Morning in Yalta and climbing Gaiziņkalns
As Ivars and Laura perfectly pointed out our resting place in Yalta was in no way ordinary. In the same vein the following day was not ordinary. We were already late (the usual morning ritual took us more than expected and it was already 12.30 when we were ready to leave) and thus there was no more time to waste, I had to jump on the saddle and pedal away.
Before leaving Sevastopol, I had spent some time looking over maps of Southern Crimea to understand what exactly I should expect there (I was particularly interested in elevation profile of the peninsula). For this purpose there is an excellent tool – cycleroute.org. In this simple and intuitive web site you can see the elevation profile for you chosen cycling route – all uphill and downhill sections are highlighted, you can see how steep and long is the climb. In our situation the practical significance was not so evident as we had already decided upon the chosen route. All I could do was to check if my worst fears corresponded to the reality. This time it was what happened – I found out that I will have to battle with several hills higher than the highest “mountain” in Latvia – Gaiziņkalns (312 meters above sea level).
After contemplating my sad and harsh destiny, I was ready to meet it face to face. The first couple of minutes after saying goodbye to our lovely host was spent trying to find the “shortest way” to the highway. As it sometimes happens the “shortest way” was not as short and easy as it was supposed to be, but after half an hour I was already on a highway speeding down the fill and hoping that the bicycle will survive and the brakes won’t give in.
As always, after the downhill came the uphill. I think I have already said enough about my struggle with Crimean hills and it will suffice to say that after you have conquered the next mountain/hill the previous seems like child’s play. First Moldovan hills, then Crimean mountain hills and finally Caucasus.
Right after the first big hill, the magnificent Ayu Dag came into view. Laura in the previous article already wrote quite extensively about the legends surrounding the mountain, but there is still something left for me to tell. Another legend goes something like this – the mountain was really a huge bear long, long time ago. The bear was wandering through the hilly forests for a long time until we stumbled upon the beautiful Partenit valley. Instantly he fell in love with the valley, but as he was very tired, he sat down to drink the salty water of the Black Sea. The Sea God was scared as hell that the huge bear will drink the sea dry and thus turned it into stone. So the giant bear is still sitting at the shore of the Black Sea next to the Partenit valley.
You have to decide for yourself which explanation is for you (the bear love story or the story of mountains volcanic origin), but there is something magical about that place.
Night and serpentines
Ivars and Laura were already in front before I managed to reach Alushta, but hitchhiking was apparently not going so smooth anymore and I managed to catch up with them. This time my presence turned out to be lucky, as only couple of minutes after my arrival they managed to stop a car. I did not have any other choice – I had to follow them up the hill.
Maybe after all I did not pay sufficient attention to the elevation profile of the peninsula, as the road after Alushta took me by surprise. I was already too exhausted, the road was too steep and it was already too late and all this resulted in total inability to cycle for more than 100 m without stopping. Just like a perfect addition to the already miserable state of affairs – it started to get dark very soon and it seemed that I won’t be able to reach Solnechnogorsk.
This time it was the music of a Latvian composer Raimonds Pauls which helped me to get back on track. As for a typical Latvian, songs gave me the strength to continue. Standing by the side of the road, I was singing a song “Lācītis” performed by Edgars Liepins and dancing like a mad man. Probably it seemed a bit weird for the drivers who happened to drive on the road during that hour. I don’t know how and why but it did help me and I managed to reach Solnechnogorsk. Fortunately we did not have to camp outside for the night as our accidental hosts provided us with a cosy cabin.
Ninety kilometres in twelve hours
Next morning we woke up very early for our standard and we were ready to get back on the road already at around 7.30. It did not expect this day to turn out to be the longest and hardest day in Crimea. We had planned to stop for the night not far from Koktebel as we had a place to stay there. I must say great thanks to Gundega who helped us to find this place (she actually found the place for us and we didn’t do anything). When I was just a kid in my small home village, we used to live in the neighbouring houses and my sister was good friends with Gundega. These times are long since gone, but the friendship is still there. Everything was kind of good because we wouldnt have to spend the night in the tent, but the problem was that the place was more than ninety kilometres away from us and the terrain was still a considerable factor. But let it be, I had to do it!
After countless serpentines, mountains, hills, couple of light roadside meals and more, I managed to cycle these 90 kilometres. I have to note that I did not cover all of the distance using only my physical strength, for a couple hundred meters I was towed by a road construction van. After approximately 12 hours I arrived at the destination.
Last kilometres in Crimea, train, ferry and Russia
The Crimean golden autumnalready ended while I was cycling to get to Koktebel, but the following day was even worse. The weather was wet and foggy. We had planned to reach Kerch the next day, but as it happened – we managed to do it on the very same day, that is on 16th November. Luckily for us there was a train from the village Vladislavka which was going to Kerch and we happened to make it on time.
After arriving in Kerch we just had to get to the passenger harbour, for me it meant cycling the last twenty or something kilometres in Crimea, for Laura and Ivars it mean finding a marshrutka. The ferry ride was bizarre to say the least and a description about it can be found in an article in our Facebook page.
We departed Crimea during the night between 16th and 17th November and arrived in Russia at the dead of night without a slightest idea what we will encounter.