BruceLi’s Orient Express – Romania 6

Well, I had that massage I promised myself in Baile Herculaine with a masseur who was wearing a very bad wig.  Luckily, we discovered quite quickly that we each have a rudimentary knowledge of conversational Spanish, so we hit it off from the beginning and with my eyes closed I could even forget his wig – until I sat up and saw that it had slipped a bit in his enthusiasm!  (Fastest hands in Eastern Europe!)

After a ‘dinner’ of two yoghurts (my choice) that night I was sick as a dog again, and renewed my schedule of bathroom visits throughout the night.  I did ride in the morning, however, and it was spectacular scenery and I’m glad I did it.  We had a 40 Km climb straight out of town with 5 – 10% grades all the way as we climbed up and over the Carpathian  Mountains.  Beautiful mountains and valleys.  The ride was 102 kms that day and I had a chance to buy some drugs in a small town to try to fix my problem – don’t know what they were though.  One of our riders, a delightful Aussie lady (who is a homicide detective – is that cool, or what?) had a nasty accident, though.  Down a hill and round a curve she crashed right in to a cow in the middle of the road.  Her bike was wrecked – smashed front fork amongst other damage, but she was lucky to come out of it with a sore leg and nasty bruise.  Bruce stayed with her for a couple of hours while we rode on, because he was able to make up the time faster than anyone else in the little group we were with at the time.   No cell phone signals in the mountains so her brother had to ride on to advise the van driver to come back for her.

We bush camped that night by a river near Targo Jiu.  No amenities – except for one outhouse style toilet and a very noisy restaurant nearby playing loud eighties-style disco “music”.  Bathing was in the river, which was loosely divided off as North Americans on the right (nude), Aussies on the left (swim suits) and Canadians (where else?) in the middle with a bit of conservative coverage.  Dishes were also washed in the river that night.  We were fenced in overnight to keep the stray dogs at bay, but there was a lot of barking throughout the night all around us.  My plumbing problems returned with a revenge that night, too, so had numerous trips to the “bathroom” and opportunities to enjoy the night sounds (dogs and disco).  Kidneys were now also giving pain, so decided to sag (YES – SAG!) again in the morning.

Good thing, too.  The road from Targo Jiu was ROUGH!  Even the Big Boys up front (and Bruce) found it very challenging, so you can imagine what it was like for the less strong riders and for me, with my kidneys hurting, it would have been a misery.  A detour off the main highway was planned (the heavy trucks and fast vehicles are terrifying) so that the route went through quiet country hamlets, but it was totally up and down over very poor conditions and it was hot.  They couldn’t pick up much time on the downhills either, as the road surfaces were so treacherous.   Oh, yes, and it was also 130 kms!  Another – unexpectedly – very good day to choose to sag!  🙂    I rode back with the driver of the van (yes, I was STILL sagging) to look for stragglers and we took three on board who’d had enough.

We camped that night at a place called Romnicu Valcea in the grounds of a motel.  We had one shower to share between our group of thirty people and the occupants of the top floor of the motel (much to their dismay!), and two toilets downstairs to share between our group and the several hundred wedding guests who showed up for a reception that evening.  Big, NOISY wedding with dreadful music.  One piece of pre-recorded electronica was played over and over and over again – repetitively without any other music between!  I’ll sing it for you when I get back – maybe then I’ll get it out of my head!  The announcer stopped shouting into his microphone around 4am, and the last guests departed, loudly, around 5:30am.  Good rest for riders, eh?   Needless to say, by this point, my Tour de Washrooms of Romania continued throughout the night so I had plenty of opportunity to take in the spectacle!  Oh, and did I mention yet the lions roaring in the zoo next door???   It’s a somewhat surrealistic experience to crawl out of your tent in the middle of the night with a towel wrapped around you and to walk through a crowd of well-dressed wedding guests to get to the loo, by the way………..

So it’s clear that I needed some serious drugs by now and my search for antibiotics began.  I chose not to ride again (YES – MY 3rd SAG DAY! – might as well get this out of the way before I get home!), and was able to get some in a pharmacy in our next town (Gaesti) before arriving at the motel we stayed at that night.  We were scheduled to camp, but there wasn’t a campsite, so Randy found us a few rooms at this very unusual motel where we all tripled and doubled up in what rooms were available because there was ANOTHER WEDDING at this motel this night!!!   Bruce and I shared with Dick, our Resident Oldster, who is 78, which was fine by me, because he was in bed and asleep early which gave some privacy to me.  Bruce and Dick each took a single bed and I opted for sleeping on the floor (with two Thermarests) because they had each put in long days of riding and I had not.  This wedding was not so loud and didn’t last so long as the one the night before but even so it impacted on our group.  Randy had dinner booked in the restaurant for all of us at 7pm with a pre-set meal of beef, but when we all showed up there were no tables available and when we got to sit down finally there were only four beef dinners available to us, so the rest of us got to choose “chicken or pork”???  The priority for the kichen and wait staff had obviously been to cater the wedding alongside.

Feeling better in the morning so I opted to ride the leg to Bucharest.   Hot, hot, hot day.  About 38 degrees, but the road was flat as a pancake all the way, albeit some head winds and it was quite debilitating for a number of riders.  I was basically terrified for much of the distance on the highway, with the way the vehicles screamed up on us and no shoulder or drop-offs from the tarmac on our right.  We grouped up – much to my relief – at lunch on the outskirts of Bucharest to convoy into the city and that part was a lot of fun for me.  We had one van up front and our riders two abreast (to use up the lane we were in) and one van bringing up the rear.  We had four ‘outriders’ (Bruce and 3 others of the stronger riders)  whose job was to get into the intersections and stop the traffic as we rode through en masse.  It was pretty neat the way it worked.  Just once we blew it somewhat at a traffic light when half of us were through and the others still to come, and we had what I’d call serious Mexico City style lanes of traffic stopped at a roundabout thingy, and this woman tried to push her way through us.  Dave, probably our biggest guy, hit her window with his hand to get her to stop, and the guy in the car jumped out and was ready to duke it out with him.  He was only a tiny guy though and as we whistled on past, everyone was shouting at Dave to “get out of there”!  So we rode only as far as the campsite, and everyone left their bikes there.  Those of us on the ‘comfort’ tour (and I thank god for it every time we get to a hotel!) then taxi’d in to our hotel (opposite Ceausescu’s over the top Parliament Building) and what a pleasure it was to get here.  Clean, comfortable, air-conditioned!   I think maybe I shan’t leave here for two weeks and will then fly to Istanbul to meet the arrival of the group!  🙂  🙂

Update on our travelling tent:  It’s in the mail!   Via Hungarian Post to be exact.  Supposed to have arrived here in Bucharest either yesterday or today.  Hmmmmmm……… again!

Tomorrow we cross the border into Bulgaria with four serious riding days.  We have to get up at 4am to try to exit the city before the big traffic and to get ahead of the heat.  Then we have two major days (140 and 155 Kms) to do, so will have to see how that shakes down.  It’s pretty tiring for Bruce to have to hold up and slow down for me, so I may end up hitting the wagon mid-day so that he can get some speed on.  I’ll let you know………………!

Posted from Romania:

posted Tuesday July 2007

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