Four days in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

It all started, as always, when my friend and I decided to visit the Exclusion Zone.

Our plan for the trip included visiting Pripyat, Duga, Volkhov and walks through the wilderness. So, he came over to my place and we started getting ready.

We spent all our money on food and equipment, and we had none left to pay for the bus, so we decided to hitchhike to Ivankovo and then see how it goes.

People kind and fair are everywhere, and 15 minutes later we were sitting in a car.

From Ivankovo we walked to the turn for Starye Sokoly, with my friend constantly trying to hitch a ride and even tried to thumb two police cars that were heading towards Dityatki.

Finally, we got on a bus at the turn, paid 3 grivna for the ride and at 5 p.m. we arrived at the Kovalyovka village.

At the village, an old lady politely inquired if we were going to the exclusion zone, we told her that we came to hang out with some friends and helped her to get water from a well.

We got through the barbed wire.

Then everything went as usual: the wilderness, more barbed wire, the woods.

When we were in the vicinity of the road that connects Terekhov and Rassokha, we heard the sound of a siren coming from the direction of Rassokha.

It went on for about five minutes and then a helocopter was circling the skies above the area for a while.

When we were approaching the road, we noticed a guy on a bicycle that was going towards Terekhov, so we hid and waited for him to pass and then went on through the wilderness.

Soon we reached the electric power line and followed it for a few hours to the village of Ilovnitsa. We went to sleep at 11 p.m. in an already familiar attic, with an owl screeching loudly near the house.

Our next goal was the Skazochniy Young Pioneer Camp. We got there quite fast and started exploring the premises.

The kitchen.

After a walk around the territory we started moving towards the ford across the Uzh river. Since we didn’t know what the depth of the water was and we had a whole load of stuff we decided to build a small raft.

After 3 hours of hard work we crossed the river, realizing that we didn’t even need a raft in the first place since the water was only up to our waists.

The stream was ice cold — about +3 or +4 degrees Celcius (approx. 38 F) and freezing wind was blowing.

After crossing the ford we built a fire and ate. Then our path was through a bog to the Novosyolki village. Somewhere in the bog we saw moose, and after a few hours we managed to find old tire tracks that led us to the village.

After crossing the Chernobyl – Korogod route we headed into the woods towards a machine and tracktor station. On our way we decided to have a rest and made a fire under the electric power line with the new Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station pipe already in sight.

Pasha decided to take a nap on the radioactive moss, the meter indicating about 150-180 mcR/h.

In a couple of hours we passed the machine and tractor station and headed down a road towards the railway station, being wary of cars that might pass by, but surprisingly there were none.

We passed by the station, took a turn towards Pripyat, crossed the so-called Bridge of Death, then came to the Yanov railway station, took the road that starts at the checkpoint, then walked down Lesya Ukrainka street.

We didn’t stay there long since the lights in the water treatment plant building were on as well as the street lights near it.

Then we took a turn into the residential neighborhood №2, found an apartment block far from the street, chose a nice looking apartment and went to sleep.

When we woke up in the morning we decided to start exploring the town. I suggested climbing on one of the high-rise 16-storey buildings with a Soviet coat of arms installed on the roof in order to take some good photos. We got there in no time.

We crossed the street and I came closer to the building while Pasha had fallen behind a bit when we heard the noise of an engine coming from the direction of the river.

I had just enough time to dive into the bushes and my friend tried to conceal himself by pressing his back against a wall of the building.

A bus passed by, but we thought that we had been noticed and thus decided to go up in another absolutely identical building that is situated a bit farther to the north on the same street.

In 15-20 minutes we were already up there. The view is breathtaking: you can see the whole town spread out before you.

Then we had plans for visiting the Lazurniy swimming pool. While we were coming down from the high-rise, Pasha suggested walking to the Yubileyniy consumer services center, and I didn’t mind.

From the windows of the center we saw that very bus that got us noticed (or maybe it didn’t) near the high-rise.

The next stop was the Lazurniy swimming pool. To get there you had to pass by a school, making your way through tree branches, bushes and wilderness.

Pasha noticed someone on the ground floor of the school, so we got down to the ground.

More people kept coming, they were walking around and taking pictures – it was a tourist group, and they were just 20 m (approx. 65 ft) away, so they had probably noticed us.

We decided to break on through the wild vegetation and try to climb some other building to take a look over the area.

Then there was rustling of the bushes, loud noises, cursing, and two guys stormed away from the school.

We ran into the building located opposite the swimming pool and the school, went up to the ninth floor and looked out.

At first it seemed like nobody was there, but then I heard voices coming from the pool and tiles cracking under someone’s feet, so we abandoned the plans for visiting it. I decided to take a picture as a memento.

We walked around the building that were we in and found quite a popular apartment (judging by the amount of trash inside), and also a piano.

Then we headed towards a 16-storey building commonly known as Fuji and to the northern stele. We crossed a few playgrounds, then the high-rise appeared right before us, and in a few minutes we were up there.

We took some photos and went to the stele.

Then we went to the Jupiter factory, taking the road through the woods to avoid being seen, and in 15 minutes we were at the entrance.

We walked around the plant and inside the hangars, constantly being under the impression that all the workers were drunkards because there were huge numbers of empty vodka bottles lying around, unimaginable numbers, really.

Then we started searching for the board where the stalkers leave their autographs.

We knew it was somewhere in the main building, but we didn’t know which floor, and, lucky as we were, we started searching from the top, finally finding it on the ground level.

Then we went back to one of the apartment blocks, fetched some rainwater from a tank and returned to our apartment to sleep. We woke up at about 2 a.m., packed our stuff and started our way back.

On Lesya Ukrainka street some dogs started barking at us, so we got out of there fast and ran towards Yanov railway station. This time we didn’t go through the woods and all and took the shorter way right past the station.

At the station, another dog started barking at us, so we walked along the tracks really fast and got out of the city. We were lucky again and didn’t see any cars on the way, then we passed the machine and tracktor station, then came to Novosyolki, where we spent the night at a house that we had chosen beforehand.

While walking through the wilderness from Novosyolki to the ford we saw moose again, then we crossed the river and passed Skasochniy camp, Ilovnitsa and the power line on our way out.

My friend, though, got a little confused in the dark and lead us not to the barbed wire but a bit more to the west into the woods instead. After a couple of hours of trying to find the right way we finally managed to get out of the exclusion zone.

The rest of the night was also rough. It was only 1 a.m. and 5 more hours till the next bus. We decided to walk to Ivankov, but when we reached Rusaki our legs simply refused to move, so we slept right there at the bus stop, covering ourselves with blankets.

Our bus finally arrived and we successfully got on it, returning to Kiev. This is how we spent the four days from 8 April to 12 April.

Images by wh1sper956, reproduced with permission

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