Jeffrey Andreoni and Giulio D’Eramo paddled Ukraine’s Dnieper River in 2012. As the country they came to love faces its greatest crisis of this century, we take a look back at their journey and the people they met along the way.
Part II: Ukrainian Hospitality
By Jeffrey Andreoni and Giulio D’Eramo
With our drybags packed we get picked up by Pavel early Friday morning and stock up on essential supplies at a supermarket. Then we stop at the “largest book vendor market” in the world to get maps.
Once back at the factory where our boat is getting made, we go over the trip in more detail and try to understand how all our bags will fit in the kayak, called a baidarka here in Ukraine. Eugene assures us they will all fit.
Our baidarka comes with a sail, which is something of a novelty for Giulio and me. As we prepare to launch, Eugene asks if we have any sailing experience. Once, we say, when we were kids. We shove off and the last thing Eugene says is, “I am not worried for you”.
We begin to realize that we might be the first people to try this sailing baidarka prototype. Is it even legal? We sail off happier than ever. By the time we reach Kiev the wind completely dies down and with the lateral pontoons that are necessary for sailing, there is limited space for paddling. We separate one of the paddles into two and both go for it. We have to do at least 40 kilometers a day if we are to reach Odessa by the end of the month.
Our friends start emailing photos and descriptions of the Olympic mayhem in our hometown of London. The crowds, the problems with public transport and how you have to pay so much if you actually want to see the Olympics. We don’t regret being out on the water. That night we land on Ol’gin island (south of Kiev) by moonlight and begin to set up camp. Immediately, we are welcomed to the island of “friendship” by our neighbors and join in on an Olympic round of vodka drinking and shashlyk eating.
Konstantin, our neighbor to the right, starts telling us about the opposite bank of the river and how it used to be so beautiful and wild before the “bandits” came and bought all the land. They built a massive wall along the river to protect their audacious mansions from… fishermen stopping to rest,.
The next day we are woken up by Vasya (neighbor to the left) who will not let us rest. He insists we join him and his family for breakfast. He gives us a brief tour of his summer dwelling and tells us how many people from Kiev spend their entire summer there, sometimes until November.
We leave the island and head for Ukrainka, our next stop. The river becomes more beautiful the further we go, fishermen dozing off on anything that flows are scattered along the shores, awoken only by the roaming engines of the few “new” Ukrainians showing off their posh speedboats/jet-skies.
We park the baidarka at a wharf and remove the sailing apparatus. The wind is against us now, so it will be straight kayaking from here on out.
Follow Jeffrey and Giulio’s Ukrainian River Odyssey
Episode 1: Olympic Refugees
Episode 2: Setting Sail
Episode 3: Welcome to Ukrainka
Episode 4: A Day in Town
Episode 5: Hornets
Episode 6: The Yacht Club
Episode 7: The Shortcut
Episode 8: Snakes
Episode 9: The Dam
Episode 10: Take Out