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THE FRIGID SECRETS OF UKRAINE

Three Polish friends prove that bikepacking and packrafting trips are not just for summertime. OK, maybe they are.

In the last days of February we set out for a bikerafting trip to the majestic canyons and valleys of the Western Ukraine’s Dniester River. We chose the town of Zalishchyky as our starting point, surrounded as it is on three sides by an arc of the meandering river.

What was planned as a four-day self-supported bikerafting tour quickly turned into a fascinating exploration of a neighbouring society, a true parallel universe if you will, and its beautiful human souls.

There’s a sense of abandonment or neglect in these villages, frozen in time some three or four decades ago. Many, usually young, people have left the rural countryside for the lure of the cities. And yet the abundance of flowers decorating the windows hints at the beautiful character of the people who remain.

Having slept in tents for two nights at -11 ͦC, we couldn’t resist the persistent invitations of local shopkeepers, Ivan and Maria, to stay at their place. The vision of a hot bania (sauna) and homemade supper made it clear that we weren’t spending a third night in the tent. _ere goes the ‘self-supported’ part of the trip.

The royal breakfast next morning would nourish even the hungriest of ghosts. Aromatic chicken broth with noodles, pork chops, potato purée, accompanied by cottage cheese pancakes and cakes. It wouldn’t be a Slavic country without a sea of homemade moonshine and an ocean of stories – a perfect foundation for the coming day in the saddle.

After all the goodbyes and thanks, it occurred to me that this is what bike trips have always been about – the bike is just a helpful tool for a deep and heartful exploration of nature and our beautiful fellow humans.

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About Singletrack

Editorial: Echo Chambers International Adventure: Folgefonna Sunrise UK Riding: Guiding Light Column: Jason Miles International Adventure: You Should Never Go Back… Or Should You? Interview: Chris Akrigg Column: Finding The Lines Classic Ride: Cornish Classic Column: Ode To Climbs Bike Test: Staff Rides Interview: Cedric Gracia International Adventure: What’s Zermatt’er With You? Column: One Last Run International Adventure: The Frigid Secrets Of Ukraine Last Word: Game Plan