Few weeks ago I returned from Ukraine after a 3month trek around Eastern Europe. The highlight of the trip was an excursion of Chernobyl & Pripyat. I
can tell you it was a nightmare getting my visa while staying Poland and a pain in the butt finding a guide. The government shut down all entry into
the area because people operating excursions were pocket the money instead of giving it to survivors. But, the internets a golden thing and you can
always find someone willing to drive you.. for enough US$ of course. So off into Chernobyl for me, a Frenchman and a Ukrainian. (to note, the
Frenchman carried a Geiger counter in his coat pocket)
First stop was the 30km exclusion zone. Passports out, $US dollars in hand.. do not look them in the eye and do not photograph them.
Looking west from the border guards, typical every day scrub. It could be the parking lot of any industrial area in the world. Geiger counter reading
Looking North past the border guards. Excited as a kid on Xmas finally getting in to check out this relic of the world.
Passport checked, money gone. into the car and off we go.
The first 5-10kms were relatively empty. And to be honest, there were vans and cards driving in the opposite direction heading toward the border
guards. I felt a little disappointed, it seemed like a generic traffic junction.
Accept, now and then you'd see a house..
and it doesnt quite look right.
After going through another checkpoint, this time with no photos regardless... we drove over to the waterside..
The driver cracking jokes the whole way insisted we never leave the footpaths. Do not go into the grass or vegetation.
Then he pointed out the boats, and explained how these boats were used in the clean-up and transport. and as such were abandoned due to radiation.
again the Geiger counter barely mentions a reading.
We continue down the roads, winding between overgrown bushes and suburban streets that are nothing but rotten homes.. for about an hour just driving
eventually the reactor comes into sight and we pull up beside a water pond.. for a closer look.
the Geiger counter comes to life.. but its minimal.
The driver, who's english is rather difficult to understand explained it to us.
'' when it reaches 12 do not stay in the area very long ''
Cool, we're a spudgun away and its 1. Doesnt look like I’m going to see those mutant wolves after all.
Jackpot.. we hit the reactor.
There's camera's watching us, and oddly enough.. there's a stream of workers walking in and out... dozens of them. looking at us like we're some rare
breed. There's barely any protective gear apart from gloves and a helmet.. but they are all wearing small Geiger counters on their pants.
Our driver explains they do shifts, 3-4 hour increments.
Theres a loud banging and grinding noise coming from the reactor, the guide says that they are building a new cover to put on the top. There's 2 long,
ramp like structures being constructed to the current top. The concept is to slide the old one down and push the new one on.
I looked over at the workers again who have this grin on their faces while they talk and point at us from a distance. Why would you want to work at
Chernobyl as hired labour?
The Geiger counter reaches around 3.5-4.0.
this dude insisted on being in a photo next to the reactor.
Off now into Pripyat the small town that serviced the reactor with skilled workers.
Our guide explains to us that at the height of the reactors use the small town was considered a very high area of economic wealth. Fancy American
perfume, the finest foods were abundant in the city.
Heres one of the upper class hotels
I look at the path we're told to take and to me there seems to be more grass and vegetation than id like.. but alas..
upon walking in the first thing you notice is you cant see the ground. There's glass everywhere, wood, metal, papers.. its as if a mob came through
with sledgehammers and destroyed everything.
A view from the hotel guest rooms looking over Pripyat square
The ground is creaky, some wooden slats you really take your time stepping on.. and you dont touch anything.
Especially the plants that are growing out of the floor.
Just to give you an idea of the distance between the town and the reactor
Its clear to see that everyone would have heard and seen what was going on when it exploded in the night.
Time to leave the hotel and find the school..
Sadly, there's no deli's or 711's in the area.. but there are berries.. lots of them!
the guide called me some strange Ukrainian word when he found me munching on a few i picked off the plant.. /j
One key rule was not to take anything. Do not pocket anything as you are checked when you leave.
Which was a pitty, I am a bit of a relic collector. Wire from Auschwitz, sand from Normandy, rocks from Hiroshima.. all i wanted was a book.. but..
rules are rules and i enjoy freedom.
There were books galore, chairs, tables, clothes, photos....
Even an old doll...
We kept walking room to room.. i split up from the guide and the frenchman into some separate rooms..
I took some photos which at first glance appeared to be nothing unusual.. atleast for the day so far.
but when i looked closer..
I realised that the ground wasnt covered in glass, wood and paper.. it was gasmasks. the entire room was layered with used gasmasks.
After venturing through the sports stadium, walking in the swimming pool and standing in the assembly area.. we were keen for some fun.. so we hit the
interesting point.. the Geiger counter so far didnt get above 3.5-4. it fluctuated a bit, but never spiked.
in the middle of the fair we found a drain cover.. covered in moss.
at the time of the photos this was the highest reading we encountered, and around 4-5 seconds after this photo another Geiger counter bought by the
guide reached 12.X on the other side of the drain.
He was pretty quick to stand up and suggest we keep walking.
I started realising the radiation is as much on the top anymore.. its in the soil.. underneath!
We continued on into the jail and police shop.. the guide was very quick to point out the 'interrogation rooms'
We found old relics from the soviet union.. tyres, papers and such.
Well, just wanted to share a few quick photos of Chernobyl.
It was worth the effort!
edit on 23-12-2011 by Agit8dChop because: (no reason given)