Onwards west. With Kiev behind us, an open rolling country infront, we head onwards west. The city of Kiev is quite hilly, which surprised us both.
The hilly terrain would just stay with us…..and get bigger as we cycle onwards west thru western Ukraine. Ee rode 88 miles the first day, temp showed 109 at its peak. Pooped.As we travel the roads get rougher than a cob, with huge bicycle swallowing potholes. The roads are pretty much tree lined, which is great as its scenic and shady. But bad in that the shade often hides a bone jarring pothole ( worded in this maner so as not to offend some of my more sensitive readers, everyone knows there are no bones centrally located in your buttocks ).
To be honest the roads are almost on par with Mongolia for roughness…..but paved……kind,a.The hills, never hit one under 10%, and steepest marked was 23%. And they just keep coming with greater regularity all the way to Romania but I dont want to get ahead of myself. We are cycling thru lush farmground and impoverished villages at least by American standards. It should be said that poverty does not stop dogs from barking, chickens free ranged the streets and yards, and the sound of childrens laughter was everywhere. So who is to say just who is poor……..poor in those things material. Probably. But rich in ways maybe we have lost sight of, is more the way it looked to us. Countless times we seen father and teenage sons walking holding hands, same with mother and daughter. Big brother hauling little brother down to the swimming hole…..little brother perched on the handle bars. Family here, seemed to have a deeper meaning than what I fear it has become back home.
We were plesantly surprised at the amount of water in western Ukraine. Pretty much every valley would have a damned up body of water in it. This raised fish, and was used to house ducks and geese for that village. This also convieniently served as a swimming hole for every kid for miles around. Heck, we even partook every afternoon at about 3pm if possible. With all the foul sharing the pond it made for lots of squish between the toes, and pretty ripe smelling green water at times.Each little village would have a Magasin or store of some sort. But finding a cold drink other than beer or gas water as they call it, was at times a problem. Some how thru all those towns and villages we did make it work, even if it was a warm Fanta. In every village, there was a freezer full of ice cream…..and we had at least 1 everyday.
We soon learned that there are water wells literally everywhere, once we got used to spotting them. From that point to now, we pretty much quit buying water. Now, when we get overheated climbing a hill, we spot a well, stop and pour a bucket over our head. Fnish the rest of the hill with sweat running down the crack of your butt, and goose bumps on your scalp.The farming on this western side of Ukraine becomes more labour intensive as you travel west. Near Kiev, the farms are large and utilize very modern machinery. By the time you travel less than 100km, that gives way to familys out putting up loose hay for winter feed. Horse drawn implements become very common.
We did not see any teams, nor any draft animals being used, we did see single light horse hitchs as the standard. The wagon, seems to be the most common vehicle pulled, although we seen a few rakes as well as hay racks being used. The bulk of the hay is cut using a tractor and sicle bar stylr mower. But you would be amazed at how many folks ( men and women, even aged women ), carrying or rythmically swinging thier scythes thru tall grass laying it low, sweep after rythmic sweep. Tanned arms, open shirts, loose fitting torn trousers, paisley dresses and flowered scarves, all worn with what ever color and style shoe you prefer, including flip flops. There is no time here for fashion concerns and makeup color charts. Life is simple, it starts with a hearty bowl of soup laced with melted butter and generously sprinkled with fresh dill. A cup of tea and a few slices of bread, I left out the caveat of “farm fresh”, here you get what you damned well get. We have had bread like a shingle, and bread likea mother makes for thanksgiving dinner.
As we ride west, we are approaching Moldova at its northern tip basically. We cross at a place called Soccora, which is situated on the steep banks of the Dnieper River. From the Ukrainian side, we take a ferry across the river, which is the only crossing choice available. Soccora, is a predominantly a Gypsie town, we felt safe, but there is still a stigma concerning the european Gypsie. We hit the biggest hardware store that we have ever seen thus far while traveling Europe. We found ICE COLD juices and teas. A word about teas over here, I cant tell you why, but the teas are much better here in Europe. There are also many more flavors available.
If this town is known for any one thing, it would be the oppulent houses built at the top of the bank of the river. They are outlandish in thier oppulence. Golden cieling domes or brick domes done in colors and pattern, and metal eve and gable work that is pure art. Combined with a 24% grade of about 2.5 miles in length…….and by then if you have never prayed before in your life………you will…….even if its only for more air.Top that river bank and roll into a speedy decent on great road……only to roll right up the last climbs twin sister. There is sweat running off our elbows. I can squeeze my bars and have sweat water run out of the bar tape…….its 110. The blogs, and travel info guides all describe Moldova to be an essentially flat country…….my round butt it is. It may well be at the southern end, but up north its big rolling hills. At least half our riding day is spent climbing hills, none marked under 10%. Makes for tired old men, and humbler young men……I know, I have seen it.
We both really liked Moldova, it was clean, productive, quaint and friendly. The general living standard of Moldova seemed to bea littlehigher than that of Ukraine, and Ukraine just a little higher than that of Russia. Bear in mind, I am talking about the rural farming regions of each country respectivly. Each is a little cifferent, and yet so many things are the same. Farming is hard work any place, but certainly more labour intensive in these regions. Thru Moldova, the water wells were the most abundant and the most ornate to be sure. The water is cool and refreshing at the moment. But let it sit in the bottle and it is not so nice. It does not quench your thirst when warm. It also grows mold in the bottle very quickly. And use it to cook with, and the pots have a heavy sediment layer added. We have drank plenty of it and were happy for it, poured a lot of it over our heads, but dont like it once warmed up.We crossed out of Moldova at the Costesti crossing. A huge lake beckoned us, but it was only 11am and we had miles to ride yet before a swim. We are into Romania praise be to God for his daily blessings and guarding our travels. We have averaged 58 miles per day thus far, and apart from tired we feel okay.