Romania: famed for intergalactic smash-megahit Dragostea din tei, the ever entertaining Cheeky Girls, and… …and… wait there… no, I think that’s it. (been waiting to write that for months…) After the beauty of the gorge it was 4 very samey days cycling along the South of border of the country. I roughed it every night but one and spent no more than about 40squid in 5+days.
I was considering cycling from Drobete Turnu Severin directly across the country on the main roads to Giurgiu, but thought I would stick to the Danube for the last time before leaving it and heading South-ish in Ruse, Bulgaria. This took me first on a main road. One of the best I have cycled. It’s really handy because they have clearly designed the main roads here with horse drawn carts in mind.
This means that there is space for a horse drawn cart and 2 cars to pass one another at the same time. So there was an extra 2 foot of smooth tarmac on the side of the road perfect for cycling.
I met a 51 year old German cycle tourer heading to Constanta, and another 21 year old German who was also heading to Constanta but then onwards to Israel.
They had been sleeping in hotels. I was warned that the dogs in Turkey are a lot bigger than those in Romania. Something like an Alsatian from what I could gather. Yikes.
The night after the gorge I was invited to stay in a couple’s house. Marian and Jelena’s English wasn’t great but a real bed was very welcome and the fat breakfast set me nicely for more miles. I learned that supposedly 40% of Romania’s power comes from Hydroelectricity. That’s impressively big. The usual topics of conversation came up: Manchester United (thankfully I had watched the Champions League Final back in Vienna), David and Victoria Beckham, Kate and William, The Beetles, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Iron Maiden, Madonna and even Shakira and Lady Gaga.
Cycling through all the towns along the south 55/54/51 road I was greeted with, hellos, holas, what’s your names?, nods, hand waves, and high fives. One incident had the potential to be a day breaker. 4 girls about 6 or 7 years old playing on the road spotted me coming from about 75metres away. They all started screaming and sprinting towards me with their hands outstretched waiting for a highfive. The first 3 pulled away from the rather overweight one at the back so by the time I got there the first 3 were 2 metres apart, and then the last one was about 10metres back. I stretched out my arm to connect… 1!2!3! Clap!Clap!Clap!…Now for the last one. Please don’t miss, please don’t miss. This could ruin both her day and mine. I line up as best and I can and Boom! Connection!! Thank God for that…
In one odd encounter I pulled into a bar to ask if they served any food. They didn’t but tucked just around the corner was an adjoining shop. I bought a few bits. The guy who showed me where the shop was asked if I wanted a beer. I had already done about 90Km that day so I thought yeah why not. His English was lot more broken than I first thought. He was also a lot more odd than I first thought. We sat down and tried to converse. It wasn’t really going anywhere. He was definitely on something but I couldn’t say what. He invited me to his house and was keen that I stay the night. I had other ideas. The barman came out to join us. He added that this guy grew the best tomatoes in the land. At one point this guy who was maybe 6 or 7 years older than me declared he was a gypsy and had left his mother and sister in behind in Bucharest. ‘You are a gypsy?’ NO! I am not gypsy!!’ What was this guy on about……? I chugged my beer twice as fast as normal ‘cos I had had enough.
He kept on talking about me staying at his place before breaking into more glossolalial jibber jabber. Suddenly he crescendoed with ‘I WILL KILL YOU!’ with accompanying slice to the throat. Yeah nice to meet you too you ****. There was no chance I was staying at his place that night. I didn’t care how good his tomatoes were . He didn’t scare me one bit, it was more just an annoyance wasting 10 minutes listening to the ramblings of a pisshead. I told him I had to cycle at least 100km everyday and therefore had to continue. Warning: rest of paragraph not 100% factually accurate. As I left he got down on one knee and tried serenading me in desperation ‘Nu mă, nu mă iei, nu mă, nu mă, nu mă iei’… ‘Nah mate, MA-I-A HIII, MA-I-A HUUU, MA-I-AAA, MA-I-A HO ya fuckin later yea!’
Not much further up the road I came across what looked like someone’s guerrilla grow op. Perhaps matey down the road had lost it chomping some unripe ‘erb. I’m fairly sure it was just growing naturally as I saw lots more of it dotted either side of the road over the next few 10s of kilometres.
Surprisingly I was able to decipher some of the written boards because of the similarity to French. The determination not to pay for water weaned somewhat after tasting what came out of the taps here. There are lots of wells in all of the villages but ive no idea what percentage are actually usable. One time when I was running low on water I peered into a well hoping it was usable. As I bent back up I made eye contact with an elderly woman. She shook her finger indicating that this water was not good to drink. She motioned for me to follow her and just 20metres down the street called to her neighbour to provide me with clean drinking water. He had his own personal well. He lowered the plastic bucket (all the others I had seen were wooden) and scooped up some “fresh” water. He plucked out a twig from the bucket with his grotty fingers. I wasn’t sure how it would taste but my expectations were far higher than they should have been. It weren’t no Volvic that’s for sure. This seemed like the perfect occasion to put the newly purchased AA batteries to use and give the Steripen lightsaber a whirl. It’s quite simple really – you click a button and when the electrodes make contact with water the UV bulb comes on and 90 seconds later Bang and all viruses and bacteria are gone. And so it was – Goodbye cryptosporidium (whatever that is)… Hello equally bad tasting water. Rank. Frankly on this occasion I think I would have preferred the taste of chlorine.
I met two Polish cycle tourers (1 54, the other 68) who were also camping rough unless they ran out battery power for their GPSs. We put some miles down together. The 68 old was absolutely avin it. Couldn’t keep up with the old mucker.
The way they did things was to get up at 5, be gone by 6 and put down at least 115km everyday, which meant that my lunchtime when I met them they had already put down a fair chunk.
Here’s what you pay for Petrol in Romania in case you wondered. 2.10 Lei (£0.96) per litre of “Euro diesel 5”, 3.90Lei (£1.77) per litre of “Top Euro Diesel 5”. No idea what the difference is there. And 3.10 Lei (£1.41) per litre of petrol. So not nearly as much difference as you might expect compared to UK prices. As for the can of Sprite inside, that was also about the same price as you pay in the UK.
I have been treated to some spectacular sunsets throughout Romania.
This last one was my favourite. Reminded me of a Mars-1 painting. Unfortunately the camera didn’t pick up the finer detail in the far distance but still wow.