For the first time, I was the first one awake. Actually, to be more precise, I was the first one up. Almost everyday I’d been in Ukraine, I was the first one awake, but I usually just rolled over and laid there until someone else (always Svitlana) would get moving about. I just woke up at 7:00 am and was wide awake, so I grabbed my laptop and started working on photos and catching up on this journal.
It was about 7:30 when the girls began to wake. Our plan was to head down to the wild beach in the morning, come back and shower, then vacate our apartment by noon. However, a late exit at about 9:00 meant that spending 30 minutes each direction to reach the wild beach wasn’t really worth it. I was a bit disappointed to miss out on new coastline, but I’ll take any beach over no beach. We went to the public beach and splashed about in the water til 10:30, came back to shower and pack, and were out right at noon.
Off to Yalta, we dropped off our bags at the main bus station and I led us into town. I led them to the central bus stop, where we anticipated catching a marshrutka to the Nikitsky Botantical Gardens. However, just as I said that it was their turn to lead and work their magic: I looked over and recognized the name of the gardens in Cyrillic sitting in a marshrutka windshield. I pointed and said “Nikitsky Gardens” and felt proud with the impressed response I got back from the girls. This time even I had doubted my ability to find the right bus, and here I managed to do it. Boo yeah, I’m becoming a pro at navigating Ukraine.
The Gardens were surprisingly pretty for August, which is usually a dud month when it comes to admiring foliage. Indeed, that had been the problem with all the gardens thus far: they come off as little more than pretty forests with paved trails. The gardens included a variety of trees, including a bamboo forest. Now bamboo grows like a weed back in America and can be a bit annoying at times, but there’s no denying that a bamboo forest looks pretty neat.
There were also arrays of flowers which bloom later, helping to add color to the gardens well into the later summer. Topping it all were the cacti, located just south (or downhill) from the gardens. There was quite simply a lot of cacti in the cactus garden: some flowering and some twisting all about.
I was amused with the girls manner of saying “cactuses”, which Microsoft Word seems to think is a proper pluralization of “cactus”. Here I thought it had to be “cacti”. Hmm… anyways, the when the girls say “cactuses”, with their accents I first thought I heard them ask if I wanted to see “cockteases”. This ranked right up there with, perhaps a week or two prior, Svitlana was taking a couple photos of me and I thought I heard her say “take off your clothes”, when in fact she just said “come closer”. This is why I love hanging out with people have aren’t native English speakers.
With the gardens done, we returned to Yalta and did a quick walk along the waterfront promenade. We grabbed some groceries for our pending 20-hour train ride and also grabbed some shawarma at the same place I’d eaten a couple days prior.
Time was beginning to run short and we needed to get back to the main bus station to catch our bus to Simferopol, having booked seats on it when we’d arrived in town a couple hours earlier. I tried to lead the way back to the main bus station, but the girls paused at the central bus stop to try and track down a marshrutka. I was trying to explain that if we continued along vul Moscovska we could just catch something along there – there are plenty of marshrutka and trolleybuses along that road, which leads directly to the bus station; but the girls just weren’t listening.
We spent about 10 minutes wandering about the central bus stop trying to find something before they finally relented and took my advice; and voila we were soon on a marshrutka that we got along vul Moscovska. As I’ve validated repeatedly over the course of this trip, when I say “trust me” it’s because I really mean it: trust me.
It wasn’t long after until we’d grabbed our checked bags and were sitting on our bus. I’d lucked out once again, getting the frontmost lone seat: beside the window, beside the aisle, and right at the entry door so I could stretch out my feet. I fell into a deep sleep and woke up to find we’d arrived at Simferopol. The girls seemed surprised when I asked if we were in Simferopol, but it felt like the trip only took maybe 30 minutes; not more than two hours.
With an hour and a half until our train, we loaded up on even more groceries at a nearby market; then chilled in Chelantanos (a pizza joint) for awhile. I grabbed some pancake thingy with chicken and cheese inside it. It was tasty, but I would have preferred that there be more chicken and more cheese: it was stuffed a little too lightly for my tastes.
There were now 20 minutes remaining until our train departed. Anastasia and I waited for about 5 minutes as Svitlana ran off to buy something to read, and by that fifth minute we were starting to kid about how it felt like a tradition to have to run for the train; and here we might have to run for it even though we’d been right next to it for an hour and a half. There was no running about, though, we got on with several minutes to spare.
Our fourth cabinmate consisted of a girl whom I assume was traveling with family and/or friends located in adjacent cabins. I was particularly fond of our cabinmate’s Asian-looking friend – there’s something just so exotic about an Asian woman speaking Russian.
We piled up our collection of food on the little table and all collapsed into a pretty quick slumber. This was our final night as three, and here we’d spend the next 20 hours in about as close quarters as you can get.