Chernobyl – a tour of the exclusion zone
So after more than 1 – 1/2 years of living in Ukraine, I finally got round to visiting Chernobyl. I’d been wanting to do this for a while but never seemed to find the time, something always seemed to get in the way. I only only have 6 months left on my teaching contract here so it had to be done sooner rather than later.
My girlfriend wasn’t too happy about it, not because of the potential danger but because to Ukrainians, it was a terrible disaster and they don’t understand why it has become a tourist attraction, or why anyone would want to go there.
Anyway, I arranged to go with a friend who happened to be visiting Ukraine and booked the tour with Solo East, the same group that took the Top Gear team. It cost $79 dollars plus another $10 for insurance.
It might seem expensive but for the money you get transport, lunch and a tour guide. I thought it was much better value than £25 for 30 mins on the London Eye anyway.
We met the minibus at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (independence square) made famous for being the site of the recent uprising and subsequent toppling of Victor Yankovich.
The Chernobyl site is about 2 hours north from the Ukrainian capital Kiev. The worst of the radiation went north into Belarus, possibly preventing a greater loss of life in Kiev.
We arrived at the 30k exclusion zone at around 10:30am and went through a couple of security checks to take us into the 10k exclusion zone.
I was surprised by the amount of vegetation, birds and animals all happily calling Chernobyl their home. It was hard to imagine the terrible things that had happened there some 30 years before. I was about 14 at the time but I remember it well, seeing the events unfolding on the news.
Lunch was included and our very kind tour guide Vika checked to see if anyone had any food allergies. Fortunately they catered for my gluten and lactose intolerances, which I was very grateful for.
After lunch we made our way to the reactors. In a nearby river we encountered abnormally large fish, apparently due to people feeding then rather than radiation.
Reactor 4 is now covered by a large sarcophagus, which is designed to keep a lid on the radiation for another 100 years. It took 7 years to build and cost $1.4 billon.
We were able to get pretty close to the reactor and also to other parts of the site. Just don’t go eating the berries or drinking the water and you’ll be fine!
It’s mostly safe there now, apart from a few hot spots. You probably wouldn’t want to live there though.
The ghost town of Pripyat was very interesting, left largely untouched since it was evacuated. Books and toys still remaining where they were left 30 years ago. Fairground rides taken over by rust and buildings left to decay.
It looks like it would have been a pretty cool place to live and work. Of course some of it has been setup to please tourists but there’s enough authenticity there to make the trip worthwhile.
Our final stop was the huge Duga Radar, which was used by the Soviets as an early warning system to detect missiles from the USA and other western countries. It really was huge, the photos and video don’t do it justice! It was also cool to see the Soviet stars.
I would definitely recommend this trip, it was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.