On The Road: Mangup
Nearly whole yesterday I spent on my bicycle. Together with two friends we covered some serious distance of perpetual hills and valleys, while heading to Mangup mountain which is famous for its height and defensive constructions on the top. Crimea is an extremely mountainous region and it’s a big luck to find a hundred of meters of a completely flat surface.
We started early in the morning an about ten kilometers behind our backs decided to take first pictures. Mainly of ourselves. Aleks is on the left and Taras is on the right. In both pictures I’m the one behind the camera.
Our path meandered through several villages to a couple of small lakes with tourist camps all around them at the foot of the mountain. Crimean views are always breathtaking: hills gently covered with woods, sharp rock cliffs and deep dark valleys.
We were there for the first time and no one of us could tell the way. Yes, we had the map, but it’s obvious that only the main roads are marked on it. No one has infinity to trace all paths and put them on paper. This is where we got into trouble. Once we got to the foot of the mountain we started asking everyone how to get to the top. The choice of versions and the contradictions between them were frightening. So we decided to move on bit by bit evaluating the path with advices and own gut feelings. This is exactly how we found ourselves deep in the woods.
The beginning was easy and quite promising. We moved quite fast and the slope was gentle. Needless to say that the flora and fauna inside the woods has very little resemblance with what you see from the outside. It’s quite different chilly world with its whispers and dark corners.
The deeper we got, the less birds we saw and heard, the closer the trees were to each other and the harder it was to clear the path. Every ten meters we expected to see the top as it became only harder to move on. For some time we enjoyed the solitude and found time to take pictures …
… but later, as we went further, things changed dramatically. You wouldn’t believe how steep the slope was; no less than 60-70 degrees. I’m really sorry I have no pictures of this nightmare. During those rare moments when I managed to fix my location with a bicycle on my back, I was making desperate attempts to shoot the surrounding, but none of the attempts seemed to reflect the extreme conditions and fear we experienced.
An hour and a half later we finally got to the top. The Victory! We are at the top making several deep breaths. It’s quite clear to everyone we aren’t going to get back the same way or somebody is going to get killed.
We stayed at the top for several hours, having a meal and some good invigorating rest. Surprisingly there were not very many tourists. We talked to a group from Chehia and saw several groups from Russia.
When we were couple of hundreds of meters below I had found a Frisbee. We decided it would have a long flight down from the very top when we’d got there. After a brief nap we played with it a bit. Well, it was an extremely strange feeling. Three guys from Sevastopol playing Frisbee at the top of the world. It had quite unusual emotional value.
Then the last memorial Frisbee flight time came. I took my camera and made several shots. It flew, flew and flew; sheer infinity passed until the yellow plastic disk disappeared in the woods below. What a flight it was!
As a trophy, we took some more pictures of ourselves standing on the highest cliff in the nearby area. Now you have a chance to see me as Aleks gladly agreed to help me with the camera. We spent time exploring the cliff as it appeared to be a part of some defensive structure with tunnels and ladders.
At that moment we didn’t know what a crazy downhill ride would it be to get back from the mountain. There were some jeeps going down that we can follow to find more civilized way and we gladly used this opportunity. Near the top the road was straight and in very good condition. With the drop of an altitude the quality became worse and worse. It seemed that endless rains had damaged the surface badly. I accelerated once and a second later found myself on the ground with a bicycle over my head. Nothing serious though, just that my brakes didn’t mean anything on a sandy track.
On the way up I had noticed one stone on the side of a road. It’s hard to tell the story behind it. Maybe some local tourist guide knows, but honestly speaking I doubt it.
The way back home was a lot faster. A store in one of the villages gave us enough water and ice cream (yeah!) to quench our thirst and it took only several hours to get back to civilization. At last, in the evening, we happily got back to the point where we had started the journey early in the morning. Everyone was tired, dirty, yet absolutely delighted.
Here’s the final shot! Incredible skies, incredible mood!
P.S. I didn’t have time to prepare a map with a route for this post, but I promise to do this in the next post. I guess, it would be interesting.