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Chernobyl trip notes
(by Alexei Sytyanov)

This is our second trip to Chernobyl, the first one failed, as we were not permitted to cross the zone of "Dityatky" post and had to come back home empty-handed. This was only in two weeks that we got in touch with the administration and procured the right contact to request Chernobyl zone pass. Now we've got a pass and guide. The four brave hearts to have ventured for this trip are:

Serguei Karmalsky (Karma),
Sergiy Grygorovych (GSC),
Andrew Prokhorov (Prof),
Alexei Sytyanov (Koan).

Rimma Kyselitsa - our guide.
Nikolai Tkach - driver.

March 29, 2002

09:58 We are approaching "Dityatky" post. Nobody seems to be waiting for us. It's a bright sunny morning today, and it's hot.

10:00 This is the time fixed for the appointment, still nobody seen around. We see Kamaz trucks loaded with metal waste leaving the zone. A soldier at the post checks the trucks with dosimeter.

10:12 A woman in her late thirties approaches us, clad in khaki uniform. This turns out to be our guide, we greet each other, she's called Rimma. When passing the post a problem occurred - I left my documents at home and risked to be not allowed in, but thanks to our lady Stalker who arranged it with the administration, so I proceeded through the post.

10:30 We left our car at the post and got into "Puz" minibus. As our driver told, when a car accumulates a certain amount of microroentgens, it is discarded and gets sent to vehicle cemetery. Evidently, our minibus is rather old and it will not be a long before it ends up wasted.

10:45 We approach an abandoned village. Along the road there lie rotten electric line pillars. We are surrounded by weedy semi-rotten huts. We go out of the car to take some snapshots and hear the guide's warning that there's no go from the asphalt road until we put on overalls and boots, unless we want to catch some "dirt" from grass or plants. When saying "dirt" locals mean radioactive hotbeds, and when they say "a dirty car", they mean it is heavily rayed. We take the shots and get back to the car. One of the photos shows a totally grassed asphalt road, there's no go there;)

derevnya01; derevnya02; derevnya03; derevnya04; derevnya05; derevnya06;

The village makes a depressing impression on us. You involuntarily remember the documentary chronicles of citizen evacuation. We would like to return here in overalls now, but Rimma says we'll be driving another road on the way back.

When we drive out, a roe deer crosses the road. Rimma tells about intensity wile animals have bred at in the alienation zone. You can come across with a deer, hare, boar or wolf. By the way, boars are very good to endure radiation and bear healthy progeny, though their meat is very "dirty". Recently there came a foreign boar research group to the zone, but they had not succeeded in gaining quick results and were called back.

11:10 The sun is hot. We drive along the road in a tight corridor of dense woods. Rimma tells how straight after the catastrophe the rayed "red" forest nearby the atomic facility was chopped. In a fuss, the fallen trees were buried in the ground, and that turned out a way worse, than if the trees would have been left standing. The buried "dirty" trees appeared too close to underground waters and radiation could make its way into potable water.

Now we also know the symptoms to show you are rayed. If you feel a bitter metallic taste in the mouth, it's a sign to urgently leave the rayed territory. The next stages will be headache and nausea. By the way, some workers are said to now and then shoot down roe deer, hare or boar and giving it a good deal of roasting, eat it. As time passes, the feeling of danger disappears and you get used to "dirty" neglected vicinity, you can even eat some big juicy berries which are abundant in the area. Of course this will be harmful to your health, but the temptation is high, and the time dulls the apprehensibility.

les;

11:30 We are passing the vehicle cemetery. We decide to make a stop and take some photos here. We climb on our car roof and take shots of the cemetery. It is immense and you can see long rows of "dirty" vehicles. Armoured troop carriers, trucks, ambulance cars, fire-engines, busses, excavators, robot bulldozers and even cargo helicopters (the top powerful worldwide - their carrying capacity is 50 tons). Andrew and me climb a 20-metre tower to take scaled shots of the cemetery, while the guide talks the guards in to let us into the cemetery territory, provided we stick to the pathway and do not touch any vehicle. From the top of the tower a large panorama of the cemetery opens up. Wind blows and the tower starts swaying feelingly. We go down, Rimma arranged it with the guys and we enter the cemetery. Each of us tries to go in the pathway centre, meticulously checking for the metallic taste in the mouth. Vehicles are really unkempt, some of them have only carcass left. Rimma says that too "dirty" vehicles were buried on spot deep underground. We go along rows of vehicles and imagine how rescue brigades, firemen and soldiers got into those vehicles and drove to the burning reactor at that night. We stop at the most interesting vehicles and take shots, the sunshine is too bright, so that we have to cover the camera lens with hand to create a shadow. Rimma tells of robots, of Japanese man-like robots convulsing vehemently and falling down the roof, as if committing suicide.

I remember well the robot bulldozers, which were used to throw lumps of radioactive graphite into the open reactor. That graphite was thrown out of reactor on the roof at the moment of explosion. We pass the buses citizens of Prypjat' were evacuated with, there are ambulance cars on opposite side, fire-engines nearby. The sun is searing, too many impressions.

kladbishe01; kladbishe02; kladbishe03; kladbishe04; kladbishe05; kladbishe06; kladbishe07; kladbishe08; kladbishe09; kladbishe10; kladbishe11; kladbishe12; kladbishe13; kladbishe14; kladbishe15; kladbishe16; kladbishe17; kladbishe18; kladbishe19; kladbishe20; kladbishe21;

12:30 We drive further. Approaching the city of Chernobyl, 18 kilometres from the atomic plant. There are people living and working in the city, but they are not many. We enter the administrative building to go through checks and make the trip arrangements.

chernobil;

12:45 For now we are clean (hope to remain the same). We drive along the road and passing near a river make a stop to take a couple of neglected barge shots. On the bank we find some slightly mutant pines, their differently-sized needles are curled in different directions.

barji01; barji02;

13:00 Finally we reached the sanitary inspection room. Here we'll go trough another check and get the overalls. It is designed not to let any "dirty" particles in to skin. Now we will be permitted into the 10-kilometre zone.

sancontrol01; sancontrol02; sancontrol03;

13:10 We are on the way to the atomic plant. Huge empty plains around, they are cordoned with fences, warnings of radioactive danger everywhere. Rimma tells that to the right of us on the hilly plain there was a village, which was completely buried under the ground and hills are places where huts stood. By the way, the huts were not demolished, but buried as they are.

attention01; attention02; attention03;

13:30 We approach the Chernobyl atomic facility. To the right of us is the water channel from the cooling pond of the power plant. We make a stop to take shots on the bank, a huge pipe of the cooling block on the other bank. This channel has fish, which reaches immense size. If you throw a loaf of bread into the water, a three-meter catfish may rise up to the surface. The fish is radioactive and nobody touches it, in such conditions it reaches gigantic size. Unfortunately we don't have a loaf of bread at hand, so we proceed further.

canal01; canal02; canal03;

13:50 We take shots on approach to the plant.

near01; near02; near03; near04; near05;

14:10 We are 300 meters away from the sarcophagus!!! We are told of sarcophagus constructing and catastrophe details. On the photograph with plant model you can see a semi-closed door, which is a way to sarcophagus balcony. There we take several shots trying not to stay long. The balcony radioactive background is 1000 microroentgen per hour.

We are off for the city of Prypjat', the top interesting spot in out Chernobyl trip.

chern01; chern02; maket; near06; near07; near08; near09; near10;

15:10 Prypjat', the city of stalkers. Population before the evacuation - 50000 people, and now it's empty, with only rare researches taking a stop here for several days to shoot material. After the evacuation it was for several months that non-evacuated residents were looked for and taken away (many of them didn't want to go). After that the city got lifeless, but it had to be cleared of "dirt". All the "dirty" things were buried at special cemeteries, more or less clean stuff was given out to workers in the Zone, to create acceptable existence conditions. After that a thorough cleansing was undertaken in the city, walls, ceilings were cleaned, floor opened.

When entering the city there stands a guarded post (fight with marauders). We are let in to find ourselves amid a totally empty and silent city. It's a complete silence, the only sound to spread around the city is that of car we drive. Taking a look at the city you instantly realize what's to be done. We'll try to fully reproduce the atmosphere of Prypjat'. When you tune your ear, you can notice birds chirping. There are several packs of wolves and boars living in the city. Some boars are one and a half metre long. Rimma tells as once in winter during an excursion for one foreign photographer she entered a building and faced two gigantic 1.5-metre boars. Fortunately, they decided to quit the building without a trace of aggressiveness. When fear faded, she noticed the driver and foreigner hiding behind her back.

Passing along the weedy streets we observe the images of placid (nuclear) spring advancing at the empty city. The first building we head for is the house of amenity services (local supermarket analogue). Grass and trees pierced through the pavement, wide windows of the ground floor are broken, a dilapidated building skeleton, broken glass around, trash, wrecked furniture. We enter the building and straight away pay attention to an old price list of rental agency, it is nearly the same as 16 years ago and you can see a mark of pre-evacuation life. We go upstairs to the first floor to find the remnants of hairdresser's, mirror splinters, tubes, hair curlers on the floor. In one of the premises we find a footwear dump, hard to imagine what was here (in one of the piles there lies a plastic flipper). When on the following day after the catastrophe (Sunday, April 27) the evacuation was to be carried out, parents with children enjoyed ice cream in amenity house cafe.

dom_bita01; dom_bita02; dom_bita03; dom_bita04; dom_bita05;

We get inside the car - next stop is the local stadium. There we see a tree-covered pitch. The stadium had just been constructed when the catastrophe occurred. The wooden benches have dried out and blackened. On one of the benches there lies a dolly without arms, evidently, photographers willing to show the tragedy of abandoned city deprived her of them. Moss has covered the stairs all over. We'd better be careful - moss accumulates radiation.

stadion;

Nearby is a sports complex and "Lazurny" swimming pool, where we find a basketball hall and an empty pool. The swimming pool exceeds all the expectations, it stuns at once - an immense empty area, sun rays falling down on its bottom through broken window panes. There is even a jumping tower, but stairs were removed, unless somebody fell down. In the dressing room there is an overthrown sofa and a cracked heating radiator. The time is running up and we must hurry.

bascetball01; bascetball02; basseyn01; basseyn02; basseyn03;

Children playground. Rimma warned that we should not touch the small electric-driven entertainment cars - they are too "dirty". We take a snapshot against the Ferris wheel. Everybody is tired and hungry. My head starts splitting with ache, either of radiation or of fatigue.

attraction;

Next stop is a house of culture and library. We enter a building with a high ceiling, vast paintings of victorious science tread and triumph of humankind, rolls of unreeled type on the floor, books scattered around - fiction, political, textbooks - a mess of it all. Some books are opened on interesting pages, but we proceed further. We go out on the balcony to view the panorama of the square and "Polissya" hotel.

bibl01; bibl02; bibl03;

Our final stop is "Meat Fish Vegetables" shop. A neglected empty building, no counter, a bent ventilator on the ceiling, strange runs on the floor. The inner area is much more interesting. There we find small basins, grates for vegetable storage, tables, wooden stump for meat dressing. All the paint has chipped, a dark ill-lit building it is.

magasin01; magasin02; magasin03; magasin04;

We leave it through the back exit and decide to enter a block of flats. Before the entrance we see a tree growing in the very sewerage grating. We go inside and notice an electricity control board with a table of names of house residents on it. Additionally, we can read which street we are at now, it is 12 Lenin Avenue.

house;

We get back. Take some final shots of the desolate city and get inside the car.

Pripyat01; Pripyat02;

Returned home without troubles and "clean".

Posted: 17:20:32 Friday, 5 April 2002

Discuss this story at forum.

Additional information:
GSC World Publishing and Deep Silver announce planned release date for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
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Posted: Tuesday, 13 November 2001

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