June 15, 2000 GMT

Vel. Byckiv (25-05-2000) till Feodosija (15-06-2000)

My intentions were to pay a brief visit to Vlad Turayev whose address I got through Internet, as he was willing to help me in obtaining a visa for the Ukraine.

Martin Rooiman

Martin Rooiman

His intentions were actually completely different. His hospitality was overwhelming and he insisted on me staying for at least three days. He immediately started to arrange all kind of things. Starting with a huge dinner in his garage, a TV-interview for a local station (only a couple of minutes where broadcasted, which I missed to see) and a sightseeing tour through Pavlograd. Also a lot of his friends were visiting his garage to meet me as the word spread quickly.

On the local college I was able to use the Internet access (to write my first report). Before I left he gave me a huge list of all his friends in the Crimea which he had called to let them know I was coming. I wasn't unable to visit them all, but actually visited some of them.

In the Crimea I started in the north-west part, which was very much as I expect Siberia to be: all farmland with huge cattles and farms. And... hardly any (high octane) petrol! So I had to made a shortcut to be able to reach Saky at the Black Sea shore and visit some of his friends (also bikers). They were living on a former army base, which was abandoned completely, only the local people were left over. There was no water and electrical power for three days already. A little inconvenient but certainly no big problem.

For the placename 'sign' of Dnjeprpetrovsk.

For the placename 'sign' of Dnjeprpetrovsk

Vlad (another biker living in Saky) offered me to drive to the former naval city Sevastopol together to pay a visit to his friend Oleg. We drove over marvellous winding rounds up into the Crimea Mountains and I was stunned by the view on the shoreline deep down below. The mountain ridge ended steeply just about 1 km. off the shoreline and the city of Jalta was perfectly visible.

After a swim in the Black Sea we continued to Sevastopol and visited Oleg who was trying to import second-hand 'western' motorbikes into the Ukraine but they are very expensive for the locals. That night we visited a local rock concert in the theatre with some of his friends.

The next day we had a stroll through the city and I wanted to leave today for the cave city of Manhup Kale and Vlad spontaneously offered to come with me. Driving up the mountain over a small unpaved path was really a test for my off-road driving capabilities and I really loved it! Reaching the top we walked around and explored the caves (about 20) and spend the night in one of them. It's really amazing how easy it is to get access to those cultural sights. No entrance fee, and even no control at all. For this reason some of those caves where full of rubbish and many writing carved into the walls.

The next day Vlad returned home and I spend 2 days in (and around) Jalta. Not the most beautiful city. The genuese fortress in Sudak was very nice to walk around and I continued to Feodosia to meet Vlads (the Pavlograd one) best friend Sergey. Also their hospitality was overwhelming and we strolled through the city during the night hours with some of their (Sergey and his wife Elana) friends.

With all Vlads (Ukrainian biker) friends and my bike.

With all Vlads (Ukrainian biker) friends and my bike

The next day we had to do some welding on my steer and after it was fixed the motor refused any service. Despite all the precaution (removing fuses and disconnect the battery) probably the motor management computer was blown. I was looking through the electrical drawings and testing switches etc. Finally I found the problem: the gearbox wasn't in its neutral! And I had the motor completely stripped. I was feeling like a fool but relieved at the same time there was no damage.

That afternoon we had a boat trip to some cliffs, which were steeply rising out of the sea. Very impressive to see and also very relaxing.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM GMT
June 26, 2000 GMT

Zaporozhskaya (15-06-2000) till Soci (26-06-2000)

The next day I went to the east end of the Crimea to take the ferry to Russia. I arrived just after the ferry had left and the next one was leaving in 3 hours. Waiting and waiting. Finally we were able to go aboard and had the 20-minute trip. Because I was on my motorbike I was able to leave the ferry first but it had no effect at all as my immigration was the most difficult one by far (because of my visa) and I was put aside and had to wait till all others had passed.

The next stage was to get insurance for my bike and to get the temporary import declaration of the custom officials. The advantage of being the last one was that the customs officials were busy playing cards so they waved me through without any luggage inspection at all. They only asked if I had any weapons with me.

My first intention was to follow the Black Sea coastline and go directly into Georgia on to Turkey. But I had one complete week so I decided to spend some days in the Caucasus Mountains. And I was really glad I made that decision because the scenery was beautiful. Rough mountains complete with glaciers between green areas of grass filled with all different colours of flowers. The most beautiful place was Dombay. It was the furthest south I could get and getting no too close to Chechen.

Bike with the Caucausus mountains, on the background the village of Dombay.

Bike with the Caucausus mountains, on the background the village of Dombay

Driving back a couple of hundreds km. to the Black Sea coast as the roads through the Caucasus Mountains do not exist. At the border post below Sochi I was refused to pass. The border was only open to locals because of the tensions between Georgia and its rebellious district Abghasia. I could take a ferry in Sochi to Batumi or use the Vladikavkaz - Treblisi border (which was a 1000 km. detour). Because of the overland nature of my trip I chose for the second option and I was able to make it to the border post just in time before expiring my Russian visa. And also carefully avoid to camp too close to the Chechen problem area (Although with exception of the frequent police roadblocks and checkings I haven't noticed any tension or what so ever.

At the border post they refused to let me pass again. Saying that ALL overland border crossings were closed to foreigners (there are only 2, and I tried both of them!). The Russians refused to let me leave the country, so the Georgians were not to blame. Their argument was: government rule from Moscow. But they said the situation in Georgia was too unsafe because of the many Chechens who left their homes after the Russian attack. Only crossings by sea or air were possible. So I had to go back to Sochi again, driving the same 1000 km. back. But... my visa was expired. The military guided me to the OViR office in Vladikavkaz for visa extension but they were closed.

The next day they first said I was too late because my visa was already expired. I told them the whole story and also some super hot-shot was involved. Finally they agreed to give me 4 more days to reach Sochi again. The also expired temporary import form of my motorbike was not any problem at all.

In Sochi I was lucky to catch the next day ferry to Trabzon in Turkey, as there were not any ferries to Georgia at all. From Trabzon it was possible to take the ferry to Georgia but that was useless to me and my Georgian visa was almost expired as well.

At the check-in at the ferry there was a huge problem about my expired temp. import form despite earlier sayings. My motorbike was illegally in Russia and they were able to confiscate the bike. The solution was found in me signing a paper saying I parked the bike on the customs depot for four days. It costs me USD 48. But they also knew I had no choice at all.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM GMT

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