- Jamie Shannon
Romania. I don't want to die today
My mood had changed massively now but this was not to last as, unbeknownst to me, Romania has some of the most reckless drivers I have ever had the misfortune to share a road with.
Cycle touring through Romania - and I thought this would be the easy part
After 10km’s I came to my first Romanian town. There were money changing shops everywhere and people sat around alongside the road doing, well, not very much it seemed. I put this down to the fact that it was a Friday afternoon though and blisteringly hot too.
It didn’t feel all that safe if I must be honest. I just didn’t get a good vibe and so whilst I wanted to cycle straight through, I was in dire need of some orange juice or coke or something and so I stopped at an ATM. I was out of luck though as my standard Dutch account had been depleted. I tried my English account instead but I couldn’t remember the pin as It’s been nearly three months since I used it. I could have looked on my laptop but this just wasn’t the place to get it out and so, feeling rather dejected, I carried on and stopped outside a monastery to look my pin up. If I wasn’t safe here then I wouldn’t be anywhere.
In the next town of Sannicolau Mare I was able to get some cash out and then headed straight to a supermarket to buy a litre of orange juice. That’s all I wanted and needed. This town felt safer.
I continued on my way but then I heard some thunder overhead. As it was getting on for 6 and with the people driving as if their life depended on it, I pulled over into a farmer’s field where I made my dinner. I had to be quick about it as the thunder continued overhead and I didn’t want to get stuck here cooking pasta in the rain.
Just as I was finishing up, the rain started to fall and not knowing where else to go, I decided to walk a little into the field and camp there. I could see there were no houses in the distance and so the chances of my being found were next to nothing I thought.
As the rain began to lash down heavily, I raced to get my tent up and my things inside before everything got wet and managed to do so just in time. Good job too for as soon as I did it, the rain fell with almighty thuds. It was quite unbelievable. I had never ever in my life seen a thunderstorm like it. Thunder and lightning exploded overhead whilst the rain and wind battered my tent for about three hours.
In the end it eased off somewhat and I managed to get a very restless night’s sleep. Crazy.
You know, this kind of travel is a combination of ups and downs – extreme lows that can be followed very quickly by amazing highs. Today would be of the former type.
I woke up to find I was still alive and set off early just in case a farmer was out and about. I had to push my bike, no make that pull my bike, through mud for about fifty metres in order to get out of there. By the time I got to the road, my frame, brakes, fenders and drivetrain were absolutely caked in the stuff. I then had to take everything off and set about cleaning it with a combination of twigs, a toothbrush, WD40 and an old rag. It took ages and by the time I was done, I had to then clean myself which was a bit more difficult.
With the bike back together I set off again and was feeling good. It was still only seven, the road was free of traffic and I was in a new country. What could go wrong? Everything apparently.
I spent the rest of the morning cycling along the highway towards the town of Timisoara. I had no choice but to wear my hi – vis and helmet as the traffic was just mental. It wasn’t the fact that there was a lot of it, simply that they all drove at speeds in excess of 90 km’s per hour. It was only a two lane road, and although they would pull over if there were no oncoming cars, most of the time there were. They simply squeezed past me at 90, leaving me wobbling in their trail, but knowing there were more coming up behind me. I had to constantly be vigilant as there was nowhere to go to my right as bushes and trees hung over the road.
Welcome to Romania. Home to such horrendous drivers not seen since Portugal
I couldn’t quite believe the speeds they were doing and how reckless they were when overtaking. Even the trucks would squeeze past me and just hoped for the best. By the time I stopped for some water I was quite literally a nervous wreck. As was filling up at a fountain in a village, and with an old lady hanging out her window watching my every move, a man came out of his house and handed me a fresh bottle of soda. With the kind of morning I was having, every little generous offering went a long way.
I stopped for breakfast a little later and gathered my thoughts. I didn’t know how I was going to survive Romania if it carried on like this.
As I wheeled my bike back onto the road, something happened which has never happened before. Not in five months around Europe last summer, on this trip or way back in New Zealand; someone intentionally tried to scare/hit me. As I was stood there getting ready to pedal, I heard a car coming from ahead and noticed it was drifting into the opposite lane. As it got closer it actually began to veer in my direction, straight for me. I managed to turn my bike into the gravel just in time and then looked back to see it speeding off again. It must have come to within less than a metre of me and at 90 km/h that’s no joke. I’m sure he wasn’t going to hit me but merely scare me. It worked too. What a fu**ing moron. To actually have a car heading right towards you at 90 isn’t a nice thing and I couldn’t fathom why he would do it. Needless to say it put me in a horrible mood. I mean now I don’t simply have to watch the cars behind me but also watch the cars in front of me. Fucking idiots..
Maybe I’ll head south to Serbia.
Anyway, I had to carry on along the road as there was nowhere else to go. I cycled onto Timisoara being extra vigilant all the way. It was mental, the drivers are just insane. The good thing about the speeds they do is that I do hear them coming from about half a kilometre away and so I have time to get out of the way or something but man alive they drive like Michael Schumacher on speed, before the ski accident. At one point, I saw two cars overtaking another on a two lane highway. Don’t they know that you can’t really fit three cars in two lanes particularly when there is a bicycle coming up too. They don’t seem to care if they hit me. I have to dive out of the way and hope for the best. Fucking mental I tell you. I can’t be doing this, I don’t want to die today.
At eleven I arrived in Timisoara and have never ever in my life been so thankful to arrive in a city, Usually I can’t wait to get out of them as the roads outside are usually much safer but in Romania, the opposite seems to be the case.
I cycled out of the city but opted to take what I thought would be a much quieter road. As it happens in life, it wasn’t but this was in fact a great thing as the traffic was so heavy that they didn't have a chance to speed up.
As the traffic decreased however, their speeds increased and with that their dare devil antics and so at Buzias, I decided it was time for me to try an even smaller road. When I entered the country, I was on dark orange, now I had been travelling along yellow and pretty soon I would be using the white roads. I actually thought I might run out of colours and with it roads.
I just hand out money to everyone I meet. Turns out he wanted one euro to feed his children of which he had 10
I stopped a little later at an entrance to a field in order to fix a flat, eat some sandwiches and generally laze about for a bit. A little later, I saw a man trotting along the road in the corner of my eye pulling a huge wooden wagon with several horses. Just as he passed, I saw him wave and so, the nice guy I am, I waved back. I regretted it straight away. He got out. Here we go. I started packing up pretty soon and when he did come over he started asking me all sorts of questions which I couldn’t give him an answer to because I haven’t started learning Romanian yet. He kept pointing to his wagon where I saw a child. He was saying something. Then he showed me a cut on his leg. After that, I got the impression that he wanted me to come with him to his house because he kept saying ten in Italian which I took for 10km's whilst rubbing his belly. In the end and after more rubbing, I heard the word ‘euro’. Ahhh that’s it. Of course. I just hand out money to everyone I meet. Turns out he wanted one euro to feed his children of which he had ten. Fooking hell, you don’t get to nine and then realise you can’t feed them. I gave him a smile and cycled on. Ten children.
I have to say that I was in heaven now. There was no traffic to speak of and I had the roads to myself. I was now cycling through sleepy little villages where I felt every pair of eyes on me. In the last village, I encountered one of the steepest hills I’ve ever seen. I sweated myself up and after about ten minutes of panting I reached the top to discover a beautiful and wooded landscape all around me to the south. Up to now, the land had been flat and boring but this was something else. It was amazing and I was so happy to have chosen the tiny roads.
There were stray dogs all over the place but for some reason, they didn’t seem too bothered about me. It’s usually only the ones that have owners that give chase.
I swung down another huge and sweeping hill and decided to pull over to make dinner. Just when I was about half way done I felt drops of rain and so I started to frantically put everything back in their bags and to speed up the cooking. I don’t like cooking in the rain. It’s not very pleasant.
When at last I finished it began to rain harder so I began cycling up into the forest in the hope there was somewhere to camp. It was really thick and overgrown thus there were very few places. After a steep climb, I spotted a track leading in and decided I had found my spot.
Now, and here’s the thing, there aren’t many bears left in Europe, but of the ones that are left, Romania has over half of them alone and I keep seeing signs for bears. With this in mind, I hung both my food bags from a tree about thirty metres from my tent as I have heard this is what you do.