The Carpathians; inhabited largely by tradition, cattle farmers , wild berries and the ever present cool mountain fog.
We climb into the heart of Ukraine’s only mountain range, and frolic along its highest ridgeline, by way of steep, curly, and the standard pock marked and washed out road. First we travel south, climbing through a pass of 930 meters, from flatland back to flatland, watching those sweet blue humps of mountains shift from our backs to our flanks. We keep them flanking us, pedaling easily through grassy plains, before heading north to climb over the range a second time, making a few detours by foot along the way, all the while relishing the cool mountain climate, lack of biting mosquitoes, and perfectly interspersed rains.
“Hiking” Mount Khomiyak
The trail is hardly more than an eroded mudslide of a path, aiming straight to the peak at such an absurd angle that even the trees growing on the slope struggle a bit. By the time we arrive at the top, sweat coated with screaming calves, the peak is so shrouded in fog we can hardly see 10 feet in front of us. We surprise a few grazing cattle who seem to be having the same trouble, our footsteps even muted by the humidity.
One particularly nice campsite. A flat spot with a view and we are satisfied. While mulling over dinner this evening, we listen to the bells hanging from the necks of roaming dairy cows before their keeper comes to fetch them for the night, cooing directions to his unsaddled horse in a language all his own.
Our breakfast spread: fuel for climbing!
A portion of my time spent in the mountains I dedicated to picking wild berries while my poor, patient partner waited nearby at each frequent stop. ‘I had a bad experience with blueberries once,’ he offers as an explanation.
Refilling at a freshwater spring.
We roll into Ivano-Frankivsk on the evening of a Sunday, letting it be the mark that signals the end of all the free and delicious spring water we can drink, perfect temperatures, and panoramic views; checking ourselves into a hostel after making a quick and necessary stop for a couple of liter $ .87 Ukrainian beers and ice creams. We stay two days, spending one exploring the quiet city of pastel colored buildings and drying our freshly washed clothing.