A kite trip to Ukraine / Украина
The word that gives name to this entry is a Cyrillic term: Ukraine : A kite trip to Ukraine was something that caught my attention at the time, and I mean back in 2006 when I was still living in Brazil, then, a little after I moved back to Spain, then the Ukraine subject started to become much much less complicated.
Now that this country has been on all the news for a few years, in fact since the events of 2014, something that has been wise and cunningly by the anglo-saxon media to his own interest.
Today we hear almost daily from Ukraine due to the war, now is when people realize that it exists, I had already realized it a long time ago, and today, rescuing from oblivion an old post that I uploaded to my kitesurfing school webpage and also to a couple of kitesurfing forums back in 2007, I am going to tell you this story, by way also as a tribute -my personal tribute- to what I lived there and also about of its people.
Keep in mind when you read this, that time has passed, kitesurfing speaking, and at that time I did not live yet in Mallorca but in Gran Canaria, hence the comments about it from time to time.
As this travel diary is not short, I think it would be best to upload it in three parts. I hope it doesn’t bore you and that it inspires those who read it about the magical possibility of discovering new places, especially if you carring around a kite and a board with you on your trips. So, there it goes!
A kite trip to Ukraine
Ther story started back in 2004 and after a lot of research on the internet for new horizons in which to jump into the water to be dragged by my kite, one day I came to the conclusion that in Europe there were a few seas, of which, in some of them the water shouldn’t be too cold, which, on the other hand, cold waters, takes away my interest in kitesurfing, as some of my close friends already know.
All these thoughts were taking place during my stay in Brazil, and I am talking about the beginning of the century, that is, by the time in which I was already living in paradise, I start thinking about different places to visit and to kitesurf there.
I had been away from Europe for 6 years, and because of the inevitable “homesickness” that was developing little by little for everything that was on the other side of the ocean, that’s where this desire came from.
The same thing that will happen to someone but in the opposite direction when, on any given day at work, one starts dreaming of going, for example, to go to practice kitesurfing to… Brazil!
How was the idea developed?
As later events made me prefer to settle again in Gran Canaria, leaving Brazil behind, these travel plans had to wait for a better opportunity and… what better opportunity than, after almost a year in Granca without leaving the island to see that spring was on its way and arriving?
I resumed my interrupted contacts with a young Ukrainian who was into windsurfing, whom I had met in my first research on the web, and thus, I began to organize the trip subject a bit until I chose the departure date and itinerary.
I have to say that I searched for all the possible information on the internet about kitesurfing in that country, but almost from the beginning I realized that there was almost nothing published and, furthermore, the little that was available was written in Russian, that is, in Cyrillic, which added more problems by not being able of knowing the meaning of words is the fact that they are constructed with signs that are completely different from ours, so to know what one of its words says, you must first read those letters, make sense of them through of a letter-by-letter translation, then know in which of the degrees of declension the word is found, nominative, genitive, dative and so on up to seven possibilities and then know what it means, because otherwise nothing is understood even what is written or what they tell you.
Kitesurfing in the south of Ukraine
The option really ranged between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as the first of the two was colder and in the days that we live one can expect a sudden change in temperature that makes it snow in May, for example, I opted for the second sea, since, being shallower, the water promised a few more degrees.
Regarding the wind, in the end I came to the conclusion that despite being the kite spots in both seas at distances of hundreds of kms, really, the wind conditions should not vary too much between one spot and another, so, with an idea half clear of where and when to go, I looked for the best route to get there on the internet.
I bought the plane ticket, I packed the things and I set off on Tuesday, May 22 of teh year 2007 in the afternoon. The best possible itinerary, something that now, after having made the trip I doubt a little, was the following:
Las Palmas-Madrid with Iberia at 7:00 p.m. arriving in the airport at 12:00 p.m, night, or what was left of it at the airport and leaving Madrid with Lufthansa at 7:00 a.m. arriving in Munich at 10:30 a.m. and continuing trip to the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where it would land at 3:30 p.m.
A stop along the way. If so far I have not been able to bore you, which would be normal, what is certain is that from now and as long as each one can resist reading, I am sure I will get it.
To those who are not interested in kitesurfing, for obvious reasons, and, to those who are interested, for everything related to pre or post navigation issues, that is, details about areas, habits and other of a personal nature, so… you are warned.
Well, arriving at the Gando airport in Gran Canaria and in front of the check-in counter, one faces the always feared moment, for two reasons, I say double because in addition to the fact that they can crucify you with the issue of excess of luggage, you should not disdain the possibility that they also might lose it.
At the airport in Madrid
I have to clarify that among the multiple packing options, I chose the following: As it is generally allowed to carry only two packages, I disdained from the beginning the one of a single boardbag in which to carry everything because, apart from the fact that for the comfort of transportation within the limits of the airport is undoubtedly the best choice, once you arrive to the destination, unless you are going to rent a car and stop in front of the very spot, which, as you all know, it is not always possible, it also increases the chances that, when making the check-in, once discovered as a possible user of any type of sports nautical equipment that includes the use of the word: surf, you will be rewarded with a good low blow up to hundreds of euros.
Therefore, I chosed to take two kites, a 13 and an 8 mts of the bow type, harness, vest, neoprene and the dry suit; booties, the bars of each kite, a pump, a spare leash because when changing bars, in the end you can lose it -as it happened- the footstraps and all disassembled, and, inside the bag of Advance kites, which besides being huge, it weighs almost nothing. The bag had been camouflaged with plastic surrounding it so that nothing could be read that would lead to think that I was doing sports. To be exact, 19.5 kg is what the package in question weighed.
The 145×48 and 127×39 boards, stripped of everything that protruded and packed between two sheets of cardboard, surrounding the edges and securing both sheets with packing tape, and also, a rather small backpack of those of personal luggage with a pair of pants, 4 t-shirts, a pullover, a shorts, the minimum of personal hygiene things, an MP3 and four books chosen methodically and carefully among many others and… that was all luggage.
The Iberia official weighs the bundle of the backpack, so far so good, he looks up at me and discovers the cardboard bundle with the boards, he asks: anything else?
I tell him: Oh! yes, this, with the most naive smile I could fake. He raises an eyebrow and asks: what are you carrying there? … just two seconds of embarrassment on my part … Emmm! … it is … a painting … The Last Supper (because of the aspect and lenght of the package) …
I painted it … It’s a present for my grandmother… you know… the grandmothers and their saints… New innocent smile because the other one had already faded.
Through the air and on the way to destiny
Overcomed the check in moment without major economic damage, I proceed to boarding. There was no problem, perhaps because of the lateness of the hour, it was 5:30 in the morning; they made me use the bulky baggage carousel and I also boarded the plane without a problem, this time the luggage went in and had to go directly to the final destination, that is, Donetsk.
flying over Romania – By seeing the cloudy formation one could end up thinking about Dracula and his castle
After two more planes we landed in Ukraine. The airport was very small and hardly any aircraft movement. I go through passport control, there, a lady who was sitting on a bench, seeing that I went into the next room, indicates with her hand that I pick up the luggage that … was on a cart outside the building, in the side that faced the runway and which was accessed after passing a door that left me back on the runway.
Hmmm… bad vibes. I see the bulk of the kites but I don’t see the bulk of the boards. I go to the Lufthansa offices and, it seems that, accustomed to the subject, they tell me that… that things happens and that I should call a contact telephone number that they will inform me of how the matter progresses and at the moment nothing else could be done.
The customs officer, adorned with a Russian-type peaked cap, that even if it rained, not even his shoulders would get wet, doesn’t pay any attention to me and indicates with his head that I should keep going…
And I had even sprinkled the kites with a few handfuls of sand because they were both new and they could cause me problems and say that I could try to sell them once in the country, just … for nothing
Of course, the same stuff had happened to me once in the past with a piece of windsurfing luggage on a journey from Singapore to Phuket and in which they made me pay for the import of the equipment under the promise of reimbursing the amount when leaving the country, which they did, but I was already scared of situations like this.
So much mess and lying with the Last Supper story about the kiteboards and in the end the boards were lost… how bad!
The city of Donetsk, more than 2 million inhabitants, from the air
First Donetsk, then Mariupol
My friend Evgeni was waiting for me in the Donetsk airport hall and in his car, a brand new Lada type Seat 124 from before 1975, powered by gas. So we left the city of Donetsk behind and headed for the city of Mariupol, a little over a hundred kms away, already on the coast of the Sea of Azov.
After crossing this second city and seeing a desolate landscape of enormous smoky industries, three of them dedicated to the manufacture of steel, we arrived at our destination, the little town of Sopino, where my new friend offered me a very simple summer cabin in which to stay, simple but… there was also a kitchen, even TV (which I didn’t even switched on).
Map of Donetsk and southern Ukraine
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was how incredibly hot it was, something that exceeded all my expectations by far, about 38 degrees!
My friend told me that it had been like this for a few days and that the heat did not seem to subside, nothing like that was remembered at that time or by the oldest people in the area, but… you know… you still might find yourself with a snow storm than that incredible heat wave; and I came prepared even carrying with the dry suit!
The temperature of the water was similar to that of Fortaleza BRAZIL, to navigate you only needed a lycra and it was so for the sun would not burn you, then, after 9 days, the temperature dropped to more realistic levels and I even used the neoprene couple of times, when 25 or more knots of wind were blowing.
The cottage, simple but effective, in addition to everything … free of any charge!
After a very hot night and coinciding with the first rays of light, what will become a custom every day, begins the concert offered by hundreds, thousands! … of little birds singing.
Impossible to escape this harsh reality, no matter how sleepy one may be, light and sound make it in vain to continue believing that one could sleep.
At 10 am in the morning and during a walk along the beach, the lagoon and the area where Evgeni told me that the surf school was, I meet Vova and Svyet, local kiters who my friend has warned about my arrival and they were expecting to find me.
In fact, they called me on my cell phone with the Ukrainian card that we bought yesterday and that, among other things, is to be used for emergency translations, if necessary.
View of Sopino beach from the cottage, the lagoon in the foreground is deep.
Once on the beach, you can walk up to a km out to sea and the water barely reaches your belly
Since I don’t have a kiteboard, they lend me a wooden one that Vova had shaped himself, but since he has to work, he leaves us at the kitesurfing beach.
Me, in the photo above, with the wooden plank of unmistakable homemade construction that, by the way, was doing the job with no problem.
And below these lines a view of the lagoon with some young local girls entering the water on the beggining of what seamed a windless day, in fact, specifically, before the wind came in two hours later.
My two new Ukrainian friends, kiters, by the way, took me to the city by car, we go for a walk, I try unsuccessfully to buy a battery charger for my foto camera that I have forgotten at home; we eat in a self service, we visit Svyet’s mother -not his real mother butstepmother, who married his father in second marriage- in her business and at 3:00 p.m. as there is some wind moving the trees, we went back to the beach in Sopino.
Svyet’s stepmother, 30 years old, a local beauty, it seems the father of the guy changed to a much younger wife, things that happens when you have so many pretty ones around, unfortunately for the previous wife 🙁
Sopino Lagoon – Mariupol kite spot
The kitesurfing session was somewhat accidental again because the wind lasted only a couple of hours, from onshore direction and between 10 and 14 kts, once the cloud that carried the wind passed, wind fell to just 6 kts.
On Sopino beach, there was just a little strip of sand, except for a part of the shore, just in front of where they have set up the kite station, which is what they called it, but the positive part is that you could walk more than 200 meters out to sea with waist deep water.
The color of the water was rather brownish due to the bottom of hard mud and the depth is about 1 meter during the first almost 800 meters and up to the shoulders for another 200 meters, then it begins to deepen, there are some stones on the sea bottom only nearby from the shore, from a couple of them I took a souvenir on my feet.
Down here Vova, the kite teacher from Mariupol
At that point, the distance to the other shore, that is Russia, must be about 200 km. The temperature, as I said before, about 34 degrees, that is, with the lycra, or even without it, it is enough, although my incredulous nature did not allow me to do without the neoprene for this first time.
my Ukrainian new friend, Svyet, 18 years old, 1.98 meters tall and 100 kilos of muscle -Slavic genetics-
After the kitesurfing session, Svyet and I went to a bar to have dinner and exchange ideas about the best way to teach kitesurfing, since he teaches together with Voba to students who occasionally appear asking for lessons, whom, obviously, belong to the economic elite of the city.
After the good talk and a few beers, at 10pm I went to sleep.
Windless day, as there was no wind or forecast for today and I am alone because one of my friends is working and the other is at the University, I dedicate the day to visite Mariupol as I like doing this sort of things, that is, on foot and checking all what was to be seen around. I put the mp3 in my ears and… started to walk.
Map of the city of Mariupol and surroundings, the red dot on the right side of the city indicates the location of the Sopino kitesurf center.
I visited the city’s beaches, they were narrow and crowded due to the high temperature, today over 36 degrees. With 0 wind, if someone blindfolded me, I could easily believe that instead of Ukraina I was in… Cordoba, Spain in the middle of August.
After regaining strength in a restaurant and having drunk at least 5 liters of water during the day, I even locate an internet cafe where I saw that the forecast seemed more promising tomorrow.
The following photo is of a steel factory that, although located on the outskirts of the city, makes the air that is breathed in certain parts of the city not very recommendable. Of course, they are responsible for giving work to the city almost entirely.
I want to point out, as a curious note, that the buses, most of them very old, run on methane gas and carry 4 or 5 large bottles on the roof, also that the driver is helped by a collector, generally a girl who from time to time, walks the center aisle of the bus and collected the amount of money of the tickets, which is one hrvnia fifty, that is, something like 20 cents of euro each way.
There are also trolley buses, I hadn’t seen one since I was 10 years old, back in Barcelona.
Although the city of Mariupol was not bad, there were parks and gardens and the avenues were wide and with strategically planted trees on both sides, I did not take any photos in the belief that I would do it later, in the end, since I did not return, it could not be possible. I’m sorry because those two photos of the factories give a more negative aspect than what it really was.
And after having a beer on a terrace of one of the bars on the boulevard, I took another bus, I think the fourth of the day, and I went back home.
As I already said the day light starts at 4 in the morning and the sun was already up at 6 o’clock with the same force as a focus of Gestapo interrogations, tell me then who is the one who manages to continue sleeping with his eyes closed? Impossible task!
Behind this line a small sail boat near the shore of Mariupol beach not far from Sopino
At 7:30 my friend Svyet picks me up at the cottage and it’s 8:20 when we’re already in the water celebrating 18 kts of wind from ENE, I mean the opposite direction of last kitesurfing session.
In the water, in addition to us there were already several more guys, Vova with his new 12-meter Hybrid RRD, a boy that we greeted the other day in the city, who curiously is also 2 meters tall, with a kite of national production, I mean made in Kiev and that he shares with his father.
Later a few more kiters arrived, including a couple of brothers, windsurfers who have traveled from Kharkov, the country’s second largest city, further northeast of Donetsk, about 400 km, where they have bought their equipment, since the only importer of the Eastern Ukraine is there.
The kitesurfing session lasted until 1:00 p.m. almost without interruption, I went upwind to the mouth of the lagoon and kitesurfed in super flat water for more than 2 hours, when I got tired of jumping and kitesurfing alone, I went back down to the station, to where some more people had arrived and also several windsurfers, among them my friend Evgeni who, as his law firm closes for the weekend, he drove the hundred kms and spends the weekend windsurfing with his friends.
The kite station in Sopino Mariupol
The camaraderie is total and as it could not been otherwise, I was the center of attention, everyone wanted to meet me and with their bad or worse English, find out what happens beyond their kite/windsurfing borders.
At about 2 pm the wind drops to 10-12 kts and I take the chance to give Evgeny his first kite lesson with the 9 meter kite that I brought him as a present.
Windsurfing and kitesurfing coexisting in Sopino
After an hour in the water we decided to go to the city to eat decently since in Sopino there is only the small bar where I ate the other day because the hotel in the area is closed for renovations, as well as its restaurant.
Back in Sopino at 5pm the wind had picked up again to 16-18 kts.
New session and we all meet again in the water. It goes without saying that, of course, there is no specific area for kitesurfing and everyone does where they want, the people who are on the beach do not feel bothered and as there is space for everyone in addition to the depth allowing all kinds of maneuvers to be carried out and … if you fail, nothing happens because you stand everywhere, so all said and besides the not too beautiful color of the water, almost a true kitesurfing paradise.
At 8:00 p.m. pick up the equipment and walk back to the cottage, since Evgeni is going to spend the night at his house in Mariupol, once in the cottage, Evgeni’s parents have arrived with some friends and there is a barbecue, beers and vodka, there are some ukranians, some russians and even a couple of georgians.
I spend half an hour with them and although we hardly understand each other because I don’t speak almost any russian words and they hardly speak slovak or english, I had to do the honors, since I was the attraction tourist, even tough, as soon as I could, I skip the bundle and went to bed, after almost 6 hours of kitesurfing, I was really tired.
The Sopino Mariupol kite station wakes up with the arrival of the avid sailors. In a few moments the action floods the area.
The temperature is somewhat more pleasant than the previous days, also because a 25 knots of wind has already star blowing, almost every guy weigh between 90 and 100 kg, really big people this Slavians.
I rode my 8 meters, finally, and I have a super session from 8 am to 1 pm when I have to leave because I couldn’t do it any longer.
Meanwhile, each one enjoys in their own way, we, kitesurfing, some with windsurfing and others with what they can
Lady and child with mat. Illusion is what counts, yes or no?
-Imagine the lady on top of the mat- it has to be amazing, with her weight!
I spent most of the session on the upwind side of the lagoon where I performed great jumps when I kitesurfed, sticking full edge of the board on the water and without interference from the chop!
Some of the guys seconded me in my choice but, curiously, they preferred to kitesurf on the beach, in front of the station and they said that the lagoon is deep and since they are used to pulling a maneuver and standing if it goes wrong…
The beach and the contour of the lagoon, unlike other days, is full of people, there was indeed high expectation!
Most of people were families, also groups of young people and many couples. At 3:00 p.m. I went to eat in the city and back at 6:00 p.m., this time the wind stayed at 12 kts but with the morning session I was already more that ok, so I didn’t kitesurf anymore for the day.
People stayed on the beach, relaxing and others eating at a barbecue that, between meats and vodka, lasted until night.
I don’t know what holiday it was but a lot of people stayed on the beach, some with camping tents and they had spent the night right there.
The wind was still from the same direction, 23kts. I kitesurf alone in the lagoon and at the station there were still a couple more kites, the others, as some were from Donetsk and even further, had returned to their homes.
Evgeni using the kite board for the only thing that works for him
He still has to learn and make the jump from windsurf to kitesurf
The session lasted until 12 o’clock, then the wind dropped to 12-14 kts, I even changed board and kite and I spent an hour and a little more but by that time I had kitesurfed so much the last few days that I was truly exhausted.
The lagoon spot, next to the sea
I picked up the equipment and spent the rest of the day walking around Mariupol. Actually it wasn’t that far, about 10 kms, but since I don’t have a car it’s a bit of an odyssey to get there.
First you have to wait for a bus that takes you to the beginning of the city, stopping everywhere because wherever you are, just by moving your arm, the vehicle stops and picks you up.
From there, before crossing the bridge that is after the Azovstahl mega-industry, you have to take another bus that will take you to the center of the city.
I had a big meal at a restaurant, then I found an internet cafe, and I profited also to buy the ticket for my next destination, the city of Berdyansk
Then I walked around the city like every day. The next day, Tuesday, began without wind, gray and rainy in the morning, so I dedicated to packing and tying everything well because now it was time to start moving into the unknown, alone and carrying my kitesurfing equipment, more loaded than a donkey.
The wind, when the day cleared up at 1:00 p.m., rose to 10-12 kts but I was on something else, I spent the day reading, which by that time I had not yet read a single page, and making a small written summary of what had happened until then, all this, from the terrace of a cafe in the city of Mariupol.
Before returning to Sopino I had to go through the semi-traumatic experience of trying to arrange my transfer to the bus station, called Autovokzal in Ukrainian, with a taxi.
It was very hard because in addition to the fact that they did not understand me, nor did they want to understand me in fact, what they did want was to overcharge the ride to the maximum, and me, knowing that the journey could not cost more than 27 hrvnias plus maybe 10 more for the route from the stop taxi to Sopino, I was not willing to pay what those gangsters asked me, some ventured up to the figure of 120 hrivnias although the others stayed for 70-80. So I just got the phone number of a couple of them to confirm and I went to sleep.
END OF THE FIRST PART OF THE UKRAINE ENTRY IN THE BLOG
Kitesurfing in Ukraine II -this continues-
Continuing with the story of my kite trip to Ukraine, we enter the second part of it, now changing cities.
As I was lucky that Evgeni’s father spent the night in one of the 4 booths of the cottage, I arranged with him to get me until the bus station in Mariupol.
At 6 am. in the morning we left in his Lada in the direction of the city and on the way I witnessed the first trap-control of the highway police, in fact, I noticed it before it happened, because my friend put the car from 120kms hour to just 40 kms hour in a matter of 100 meters and then continue like this for almost a minute.
It didn’t work!. They were at a crossroads a little further on. With a sort of baton-indicator they signaled us to stop on the shoulder and one of them came while the other continued choosing victims.
Across the road was one of his cars with police plates parked next to a private car with dark windows.
Evgeni’s father showed him the car papers, the agent looked at them and made signs for him to follow him to the other side of the road, once there he invited him to get into the more than suspicious private car that, curiously, had the dark tinted windows and… the doors closed quietly behind them.
Meanwhile, the other agent had already dispatched one more car and one more truck when I see that he begins to enter the field next to the road, that’s where I think… he is going to pee… but… no.
What he was going to do was, by the unscientific method of simply looking with his own eyes, without binoculars or anything similar, calculating in the distance at the speed at which the cars were coming towards here from a kilometer before arriving, taking advantage of a clearing between the trees that surrounded the road in the big broad road curve before the intersection.
By then, the doors of the private car had opened and my father’s friend and the policeman were getting out, the policeman went back to his business, and my friend with an expression on his face similar to that of Bruce Lee in the movie “Karate to death in Bankog” enters the car and without saying a word, he started the engine.
Me, in a vain attempt to sympathize, I told him, indicating with a nod in the direction of the cops … Bastards! … he, obviously not understanding, forced a smile and said: OK.
the «roadside trap», at the exact moment of the bite. The police in their own thing, that is to fleece the unfortunates who crossed their path
WE ARE GOING TO LEAVE MARIUPOL BEHIND…FOR BERDYANSK
At 6:25 a.m. I enter the Autovokzal, seek accommodation on one of the benches in the shade along with my luggage, open a book and… wait
After a collection of buses almost all of them between 20 and 40 or more years of age, heading everywhere, at 8:35 minutes mine enters… БЕРДЯНСКИЙ! … this is the one!
They open the bottom part for me to accommodate the package and I go upstairs. The temperature inside the vehicle is more typical of a Turkish bath than of a vehicle, it must be more than 40 degrees, I share the seat on the sun side with a curtain, with a villager close to eighty years old with a scarf around her head … I take my book and start to read
After all, Berdyansk was not that far away, although to cover the 70 km that separated us it took almost two hours, crossing a constant landscape of farm fields of several kms each on both sides of the road.
Berdyansk is much smaller in size than Mariupol, much less tall buildings, the streets, except for 2 or 3 of them, were much narrower, not very well paved but with the consequent little trees along the sidewalks, which is undoubtedly a very good idea considering that the temperature, again, does not drop below 35 degrees or more.
The bus terminal of БЕРДЯНСКИЙ -Autovokzal- and the buses loading their gas bottles on the roof
As my excess of luggage give little room for wandering around the streets with no freedom, as soon as I get off the bus I go directly to a Café next to the station, which has a certain international look.
After the inevitable exchange of questions/answers in a mixture of several languages and that hardly gives more than to understand only the most basic, they agreed to store my luggage for a while, then I go to look for some accommodation and explore the area a bit.
I buy a map of the city at a kiosk near the bus station and after being informed by a boy with the usual bottle of beer in his hand and who speaks just 4 words of English, he informed me that the bus that takes me to the beaches is bus number 15 and after half an hour of waiting and another half hour of driving I reach the end of the spit, where the beaches ended.
The spit, is what they call a kind of arm of land that narrows more and more. And, already there, without seeing or having seen anything that looks like the firstname.lastname@example.org or windsurf club that I had previously discovered in my internet research, the trip ended.
At the start/finish stop, the driver and the assistent took out their respective lunch boxes and inform me that the return journey begins in 5 minutes and that I have to get off the bus now and then… Money! … pay again if I wish to return.
I address with the usual words to those who are already waiting for the bus, a few meters further: Does anybody speak English? Anybody? Panimaite anglicky?
There, among several of them who of course do not speak any English but seem to be interested in the cause of the lost foreigner, a conclave is established and opinions are exchanged and from there it is deduced that “YES”, someone has seen windsurfs on some occasion – “windsurfing » along the spit, curiously in an area that after deep speculations between the group of future travelers since I do not understand anything- it turns out that that part of the spit, where there is the damn windsurfing club… don’t appears on my map.
In short, after a lot of bus stops and going back the way we had come, one of the passengers gets up and kindly tells me to get off at the next stop while he points with his finger in the direction of the left side beach.
They leaved me in the middle of nowhere and… I started to search the area. For the record, for my part, I had been calling all morning from my Ukrainian cell phone to the two phones that internet provided from the windclub, but without any success.
And finally, now, there are two notable moments, the first of which is that, while I was checking first-hand the inside of the spit and its mini-beach, I was able to witness, in a very short time, the sighting of two different specimens of what could be called: water snake.
Curious creature of approximately a little less than a meter in length by the thickness of a 20 cent euro coin that swam very close to the shore in the middle of completely transparent water but sticking its head out at intervals and… showing its jaws…
This, convinced me that it was unnecessary to kitesurf on that side of the spit, taking into account the amount of water that was also on the other side.
The second moment was the meeting with what seemed to be the person in charge of the windclub. This was a man in his fifties, speaking perfect Russian and not a word of English, mounted on a cart 2×2 hands in size and literally sawn in half at the hips, which made me understand, in his absolute conviction that I, despite the silly face I had while he was talking to me in Russian, I was understanding him but, however, I realized that yes, that was supposed to be the email@example.com, but no, nobody was going to come until the wind would pick up and build, the same thing that happens anywhere you kitesurf in this world…
The Brigantina resort, home of the windclub, with a kind of simple but practical little houses in which I deduced people should stay when they came to kitesurf.
THE WINDCLUB – BERDYANSK KITECLUB
Clarified this point, that is, nothing to expect from the kite/windsurfer community, at least for now, I decided to start looking for accommodation in the next area of the club.
Overcoming, as always, the understandable language barrier, I gradually discovered that… in many cases they did not rent, either because it was closed, because they were undergoing renovations, or because they simply did not feel like it.
There was a hotel where they asked me 50 US to spend the night. Further along the road heading back towards the city, I found another lodge where for 4 euros you could stay, but I was left wondering because although it was on the very first line of the beach -the water was barely 10 meters from the door of the room from the back – the cabin did not offer the slightest guarantee in terms of security, that is, a good sneeze could, without the slightest doubt, burst the latch on the door and thereby expose my personal property.
The atmosphere is getting darker by obscure clouds coming in…
To all this, total 0 wind and the atmosphere, slowly but progressively, with a pre-storm aspect that did not looked well. Until the storm suddenly started.
By then I was on the other side of the road hitchhiking, relying on the good disposition and kindness of heart of the few drivers who circulated in the beach-city direction and also in my exotic-tourist aspect, when… the storm came, but it didn’t happen as I knew it used to happen, Caribbean type, in which the wind precedes the black cloud and then comes the cloud and then comes the rain and… again the sun, no. That was not the Ukrainian procedure.
the cloud heralding the storm… of wind
In this case it was like this: The cloud arrived, very black, imposing, without bringing any wind that preceded it because… the wind was under the cloud! There, yes! It went from 0 knots to 40 knots, lifting up the sand on the beach as if someone had plugged in a giant fan and roughening the sea, which moments before had looked like a raft of oil, until it was all white with foam.
I couldn’t take a photo of it because at that precise moment I was already on my way to Berdyansk behind the tinted windows of a Fiat Tipo, bumping, at more than 130 km/h, taking without missing a single one of every pothole and unevenness of the road, in what I was still hesitant to interpret as a favor to a hitchhiker or a full-fledged kidnapping, given the gangster look, the laughter of the two guys and the conversation and the tone of it between them.
The windstorm was followed by rain, rain that I heard clinging on the methacrylate roof of the terrace of the Café at the bus station while I was waiting for them to serve me a combined plate of food that was hard for me to order, more than anything because they did not understand nothing that I told them, but that it cost me the innocent figure of 4 euros.
Anyway, not to bore you, in the end I found much more solid accommodation and also more reliable than the one on the beach in the vicinity of the bus station, for the same magic figure as the food, that is, 4 euros a day. Exactly located barely 200 meters from the backyard of the bus station and 100 meters from the city beach.
The day ended with me going to the nearest supermarket, guided by the boss’s son, a wonderful 12-year-old boy who, between his 4 words of English and my 20 of Russian/Ukrainian and my 100 words of Slovak, provided for a remarkable exchange of information , as well as for many laughs.
Later I put the fins and footstraps back on the boards in case it got windy tomorrow, then I had dinner in the company of 3 boarding house guests, all students, having a few beers until the sky that used to be full of stars was filled with clouds and a few lightning bolts followed by a good shower that put an end to the evening
The day dawns again without any wind, yes, the stormy aspect of yesterday has disappeared and an almost perfect blue skies greatly improves the general appearance of things.
During the rest of the day and faithful to the prediction, the wind does not appear except for some few knots at noon that didn’t give at all, barely 6 or 7 knots, to, after an hour or so, submerge in the most absolute calm.
It is curious how, sometimes the aspect of the water is confused in such a way with the color of the sky that one cannot tell where one begins and where the other ends.
where is the horizon line?
There were times when the water was so flat that those who were swimming, by taking their strokes and moving forward, made us think of a ball rolling on the surface of a cream pie. The heat was noticeable but today, I don’t think it was over 32 degrees.
Trying kitesurfing in the city itself -didn’t work-
Berdyansk beach. Photo of the beginning of the beach on the right side of the port The tower is already understood to be for jumping into the water but… what is the small green structure for? Well, to change clothes and put on the swimsuit without scandalizing anyone
Seeing that things weren’t getting any better, I spent the rest of the day buying packing tape and some kind of plastic wrap, to wrap the kite bag for when I will have to pack up again, and also bought a Russian-English dictionary that cost me the surreal figure of one euro and ten cents, that is 8 hrvnias.
Coincidentally, in the bookstore while I was buying the dictionary, I ran into the first person who really spoke fluent English since I arrived in the country.
What joy! It was a 16-year-old girl (and 1.80 tall) who accompanied me for the next two hours, time we spent on a terrace where, in addition to cold beer, they also served ice cream, which apparently was her main reason of living, along with practicing her English skills.
We spent a good time talking on topics of general interest such as the family, the economy and moral and religious values in their society, and in passing, we also talked about the different culinary cultures, school and university, in short, we talked a bit of about everything.
She went to eat with her family then I went to the beach, promising that we would see each other again another day to download some songs from my mp3 that left her very impressed, music that she did not know existed until that moment.
Later, I had a super meal at the station cafe, and I say super because since they didn’t understand anything I told them, they brought me more dishes than I had ordered, and of course, in order not to look ugly and reject the food plate , I had to eat everything
Well, that, after that I dedicated myself to the mere observation of human behavior in the area behind the bus stations in the countries of the East of Europe, mixed with pure introspection thinking about life, mine, that of others and the universe in general, and, also, to finish the first book that I had brought me, the short story Red Wind by Raymond Chandler.
BERDYANSK ITSELF – THE PROMENADE
At 7:00 p.m. I set off and took a long walk from one side of the city to the other end, taking advantage of the shadows cast by the trees along the streets and avenues and hearing the almost only perceptible noise, the song of the little birds that are everywhere and at all hours, sharing with my mp3 that has suddenly become rebellious and only lets me hear 40% of everything that was recorded, mysteries of science…
The walk ended on the beaches on the right side of the port, that is, where the Spit begins, and from there, following the seashore to what seems to be the part of the city that gathers all the animation from the afternoon and at night.
Gorkogo Avenue. A wide boulevard in which, in addition to the area where the most chic terraces in the city are located, there is a kind of amusement park and a promenade with benches, also a large stage, empty at the moment but where it seems that they have soirees from time to time, and all that, on the sea side, bordered by a stone fence where people sit to watch others go by
fishing at sunset
In short, a multitude of children with their mothers and fathers, many people of all ages strolling or sitting with beers in hand, flocks of boys and girls, walking or sitting on the benches along the promenade, most of them with their inevitable miniskirts and her superb pairs of legs everywhere.
In short, under a setting sun that painted everything red and gold and, the swarms of swallows chasing each other madly, the big trees on the boulevard and in the patios of the 1920s-type buildings that form the front on the opposite sidewalk, the people walking or sitting in groups, chatting, it created a retro picture of stillness, calm and harmony “made in the USSR” style, which is exactly what I expected to find when I came here.
Dusk in the port of Berdyansk
New day without wind… This is starting to be a bit unnerving, more than anything because I’ve brought everything I’ve brought, because if not, I could well forget about kitesurfing and dive deeper into the tourism side of the trip and meet more people, but it’s not what I wanted, at least this time.
I’ve brought my sailing gear and… I’m going to kitesurf as soon as the wind shows up somewhere, so… I decide to stay on guard and be prepared to go to the beach and set up the kite gear as soon as possible.
Instead of starting big excursions around the city or dedicating myself to visiting museums or churches, this day I stayed in the boarding house ordering the notes of what is going to be this diary, so after a while I get a little sleepy and take a … four hours nap!
I wake up seeing that the trees are moving a little, so I take the 13mts kite and the big board and head towards the beach closest to the pension, that is, the one on the right side of the port.
When I get there I measure gusts of 11 kts with the anemometer but on average 6 or 7 knots at most and the direction is onshore, so, although it seems that there is a little more wind further out, I take up positions in a bar on the beach and protected under a little tree on the terrace of the bar, I open a book and start reading… with one eye, while with the other I follow the light chop that reaches the shore and… wait.
Every time I go out to measure the wind until the shore, logically, I am the center of everyone’s attention, it is normal!
The guy is wearing the surfer hat (nobody wears a hat) and with the board and the kite bag, and to top it all off with that device up high,the wind anemometer I can’t help but arouse the general curiosity.
Some children, braver than the others, approach me, surrounding me, asking what that device is, I put it to one of their ears, but since they are not stupid, they realize that it is not a telephone and they all laugh.
The Gorkogo promenade
I almost finished the book halfway, it’s already 6pm and the wind, stubbornly, refuses to go up. I pick up the equipment, and with a rather sad countenance, I go again to the boarding house, took a shower and went to the internet cafe, which is in the Telephone Service building, in the middle of the city and about a 25-minute walk from the boarding house, there the forecast says that… finally tomorrow the wind is going to pick up.
I keep taking walks here and there, without haste or fixed direction, just walking, and in these I discover that in Berdyansk there is also a train station, although it is not the preferred method of transport, since it is the bus.
In fact, the apparent only meaning of the train station is to connect Berdyansk with what seems to be the capital of the province, which is Zaporidia.
The train station, discovered in one of my walks
Hoping that the forecast is correct and thus the possible future kitesurfing session tomorrow, I went to a new terrace and order dinner, a waitress half understands me in German and I conclude without problems, after this and hesitating between going to bed, although there was only 10 at night, or go for a walk, I opt for the latter and… what a good idea it was!
TONIGHT THERE IS A PARTY ON THE PROMENADE
When it seemed that it was going to be a lost day, unexpectedly… the surprise arrived! Taking a walk on Gorkogo Boulevard, I discover from afar that… something big is happening!
On the stage that was deserted yesterday, today there is a performance and in front of it there is a large number of people standing by to what is happening on stage. I can not believe it! A jazz concert, precisely, jazz funk!
Wonderful! After the group that was playing at that moment finished its performance and a new group started, I started a conversation with the trumpeter and then with the pianist, by the way, the latter, a monster of improvisation and who even, in later numbers , will accompany some girls singing … bossanova!.
Anyway! An incredible evening! Several groups passed through the stage, all of them of a very good level, especially the penultimate one that, with baritone, tenor and alto sax, trumpet, piano, bass and guitar, played a series of Spyrogyra-type songs, but with a somewhat less latin sound. , which were perfect!
Also the last group to play, were the students of the Berdyansk School of Music who, in the purest big band style, played their own version of Eumir Deodato’s classic: Also Spracht Zarathustra, a song from the 60’s, which caused a stir among the public, by the way, many of them understood, by the way they reacted to some of the improvisations of the soloists.
What a good night! The best of all so far. After that theme, there was a fireworks display to close the festival at 11 p.m. and after that I stayed chatting with some of the musicians and a couple of journalists (females), who gave for a few beers, an exchange of emails and the promise on my part to send them something from the mountain of bossanova, pagode and jazz songs that I have at home and of which many of them – hopefully, given that I had lived in Brazil for 6 years and I was and am very aware of the country’s music scene- they hadn’t even heard of it.
The pity was that since I didn’t expect anything like that and I’m also in a reserve plan because of the battery charger of my photo camera, I didn’t take the camera with me this time and therefore there is no graphic document of the concert, what a shame!
In the end, the day ended more than well, which shows that although it may not seem like it, sometimes, there is also life beyond kitesurfing, yes or … no?
Today Yes! … my wait was largely rewarded, it must be said, because I changed my strategy again and instead of waiting for the wind in the city, following my intuition from yesterday when something else seemed to be blowing on the outside … I left the city beach to look for wind further out, that is, towards the Spit, specifically to the far part, not the closest to the city but the one that does not appear on my map, near where the windsurfing station in Brigantina it was supposed to be.
Big breakfast and, as there is still no wind in sight anywhere, I arm myself with the 13 meters kite and the big kiteboard and after the consequent walk to the bus station, I take the number 15 to my destination.
I went upstairs and settle down with the board against the window of the bus and the bag with the kite on my lap, from the driver’s point of view, because today, as it’s Saturday, you can see that the collectors have a day off, I’m just a huge blue bag and behind it… a hat!
I paid a 2 hrv note and it returns received 50 kopecks… this works!
It seems that he doesn’t mind that I am loaded like a donkey, cool! When the bus is almost full, and after a wait of almost 15 minutes under a sun that almost makes smoke come out of the sheet metal, we start the trip.
When I calculate that I must more or less be in the area I am looking for, I intend to get off, they stop the bus for me and… I start to explore again.
This is the part of the Spit where the distance from one side to the other cannot be more than 70 or a little more meters, in fact, while I was observing the conditions on the right side, that is, the one with the snakes, I saw two guys who came walking knee-deep in water and pushing a boat with a raised 60-horsepower motor and leaving it stranded on the shore of sand and grass.
Through some inflatable rollers that they took from inside the same boat, five in total, they took the boat out of the water and, crossing the road, pushing it, they crossed to the sandy beach on the other side, that is, on the sea side and they returned to put again the boat into the water, an operation that in total did not take more than 4 or 5 minutes.
Well, on the side of the snakes, the conditions look great! Perfect flat water, and up to almost 100 meters in water does not cover more than the waist.
The wind, logically, from the side off direction. Checking the other side, I mean the civilized side, with sand, buildings and such, I notice that the wind seems to be rising, almost navigable, I measure on the anemometer and… 13 knots with gusts of 16 and more knots!
What a smile was drawn on my face … Finally! I rode at full speed and leave the kite bag with a group of youngsters who in turn helped me launch the kite.
The problem was that the beach on that side does not reach almost the length of the kitebar lines, which, given the direction of the wind, side on from the left, and as the water is deeper than on the other side, means that the lines can’t be fully extended, since after a few steps, the water reaches your neck, in addition, there were small waves that make me almost lose my balance.
It was not so easy to launch the kite into the air since to all those small but uncomfortable details, it was necessary to add that the children were making a mess with keeping the kite at the right angle, and that I had explained it to them three times . In the end I opted for them to let it go to 130 degrees and helped by the super depower, I launched the kite in full power position but without much problem.
TODAY YES – KITESURFING TO THE FULL
To all that it was already 10 am in the morning, the wind during the following two hours reached almost 20 knots and… what to say?
The whole beach for me. I went upwind, drifted, upwind again, downwind, ride waves and…jump, jump and jump some more…until I could not more.
A little before 1 pm I stop kitesurfing, because the wind had dropped a bit and also because I was starting to get very tired. I was helped to lower the kite by a guy who had been watching me and following me from the shore side for more than an hour, his name was Serguei and coincidentally -hence why he was following me- he was also a kite instructor, the only one in town.
He told me that in total there were 4 other kiters besides him and that he had some students, all on weekends. I accompanied him to the area where he teaches, which was exactly where I went on the first day of my first visit to the Spit. The place is called Bregantina and the silhouette of a brigantine sailboat is at the entrance of the complex.
There on the grass and on the small beach in front of the resort there were up to 10 windsurfers, all with large or… very large boards.
The kite teacher rode a 14m Slingshot Octane kite from year 2006 and I rode my 13m and… hit the water again!
Wait a minute… but… there are no snakes here? … Yes, but … they don’t do anything … also in Ukraine, wherever there is water and grass, there are snakes.
oh! Ok! What a relief! … Goodness! Since everyone was looking at me, it was not a matter of putting on a show and display any weakness, so I stop thunking about snake attacks and … jumped into the water.
I took a few steps and, trying not to show my apprehension, I stuck my butt in the water, Serguei let go of the kite and I went out like a rocket into the sea, making an effort to look as dignified as possible and not look down.
A few rides back and forth and I realized that nobody was doing the slightest interest about the snakes, so I had to break the promise I had made to myself a few days ago and carry on as if nothing had happened.
The session lasted three more hours, and as you moved away from the shore, the wind came in much cleaner and there were no more turbulences, once I went in a super long ride to an island that was about 2 kms in front, turned around and… kitesurfed back to the kite station. With much less chop than on the other side of the Spit and the wind between 14 and 18 kts.
In the water, Serguei, taking turns with his kite with a friend of his and I, in addition to the windsurfers, including one who spoke some Spanish because he had lived in Colombia for a time, had also been on vacation in Spain
He came from the capital of the region, Zaporidia to 200 kms in the interior. The navigation was not bad at all but I almost had a better time on the other side of the Spit, because of the swell and the ramps that formed.
Since resting meant getting close to the shore with the consequent possibility of the kite losing its wind and falling into the water and therefore walking up and down over possible coves of snakes, I only did it once, and that was to get hold of the bottle of water and drink it in one go and also take the camera and hang it around my neck to throw a couple of photos and see how the spot looked near the far island again.
When I was riding I was overtaking 100 kg windsurfers trying to ride with 8 meter sails while I passed them like a rocket, I had to seriously consider stopping for a while and regaining strength, more than anything, to give rest to the left knee that from so much jumping with a wide board under my feet is almost the same as jumping on a concrete base, and it was starting to annoy me.
After a brief analysis of the situation, I decided to stop on the opposite shore, that of the island, in the hope that the snakes would prefer the side of the surf station, both to live and to hunt ffor ankles of unhappy sailors.
Once on the other side, I lowed the kite to the limit, gently left it in the water, dragged it to the mini shore, put the board on top of it and grabbed the chicken loop with my hand, in case the kite decided to start flying on a unexpected return trip without me, and finally lay face up on the barely two meters of sand on the shore of the island.
Wonderful! What peace! What calm! … what …
what noise is that? … a motor?
I look up to see a jet ski heading towards me from the beach at the surf station at about the speed you’d go if someone told you your house was on fire. When he arrived at my side, he offered to take me back to the kitesurf station, I told him no, that it was not necessary and that thank you very much, SPASIBA, but that I could return by myself.
There, he stopped the engine and sat down next to me and informed me in super basic English that he also kitesurfed, that he had a 12-meter Crossbow 2006 and that since he weighed 100 kilos (like almost everyone) he had not ridden it and that he was waiting for tomorrow, that the forecast promised the wind was going to rise.
Anyway, after a while he got up and insisted on taking me, and I say no, I can do it on my own, he points to the clouds that are slowly covering the sun and says I won’t come back, and I, bighead, yes, I’ll be back, no problem!.
Since he was looking at me with the same face that you would look at a toad that is going to cross a highway at rush hour and I saw that he had taken a liking to me and was not going to leave me there alone, I took the side of the bet.
I tell him: Look, if I don’t come back, you rescue me and I’ll buy you a beer, but if I come back by myself… you pay a beer to me!
Then he agreed, he put the jet ski in gear and before plugging it full to the other shore, in his bad English, he smiled at me and over the roar of the engine he yelled at me: I like beer! … and he left.
Well, he was right because the wind had dropped and it was noticeable to the naked eye once you had moved a few hundred meters from the shore. After a while, and as I got closer to the other side, I realized that I had drifted quite a bit, so… again, back trying to ride as much upwind as possible towards the island.
How the jet ski guy must have been laughing! In a mega effort I managed to get to the same point from where I had started, there with the kite at about 40 degrees above the water, I started walking upwind and made about 300 meters in the hope that at least I would get just a little more downwind than where I had originally come out when entering the water at the surf station, but… there was nothing to do, the drift, although smaller than before, was inevitable.
You have to see how, sometimes, out of necessity, one loses respect for a snake! Serguei came to help me and since there was almost no shore in that part, the last 100 meters that separated us from the kite station we did on foot and with water up to our knees.
Once safe and on land, we continue talking about various things, such as the different ways to approach a kitesurfing course, kite brands, boards and such. The one on the jet ski, a full-fledged gentleman, before getting on his powerful all-terrain vehicle (like almost all the other sailors) approached with two beers in hand and said goodbye until tomorrow.
the group of kitesurfers, the one from the jet sky the almost bald one from the center
And more or less that was it. I started back on bus number 15, by the way, as several passengers half spoke some broken English, in view of my exotic appearance, they established a round of questions about who I was, where I came from, what that board was for and why I was there.
Good people all of them. Already in the bus station cafe I ordered something to eat, this time helped by the translation skills of a couple of young Moroccans who were studying at the city’s medical university and since they spoke French (and I do too) they made it very clear everyone what I intended to eat.
As usual, the waitress was wrong. Where I had ordered a chicken breast, she brought me a whole chopped chicken, and a salad without cucumber corresponded with a salad… with a lot of cucumber; but since I’m getting used to it, it wasn’t a bid problem and, between myself and a little dog that always comes to help me with the food when he sees me at the station restaurant, we managed the feast without major problems.
Back to the boarding house, shower, trip to the internet, stopped by the 24-hour supermarket to buy things to prepare breakfast for the next day and… to bed at 10 p.m. I had already earned it.
The temperature has dropped, the day begins cloudy and windless, at 10 am I’m already on the Spit beach but it also starts to rain, I take shelter in the Russian hotel, the one with 50 US per night; on the terrace facing the sea and covered under a large awning, something is being celebrated.
A group of more than 60 people eat, drink and some even sing. Later I will discover that some are Russians, others Georgians and the majority are Ukrainians from inland cities, who have come to spend the day on a bus tour.
In a group, in the background, there is one guy who plays the guitar and sings typical local or Russian songs. The rain loosens up a bit but it continues to rain like hell.
The day looks like little expectation of wind, so I keep watching what happens and almost without realizing it, after a while, I am integrated into the group of celebrants.
When the musician leaves the guitar and goes for a walk in the rain embracing a couple of guys from the group and some girls, the instrument, abandoned on a chair, lasts a short time in silence.
A girl, by the way very good looking, with almost red hair, blue eyes and a smile of dismantling the security system of a safebox, apart from some spectacular curves, guitar type, takes the guitar and starts playing , singing along with a friend sitting next to her who is of little or no difference in beauty.
I’m timidly approach, like someone who doesn’t want the thing and when he’s finally on the third song attempt, we exchange eyes. I indicate with my hand if I can try it too. As it turns out she spoke some English, we struck up a conversation.
Typical surprise, like everyone else’s, when she discovers that I am Spanish, they have never seen a Spaniard here; Anyway, I started playing the chords of a bossanova, the one from the Girl from Ipanema, in case they knew the song, which was not the case, and I even played a couple more songs, to finish with some chords of flamenco rumba.
By then, the musician had returned to the table to pour himself another glass of vodka and was watching me from behind in silence. He freaks out with my chords and with the songs I play. He sings, as the French say, at the top of his voice, while I, like the bossanova, half speak, half sing, since I’m hardly even heard in the midst of the general noise.
The group dissolves after a while, the beautiful ones to eat, the musician on his guitar and myself to eat a sandwich that I had brought in case I got hungry
fishing under the soft rain
It has stopped raining completely and walking along the shore I discover a large number of dead fish, some floating, others already on the shore, apparently due to the heat of the last few days and the lack of oxygen in the water. It must be so because in this area there is no industry of any kind that can dump toxic substances into the water.
The beach, surprisingly in that area, is not sandy, it is a kind of tidal wave of millions of mini clam shells, which are the ones that act as sand. Surprising at all points. I had never seen such a thing in my life.
Despite the fish massacre, as I said before, some are fishing with rods and one… with bare hands! … Her wife, from the top of a small jetty, was catching the fish his husband was throwing as they fly towards where she was standing.
On the terrace, to the discreet sounds of a James Brown CD, the gathering dissolves. Some are interested by my anemometer, which shows between 7 and 10 knots of onshore direction, perhaps because of the big clouds that can be seen offshore. One comes up and gives me a bottle of wine, everyone almost stop to have a final look at me and many greet me as they leaved.
As the wind seems to be rising and on that side of the beach the strip of sand is quite narrow, I decide to go to the other side of the road, to the Brigantina to see what happens there.
Just arriving, I see activity, these vultures have sniffed something, two of them are already inflating the kites while several windsurfers also hastily prepare their gear.
One of the kiters is riding an 18 mts, the others a 12 mts; I start with my own kite but by the time I have extended the lines, the wind seems to have picked up quite a bit. Out towards the sea it looks like there are twenty many knots, the sideoff direction but on the right side, that is, the opposite of yesterday.
The one from the 18 mts kite gives up and starts pumping a 12 mts, a Gaastra hybrid type, from 2007, the guy owner of the jetski, he tries to launch his 12 mts Crossbow.
But since the turbulence and the gusts are quite terrible on the shore, the kite falls apart in the air and falls into the water, converted into a total mess.
He begins to mount it all again while the one from Gaastra kite, who has had more luck, moves away in the distance, propulsed like a devil and raising a jet foil-type foam in his wake as he rounded the large pier.
The novice windsurfers and the rest of the crew that has been left on land, look at me with the face of “poor tovarich, it seems that he lacks balls” because they see that I am thinking about it.
I take a few steps along the shore and measure gusts of 26 kts with the anemometer. Whoops! and me only with the 13 meter kite and the big board, but who was going to say this morning with the look of no wind that the day had.
Hmmm… what to do? On the internet, the kite website said that the maximum above that model was to be used it was just 22 kts, something more in the hands of an expert. How should I consider myself?
Look, these two guys go with 12 meters and one weighs 100 kgs and the other will not weight less than 85 kgs. I put the lateral lines in the outermost node, I brake it to the limit and, more fearing an inversion because of how loose they lines were, which, due to a gust of wind, I got into the water.
I placed the kite in the water with the leading edge facing me, I pour water inside it so that it does not rise on its own and I let it go away from me, offshore wind tactics, once in the maximum extension of the lines, I start to pull one of the sides, the kite turns, catches wind, I keep pulling and rolls at 90 degrees getting up calmly, I put on the board and I start riding like a bullet
What incredible depower that kite has! how do you eat the wind gusts! At first timidly and then more confident, I begin to navigate and did a few jumps …as the gust catches you when you hit it up, even without jumping to the fullest, you fly away like a leaf on a tree in a gale day … what a jumps !
The wind dropped somewhat and was in the 20-24 knots, I sail with much more control but I still have plenty of board, mmm … if I had the small board with me I would feel much more confident.
Later Sergei join us with his 80 plus kgs and his Octane 14 kite and… all of them at full speed. The session lasted three hours or more, and, little by little, the wind dropped and stayed at 16-20 kts. When I got tired, I kept practicing the water relaunch with the water up to my waist, once I had fully overcome the snakes issue.
As I have earned their respect they are all great to me, one of them offers to take me back to the city in his car and offers to pick me up tomorrow at the boarding house at 10 a.m to bring me again to the kite station because he showed me on the screen of his mobile, and I don’t know how he did it, the windguru page as seen on the computer screen and the forecast for tomorrow announces 20 knots for the rest of the day.
Night falls slowly over Berdyansk
UKRAINA III / a kitesurfing story
This is the last episode of the trip in which the last kite sessions and other details about the country are explained
Throughout the night the wind was blowing wildly and the day dawned gray but wind was still strong. At 10 o’clock my new yesterday’s kite colleague, whose name is Valera, was already waiting with his car in front of the pension. We set up my gear, this time I took the two kites and the small board, and we headed off to the beach.
As the temperature had changed a lot, I left the beach outfit behind and put on 2 shirts, long pants and even shoes and socks, it must have been 16 degrees at that time.
Before arriving at the Spit we stopped for a moment at one of his shops, a sports shop with several rooms where he sold everything from homemade jogging equipment to wind and kite equipment.
Upon arriving in Brigantina, the Gaastra guy, the other kite colleague could already be seen in the distance, offshore and really kitesurfing at full speed, but as when coming on the way, in some sections of the road, the beach and the inviting sea could be seen, quite choppy and with waves, I convinced Valera to go and take a look at the end of the Spit, where the beach was big enough to mount the kites and catch well-formed waves along the way.
Valera, pumping his kite on the beach at the end of the Spit
Indeed, shortly before where the Spit begins to curve we stopped and start rigging our kites. He mounted his Vision 10 meters kite and me, my 8 mts Starkite and since there was no one to help us to launch our kites and were blowing 25 or more knots, he lifted the kite for me and I, with the kite on the other side of the wind window, lifted his kite for him.
Waves where yesterday there was almost flat water
Later, the surface of the water was even more chaotic and sometimes the waves that we were facing were big. As the wind, sometimes rose three or four knots more, Valera went riding almost uncontrolled because his kite besides it was obvious that he was not used to those water conditions, as all local kiters prefer offshore conditions and the almost flat waters of Brigantina.
It must have been because of that because, slowly, but he was drifting between the frequent falls and splashes that he suffered and because he could not but drifting unavoidably, so, after an hour and a half, it was not possible to see him anymore because he was downwinded and reaching almost the end of the Spit.
In the end, he came out by himself, lowered the kite and walked back to the point where we had started sailing, which took him more than half an hour because I was watching him from the water.
I even went to the shore to give him my camera that I was having hung around my neck so he could shoot me a couple of souvenir photos. My ride lasted another hour and when I got tired, he helped me landing my kite and we returned to the car, crossing paths of sand and bushes.
Although Valera doesn’t speak any English, we half understood each other in Slovak-Ukrainian and mimic, enough to get by. Already in the car he asks: TCHO? what? … and I tell him… Brigantine! with a smile.
Well… we arrived at the station, we got on and he was the first to enter the water; this time it was clear that he was more in control, he threw jumps and even some ralleys, there was still the guy of the Gaastra kite, Kalia, who had not stopped since we saw him firstly since the beginning of the kitesurfing session.
Since there was no one to help me launch the kite, I did the same auto launch from the water as last time and joined the group. At that time, although on the shore it seemed that there was much less wind, outside it was blowing more than 30 kts, so with the 8 meters kite fully depowered I did a few mega-long rides to where the water park is located, I don’t know the distance but at minus 4 or 5 km; at full speed and hitting some ramps and performing some remarkable jumps but somewhat uncontrolled by the speed although very long and well sustained jumps.
About an hour later, the two colleagues had left and Valera also had stopped kitesurfing because he was riding overpowered and he hardly rode 50 meters without the gusts taking him flying and stamping him against the water, uncontrolled to the fullest, 10 meters forward, in the middle of a tremendous splash.
Me, with the kite depower pulled at full and the bar at the highest (and that kite can be riden in 36 kts) I still kitesurfed half an hour more, so with 2 more hours of sailing in the body and my knees shaking and without feeling my arms due to to the effort, I reached the beach of the station, I lowered the kite by myself pulling the quick release, picked up everything and went home.
Note that, despite the fact that it is a bow type kite and supposedly has full depower, the advantages of a 5 line is more than evident when landing it.
FATIGUED BUT… LIFE IS STILL OUT OF THE WATER
By 5 pm I was back home, the rest of the day I spent walking around with the girl who spoke English and a friend of hers. Then, visit the internet and finally had dinner at the station Café chatting with the staff that received me the first day and with whom I had not met again.
The truth is that so much kitesurfing is beginning to take its toll on me, I have two open wounds, one on each foot, a souvenir from my first sailings in Sopino, also a nail on my right foot that is turning black due to some hit I had taken and I don’t know how or when, with what I can’t stand the shoes on my feet, so I go everywhere with my flip flaps.
At night I slept between 10 and more hours but I woke up shaken, although I don’t even think about it and I go back for more, yes, I know I will have to stop soon because between one thing and another, in the last days I have kitesurfed 15 or more hours, well… there are only two days left and the wind is supposed to drop tomorrow.
The day began without clouds and a blue ski like that of the skies of the Canary Islands, the temperature was more typical of the time, that is, 18-20 degrees and perhaps rose to 25 degrees at noon. The wind blowing from the same direction as the last few days, around 16 knots and me… feeling really beaten down and with little desire of going for sport.
I spent the morning doing a couple of purchases, getting lost in the city streets and the public market, bought a couple of maps, one of the Crimean peninsula and the Black Sea in case I decide to come back again in October.
Below this line, a seller of sun-dried fish in the Berdyansk market
I took a couple of photos and walk a long walk along the seashore enjoying the view of the local life style and people around.
At 2:00 p.m., after eating I went to… bed again, which after walking for more than 5 hours without stopping, with the muscular fatigue that I drag, was the right thing to do… and a little nap came in handy.
In the evening, I checked my emails and read on the internet about what is happening in the world, kitesurfing world and the rest of the world, and I had dinner on a quite chic terrace in a park next to the university.
The truth is that there are some very attractive restaurant terraces, several on the Gorkogo promenade, which is the promenade facing the sea and is where one always ends up when it comes to meeting someone, socializing, seeing and being seen and, in general, just stroll.
Among other things, on the promenade there was: a group of kids doing break dance demonstrations in the middle of a good group of spectators and the most curious thing… without music, sometimes only with the rhythmic clapping of hands of those who watched.
Further on, in a kind of open-air karaoke, under one of the promenade’s pergolas, people sang about typical Ukrainian songs. Nearby there were some boys and girls with some animals on top of the cages in which they were to be transported.
They had three white doves that coquettishly showed their tails open like a fan and somewhat raised, also a couple of bunnies, a beautiful cat, letting themselves be caressed and even an alligator a little less than a meter long that a girl held in her arms.
And around the place, enjoying the look of the animals, groups of children with their parents, the dominant species on the boulevard along with the continuous parade of miniskirts, of course, which took the animals in their arms and caressed them. All the animals together and mixed without fear of each other, rather feeling being the stars of the moment.
Also, later on, a guitar and panpipe duo, singing in Spanish, at the end of one of their songs I addressed them and they were two Ukrainians who had traveled for a long time through Peru and Bolivia and who were already back in their land and dressed in typical costumes of those two countries, they played in the street selling their CD’s. They were delighted to be able to practice their Spanish with me.
Later, while I was sitting in front of the sea, seeing how almost in the dark, a group of young people, probably from a school, were bathing, playing and laughing, two ladies approached me to ask me to take a photo of them, they were from Berdyansk, had lived in Switzerland for several years, so we had a good chat in German about the city and details of people’s lives and talked a bit of almost about everything
Actually at some point in the conversation they admitted having seen me days ago kitesurfig on the beach during my first session, apparently they were part of the improvised group of spectators who from the beach cheered me with their Aaaaaahs! and Oooooohs! and Wow! every time I rode close to where they were. They say they instantly recognized that I was a foreigner because in such a temperature, no Ukrainian would have worn a wetsuit, like me.
And… back home, walking almost half an hour through the dimly lit streets, in total silence, with no one in sight and under a totally starry sky observing from above the peace that reigned below.
Last day of my kite vacations in Ukraine. Again the day dawns blue and beautiful, the temperature like yesterday and the wind again from ENE but rather over 20 knots for sure.
Breakfast like a beast and headed towards the Spit again, I took the two kites and the small board but instead of getting off where I always did, this time I did it several bus stops before at the piece of beach that could be seen next to the road.
When I saw the 24 kts that were blowing and that formed some good waves rolling up to the beach. There were almost no charge left in the battery of the camera, hence there are only four more photos to finish this report.
I rode with the 8m kite and with the help of a bunch of guys which were watching everything, I launched the kite and hit the water. It was 10 o’clock and the wind was side-on direction, the waves, in fact, were as good or better than the day before and the first ride of the day lasted until half past 12 when hesitating whether to ride the 13 or stop, out of sheer exhaustion, I decided to stop.
As there was no one else in sight than a couple of girls lying sunbathing, topless by the way, there was no choice but to ask them for help to help me landing the kite, one of them put on the top part of her bikini and held the kite without problems, because on that side, the beach, which is not very wide, is right next to the road.
As a token of my gratitude, I bought them a couple of ice creams and we stayed talking for a while; they were 18 years old, one of them spoke English, they were from Zaporidia and they were spending a couple of days on the coast.
When they went to eat I launched the kite and I kitesurf again until 3:30 p.m. The wind had picked up so I didn’t change kite size and… more of the same, upwind, going down long rides surfing the waves for more than 2 km, jumping, jumping and jumping more until I ran out of strength again.
I decided to stop kitesurfing also because I had to let the harness and wetsuit get dry since when I got to the boardinghouse I had to pack things for the return trip. Logically, as I said before, there are no photos of any of this. The camera battery had already given its last energy and I could only take a photo ocasionally by shutting off it and waiting a couple of hours.
To get back I hitchhiked because I missed the bus but I was picked up by one of those typical mothers and her son, she was 30 years old and the boy was 5. She, and even at the expense of being reticent from repeating myself so much, was gorgeous and looked like a top-model.
They were from Kharkov, a city more to the northeast and they were staying just for two days of vacation on the coast. How can anyone do 500 + 500 km to spend two days at the beach? … that requires really a strong desire to see the sea.
They brought me to the bus station where the sentimental farewell of the staff of the station cafe took place along with a great meal, one of those of not being able to stand up from the chair.
Anyway… tomorrow it’s time to return to Spain, 5 hours by bus and three planes later to get to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria at 2 am on Friday, let’s hope that this time they don’t lose any of my luggage items on the flight back home
A policeman ticketing a driver. Note the indifference to the queue of cars that is forming behind. He goes about his business and if he paralyzes half the city by raising money for the unfortunate driver, well… he doesn’t really cares.
street on the way to the market
A FEW LAST NOTES ON WHAT WE SEEN AND LIVED
There has been fourteen whole days plus one to get there and one to fly back, during all that time I haven’t seen any European or American tourists, only Russians, Ukrainians and some Georgians.
With the language I have not had insurmountable problems but it is evident that a better base of Russian, at least, would have made things easier. The fault … mine, that I was leaving everything for the last day.
I even thought about buying an electronic translator, the normal ones were around 100-120 euros, the ones you can talk to for 250-300, but in the end I didn’t buy any, trusting my knowledge of Slovak and the fifty words of Russian that I learned badly by the way
The most notorious pergola of the Gorkogo promenade
The currency is the hryvnia, it was worth then approximately one euro = six hryvnias and there are ATMs everywhere. The price of things is generally cheap for us, for them, of course, very expensive.
A normal salary can be from 1,000 to 1,200 hrvnias per month, although there are people who earn more depending on their jobs. The differences in per capita income are of a Third World level.
The price of things: a litre and a half bottle of water is worth 1.50 or 2 hrivnias; a litre of gasoline 4.5 hrivnias, although many people carry gas in the car, a litre of milk 3-4 hrivnias, a can of tuna fish 6 hrivnias, a beer in a supermarket 3 hrivnias, in a bar 5 hrivnias, a urban bus ride 1.50 hrivnias, a meal in a normal restaurant 25 hrivnias, in one with more pretensions, easily 50 or 60.
To lodge, I paid for a komnata or room on a pension for 25 hrivnias in the city but 100 meters from the beach front, the same accommodation in the Spit can cost 50 or 80 US a day.
Photo of the most modern cinema in Berdyansk
You see people with beers on their hands at any time of the day and almost anywhere, although I only saw some drunk guys in front of a single brewery and it was when it was getting dark. Almost everyone smokes
Everyone has a mobile phone and when I say everyone, I mean everything that moves except dogs and pigeons; the rates are not very expensive.
You see old and new cars, the Lada type Seat 124 is by far the most common, one of them is worth over 1000 US dollars but quite often you see all-terrain vehicles that cost 40 and up to 60 thousand US dollars, that is, the salary of a worker for a period of 30 years
One of the main streets of Berdyansk
The streets in general are in an acceptable condition, there are trees on almost all the sidewalks, some streets are very wide and there is not much traffic, almost not any traffic at all after 8:00 p.m. When walking on the sidewalks you have to pay special attention to the roots of the trees that often raise the pavement, being the easiest thing in the world to stumble and even twist an ankle.
Besides the central streets, street lamps were scarce, perhaps one lamp every 100 meters
At no time did I see any bad vibes or strange people or fights or even angry people. People seem soft and polite, they speak quietly and are unobtrusive.
With regard my person, sometimes on occasions, although I caused some interest, either because of the kitesurfing gear I was carrying with me, or because of my surfer hat or, when I wasn’t wearing it, because of my appearance of being from somewhere else, people pretended not to look at me directly, especially on public buses, so unless I struck up a conversation, nobody looks at you like you’re a freak.
In general almost nobody speaks English, even less other languages apart from Russian, young people understand some English sometimes but at a very basic level, except university students.
You see everywhere a lot of young people and much less older people. There are also a lot of children, especially babies and up to 3 or 4 years old, walking everywhere with their moms or dads. There were also a lot of little birds, but many, many of them; the air is full of their chants until night falls and the winged singers get up quite early, at 4 in the morning with the first lights they start their concert
The pension in which I stayed during my stay in Berdyansk
Regarding taxi drivers, as expected, they are all unpresentable and top-notch gangsters. For a ride that costs 5 or 10 hrivnias they will ask you for 40 or 50 without blinking, They have no heart! I felt sorry about myself more than anything, because I’ve had to walk a lot, but before giving any money to one of those gangsters, I prefer to give it to a poor passing by person.
Older people are often seen rummaging through the bins, looking for something of value, preferably glass, though, apart from beer cans and, coincidentally, sometimes a one-liter beer bottle-type glass cullet , but to their bad luck, most of the bottle containers are made of plastic.
On the beaches there are almost no litter bins, which means that one finds the street bin containers full to the brim and part of the rubbish fallen on the pavement around the bins… a sad fact indeed
Of the girls, I think I’d said it before, they are very pretty, and in general, you are running into an aspiring to top model every minute, it is something that even if you do not want, it does not stop surprising you. But almost all, if not all of them, have a boyfriend.
Frequently something like what happened to me in New York happened here, when Hispanics refer to the dollar there they call it “peso”, here the hryvnia is still called “ruble”, so it is normal that when you ask, for example, a bus driver how much it is, he answers with: Rubl peydesiat or ruble fifty, even so, one ruble is the equivalent of 1.87 hrv.
Although the country is modernizing and opening up to the outside world little by little, there is a big difference between the economy of the eastern half and the western half, those of the east are generally poorer and are less Europeanized and more Russian.
You see a lot of 1920s-type buildings and a lot of communist-type apartment blocks, also in cars and in people’s hairstyles or clothes you can see that laid-back style everywhere.
On the return trip they made it, they dared to lose my boards again. Two days later they took them to the door of my house. Highlight the impeccable customer service of Lufthansa that took care of everything. Without a doubt, Lufthansa is the way for those who decide to visit that part of Ukraine.
The kites I took with me: a 13 and a 8 mts STARKITES 2007 model
The boards… 127×39 SHAPES and 145×48 CRAZY-FLY
Night falls over the city, the last day of my stay and the last photo of this report.
And… well, I can’t think of anything else, ah! Yes! I haven’t mentioned Arkady, he was the one who helped me buy my bus ticket to Donetsk. At the bus stations, the ticket sellers don’t speak a damn thing and they don’t really care to understand you, so, since they don’t understand you they simply ignored me.
Well, Arkady solved the translation issue for me, he bought the ticket -with my money, of course-. Arkady was an English teacher at the university and he was from Kazakhstan, so, as he seemed as a good sourse of further information, and talking about different issues, he told me that his country is 1200 km from there and nature is wonderful, the Ural mountains , lakes, rivers, forests, huge mountains…
.- Hey… and… is it windy in your country?
.- Wind? Have you ever heard of the Caspian Sea? The steppe? The Cossacks?
.- Well… yes, it wasn’t that thing about Miguel Strogoff and stuff…
.- Yes, the steppe is a kind of desert and there, winds are constant and rather strong.
.- The Caspian Sea did you say? … wow … how interesting and … there will be perhaps a city nearby in to the Caspian Sea, a summer resort, you know, those little houses near the beach where people go to spend the summer, away from the heat of the city to enjoy the water and where good wind blows? …
.- Well … yes
But… I think maybe that will be another story…