vrijdag 29 augustus 2014

Chernobyl: Radioactive sideseeing


Long time no see.
This summer in July, in a country between revolution and war, I had the chance to go and visite Chernobyl.

One year ago If you would talk about Ukraine, people would have generaly said: "Ah, one of these countries from the former Soviet Union (CCCP). Now everybody should at least know how to locate it. 
After the planecrash (17-07-2014) of public flight MH17 Malaysia Airlines (Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur). All the 298 people inside died. I flew the next day to Kiev.
First moment when I got the news from the plane crash I was terrified and scared to leave. But after some research if found out that the this war was only located in a specific part of the Ukranian borders with Russia. So, in Kiev there was no danger.

So on friday 18 july, I left to Kiev to visit my good friend Oleksandr Topachevskyi.
One of the highlights of my trip would be a guided visit to Chernobyl.

I'm born 3 months after the explosion (24-04-1986) of Reactor 4 of the nuclear powerplant of Chernobyl.
So for me the catastrophy of Chernobyl is a very important happening that unites all people born in 1986, we are all Cherno-Billies.
Oleksandr, my friend from Kiev was born in 1987. For health reasons his mother, like all pregnant women from Kiev, was transported to Georgia to give birth to her son. 

A long time a lot of information has been hidden for the people from the region of Chernobyl, the USSR, and the rest of the world. Even our governments have been lying about the impact of the explosion and the reach of the radioactive cloud that past trough all of Europe, except from Spain and Portugal.

The Belgian and French government denied that the radioactive cloud would have passed over their country.
If the government would have informed their citizens, it would take us very little to protect us for the dangerous cloud. Radiation transports its self in piece of dust. Our body takes iodine from the air and doing this radioactive particles are accepted in our body. By taking iodine tablets, our body doesn't kneed to take Iodin from the air. But if the government lies, the citizens don't know they have to protect hemselves.

The most common diseases and death causes related to this disaster are certain cancers (thyriod cancer and Leukaemia) and birth defects.
Going back to the first message I put on my blog, before going travelling Latin-America I did a large bloodtest and my doctor detected thyroide cancer. Luckily at the end we found out it is only a disfunction of my thyroide. Does this disfunction have something to do with Chernobyl? I don't know, but at least I feel even more Cherno-Billy now.

We booked our tour to Chernobyl with: www.tourkiev.com
On our visit there was an Australian couple born in '86 and 4 guys from the Netherlands.

I'm not going to talk to much, here are some photos of my trip and some links to a documentary (FR/ING) that explains the whole Chernobyl disaster and the concequences very well.

The embassy of the Netherlands in Kiev 2 days after the planecrash.

Flowers and messages from angry and shocked people.

Maidan, the mainsquare of the city center, was still filled with barricades from the revolution last winter. 
Apart from this Kiev is a big and beautiful city certainly worth visiting! Beautiful nature, parks riverbeaches, sun and important history.

Shields taken from the police.

A monument for the more than 100 people that died during the revolution last winter in Kiev. 

Trip to Chernobyl 

Two checkpoints 30km and 10km from the nuclear powerplant.

 A monument for all the villages in the area that have been abandoned or buried.

An abandoned house in a small village close to the powerplant, still full of devices and furniture. 

A statue to bring tribute to the 'liquidators', more than 350.000 people put in risk or sacrificed their lifes, by cleaning up the nuclear waste and building the first sarcophagus over the     reactor 4, to prevent it from leaking more radioactive material.   

 The machines the liquidators used for their work. They designed some remote-controlled machines for coordinating the work from a distance, but the machines all blocked after a while because the high radiation. So the people had to go and do al the work with bare hands and handtools.

A kindergarten in the 10 km zone. 

At the moment of the explotion nuclear powerplant had 4 reactors working and they were building 2 more reactors. Reactor 1, 2 and 3 kept on being used for years after the explosion of reactor 4. They stopped the building of reactor 5 and 6 after the disaster in 1986.

Reactor 5

Reactor 6 

Reactor 3

On the right reactor 4 covered by first sarcophagus, on the left the permanent sarcophagus that is being build to cover the reactor definitively. 

Our gide brings us less than 300 meters from reactor 4, 

A normal dose of radiation in open air is around 0,12 uSv/hour.
In front of the powerplant and on certain hotspots in the area the radiation goes still way up.

The new sarcophagus for covering reactor 4 in construction.

Some people contruction the new sarcophagus.
There are several companies with activities in the area of Chernobyl, there would be about 3.000 people still working in Chernobyl. They work 2 weeks and than they need to go 2 weeks outside of the radiation zone.

A picture taken right after the explosion in April 1986.

An image of some liquidators on the rooftop days after the explosion cleaning up the roof of reactor 4, in improvised safetycostumes, working with their hands and spades as their only tools. At the bottom of the picture you can see the effect of the radiation on the negatives.

Pripyat or Chernobyl City

Me and Oleksandr (Sasha) at the monument of Pripyat. In 1970 Ukrain Constructed Pripyat A.K.A. Chernobyl City, created for the people and their family who were working in the powerplant. Only 3km from the powerplant. 

The ministry of culture from the main square

Backstage of the theatre, paintings with impartant faces of the soviet era. 

The famous carousel!
Chernobyl city was ahead of it's time and more luxurious than the general soviet cities. They constructed a whole theme park and a sportstadium and sports facilities for the Pripyat citizens. The stadion and theme park were about to open officialy 5 days after the explosion on the 1st of May, Labour Day! So they never were put into use. 

The sportstadium

Caution wet paint!
Buckets of paint at the entrance of the stadium.

School in Pripyat

In every book or educational poster, doesn't metter for which age there's an image of Lenin.

The massive amount of gassmasks in Pripyat, as protection for an attack from U.S.A., have not been used on the evacuation day, to avoid panic.

Want to have a swim?

Before leaving the exclusionzone around Chernobyl we have to check on radiation.

For knowing the full story of Chernobyl see this documentary (FR/ING):

see you later 

До свидания

zaterdag 3 augustus 2013

Real tourism in Peru

On vacation with Steven in Peru

The last 3 weeks Steven Vrebos, a friend from Belgium is joining me. Together we are doing some pure tourism. I arranged a vast scedule of organised visites, through the highlites of Peruvian tourism.

I picked Steven up at the airport of Lima. From there he had a long busride from +- 18 hours to get to Arequipa. There we visited the Colca Canion. A canion with lot's of remainings from the ancient Peruvian cultures, thousands of terraces on the hillsides for agriculture, some beautifull old villages and places where the condors fly really close so you can observe theme well. But this is a different kind of tourisme. Hundreds of people doing the same trip, making the same pictures. They attract the condors by placing carcasses with rotting meat. So they fly unnaturally close to the people.

 Back in Arequipa, we visit the city with it's beautiful old parts, magnificant monastries and lot's of antiek shops. I almost bought a door knocker 'The hand of Fatima'.

From Arequipa we went to Puno the city that gives access to the lake Titi caca. Which lays at the border between Peru and Bolivia. We did a 2 day trip on the lake. Taking a boat to the floating islands made of straw. The in deginous people still live in the traditional way. Thanks to tourism and fishing for selling in Puno.
Every 25 years they have to construct a new island and move their houses.

Later we went to real island, Amantani, where we stayed overnight. We where hosted by local families, where they cooked  traditional food for us. We went to visit the Pacha Mama temple on the highest point of the island and made a wish.
In the afternoon we helped some local men to make adobe bricks for constructing new houses. These bricks are made from earth, water and straw.

From Puno we rushed on to Cusco. We took a cheap nightbus with a lot of locals. In the morning we arrive in Cusco and discover that Steven camera has been stolen. But impossible to find it back or find the thieve because the bus stopped at least 20 times at night to let local people in or out... In the hill's next to Cusco we visited some archeological sites without paying. If you entre through the exit or you climb the hill's next to the tourist sites you can see everything for free.

From Cusco we went on a 4 day Jungletrail to Machu Picchu. The first day we arrived high in the mountains to do some 'downhill' cycling. Then we walked 2 days in beautifull nature towards Aguas Calientes the city next to Machu Picchu.

The 4th day we woke up at 4 AM to klim the mountain to the entrance of the ruines, to arrive there at sunrise. After having 30 min. of explanation on the site, Steven and me we climed the Wayna Picchu mountain untill the temple of the sun on top of it. From here you've got a wonderfull view on the whole site of Machu Picchu.

At night we had a train and minibus back to Cusco arriving very late, tired and shaked.

After these 3  tours (Colca Canion, Lake Titi Caca and Machu Picchu) we finally got some time to chill and enjoy our last days in Peru. Travelling with two people is so different from travelling on your own. On your own you do just the things you feel like and you go straight from one point to another. With two people you take your time, drink a beer and chat a lot enjoying the sun. Things take more time. For me it was a difference like on your own your travelling and always on the move. If you've got compagnie you are suddenly more in a vacationmood and you enjoy things different. And with two you're more mischievous, but that's so much fun!

Later we passed at Curahuasi the village where I did my volunteering to visit the volunteers. We saw the school children practising marching and playing in their marching band. Because on sunday the 28th of July, the day we have our flight back to Belgium, it's the national independantsday of Peru.
On to Abancay, the capital of the Apurimac region, to hike through the Sanctuario National de Ampay.

The next day we arrived to the city of Ica, with his famous sanddunes of Huacachina. It's nice to climb the dunes, but don't stay there to long  because it's a real tourist-trap. One afternoon is way enough.

And then our last destination in Peru: Lima.
Most of the time Lima is clouded by smog, and there's not so much to see or do. In the historic centre, La Victoria, there's the convento de San Francisco, where you can visit the tumbes where the former people from Lima where burried. You can see thousands of bones and skull's. And there are lot's of old paintings. 'The last supper' by a painter from Mechelen (= Flanders, Belgium) and the paintings of the crucifiction painted by Rubens and his students.

And then my six months in Latin-America where over...

Last pictures of this wonderfull and rich experience:


Our hostel, 'L'auberge Espagnol'

The Colca Canion 

Gringo's having fun!

A pink flamingo 

Lake Titi Caca

The floating islands

Steven floating

Making adobe bricks on the Amantani Island

Creative recycling, shoe versus door hinge.




Saqsaywoman, free tourism 

Jungletrail to Machu Picchu

The 'Sexy Llamas' preparing for the trip.

Steve and me 

A long way to go...

Our guide in a small Coca field, 
local people chew this hole days to keep working without hunger or thurst.
You kneed at least 5kg of this and a lot of chemicals to make cocaïne.


Siesta time!

Easy roads and tracks for advanced hikers

Machu Picchu

The last Inka Emperor.

Machu Picchiquetito from the Wayna Picchu.

The busstation in cusco


Children preparing for independenceday

Ruines next to Abancay 



The End

Thanks for watching, next episode coming soon...