs surround me. Ugh, what the hell is happening! What on earth! Come, why are you belling at me? Don’t run away? Come on, come on. We had an amazing snowball war. J Hahaha, they got crazy. As I was playing with the dogs a woman called me. Aha?
I put my hand on my breast and say “Selam” bending in front of her. I try to ask for permission to erect my tent and sleep with some gestures. She admits but asks for my passport. I show the paper written by Selim Bey (Mister). She says: “All right, follow me”.
Inside I recognize another glass section. It is warmer inside keeping the wind outside. That’s cool. I would erect my tent on this huge place. J Since it is dark, I’m not able to recognize how this place looks like. Obviously, it is a ruin but who cares. For me this is a quite safe place, although it smells to the hell after urine. I guess the dogs urinated all over. The woman asked me to follow her and offered a bed. “You can sleep here.” Hummm. Actually, I’m not the one who rejects such offers but this night would be pretty cold. It is already minus 14 degrees now. Sleeping inside my sleeping bag in the tent would better protect me from the cold. I thank her and then erect my tent in the middle of that huge place. After I stow my belongings, I check my bicycle all parts covered with ice. I hope that the gear mechanism will work tomorrow morning. I go inside my tent and change my cloths. I zip my sleeping bag, time to sleep. Just as I’m about to sleep someone knocks the tent. A man. What on earth, who is he? I go outside. He introduces himself, Alexander. “Follow me.” All right, let’s go. He takes me to a small room.
He had prepared a meal for me. I sit down and eat. Who the hell are these people and what are they doing here? He in Romanian me in Turkish start to talk together. I ask him what this place is, he tells about it. J This building was established by Russians in 1989. There was a small heliport in front of the building now covered with grasses all over as time passed. Anyway, there were huge boards in this place I camped. At the same time it was a meteorology center. The antennas around the building are still active. But the government was not able to pay him anymore. A couple of homeless people were also living here with him. He had married twice. One of his children was studying at a university in Kiev. His second wife was from Romania still living there. Buddy, if I had known Romanian guess what would happen? Gee.. “Come and sleep in this room” he says. There was standing a hand made stove. Since there was nobody else living in the building he dug a hole from ceiling to the second floor functioning as chimney. He offered his bed and said “I’ll sleep in that bed outside.” What wonderful people I come across with. I say: “Look I’m in shorts, my tent is really good.” Already, as he saw me in shorts for the first time he got surprised. He asks: “Aren’t you cold?”J Once, I had asked my friend Cihad, an alpinist, how to go outside the tent to empty my bowel in Mongolia. “How do you empty your bowel when it is minus 30 degrees or so outdoor, buddy?”. “Buddy, imagine that you are in the field somewhere in Miami. Just dream that!” The suggestion of the bagger turned out to be really useful. At the beginning I thought “f.. it, he is kidding me”. But he was right, now I came up with the same conclusion. J
I woke up with sunshine in the morning glimmering inside the building. One should be happy after that snow and cold. But my response was: “Aha.. I’m messed up (didn’t write fucked up, some get angry with me). The whole road must have become frozen”. Meanwhile, also Alex was ready waiting for me. He was looking at me as if saying “Come on, get ready so that I also would go”. I got ready in a hurry without having breakfast. I pedaled almost 4 km crossing a village and arrived to the border. But how? Just as I thought, the roads were frozen. The strategy I already applied in Japan: Go where the snow remains untouched. Well, Ukraine is waiting for me on the other side of the river, there are people waiting on the stage, yes I’m at the right place. There is also a duty free. Let’s go there and buy some food. But I decide the other way and go first to the officers. Hummm, there are again women soldiers, this time I won’t smile. I pass over my passport with a cold face. She says: “Stay behind the yellow line” J Aha, we are starting all over again. I passed. Meanwhile I look around to the people waiting in the line. How come these people wear such thin clothing in this cold? Dude, I cannot feel my toes inside my boots. The bagger over there is just wearing thin leather shoes. Don’t they have any toes? It is impossible to understand the women in any case, they are wearing high heels in this bloody cold icy weather. Dude, everywhere has got frozen. Also, I’m wondering about their hoodies surrounded with artificial fur. Is it just fashion or does it have any feature? It may prevent their faces from cold? Every woman is having such a hoody. One of the women officers orders me to come and I obey. Again I entered the room.
– Will you return to Moldova?
I wanted to say: “If you wish so much, I would” but how come? J
– No, I won’t. I’m going towards north.
– All right.
She stamped my passport with such a temper you would get scared, really scared. A puma must be residing inside her J.
Well I got the stamp. Now hurry up towards Duty Free just 30 m next to the building. But the soldiers shouted behind me. What the hell is happening? The woman came and stopped me holding my bicycle: “Turn back, you cannot buy anything from there any more, you passed the border”. But I’m hungry, really hungry, pofff.. All right. I turned towards the stage.
As I got closer I realized that this was not a stage, instead the boat which was supposed to cross the river. Actually not a boat, a scow. I look around for a motor or so, but don’t recognize any. The river has a dense stream. How come would these silly people take us across the river? No way, they must be joking! Additionally, two cars also boarded. While boarding the car, the act of balancing of the standing passengers was worth to observe, extraordinary. Meanwhile, the floor we were standing on got icy due to cold. All right, the time for departure came, but I still don’t hear any motor running. A man standing at the rear on the right hand side pressed a button. As the pulley was running, a steel cable emerged from the water. Dude, a tackle system made of a steel cable and pulley was set up across the river. The tackle was connected to the scow. Boo! How can this tackle hold the scow in line attached only at one corner? One of the most primitive ways I have come across. I started to make some calculations. “If this scow comes off the tackle most probably we would continue to move forwards for a short while, then we would all fly over the bord into the river. What are you going to do with your bag Gurkan when you fall into the river? You would get the chance to take only one bag off the bicycle. It would be impossible to rescue my bicycle and the other bags. Since the water would be bloody cold, I would take the bag with my clothing inside. Humm, the rescue folio (first aid blanket) is in the rear bag. I have to put it into the front bag.” Look, details are coming to my mind at emergency cases… It is a must to think ahead such probabilities. Just at that moment the puley got locked and the cable gained tension. You should had seen the man running towards the pulley. I also immediately went next to my bicycle. I took out the rescue blanket and put into the bag next to my clothing. Now look here! The cable strained, strained… Everyone run into panic. Dude, it will really go to break off. I was shouting in Turkish: “Stop the motor, THE MOTOR ALOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”. But the man freed the cable wrapped on the pulley with a steel bar in a second. Woaa, why are you scaring us? Just stop the motor and free the cable. At the crack of dawn that f…g man let our adrenalin rise up. Dude, after this happening I really got very hungry, just due to excitement.
Of course, since the pulley was connected to the scow only from one side, its front didn’t match the stage. The ones on the stage drew a rope over. We fixed the rope and then could get off to the shore. Wow, for god saved us, without any accident we reached the shore. Dude! I always find such exiting border crosses, piss off!
At the end I arrived to the border. The officers took my passport and looked at me. “Aren’t you cold?” I said: “No, Miami” hahaha J
They sent me to a room. The man inside was very calm.
– Did you come all the way with bicycle from Turkey?
– Yes, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, afterwards I will continue towards Russia.
– Congratulations. The weather is pretty cold here and icy on the roads. Pedal slowly and keep your balance. Welcome to Ukraine.
Come bro, I’m gonna kiss you .That is wonderful, didn’t take 3 minutes to pass the border. Didn’t need to fill papers or documents. Fabulous.
Welcome to Ukraine!