Well yes, we've all spent the last 15 odd years crawling around in asbestos so it's one of those things where you just have to accept the risk for the experience I guess. By the time we were there there were so many other things to worry about. Wolves, getting caught, staying warm. Water quickly dropped down the priority list.
Now that's a write up and a half, cracking job. What an adventure you had. I visited Chernobyl in the winter a couple of years back, temperatures were as cold as minus 16, but we were there on an organised trip and had the luxury of staying at the hotel in Chernobyl plus a nice warm van to ride about in. Being out in that cold for so long, fair f**king play!
The next morning we figure we've begun to outstay your welcome in the city and should leave before pushing our luck further. The prospect of being arrested after such a successful few days is not an appealing thought so Kirill rings a contact, we pack our bags and walk as the sun rises through the radioactive dumping grounds that live at the edge of the city and along the railway lines to the end of a track near the station.
Our contact is parked alongside the track and after a short hello we load our bags into the back of his car and set off along the still deserted roads, headlights off and driving fast towards the edge of the zone. We are tired and begin to drift off to sleep in the warmth of the car, the first warmth we had felt in days. Eventually we pull over on the side of the road and our driver pulls binoculars from his center console. Ahead of us lies a bridge which is well known for police ambush, even this early in the morning, but after quickly scanning the horizon we drive on and pass the bridge safely. Before long we have pulled onto a forestry track beside the road. This is as far as our driver is willing to take us and we just have to walk the last kilometer to the border fence.
Exhausted we trudge through the grasslands and pass our bags through the ancient barbed wire fence, dreaming of a warm hotel and shower.
We wait in the forest beside the road until a call comes in, our car is waiting on the road and we run towards it, throwing our bags into the boot and diving into the back seat hoping a police car won't spot us.
As we drive off we pass the checkpoint and a group of tourists about to begin their sanctioned visit to a few well known spots around the city. Watched by their guides they won't see the zone for what it is, the huge expanses of open space, true wilderness reclaimed by wildlife, the thrill of standing on top of brutalist soviet architecture, looking for miles around in silence knowing that it's just us and a few guards within a 30 kilometer radius.
We are glad to be back in Kiev, traveling to our hotel on the busy metro covered in dust and filth, but even then I'm planning a return trip. We'd only scratched the surface of what is there, enough to get me hooked, a draw to return to the zone.
This is on my list of places to visit, although in my case I envisage a motorcycle tour across Europe and into Ukraine, then be of the tamer guided tours of Pripryat.
It’s something that been on my mind for about 15 years, but with a new motorbike the summer could be the one.
But this report is amazing, I was with you the whole way, great descriptive work, and superb photos. Thanks for sharing g.