We are in Yasinya, on road H09, a few kilometres South of the mountain pass separating the Ivano-Frankivs’ka and Zakarpats’ka Provinces. We know where we want to go from here, but we are looking for people to stop us. The German map we bought in Warsaw shows a little grey line—carriageway (restricted use)–heading West over Okole Pass to Ust’-Chorna. From there, a better road continues to Komsomol’s’k and Kolochava. Between these two villages a bridge over a river might be missing, at least it was some years ago. This is the way we want to continue.

Traditional Ukrainian blouses and myriad other things for sale at L’viv bazaar. L’vivs’ka Oblast.

Andriy, the owner of a small outdoor shop in L’viv, has pointed out a smattering of places of interest in his beloved Carpathian Mountains, but most of the information we have so far has come from Viktor, the Karpaty cycling club president. Pierre and Viktor had a pleasant talk one rainy evening in the lobby of the Pilgrim Hostel, where we replenished our strength and enjoyed campus life at the National Technical University of Oil and Gas. He said if there actually is a road, it was not going to be an effortless ride. Viktor also mentioned the NTUOGU is one of the top petroleum engineering schools and has been since when Ukraine was part of the USSR and that students come from far to attend. This September is particular, with students turning up from the conflict area in the East, having abandoned everything behind. Many are foreign students and cannot speak Ukainian, so Viktor just published a letter in the local newspaper asking Ivano-Frankivsk residents to speak English to the newcomers and help them settle in.

Disparate traffic in the countryside towards Kalush. L’vivs’ka Oblast.
Time to harvest and prepare for winter in the foothills of the Carpathians. L’vivs’ka Oblast.
Clean and rested at the Pilgrim Hostel. It’s time to load the bikes and head to the mountains! Ivano-Frankivsk.

Now, we have ridden away from the city and up along the Prut River into the Karpati and we want to go West, and no one is stopping us. We ask a Yasinya hotel owner, “is it like a slippery mud road with two deep wheel grooves?” The language barrier is high and his answer is “old road, very bad road, your bikes very heavy”. Let’s go then!

KM 4510g
Putin Khuilo!
The days are short at this time of the year. Getting stuck in a semi-urban area at nightfall? No problem. Delyatyn, Ivano-Frankivs’ka Oblast.
Pastoral surroundings at the pass between Ivano-Frankivs’ka and Zakarpats’ka Oblast.
Grrrrr! Janick is feeling wild after a night in the tiger room! Yasinya, Zakarpats’ka Oblast.

There are 5 kilometres between Yasinya and Chorna-Tysa, the last village, and they are fabulous. Small country houses line the road, colourful fences and flowered gardens surround them. Chicken, ducks and goats are cleaning the ditch. When we mention heading to Ust-Chorna to villagers, they point us in the right direction. The road is a nice potholed strip of rock and dirt. It is 17 more kilometres to the pass as it gets more remote, quiet, steep and wet. We come upon a young shepherd waiting for his 100 sheep to finish their meal and a couple of drunk loggers who cannot believe we don’t have engines.

Blissing out on village life in Chorna-Tysa, Zakarpats’ka Oblast.
Higher up towards Okole Pass in perfect greenery. Zakarpats’ka Oblast.

The Okole Pass is 1193 m high and this is where we spend the night. No water is available at the top so it is bread, cheese, beer and cognac for dinner. The heavy mist on the tent freezes overnight and it takes a while in the morning to slip back into our frosty socks and shoes. Being at the summit does not imply it will be a downhill ride all the way, and after one kilometre there is a stream to ford, and it starts to climb on the other side. Also this is not a road anymore, it is a hiking trail. We push Pierre’s bike up and scramble down again to get Janick’s. When it’s time to resume descending: surprise! We are now on a slippery mud track with two deep tire grooves and we are dragging our mounts down into these trenches, panniers scraping its walls, ourselves falling, scratching and bruising as we go. We are busy pushing Pierre’s bike downhill—a first—when we look up long enough to see a hard-surface road in a lush river valley. Hallelujah!

Rock n’ Roll Monk and Smooth-faced Monk sending us on our way. Zakarpats’ka Oblast.

Like a mirage a white dog materializes and hurries in the forest. His masters are as surprised to see us as we them. We are facing two young men with pony tails, pointy beards and long black robes. Their invitation for lunch we gladly accept, out of starvation—four dates have been our only fuel today—and sheer curiosity. Following them over 200 metres we come to a couple of recently built wooden cabins. “Monastery”, announces the monk that will soon be baptized Rock n’ Roll Monk. Half a dozen men in robes are sitting around by an army-green van urging us to move inside.

Suddenly ashamed of our dirty shoes we timidly sit at the long table and dig in a huge bowl of soup, slices of bread and marinated griby. RRM is bewildered by its English name: mushroom. “But there is no room”, he reasons. The mushroom conversation becomes surreal when the “magic” kind are brought up by this man of God. So is The Doors and LSD—an older monk signs himself. RRM shares his love for the bands Tool, Deftones and Korn and gets inflamed upon learning we have seen Korn live nineteen years ago—although we keep quiet about being under the influence of B.C. shrooms at the time! 🙂

Some coffee and sweet rolls end the meal. A loaf of bread and a head-size jar of marinated mushrooms are loaded into our front panniers. This is the monastery’s dacha (summer house), we’ll see the real thing, with its polished towers, about 10 kilometres downriver. Pierre is getting ready to leave, putting his bandana on when RRM says “Kurt Cobain”. We smile and offer, “too many drugs”. He replies, “heroin”. We shake our heads and continue, “and it’s a gun that killed him”. And he says “ no, Courtney Love”. We step on the pedals with an ear-to-ear grin, our heads buzzing about the bizarre hour we just spent with these “orthodox” monks.

Beautiful weather to give our bikes and shoes a bath, and filter some drinking water. Turban River, Zakarpats’ka Oblast.
Rough on the components this adhesive mud.

Twenty-seven bone-rattling kilometres down the valley we come to the intersection with the road to Kolochava. People are walking back from church in their best clothes as we slalom around deep potholes in close formation. At the end of Komsomols’k, two young girls point to the foot bridge crossing the river, apparently we are done with the regular road, it’s going to be a track over Prislyp Pass to Kolochava. In reality the track is mostly a large creek and we are pushing against the current!

A good road between two tough mountain passes. Komsomols’k, Zakarpats’ka Oblast.
Peace sign and Slava Ukrayini! Komsomols’k, Zakarpats’ka Oblast.

We can’t accuse the Carpathian trails to be monotonous because after we finish with this 2-kilometre long shoe-cleaning action it turns to mud and we push each bike up one at a time. Then when that’s finished the ground turns into a vertical rocky wall. We take all bags off except the panniers and push each bike up in 30 seconds bursts. Pierre has his left hand on the handle bar and his right hand pulling the seat post, Janick pushes the rear.

-”Nice team work!”

-”It’s good for the couple, a nice honeymoon activity.”

-”Yeah! We should have a travel agency for newlyweds and call it Breaking Point!”

Prislyp Pass (925m) in the late afternoon. Zakarpats’ka Oblast.

Prislyp Pass (925m) is magnificent with a view on the surrounding grassy peaks and a crucified Jesus looking West. As the sun dives behind the horizon we start down on the precipitous stony track—try walking your bike down squeezing the brake levers tight and holding the rear luggage back with your behind. We wind up in a farm’s backyard. The friendly owner invites us to trespass on her land to avoid a pool of mud and informs us that we are two kilometres from Kolochava and asphalt! It took three days to travel 70 kilometres, but we did it and…loved it!

Apples, grapes,and other natural treats in the Rika River valley. Zakarpats’ka Oblast.


A perfect ten in the Carpathians! (Bicaz, Romania - KM 5,065)
2 minutes to midnight in Schengen! ( Lviv, Ukraine - KM 4,060)


  1. Margot

    I am enjoying your blog very much! 🙂
    We will see you when you are back in Nelson one day. Have fun you two!

  2. Cool! It would be perfect if you post here also map of your track and mention dates of your trip.

  3. Esther Adrian (internet Mbulu)

    very nice photo! wishing you all the best in your trip

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