A weekend in the Carpathians
Trip Start Mar 02, 2003
41Trip End Jul 04, 2005
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We got to the designated pick-up point a little early... but just in time to greet the drunks going home from the disco down the street. One large ape-like guy started pestering Regine for what I gathered from his slurred speech was a cigarette, I informed him that neither of us smoke and he walked away; only to return a few minutes later with his two friends and laugh in my face saying that I should be afraid of him, I tried to stifle the laugh, but unfortunately it got the better of me and came out audibly - his friends had to restrain him as he raised his arm to attempt and hit me. Yeah, good start... although, it was funny afterwards, and I'm pretty sure he was too drunk to have been able to take on the multiple Maggies he undoubtedly saw in his drunken sights
The bus was only 5 minutes late and we got on hopeful as it seemed like a pretty nice bus that had air conditioning and was kept in a good,clean state. We got going a little later than originally anticipated because by the time they realized we were missing one person who had signed up for the weekend trip we were on our way out of Rivne. Well, we finally got on the road around 5:30. We were told we'd get to Yaremcha, about 350 kilometers from Rivne, no later than noon. One point that the drive made did begin to worry me - what was the tour operator talking about different hotels for? I mean, shouldn't we already have reservations? We've already paid our money? Why would we have to pay another 10 hrivna? Huh? No water? What?
We got to the mountain town at 3 o'clock, after two forest bathroom stops, and a stop at a bazaar to buy pork for the shishkabob we were promised for the next day. The driver instructed the group to wait by the bus because he was going to go and check on the accomodations. By this point Regine and I were ready to rinse off, as that air conditioning that seemed to be working when we initially got on the bus shortly turned off, and none of the windows could be opened, we were slightly sticky after 10 hours on the bus that should have taken no more than 4 hours (it's only 220 miles away)
The bathroom reeked. Opening the door let out odors that only belong in a stable. Regine joked that there had been a horse living in our room prior to us, but honestly, it's entirely possible. We were terrified to put anything on the floor as a place like this undoubtedly must have cockroaches, and God knows what else. Well, we sealed up the snacks we'd brought with us as well as we could and went to find the rest of our group. By the way, all the Ukrainians in our group were very surprised that we didn't bring food with us. We did bring enough for snacks and breakfast - granola, some fruit, and water. But we knew there would be cafes and restaurants, so why lug more stuff than necessary, especially since we thought we'd be in a proper hotel and not camping
Andriy and Olya informed us after lunch/dinner that they were going to go on a hike and not wait for the rest of the group or the driver. Andriy said that he didn't believe anything the driver said and that he'd lied from the start so there was no reason to believe him. Great vote of confidence in anticipation for the next three days.
Well, we went for the hike. The mountains reminded me a lot of the Black Hills in South Dakota or the Smokeys. It was rainy on Friday so the hills had a very smokey look to them. We hiked up a good trail and found a lot of rock grottos. Came back down absolutely exhausted, in a really good way. I've been walking a lot in Rivne, but there's nothing like feeling your legs after hiking for several hours. We went back the hotel ready to crash. I tried to sleep, but it's very difficult when your mattress smells like urine and you're worrying about bugs crawling all over you.
The next morning after breakfast, we went with the group for an "excursion" to another town higher in the mountains. Of course we weren't told when we were to leave or where we were going, just to be at the bus around 10. Right. We stopped at an Olympic training ground for ski jumpers. It was very interesting to see the conditions in which they train and the various ages of the men and boys that were jumping. The highlight was a little puppy who had such sharp teeth that I have scratches to prove it on my arms and legs where he got me. I played with him while the rest of the group watched as skiers came down the man-made slope.
We then went on to Vorohta, the town where I was informed I'd have to get on a ski lift to see a beautiful view of the Carpathians. My fear of heights was compounded when I saw the rickety lift with no end in site. I talked myself into going, and Regine is witness, i didn't cry either way... even when it was pouring rain on us while we were decending the mountain. We were the only people in our group that had brought rain coats with them, so we were slightly drier than the rest of our group. However, we were reprimanded when we went with Andriy, Olya, and Olya's brother, also Andriy (Regine and I referred to them as AOA), to have a cup of tea to warm up. They'll all probably blame the draft when they get sick in a few days. Soaked to the bone, we all piled into the bus and made our way back to Yaremcha to the land of promised Shashlik (Shiskabob). Serhiy promised that we'd have our dinner around 7 in the evening, so while the rest of the group went to do a hike near the place we had hiked at the day before we went exploring with AOA. On our hike up we ran across something that demonstrated to us that 50 kopecks (5 cents) is too much for some people to pay to use public restrooms
Andriy and Olya promised that we'd see some deer on this hike, and we did, behind a fence!! It was soo sad that we really couldn't watch and so Regine and I turned around and went back. We wandered through a bazaar that sold traditional crafts, but I didn't find anything that struck my fancy, as a lot of the crafts were very similar if not identical to what I've seen in Poland.
We slowly made our way back to the hotel and got ready to partake in our Shashlik at 7. As we approached the hotel I saw Serhiy who informed me that we would have hot water this evening (as we did not the night before, even though it was promised). Regine and I went back to our room but were greeted by several people from our group who informed us to hurry as the shashlik is already starting. We waited and waited for the hot water, and finally decided to go eat first and then shower, well, at least wash our hair as the bathroom was so disgusting we had decided to use baby wipes to clean off instead of actually stepping foot into the "shower". When we got outside to our shashlik party we were told that it'd be awhile longer so we would have time to try and rinse off before we would eat - by this time it was 8:30. We went back to our room and washed our hair. We came back out to the group who was now getting anxious about the impending dinner. We finally ate around 10:30, no plates though. Serhiy said that there weren't enough skewers for everyone, so we all had to wait
We hiked in the morning and were told to be back by noon because that's when we'd leave. We left at a quarter till two in the afternoon. No air conditioning. Nine hours and no open windows. Again we stopped for "sanitary" reasons twice in the forest so people could go off in the woods, poop, and leave their dirty toilet paper. What really got to me was the last stop we made... less than an hour from Rivne and going at a pace where we could have gotten home and still have running water before they turn it off around 9 at night, we had to stop and eat dinner. Why couldn't people wait the last hour and had a shower when they got home instead? I still don't understand - and from people's comments, they couldn't understand why Regine and I so desperately wanted to get back to our apartments.
I walked into my apartment at 10:30 on Sunday night. I stripped off my clothes and only then realized how badly I smelled. Yup. You know I've been backpacking for weeks where you don't take regular showers and bathe in streams
The mountain air and the beauty of the landscape was the only part of the weekend that maintained our sanity. We had a great time and laughed so much about the idiocy of the whole experience and the various degrees of gross that we were witness to. I'd go back to the Carpathians in a minute, in fact, I honestly can't wait to go back. Next time I'm either staying with a PCV, camping, or staying at the expensive hotel. Spam? Yeah, I don't think so. I'll still prefer to drink mulled wine and have a dinner that I didn't eat out of a can any day that I'm on "vacation".