And the rain continues. Overnight it turns into a torrential downpour and the storm becomes downright violent. The walls of my tiny cardboard cabin shake with every gust of wind and roll of thunder. All attempts to sleep are futile.
I have a pre-paid ticket for the next-day’s excursion, and I spend the chilly night contemplating the probability of the tour coming to pass. When finally, at the crack of dawn, I venture out to see if there will be any other souls ready to brave the elements for a trip to Yalta (my second – the palaces beckon), I discover that all the paths of my little forest settlement are covered with ankle-deep layer of water, mud, debris or a combination of all. By the time I get to the shuttle stop my shoes and feet are thoroughly wet.
Amazingly enough, upon reaching the pick-up place, I am greeted by a small group of slightly shivering but very eager fellow tourists. Just like me they’re hoping that the shuttle will actually show up to whisk us away to Sudak, from where the bus will take a much larger group, pulled from all over the area, for a day of sightseeing along Crimea’s Southern Coast.
The shuttle comes and off we go. What follows is a 6-kilometer, 20-minute journey that is best described by the following deadpan exchange, excerpted from the 2000 animated Disney film “Emperor’s New Groove,” when two main characters, tied together and thrown into a river, are about to go down a giant waterfall:
Kuzco: Don’t tell me. We’re about to go over a huge waterfall.
Kuzco: Sharp rocks at the bottom?
Pacha: Most likely.
Kuzco: Bring it on.
Two days of non-stop heavy rain brought about mass flooding, mudslides and rockfalls all along the serpentine road that connects Novy Svet and Sudak. The driver will later tell me that neither Novy Svet nor Sudak have seen the deluge of this scale in eight years.
So…that was quite a ride. But, slightly queasy, we make it to Sudak, transfer onto a bigger and better bus, and are off onto bigger and better sights…Right?
Not so fast.
You see, the windy road that connects Sudak and Novy Svet is more like a cute little worm compared to the Sudak-Yalta snake of a highway. The 80-kilometer-long roller coaster to Crimea’s Southern Coast has 360 pinhead twists and turns, all the while going down to sea level and rising hundreds of meters up into the mountains several times along the way. Don’t forget the Dramamine!
Now, this is Russia* – the land of the brave and the home of the mildly insane (*ditto if you say Ukraine – we’re cut from the same daredevil cloth).
So of course the driver and most tourists on the bus are like, mudslides? flooding? falling rocks? Bring it on. Let’s go.
But there are traitors* in our midst (*not real Russians. or Ukrainians). “The road is too dangerous!,” they wail. “Sightseeing isn’t worth risking your life!” “We won’t go!” Real, honest-to-God mutiny, I tell you.
And just like that, the trip is over before it began.