We both do not like to travel and since the rampant corruption in the orc dog show circuit drove us out of the shows after Sophia earned her championship five years ago we rarely go far from our little ‘village’ on the north side of the harbor. However, we had no choice but to journey to Moscow Region early in April.
With orcland closed to the peninsula there is no passenger train service to Russia. With all the airframes falling of late my bride is terrified of flying so we went by train. This involved a driver to take us to Krasnodar on the mainland, the city proper, to catch the train and pick us up on our return from Moscow and bring us to Sevastopol. I will describe this long journey warts and all.
First stop was the train station in our city to purchase tickets. The train station itself is totally renovated, restored to what it should be inside and out. To say the station is spotlessly clean is an understatement and we well remember how shabby it was under the former occupation. Service was perfect and the tickets were electronically generated on the spot and handed to us. We arranged a private compartment on the fast train to and from Moscow. Total cost was $200 each for the round trip. Since the train is overnight the compartment is a sleeper.
Our driver picked us up at 05:00 on the scheduled day. The drive is long to Krasnodar, we estimated around ten hours of actual driving plus who knew how long for the ferry to the mainland. We also had to stop for a few minutes every hour or so, this so I could get out of the car and walk a little. I have an old wound to one leg and this is being troublesome after all these years plus my old back injury is reminding me daily of my carefree and uncaring younger days. The driver does speak fair to good English so we conversed often during the drive.
We picked up the H 06 not far from the house. This road goes to Simferopol and skirts around Bachti Sarai to our east. The road is in fairly good condition until just east of Bachti Sarai where it begins to alternate between relatively smooth road to rather rough but far from impassible stretches. For years the orcs renovated nothing, they just patched over patches when absolutely demanded. However, according to the monies ‘spent’ on roads in our city and the peninsula all the roads are pristine and recently totally rebuilt. This little foible partly explains the huge number of mansions built in our city and the peninsula over the last twenty years. Poor Mr. Aksyonov has his hands full trying to make some order of the mess he inherited from the orcs when they were invited to leave Krimea a couple years ago. One of their favorite little corruptions was to get paid for huge road and bridge work and not so much as a spade full of soil was turned. Those orcs who turned their coats are trying mightily to continue with their corruptions and some are succeeding.
Going through Simferopol is easy at 06:30, hardly anyone on the rather rough city roads at that time. An hour later and the traffic resembles Moscow in microcosm, hardly moving and difficult to get from point A to point B. On the northeast outskirts of Simferopol just past the ring road we picked up the P 23. This road is the main road all the way to Kerch on the east coast of Krim.
The first 30 kilometers or so the road, although two lane, was wide and in excellent condition. The driver said this section was one of the first road projects Mr. Aksyonov initiated when he was elected to head Krim. The lanes themselves were wide and the shoulders were properly graded and even with the road surface. This heavenly experience ended at 30 klicks as we rounded a curve and ran smack in to a normal Krim road, rough, patched in random fashion and not well done. This of course slowed the now growing traffic to about 60 KPH for the next 50 or so klicks. At the end of the 50 klick stretch we came upon heavy construction equipment blocking part of the road, no one to direct the traffic in to the one lane available, no barricades or signs announcing what we ran in to and the work crews just beginning to arrive, eat breakfast on the roadside and have a couple smokes. A major surprise was the drivers themselves managed to drive in one direction on the one lane then they would stop and let the other direction drive for a while. I suspect this was arranged by the truckers on their radios as any lane shift was initiated by a very large semi that stopped in one lane to allow the other lane do pass.
The workers seem to think that 09:00 is a good time to start work. For the remainder of the journey to Kerch we passed half a dozen areas under heavy construction, sometimes these constructions a klick long. I did observe the methods used and I think the road will last for years and be capable of handling the increasingly heavy traffic and heavy trucks using the P 23. This construction is not the usual patch and resurface deal extant in Krim. In some construction areas they were taking the road down to the sub foundation and completely rebuilding the road. These roads were designed and built in Soviet times and no one conceived of the huge numbers of vehicles and the very heavy trucks in use today. The very few bridges, generally short, were also given the total rebuild and generally replacement treatment. However, no thought was given to eventually widening this major feeder to two lanes in each direction.
The equipment in use for the construction was generally new and good quality and condition. Most of the actual construction equipment was foreign and most of that from Japan. The heavy trucks were a mixture of about 50% Kamaz and 50% European. I saw not a single worn out and tatty army surplus Kamaz or Ural working the construction areas.
The asphalt being laid was very thick and of top quality. The construction crews were large for the heavy work and well supervised and as the morning advanced at all the areas of one lane traffic there were signs warning of the single lane area and traffic direction crews to keep things flowing smoothly. Traffic moved well all things considered but I will mention that perhaps things would have been better served if the companies doing the actual work were ordered to start at Kerch on one end and Simferopol region on the other and meet in the middle, either that or start at the worst part near Feodosya and move east and west. Instead there were stretches of fully reconditioned roads and shoulders interspersed with frequent long stretches of the usual patched and rough peninsula roads.
As we progressed towards Kerch the land began to rise as the P 23 neared the coast. It was in this roughly 60 klick long stretch where we ran in to the worst sections of road. In several areas the road was completely gone, nothing left but the remains of the foundation and so rough that traffic was crawling through the worst parts and there were plenty of ‘worst parts’. The only way to describe this area of the main feeder from the mainland is appalling and rivaling the worst I’ve ever seen in Africa. Congratulations, orcland, you have managed in 20 years to lower yourselves to the worst of Africa.
As we entered the Kerch Peninsula the roads did improve somewhat. There were no more stretches of totally destroyed road and a few sections were pretty good, considering. We also took note that the entire journey from Sevastopol took us through many areas that could be cultivated and they were husbanded for crops and quite well I might add. As we entered Kerch itself the roads were the same as our city and Simferopol, some good and some of indifferent maintenance. Just past Feodosya the P 23 ended at the E 97 and the rest of the Kerch Region was on the E 97. Our driver had a very good GPS system that gave excellent directions constantly although it did not warn of construction areas.
Kerch itself was easy to traverse but there were few and somewhat small signs directing one to the ferry terminal. Without the GPS we would have wandered around a bit trying to find the terminal.
On arrival at the terminal the facility was found to be in excellent condition, read mostly new. First stop was the Kassa to pay for the ferry and get a talon for the security inspection. Total cost one way for the car and three passengers was 2000 rublay, not quite 31 bucks. The pleasant young lady in Kassa did not blink when I handed her my Russian passport but she did examine it with a special little electronic magnifier to make sure the Propeeska stamp and the official stamp were real and wet stamped. She then informed us that the ferries might be delayed due to heavy weather at the other end of the crossing. However, in half an hour we were moved in to the security inspection building. This inspection may to the untrained looked not too strong but to my experienced eye it was quite thorough and included little seen sensors around the entire individual bay. What little luggage we had was removed and run through the same machines as in aerodrome, pronounced good to go and off we went to the ferry lines. Another thirty minute wait, then a very large, read ocean going, ferry arrived. They loaded cars first and when that lot was exhausted they started to load the heavy and not so heavy trucks. Everything was organized very well and all was very efficient. In due course the ferry was loaded. We had gone to the upper deck after our car was loaded, the driver stayed with his machine. From the upper deck, which included a good sized food bar and ample toilet facilities which my bride pronounced as spotless, we observed and she photo’d the freight car ferry unloading on the other side of our dock. The load of train cars were about half tank cars, a few box wagons and a pretty large number of flat cars, all the flats loaded with green vehicles and equipment with crews.
The crossing itself took little time. In the far distance through the haze we could see large numbers of floating cranes working on the new bridge system. The landing, named Port Kavkaz, sits on a very narrow spit of land coming from the mainland. The unloading was very efficient and orderly and off we went through the usual security border post in Krasnodar at the land end of the spit. We were given a cursory look, passports were checked and we were sent onward.
The change between Krim and Krasnodar Krai is as night and day. The roads are pretty generally flawless and I took the time to observe the conditions of the side roads and intersections and there was no difference between the E 97 and the other roads. The roadsides were clean and since late spring had arrived tractors with special mowing equipment were mowing the roadsides and this was obviously done often, it was not their first cutting by any stretch of the imagination. Gone were the ever present discarded trash and bottles seen in Krim and Sevastopol Region.
Every square centimeter that could be was under cultivation with numerous late model tractors with workers planting the fields. The villages and small towns on the route were clean and orderly with very few tumbledown houses visible either along the roads or in the distance. I have no illusions that such structures exist in the krai but we saw only one close to the main road and it was in process of the land being cleaned and there were two men with rolls of plans standing at the sagging fence gate. Someone is managing Krasnodar Krai quite well. The E 97 became the E 97/A 290 which not too far in to the mainland journey became the A 146.
The remainder of the drive to Krasnodar was uneventful, the road good, the traffic moving along in an orderly fashion and the towns and villages pleasant to view as we passed through. When we got to Krasnodar City we had an unpleasant revelation. The GPS system was not operable in that city and of course our driver had no map of the city or anyplace else. He made the mistake of trusting an electric device. It took us a while to find a shop that had a map and we then proceeded to find the main railway station. We caught our train which was on time almost to the second and started our overnight journey to Moscow. The train was spotless inside and the service was first rate as was the food.
We accomplished our tasks in Moscow and the journey back to our city was chapter and verse identical to our journey to Moscow. Not much had changed with the road work in Krim in the week we were traveling out and back.
We have no intention of leaving our city and peninsula for the mainland. On the other hand it is infuriating to see what our city and our peninsula should be, could be and eventually will be. If genetics hold true I have about another twenty years left to annoy people with my writing and annoy Officialdom in general. I doubt I’ll live to see Sevastopol and Krim make all the changes needed but I also have no doubts my wife will. We did not like Moscow, the pace of life is far too frantic for us. We are quite happy in our little ‘village’ in Sevastopol and after seeing Moscow traffic again we no longer squeak in the slightest about the minor delays we have here.
Author, Never The Last One & An Incident On Simonka