With the visit to Pripyat over, our tour of the exclusion zone was slowly drawing to a close. We stopped at the 10km exclusion zone checkpoint, where a guard ran a Geiger counter along the side of the bus and gave us a thumbs up to proceed back to the city of Chernobyl. Before heading back to Chornobylinterinform, we stopped at a ship “graveyard”, memorial park, and small enclosure that contained vehicles used by the liquidators during the cleanup effort.
These ships were abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster due to their high levels of radiation.
Firetrucks and armored personnel carriers used by the liquidators
Memorial erected on the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster
We arrived back at Chornobylinterinform in the late afternoon, and after dutifully standing in line to wash our hands (with our guide mumbling something about particles and parts per million, or whatever) we were served a delicious four course “clean” (meaning, all the food was apparently brought in from outside the zone) meal. I was completely puzzled by one of the beverages, a bright pink concoction with the consistency of jello that hadn’t quite solidified. We dined with an Englishman who had recently returned from North Korea, which, he claimed, was one of the best countries he has visited. I was totally jealous, considering I’ve been wanting to go to North Korea for the past four years. Maybe next year?
Before leaving Chornobylinterinform, we took turns posing for photos on this machine that apparently checks for radiation, or something. Like I said in a previous entry, the health and safety briefing was lacking.
Ryan, myself, and Laura
Kittens outside Chornobylinterinform
Ryan and Laura playing with the radioactive kittens. Uh, no, you can’t take them home…and while Purell hand sanitizer kills 99.999999% of germs, I don’t think that applies to radiation.
When we reached the 30km, and final, checkpoint, a guard ran a Geiger counter along the side of the bus, once again declared it clean, and ordered us off the bus. We were led into a building containing a row of machines that check zone visitors for possible contamination. I stepped onto the machine, placed my hands on the side, and stared at the four buttons in front of me, silently praying that the green one marked “chisto” (“clean”), and not either of the two red buttons, would light up. After a few agonizing seconds, the green button declared that I was clean, the steel bar unlocked, and I was free to leave the zone.
Several in our group stood there on the machines, waiting for instructions of some sort, until the guard supervising the process grinned at them, gave a thumbs up sign, and urged them on using the only English he knew, “OK, OK!” Our entire group passed, which was comforting, because I don’t think anyone was really looking forward to the decontamination showers. Rather, we just wanted to get back on the bus as quickly as possible, as the skies had darkened overhead, signaling that a torrential downpour was well on its way.
Read more about the tour:
1. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part I: Dude, where’s your Geiger counter?
2. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part II: Liquidators Memorial / Kopachi / Catfish / Reactor 4
3. Dispatches from Chernobyl, Part III: The ghosts of Pripyat