Friday, 20 July 2012
The 'Iron Gates' hydro-electric dam is the border crossing from Serbia. We reached Drobeta Turnu Severin, the first town in Romania with 3450k on the clock ... only 800k to go, and one more border crossing. In blistering heat just after midday, we booked into a small pension for two nights, and spent the rest of the day just collapsed in the shade. Next day we had a brave attempt at sightseeing and went down to the river to see the remains of Trajan's bridge (the biggest bridge in the ancient world in it's day); and the ruins of the Roman town; and the mediaeval water tower ... but the heat won yet again and we scuttled back to the pension. We set off the next day before dawn and briefly needed lights for the first time. It was a delightful day's cycling. We followed the river passing through village after village where we were greeted by smiles and waves from the kids who wanted to 'high-five' us as we rode by. I did have to brandish the 'dog bat' at a couple of strays who ran out with teeth bared, and we were pleased to see it acted as a very effective deterrent. For a short section we were on dirt track and then we rolled into a small village with a shop where we decided to hole up through the midday heat, then press on later in the afternoon. Needless to say we hadn't settled down for long before three kids rolled up. They were intrigued by the bikes, the ukulele, and these two strange foreigners who had appeared unexpectedly in their village. After a few hours we waved them goodbye and set off again. At Pristol we stopped and asked in the local shop if there was anywhere nearby we could camp for the night. Daniel, the shopkeeper insisted on giving us a room in his house. We accepted and spent a lovely evening with him and his family. I'm afraid to say that after such a promising start, the rest of the time in Romania was nothing like as pleasant ... Days without a glimpse of the river, hot, potholes, 38C in the shade, no shade, kids shouting 'ola', waves, more potholes, still no shade, endless sunflower fields staring at us, 40C, imaginary campsites, dogs, still no shade ... Finally we got back to the river and took the ferry across to Silistra, a divided city, half in Romania and half in Bulgaria ... we opted for Bulgaria, and a nice hotel with air-con. Next day we crossed back into Romania for the last leg. There was just 150k to go ... but according to the map, it would be the hilliest part of the whole trip ... there was no place offering accommodation, nor any campsites marked ... and the heat was showing no signs of abating. Steeling ourselves, we set off at 5.30 expecting the worst. It was a real surprise to find the hills, although plentiful, were not the brutes people had described. For most of the morning we were in view of the river and with fewer villages there was the excitement of the feeling of 'remoteness' as we wound our way up to Ion Corvin, the only 'town' marked. Anticipation grew ... and then ... lo and behold, the rumoured Service station which offered accommodation did actually exist !! We rather took the owner by surprise and he had to drive down to the village to buy food and drink, but the room was comfortable. In the evening a pair of Scots cycle tourists arrived and we spent the evening chatting with them. (I was very good and didn't say anything about Andy Murray getting beaten at Wimbledon ...). Now, with 89k and the biggest hills so far, between us and the sea, we were up even earlier for our last day at 4.00am we set off at 4.40am in the dark, again expecting the worst. Ahead in the blackness we could hear packs of stays howling and we both had our dog bats drawn. Word must have spread amongst the canine community though, of the 'cyclists that bite back' because none of them bothered us. The hills too succumbed to the adrenaline we could feel as the journey's end approached. The last 30k was a grind down a big, busy dual carriageway ... then the suburbs of Constanta ... and then ... finally ... The Black Sea! We've done it.