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  • Jamie Shannon

Continuing through the backroads of Romania

I’m still alive.

Continuing through Romania. Can I do it? Yes you can Jamie! Cycle man!

After I set off, it was a short ride through the forest where I was constantly harassed and attacked by midgets or sandfly’s or whatever you call them. I remember reading a book by Bill Bryson where he has an episode in Australia with them and I can tell you they are just as terrible as he makes out. Luckily, I was on a bike and so I was able to get rid of them pretty sharply. Whenever I stopped though, they swarmed around my head diving into my mouth and nostrils at every opportunity. Nothing gets rid of them and they are relentless.

The roads were terrible and as I turned the corner and saw another hill leading out of the village I was now in, I spotted a dog by the side of the road. Thinking it was a stray, I peddled a little cautiously on but as I passed it, it started barking whereupon another three of the little shits came darting out of nowhere. I peddled as fast as I could up the hill but I just couldn’t get any speed up and pretty soon I had four of them surrounding me. Big ones too barking like crazy. My heart was pounding as I really didn’t feel like getting bitten but pretty soon I had crested the hill and I took flight with all the energy my legs could muster. I really do hate dogs.

I carried on to the next village and got some directions from some people who were drinking outside a house. It was only ten! I carried on along the pot holed roads and through winding lanes and forest for the rest of the morning.

I did pull over to have some breakfast by the entrance to a forest but so many people came along to collect wood/pick mushrooms that I just got on my way as I’m really not liking this being the strange foreign person eating porridge by the road.

It was a Sunday and so every village church was playing nice music and people were gathered about chatting and relaxing. It was actually a very congenial and friendly atmosphere. Pretty soon though I had joined the highway again which was a relief as I wasn’t sure how much more of those roads my bike could take.

A police car stopped when I was beside a turn off and looking at my map. There were very friendly, and asked all sorts of questions as they spoke passable English which is hard to come by in these parts. I take what I can get. After saying bye, I headed up the turnoff and into one of the most painfully slow and nightmarish parts of my journey thus far.

To begin with it wasn’t so bad. The scenery was very nice and the roads, although pot holed, bumpy and strewn with rocks, were at least worthy of being called a road, just.. It was only when I got finally to the village of Doclin, 11 km’s away that the road turned even worse.

It’s strange to be riding in the back and beyond of nowhere, being the one person out of place and with every person staring at you. A lot of people said hi and waved and were always very friendly. I was actually liking this.

At the end of the village, I had to push the bike up a huge hill made up entirely of rocks floating on a bed of gravel. When I got to the top, it was the same there and I was rueing my decision to take the smaller roads but then again, if It meant I would live, maybe it’s the right choice.

I carried on and on, zig zagging my way from one side of the road to another whilst dodging massive holes and boulders every second. It was tiring work.

I was cycling through villages not present on my map and so tiny and poor it felt as if I wasn’t in Europe any more. As it was Sunday there were children playing everywhere. I said hello to many people but most just looked at me and said nothing with only the children offering a friendly hello every time I passed.

I cycled on along the ‘road’ through village after village where I eventually found myself in the one I was actually aiming for and which was noted on my map. Here though, there were no signs anywhere and I couldn’t decide which road to take. I then saw some children in the distance, and with them an older guy of perhaps 18. I thought it best to ask him and cycled over and enquired about which road to take and got the directions I needed. Another kid though thought it best to walk me there and so pretty soon, I found myself walking through the village surrounded by about ten kids with the adults looking on. I felt like Michael Jackson.

It was nice to have no traffic and to visit these small places as this is why I’m here after all. There is no point in travelling by bicycle if you stay on the main roads all day long and so I felt happy to have took this road. Bloody hard work though.

After 20km’s of travelling along possibly the worst road I have ever used, I found myself re-joining the highway heading south. It was such a relief. It wasn’t smooth by any stretch of the imagination but it was asphalt and for that I was over the moon. I picked up my pace and began flying along trying to put some km’s behind me whilst I had the chance. I just wanted to get to the border with Serbia today but I still had some way to go.

The road to Oravita was thankfully wide but just in a dreadful condition and thus I had to cycle near the centre, pulling over every time a car came up in my mirror. It was tiring and I was tired but I had to make it past the city anyway to find somewhere to camp and so I just pushed on, and on and on.

The town was a bit of a dump if I’m honest and no sooner was I in than I was already out, cycling south west towards Serbia.

Why are dogs such a menace to cyclists? Is is the smell of my food or perhaps the hum of my wheels?

One small problem lay ahead though. As I rounded the last bend, I could see the beginning of a small hill leading out of the town and the sight of an energetic little dog wandering around by the road and barking at cars as they passed. I stopped and thought about walking my bike up; perhaps this wouldn’t get them aroused as I was sure it was the cycling that was exciting them. Instead I opted to get on my bike and just peddle slowly, saving my energy for when I really needed it.

As I cycled past, it started barking at me which in turn aroused another, and then another. Pretty soon I had had about six of the shits chasing me down the road. Big, angry looking ones too. They were all strays I could tell thus who knows what they carried. I peddled like I’ve never peddled before, furiously pushing myself up the hill with 6 dogs surrounding me as I went, snapping at my bags. Oh my god I thought, please don’t bite me. I don’t want rabies. Eventually I managed to outpace all but the biggest one which just kept coming but I was eventually able outpace even that one too. I was so relieved when I looked back in my mirror to find them all standing in the middle of the road and holding up the traffic behind them. It was a funny sight actually. I can’t do this though I thought, I need to get out of here.

I pulled over a little later and made dinner in a field but wasn’t even too happy about this as there was barking in every direction and I was afraid the smell of onion and garlic might attract them. In the end it didn’t and as I was packing up the thunder started to creak overhead. I knew it was time to camp.

I passed through the next village where I picked up some water. Strange thing here was that as I passed a parked car with the engine running, it flew passed me moments later accelerating as if at the start of a grand prix race. I thought that they must need to get somewhere urgently. They pulled into a driveway ten houses down. Unbelievable.

Well more dogs. The packs of strays always seem to hang about at the start or ends of villages and towns. I saw them up ahead across some railway tracks. I actually saw a cat in the distance and when I rounded the bend, about four dogs were mauling it on my left. Poor thing. I peddled hard again followed in hot pursuit by five rabid little shits. I tried shouting which helped a little, electing to say “nee” in Dutch as English wasn’t working. I then used the German word for no, thinking the strong guttural sound might help and this worked even better. Yes, I think I’ll use German from now on. Even the dogs are offended by it.

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