After presenting the Man and the Machine that powered Cycling Romania With No Money (read article here) I am finally on the road! After a great weekend spent catching up with my best friend, I found it hard to motivate myself to tackle the first day of my trip – probably the least interesting. From Bucharest to Pitesti, I had 138 kilometers to ‘roll’. It was the only flat surface day that I had in my schedule and I thought it’s going to be a breeze!
We have a saying in Romania: “the budget made home doesn’t ever add up in the shop” . With a 37 °C and no shadow my energy budget didn’t really add up either. What was interesting though were the long villages that were stretching for miles and miles even hours in one case. This village that I passed, was around 20 kilometers long and I was really thinking how inconvenient must be for two love birds to live on opposite ends of the village. On the first day I encountered agricultural Romania at its best! With tractors and people working the land left, right and center, I felt like everybody was a busy bee! My GPS at that point was thinking that I should fully embrace the farmers’ lifestyle so it took me on some agricultural roads in the middle of nowhere as seen in the photos below.
The blogger without technology
This is the point where the disaster happened… You see I was planning to make you, the reader of my blog, an integer part of my travels. But I was brought to silence and almost tears when my phone just refused to work. For the rest of the trip I had to make do without having an essential piece of equipment that I just couldn’t really post without. So, I decided I will relate all my stories when I get back home. This was a blessing in disguise, having to do the entire country-crossing the old-way, with pen and paper. Having to ask for directions was the perfect conversation opener with locals but more on that later.
The rest of the first day was filled with countryside Romania – traditional houses, horse carriages and a really weird thunderstorm. It was hot and sunny and at one point I got absolutely trenched with rain whilst having the sun burning my face – a unique experience for sure!
My bad day didn’t stop there! I was supposed to stay with a Warm Shower host but unfortunately, he had an emergency and couldn’t host me anymore. As I got to Pitesti it was getting dark and with all my best efforts, I couldn’t find somebody to host me for the night or pitch my tent up in the middle of the city, so I called in for a motel. My mission of cycling Romania with No Money turned into Cycling Romania With Almost No Money in the first day. To be fair to me and my efforts, that was the only time I paid for accommodation and in 6 days and over 700 kilometers I spent a total of £30 with the help of giving people.
Next day, as I started to make my way to Transalpina, magic happened! Hills, mountains and freshly tarmacked roads made me forget the failure of my first day! You might wonder what I ate along the way – well on those days I fed myself with apples, plums and pears from the trees along the way. They were delicious and made me love Romania even more – probably one of the only countries where road travelers are treated like kings. Crossing the region of Oltenia, I encountered horse carriages and crossed the Olt river, the longest river flowing exclusively through Romania. On a 38 °C I was refreshed by two friends who wanted to encourage me along the way. We set to meet on the Babeni dam and they fed me, air conditioned me and laughed how stupid I am to cycle on such heat. It was a nice mental reboot that probably kept me going for the rest of the day – thanks guys!
And off I went towards the highest mountain pass in Romania – Transalpina – reaching 2145 meters altitude. 2nd day was also quite a track: 134 kilometers and 1000 meters ascend altitude. After 1-year break of serious cycling, the saddle soar was horrendous. I was dancing on the saddle every 5 seconds to alleviate my pain. Probably the car drivers behind thought I am having a cycling dance party by myself. But it was all worth it!
As I was reaching Baia de Fier, which in translation means ‘the Iron Bath’, the scenery got spectacular. Mountain gorges, beautiful cosy villages and a refreshing mountain breeze, gave me power to finish the last climbs. The hosts for that night was a lovely family that I got in touch with the help of my best friend Paul, who I am forever grateful for his help!
They were proud inhabitants of Baia de Fier who were farming and taking care of animals, but their kindness was of a royal family. They served me with their homemade ‘visinata’, a traditional cherry made liquor that tastes like little drops of heaven. Wine, steak and good conversation filled the night.
In this world of selfishness, I am forever grateful that there are still people that although might not have as much material belongings, give you all they can offer with no interest at heart. I did my best to repay them, repairing their grand-kids’ bikes but I will be forever in their debt for the energy they power me with to show the spiritual beauty Romania has to offer.
Day 2 – Route
Family from the Iron Bath