The journey was windier than I could have possibly imagined. The road leapt over mountainsides, through chalky gray rivers swirling with metallic reflections of the sky. Emblazoned, minted. As we traversed Sur Lipez, the water diminished, reminisces of the last rain gashed into the rivers edge. A drawbridge spanned sandpaper. Windowless mudhuts dotted the hillside. The only variance from the muted terra firma was the shimmer from the corrugated steel roofs and the darkness of an impending storm.
Remote outposts, destinations for mere minutes, inferred generations of life.
Some were narrow passageways between rows of connected camel row-houses, where squatting old ladies retreated like turtles into their rainbow woolen ponchos. Tiled public squares freckled with energetic children wreaking havoc on a brood of hens. Teenagers lazied on abandoned metal sheets jutting from the ground burning holes with their universal bored stare.
Other villages were mere dots on a map, an analogy for the particles of dust that swept and stained everything - not a color besides blackening bananas in sight.
A strange alagam of diligence, exertion and tedium extended everywhere. A fence marked by rocky cairns extended for a mile. Road hazards were recognizable by strewn rocks or metal abruptly positioned in a lane. Road maintenance was done by the hands of leathered, shrinking men in whose vests had nearly lost their reflective sheen. One man pushed, rolled, scooted a boulder across the nadir of a winding valley, valantly entrusting oncoming drivers to anticipate and react to sudden hazards in the road.
On top of a snow-speckled mountain, the wind smacked like waves and we came to an abrupt stop. At each unsuspecting town or approachment to a random site of interest, there was always a kid and a man to pay. Their scattered system of tolls. Donde vas?
That was a good question. Where were we going? Yes, there was an itinerary that we had, places to be by the end of each day. Towns were supposedly our end destinations. The dusty, ragged frontier of Tupiza. It’s colors faded like an old shoe, all of its white yellowed, smelling of everything it’s been through. Sol de Manana, a town spaced between two smooth volcanoes whispering a bitter wind between the quiet streets. The gigantic palms of Villa Abecia shading the bodegas peddling mapley sweet wine, it’s streets echoing the crackle of parrillas and the squeaking of one little boy’s bike. But these were simply the cornerstones to the pocked dirt roads atop endless mountain-passes in the clouds.
Over the years, I have come to shun a constant travelers proverb. It seemed to emit from tongues like the greeting ‘How are you?’. Yet I found myself reflecting over the hundreds of miles/hours as I stared into the endless valleys, watching the shadows of the various peaks play out on the hillsides.
No other expedition had the saying ‘It’s more about the journey than the destination’ been more applicable than that of Bolivia.
If you go, practicalities:
THE ROADS: If you want to be able to take in the scenery and get through the long distances each day without wanting to scream, I highly recommend hiring a driver.
Highly recommended stays:
// Circling the roundabout for the fifth time, my patience began to wane. The backpackers that I had seen walking from the bus stop on the main highway had almost made it to their destination. I knew were they were heading. The one hostel in town, the Ginger Monkey, where I had originally planned on staying but decided last minute against for seclusions sake. I cursed myself, if I had stayed there I would be drinking wine by now! Finally, I parked at the one restaurant and desperately waited for a passersby. Two little old ladies, each draped in floral prints (red poppies and yellow daffodils), shuffled on their evening stroll up the solitary road with a panoramic view of the High Tatras to their right. I attempted my best Slovak pronunciation. An instant click of comprehension and she was off pointing and motioning. ‘Obviously it’s up that side gravel alley behind these abandoned buildings’, she implied.
Relieved, I pulled up to the lodge - reminiscent of a kitsch wooden lodge you’d find in the Appalachians, adorned with all types of multicolored windmills and objects. The owners were gathered inside talking loudly, inattentive to the tv that blared out the open doors. I excitedly put off dinner to share wine with a supposedly English-speaking Slovak. ‘What time does the restaurant close?’ He assured ‘10pm’. Since the options were abounding, I was hankering to get his local take on hikes. But, surprisingly, his were identical to the English blogs that I had read: ‘Zelené pleso’. Only when he repeated the directions to the trailhead did I realize what little English he spoke. At that minute, I dashed down to the restaurant.
The place was as dark as a medieval tavern, one obviously drunk couple remained, their heads swaying to & fro while they attempted to gaze in each others’ eyes. I begged for bread. The waitress replied that they only had frozen loaves. I could try the restaurant in the next town over - 20 minutes away. She must have seen the desperation in my eyes, she rushed back to the kitchen and returned with the drunk couples discarded bread basket. I was overjoyed.
// I knew from the start that I was going on the wrong hike. None of the names matched up - not the chata, nor the medley of hikes stacked on the posts. But, I reasoned, I signed up for this hike. One I didn’t read about in countless blogs - it felt more adventurous, more mine.
Ahead, a Slovak man ferociously trekked through the forest with his poles swinging, it appearing to be his morning routine. The trail overlooked a stream rushing with winter’s water, sprouting wreaths of yellow flowers. I soon reached a chalet hunkered in the one nook the mountain had to offer. Every hike in Slovakia has a beer chalet waiting to reward you.
Nearly down, I ran into a shirtless man starring at the trail pole. ‘You are alone?’ Well, there is no denying it. We are in the middle of the woods. I asked why he was so shocked. His frightening reply, ‘Sometimes it’s good, man and woman being alone. Sometimes not so good.’ Broken English can have wondrous implications.
It was a breezy hike that I decided was to be the warm up before Zelene pleso, I was craving more of a reward than beer. 5 minutes away was the unmistakable trailhead for Zelene pleso. Cars lined a dedicated parking area, a large wooden map showed the path. Along the way, several crews of men were constructing new bridges - pulling the timber from the forest, halving the logs and sawing them into place. Dust & shards of wood flying through the air, none of them sporting eyewear or protective gear of any kind. I passed a dipshit wearing a ‘Budafuckingpest’ shirt, one earphone dangling out of his ear. I wondered if the construction guys would give him a go on the saw.
// The trail wound through the lush, bright green forest and emerged in a col-de-sac of limestone peaks spotted with snow. The lake an emerald green, reflecting the surrounding foliage. A barrage of tourists had schlepped their photography gear up and were manically snapping photo after photo of the lake as the clouds rearranged its overhead lighting. I tried to sit in seclusion and reflect myself, but each time feet would find their way to me. I had to keep myself from snatching at their ankles.
After a dozen miles, the chalet was definitely calling me. I counted my euros, and realized the parking fee had dissolved my chances of beer. Defeated, I began to turn back when I heard a manly roar, ‘Colorado!’. It was the group of Slovak men I had seen hiking in the low Tatras a few days earlier. They summoned me over for beer and tripe-stomach soup.
If you go:
- Stay in Štefanová and hike the Veľký Rozsutec loop (it is technical at the top). It is an amazing quaint town in the middle of Mala Fatra that has unlimited hikes. I could have stayed here for 5 days alone. I highly recommend Penzion Sagan.
- Make sure you pick up groceries & wine before heading into the High Tatras.
- Stay in the new building at Hotel Nad Przełomem in Sromowce Niżne, Poland. Kayak the Dunajec, hike Trzy Korony, you can bike along a river trail forever. Pieniny was amazingly underrated.
// Mt. Rushmore Road had a new median: rows of bumbling motorbikes. Each with the heft of an antibiotic, force-fed cow. And the same went for their owners, who were parading around like Macaque monkeys in their cheek-perforated leather pants. One of every two bikers tramping around was grossly overweight and the same statistic was applicable to the quantity of bored, stupefied facial expressions on the passersby as they peered into Rattlesnake Jakes, Full Throttle Saloon, and Dakota Leather Outlet.
Cabo San Lucas t-shirt vendors had made the journey north for the month of August, and left behind their beachcombing, shot-sipping and sunburnt gregarious customers for, well, the same. Only this time their patrons digressed to hair metal instead of chicano rap.
They had reassembled their hawker stands with banners loudly pronouncing their menu del dia: Sleeveless Denim, and Gun Pocket Vests (which pictured a sinister pocket knife emblazoned with the American flag).
Two Polaris mules pulled up and parked, three more inches and they would have made it inside. The drivers were clad in fuzzy house slippers and carried themselves with the implied attitude associated. As the man picked over the merch, he revealed the ink show on his arms: a hollowed skull bedazzled in a headdress next to a PBR. Thirty minutes later I would see them processing behind a skinny Indian boy carrying a wicker replica of a motorcycle.
The absurdity of Custer was soon to be trampled by the Crazy Horse Memorial - yet another monstrous human defection on the granite walls of the Black Hills. This memorial seemed even more outrageous and hypocritical than Mt. Rushmore as it ran contrary to the Native American tenant of good stewardship of natural resources.
// All night long, sleep was interrupted by the rumbling of motorbikes on their pilgrimage. I awoke the next day with an annoyance and desire of flight similar to how one feels at the end of a soured relationship. I had to get out and take refuge somewhere where the sound would not carry or a knife fight would be imminent. The strangeness had also reached another level as an 8 y.o. child had been running through the campground at the break of dawn wielding an axe shouting ‘DIE’. I peered at the map and headed to the nearest trail system and body of water, Sylvan Lake.
After a nice respite, it was finally time to head west towards the Badlands.
Beheld on the drive west:
// Everything is gargantuan in South Dakota, the road signs, the parking lots, the baby blue sky. And then, at once, the vastness becomes meticulously fine-tuned. The Badlands is its own space, with its own canon. The sky grays, colors fade into a matte, dusty palette. The crusty earth exposed, frothing up, writhing. Soft yet stolid. Hints of green swaths providing the only depth perception.
If you go:
Horse Thief Lake Campground
Sylvan Lake - Cathedral Spires Trail
Sage Creek Campground - Badlands (enter from the east side of the park)
Castle Trail - Badlands' longest trail, it's easy to complete all the trails in one day/ one attempt
We we’re in a time crunch. The storm had maniacally thrown remnants of ancient trees onto the road, blocking the only route to Cochamo. Highway 65 stitched along the Estuaria Reloncavi fjord and, on its left, a wall of ancient trees towered. Row boats bobbed, a lone cow stood motionless, stranded by high tide on a sliver of land in the bay. One goofy orange-clad attendant stood pushing around the limbs, either meticulously or lazily, I could not determine.
The directions per Refugio Cochamo denoted the entrance closed at 4:00 pm. It was 3:51 and we were dodging buses and babies in a Versa on a gravel road. At 3:58 we pulled up to the parking area, rushing with impending doom to get to the trailhead. The lot and sandwich steward assured us that the trail would remain open until 8pm. How foolish to think that there were actual time restrictions imposed in South America.
We prepared our sacks and stuffs, opting for more than necessary - denoting the distance of the hike and not the elements and obstacles that existed along the way. It was amateaur packing at best. Cloth napsacks weighed down with inessential rubbish. My shoulders shrugged at ear-level while my arms hung - lifeless pendulums. The first hour was gruelling for what was normally such an easy trail. The rain from the days prior packed the crevasse with feet of mud. It was hard to adjust to the weight of the packs. Footwork wasn’t trustworthy, balance faulty.
During the 3 miles of mud-tunnelled Viet Cong canals, we encountered, at a minimum: 30 high lunge steps, 50 pole vault body- thrusting swing arounds, thousands of Satanic horseflies, 20 rolling log river crossings (with false sense of safety), 15 false checkpoints and 100 minutes of cattle-crossing planks.
In return for our miserable existence, we reaped a river-bed lined with smooth, bleached logs, clear to the depths, a valley cradled by sculpted granite trickling with linear waterfalls, a sublime palpa filled with an idyllic commune, and the sole satisfaction of seclusion from the leeches of modern society.
// The light slowly made its way to my eyes. The short night had finally fallen near 10:20 and speckled the sky with glistening sequins and smocks of blackness. I had awoken during the night, convinced it was time for morning but was mistaken. For when day lasts for over a dozen hours, day becomes the norm.
The dorm’s window that had earlier framed the gargantuan granite kings of Anfiteatro and Laguna displayed a dense fog – a disappearing act. I lay relieved, for if the granite was too wet the route to the top would be foolhardy to attempt. A reprieve from testing my courage, a cop-out. Only after studying the map and evaluating alternative trails did I realize that it would be foolhardy not to attempt the Acro Iris. A regret that would last infinitely.
// The Arco Iris did not offer an introduction, it began in the crux of the plot. The earth ascended straight to the sky, aligned with the trunks of the Alerces. Bamboo shot out of the mountainside, flimsy and silly compared to the thousand-year old Alerces that dominated the sky (whose roots had sprouted ‘new’ trees older than all the trees in Louisiana combined). We climbed for hours until we reached a slab of wet granite. A deteriorated rope lapped with the streaming water that ran down the center, the route up. There was no margin for error, we were on the edge.
If you go:
Refugio Cochamo - Book in advance and plan on delays getting there. They offer pricey meals each day and if you're vegetarian you will be eating a lot of rice. Warm showers! Bring insect repellent and a towel. Booze too.
Arco Iris - The trail became impossible, unkempt and in rough condition from the elements. No one that day was able to summit but the views were still worthwhile. Check out the trail description here.
Rental car - we found Seelman to be fairly priced and flexible.
In and around:
Volcano Osorno - Amazing place to ride or run. Plan at least a few hours, if not a whole day and night in Petrohue. The beaches may seem like a great idea but you will be harassed by gigantic horse flies.
After a beautiful night's sleep on a mattress that sounded like sheet metal and felt like a trash bag stuffed with over-starched towels, I opened the shutters to find a miraculous day waiting for me. Blue skies and birds chirping, I was like Snow White but with a boxed wine hangover. The street was speckled with ravaged garbage bags that had been looted by the homeless for recyclables that they could cash in. It was May, the rainy season, but the sun was pouring in, illuminating the colorful walls of the Candelaria district.
Took a cold shower (not on purpose) and had a hearty breakfast of one medium-sized mediocre apple and four cups of glorious black coffee. The place was practically kicking me out, motioning me to get a move on.
Many described the route to Monserrate as though it was a ramshackle stone path but instead it turned out to be a well-manicured park gleaming with bright plants and a plethora of policemen. Along the way, I passed a milieu of life. A lonely horse galloped up the path with no traces of the owner. Shanties grouped together, their residents displayed their pickings for sell - papaya shoots and pineapple slivers. Women robed in sweats were nearly melting into the ground while old men passed by breathing heavily but at a cruising speed. School children, on their decline, were all flirting with one another — dressed in white shirts and neatly pressed navy pants. I was confounded— they had no traces of sweat. Only when I got to the top did I realize they had taken the funicular up.
On the mountain top, I could see life playing out below. A futbol match — people scurrying about like legos: just color and shape. The Transmilenio snaked through Ave. Carrera 14 — its red street easily identifiable. The dense, wild side of the mountain was quite the contrast to the expansive city that sprawled below.
// Down in the city, I sauntered through the Emerald Street Market. Street vendors announced their offerings with megaphones. Their fast chants resounded making the whole place vibe like a betting window at a racetrack rather than a marketplace. This place was a sight to behold. A man stood playing the drums on his bare stomach next to his juice stand. Next to the drummer, a homeless man with a scholarly suit and lab coat wore his glasses on the tip of his nose, his pleas for change slightly nasally. A store advertised their newest product - 3D sculptures made from the ultrasound of your unborn baby. This seemed rather suitable for a city that legalized prostitution and banned abortion. The traditional Colombian crafts had been replaced with cheap Chinese knockoffs — their vendors too lazy to remove the stickers. Surely it was time for more boxed wine.
If you go (in a nutshell):
La Despensa Calle 70A # 9-95, Bogotá
La Taperia -Carrera 4A # 26d-12 - spectacular food in La Macarena
Abasto_ in Usaquen
Casa de Citas for music/ drinks
- La Calera - best views of the city. Go here at night and buy hot, spiced drinks from the vendors
- Bogota graffiti tour: Where: Plaza de Periodistas
- 10 best contemporary art galleries in Bogota
- La Macarena is home to a collection of funky boutiques
- Cool Crafts // Artesanías de Colombia - The shop carries crafts made in different regions of Colombia. They have rings made from tagua nuts, macramé shawls, black pottery, sisal baskets. El Retiro Shopping Center, Calle 82 No. 11-75
- Museo Botero Home to Fernando Botero's private collection, this colonial mansion displays the work of the Colombian maestro alongside canvases by the likes of Miró and Monet.
Fulano Backpackers (not the hostel mentioned in this post)
Hiking in Africa is like a porcelain shop: don’t touch anything. When you’re walking in the brush – or anywhere near the brush – your senses are heightened. A leaf crinkling 50 m away registers. A blade of grass wiggles – dually noted. The further along the trail you go, the more the thoughts spiral in the caldron. Root or snake? Antelope or mountain cat? Is this the poisonous plant that kills with one fatal scratch? Thank goodness the view points and trail markers still placate, if only for a few heartbeats. Fleetingly gratifying. But the views in Blyde River Canyon surpass simple gratification. The three Rowdavels pleasantly peering down over the monstrous canyon walls - third largest canyon on Earth. Their domes a symbol of safety, comfort.
The trail continued onward, towards the multicolored beach – red, yellows, greens speckled with barely distinguishable sunbathing hippos. Every time the trail dipped out and into a new patch of forest, the noises evolve like a new set. An interlude between the screeching and clamoring of a thousand beetles. A dense circumference of layered commotion – like emerging from the depths of a public pool on a Saturday.
About 85% of the way in, racket up the mountain. Antelope and brown guinea like creatures running my direction. Not a trusting sign. As I continued forward, I fumbled over the entangled roots around my feet as I thought about the leopard sighting the past two days. Defeated, I turned around and headed back. Careful to not to scratch my knee on the potentially poisonous bush.
When the Nature Conservators’ hut was in sight, the sky thundered and opened up. The rain poured down filling the air with freshness. A mammoth kudu strutted across the road and paused, looking up towards the dark clouds that had rolled in.
If you go:
Stay: Blyde River Canyon Lodge - Located in a gated botanical garden on the river, it is a splendid property just outside the Reserve gates. Dine at the lodge - the fantastic traditional meals are made by locals.
Venture: See the Canyon from all angles. Drive into the clouds and witness the magnificent rock formations from the ridge. Hike the canyon. Take a boat trip on the water and engulf yourself in a panoramic view.
Notables: Check out the museum in the reserve. The exhibition provides a great description of the rock formations and how the canyon was formed. Disregard the yellowed photographs that haven't been touched in decades.
The Highline Trail is synonymous with Glacier National Park. The 11-mile trail follows the Sun Road – curving through the pass to bestow immaculate views of the Continental Divide and surrounding peaks. The trail profile is practically a straight decline from Logan’s Pass to the Loop. The route follows along the mountainside so that you can see every nook and cranny of your surroundings.
Like the weather or traffic in the city, there are two impending dooms that are staples of everyday conversation in GNP – bear sightings and wildfires. During my first day in the Park, a local calculated my fate: at the rate of hiking 12 miles a day for 10 days, I was destined for at least three sightings. Maybe four.
Like any other runner (or human), I used my biased rationality to prove why this trail was an exception to the GNP tenet ‘avoid running’ (running increases the chance of a bear attack). Since this was a popular trail with unimpaired panoramic vision - it was safe for me to jog along this trail. Plus I had bear spray and a bear bell*, this was my chance.
As I galloped along the ridge, I couldn’t help but concentrate on the dry river beds, streams, waterfalls, glaciers. Smoke filled the air and a wraithlike haze lingered - a cornea over the landscape. The land dry, too. Dirt whirled around my feet. Is this a snapshot of the world that lies in our future?
The Sun Road is usually known for evoking a humbling sense of wonder in the face of nature’s grandeur. Below along the Pass, motorists stood on the side of the road with their binoculars hanging idle. Midwesterners seemly stymied in more of bewilderment than awe while looking out at the landscape. Although it was nonetheless still gorgeous, there was a deep sense of loss for the land.
I emerged near the historic Granite Chalet without even realizing that I was near the final decent - somewhat surprised that my half-baked timing was actually going to get me where I needed to be before sunset. I stopped to admire the view with a family that was perched on a rock in the bend. Five minutes later I was invited to stay in their extra bunk bed at the Chalet. The Chalet’s entire lodging for the season typically sells out within a few days of going live. I won the lottery.
Normally I would say yes immediately, but I’ve grown somewhat weary about whether invitations are sincere these days. I thought about this invitation for the half-hour as I climbed the steep trail up to Grinnell Glacier. The sight was if I was beholding a fragile, fragment of scenery. The glacial lake below looked broken, shattered bits and slivers of ice cut their way through the lagoon. The red faced peak looking straight at me behind its defeated body. Spectacular. As I crumbled down with the mountain. I saw the stone Chalet in the background. An patriarchal presence. In the foreground the family was waiting for me.
Dedicated hikers share a common bond which is rooted in underlying appreciation and willpower. That night we watched the sun set until 10pm with about 30 others then laid on our backs to catch the meteor shower. At sunrise the next morning, I tiptoed out of my bunk and ran down the mountain like a little kid who spent the night in an amusement park.
If you go:
Granite Chalet & Highline Trail details
Your calves will be burning but no bother, the trail is grassy and the endless array of mountains will keep you distracted.
Wear layers - storms emerge out of no where.
Stay: Te Wanaka Lodge
Dine: Relishes Cafe
Cheers: Kai Whakapai
An endless array of terrain over bridges, through the valley leading to the glacial lagoon.
Lush tropical forest. Depending on the weather, it feels like somewhere between upper Atlantic Ocean and Polynesia.
Stay: Furneaux Lodge is spectacular This is a difficult call though based on the length of your stay in the Sounds. Ferries leave from Picton in the am and pick up early evening. The schedule changes according to season. If you stay in Anakiwa backpackers you'll be isolated and nestled at the end of the track, but the curvy roads are mind-numbing at night. Only bonus is the glowworms and dolphin songs at night, which you can find anywhere along the track.
Dine: Furneaux Lodge at the end of the trek, especially if you're heading back to Picton.
Cheers: Bring you're own wine from one of the vineyards you past in wine country.
Mt. John Summit Track, Lake Tekapo
Run this route through the meadows, vie to take your own path to the summit and run down on pine needle trail then through meadows surrounded by the white-capped foothills of the Alps.
This place is tiny and does not have a ton of outdoor pursuits, best bet is a one night stay after you catch a golden sky and a starry night.
Stay: The Chalet
Dine: Tin Plate
I was surprisingly pleased to be physically capable of supporting my fifty pound backpack after only four hours of sleep. From my couchsurfer's residence in west Bergen, I bused over Michael Krohn's Gate to Central Station and attempted to sleep on the train to Myrdal. Drifted in and out of pseudo-rest for an hour then proceeded to eat oatmeal cookies (for the sugar) and drink all café (for the caffeine) in possession in less than one minute. To my utter disappointment, it didn’t aid the utter physical and mental exhaustion one bit. I then came to the conclusion that this much anticipated journey would end in a disastrous fury. However, I was surprisingly pleased that my body decided to perform otherwise.
The Flambana train ride was absolutely splendid and included the following:
1. Numerous waterfalls, including one with a staged dancing nymph on a hilltop (or, rather, two alternating to create a disappearing affect- thanks to the subliminal mystical enthusiasm of the country).
2. Oh-ing and ah-ing Asian tourists, including one skinny twerp from Thailand repetitively doing spirit fingers at every stop.
3. 180* turn.
Upon arriving in Flam, its obvious that the inhabitants' income is comprised by the train ride as well as the town acting as a base for transport to the surrounding fjords. The brochures, variety of postcards, and tourism center and visitor support system is utterly immaculate. Once one sets eyes on the glistening fjord, you feel that you must be on it. However, a special certification is required to kayak and the fjord day trips must coincide with the limited arrival and departure train times. After deciding that bike rental was the best (and only) option, I rented a bike for 50 NOK from Rahl (as in Dahl), also another hungover being, and took to the streets.
I passed house after house with perfectly painted sides set on sidestreet all with views of rushing water in between the steepest mountains I’ve ever come across. Sheep grazed and their bells rand as they frolicked from salt-cube to salt-cube. I got happily sidetracked down dead-end roads which led to distant names or bridges to hiking trails (Apparently the waters gets its color because it is void of life).
After leaving a mom & daughters knit shop, I passed kindergarten-aged children all sporting neon-construction worker type vests walking down the road. The conversation went something like this:
Imagine a teacher mediating the conversation and a child echoing:
Marcus: What’s your name?
Me: Elyse, what is yours?
Marcus stares with bewilderment, eats flower.
Biked towards fjord park until the path ended, sat on a rock and watched the waterfall in the distance drop endlessly. Hesitantly, I returned bike and boarded the train to begin journey back to Oslo. As we approached Myrdal it began to snow.
If you go, don't miss:
Unable to find the name but the knit shop is near the Flam Kirk (Church)
Bike riding, kayaking, hiking, boating on the fjord
NOTE: This was before the horrible invasion and destruction of Crimea.
After an 16 hour train ride in second class from Kiev to Simferopol, and a bus transfer from Simferopol, we finally arrived exhausted, hungry, and dirty as hell in Sudak. Through eye-contact alone, we agree on a taxi and manage to hire the only skinny taxi driver in Ukraine. Not a minute after we had agreed on the fare and set off, did he swoop around the corner and picked up his Mother-in-law to hitch a ride.
The gangly fellow turned out to be a madman behind the wheel. One of his first travesties was almost an old man canning across the intersection. Built on hilly terrain, the streets of Sudak claw their way out of the sea into a maze- thus a traffic jam on the main thoroughfare results in a pertinacious stalemate. Or so we thought. The cabbie proceeded to reverse at 15mph (and gradually increasing speed) up a one way street as if escaping a lava pit. Miraculously, we arrived at the gates of our guesthouse, backwards, Locked gates and a malfunctioning buzzer appeared to be trivial to our proactive Formula One taxi driver. Unsolicited, he scaled the walls and yelled "WOMAN, COME!". Next thing we knew, a short Ukrainian woman was prying open the gates to an sylvan two-story guesthome shaded by cherry trees.
If you go:
Beach & Fresh Market
(Market near the Intersection of Ushakova & Mors'ka St.)
Walk down the road towards the fortress until you almost reach the end of the boardwalk. Along the right, a fresh market sells fruits, cheeses, and vegetables. Take your haul down to the furthest point of the cove to sit on the water's edge and watch Ukrainian women repetitively pose for their boyfriend's camera. After a toe-dip in the cold sea, take the dirt, Mountain Goat-like trail up to the Sudak Fortress (FYI: littered with an impressive amount of glass).
Explore the fortresses' views and various ramparts freely and gaze into the Black Sea's splendor. Tie a piece of fabric on the makeshift statue at the top for good luck. Don't slip down the anthill, the paths are not controlled. Spot the beach cove to the right of the fortress and plan your desultory route to it through side streets.
Isolated Beach Cove
(Near the end of Prymors'ka St.)
Once you emerge from the seemingly private garden path and you'll come to a rocky cove with a restaurant and plenty of chairs to lie on. The water is warmer and the place is rather pleasant (besides the horrible, blasting music which is the norm). I recommend drinking over eating, unless shrimp crumbles mixed with eggs, mayonnaise and tomato sounds appealing.
Transport: Novyi Svit Winery is three miles away, seemingly in walking distance. However, the route is along a winding mountain road. Luckily we took a cab . Even more luckily, we happen to pass a man running after pick-pocket who robbed him as he was walking along the very way.
The winery doesn't sell cold cuvee, you much purchase it around the corner at the store. Drink your cold Ukrainian cuvee on the beach and watch the boats. And, apparently, the jellyfish don't sting.
If you go:
Train + Bus (Don't even try the Black Sea Ferry, it is impossible).
Aivazovs'koho St, 17, Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine, 98000
+380 50 055 6564