Liubcova (June 13, 2015)
Harry and I got up to have breakfast as promised by the guest house owner at 6:30. We were ready to roll by 7. Our hostess wheeled out our bikes for us to avoid any confrontation with her aggressive guard dog, Sammy.
It wasn’t even 50 meters when our first dog attack happened. Harry was riding ahead first so the dog darted out from a drive way and was chasing Harry. We kept on riding when the dog decided to give up its chase and bark at us. He tried to approach me but I just kept on yelling, “NO!” We then continued on to the next towns of Belobresca and Susca when another dog attack happened. This time it was me who took the brunt of the action. I was cautiously pedaling pass this brown dog who was sunning himself when his buddy, a black and white dog darted out from under a car and gave chase. They both erupted in a chorus of barking while the little brown one got real close to my left foot. I then quickly hopped off on the right side to put the bike between me and them. That startled them and they leaped back but continued their barking. At the same time, a tractor with a man on top rolled by and yelled at them. They stopped their pursuit when I remounted and rode away still startled by the surprise attack.
Through-out the day I rode with high-alert through the towns of Pojejena, Macesti, Moldova Veche, and Coronini. It was at Pojejena where another challenge started: headwind. We knew it was bad news when we saw wind turbines on the hills ahead. We pretty much rode through the headwind until we reached our stop for the day at a guesthouse right outside of Liubcova.
With the days being so hot and exhaustion starting to take its toll on us, we are opting to have shorter days as we ended the day at 25 miles before noon. We spent the rest of our afternoon holed up in our room enjoying the air conditioning. Luckily for us, the restaurant was just downstairs so we just had to walk down to get lunch and dinner.
Plavisevita (June 14, 2015)
Because the guesthouse does not have breakfast until after 8:30, we thought we can head out of the place by 6 with a 5:30 wake-up time. Unfortunately, because of the time change, that would have been a 4:30 wake-up time and a 5AM departure. We snoozed our alarm for another 30 minutes before we finally crawled out of bed and packed up. We got everything out in 15 minutes and retrieved our bike from the back of the guesthouse and loaded them up.
We then boiled some water for our instant coffee and a breakfast bar before we left. This time, when we left the guesthouse, no dog attack. It was pretty much smooth sailing through the towns of Liubcova and Berzasca which had many dogs wandering around the road. We slowly pedaled pass most of them without any confrontation. Most ignored us while some would bark and leave us alone. We were in the clear until we reached the house.
That was when we saw the 2 white dogs wandering down the road. They saw us as well and proceeded to jog towards us barking. Harry and I decided to dismount the bike and walk over to opposite side to put them on the other side of the bike. They kept on barking at us as we slowly walked away from them. There were dogs inside the house barking as well but we weren’t worried about them. We pretty much had a clear path away and thought we could get on the bike and go but the bigger one started to charge towards us again. We promptly got off and continued to walk the bike which stopped its progress. When we were about 100 meters away we decided to hop back on the bikes and that’s when the big dog gave chase. Fueled on adrenaline, we both quickly switched it to high gear and sped off as fast as we could down the hill. I looked back to see the dog in full stride. We went down for maybe a 1/4 mile when a car finally passed us and there was no signs of the dogs. Whew!
The rest of the ride was peaceful as we did not encounter any other problems. The streets were quiet all the way through the quiet town of Svinita and into our guesthouse in Plavisevita. The guesthouse was situated right before a few climbs into Orsova so we opted to retire here for the day and deal with the hills the next day. Having a restaurant was great but the room did not have air conditioning so we were sweltering for the afternoon but when we heard thunder and the wind started to blow, I went downstairs to cover our bikes with my tarp. It never rained. The storm had blown over somewhere else and the temperature was slightly lower but still too warm for our preference.
Tomorrow we have some uphill riding into a few towns before we get into Orsova to take a train. Hopefully we can have a dog-free day in Romania for once!
Orsova (June 15, 2015)
We ate breakfast at 7:30 and was ready for the challenging day. The initial climb up wasn’t too bad and provided a great view of the Donau River once again. The grade probably went up to 8% when it finally crested. The descent took us down towards the town of Dubova where the road started to point up again on another 8% climb. It wasn’t too bad if it wasn’t for the 2 black dogs near the top of the hill. We followed the same tactic in walking pass them with the bikes as our shield. They retreated up towards the hillside but still kept barking at us. We got pass them and they came out from the brush to make sure that we were out of their territory. They were not as aggressive as the white dogs from yesterday.
We quickly got out of Dubova and was treated to a fast descent back towards the edge of the Donau river towards the gorge. It was beautiful to see the tall cliffs that lined the river. We kept our pace and got to finally see Decebalus Rex (King Decebal), the bigest stone statue in Europe. He was noted in our guide-book and others who have passed this location had taken pictures of this face in the rocks. Harry and I celebrated this milestone with photos and videos and was in a pretty good mood.
We made our final ride northeast towards the expansive town of Eselnita. It was certainly a tale of 2 towns in one. The first part of the town closest to the Donau was occupied with a plethora of guest houses ready for the bicycle tourists and local vacation goers. We stopped by a really nice one for a Coke and ice tea. Then we made our way away from the Donau into the main street that was lined with older decrepit houses and random people walking up and down the street. We had one more incident with a fairly large dog but it’s owner made sure he didn’t get near us as we walked by.
Then the steepest hill of the day started. It was a winding road up the mountain countryside with the sun bearing down on us. It made things slightly uncomfortable. We had our final encounter with 2 dogs that was sitting on the side of the road. Naturally, we got off and walked pass them across the street. One of them disappeared in the shrubs while the other one stared us down without barking at all. His ears pinned down, his legs shaking, and his eyes followed us as we walked uphill with our bikes. When we got about 100 meters away, we got back on and pedaled all the way to the top.
The descent was phenomenal! At 11%, we took advantage of the long winding road and took the lane. The cars behind us didn’t dare overtake us as we sped down into our destination town of Orsova. We had our lunch here and picked up more money from the ATM for the trip. We eventually made our way to the train station right outside of the town. The next train was at 5PM and we would not get to our destination until 9PM. We opted to stay in Orsova and then take the morning train out the next morning to Turnu Magurele which was 250KM away. Harry and I decided that we needed to take this train to catch up on the days of our trip and to balance out the fatigue and exhaustion. This decision was made when we were in Belgrade after we got the last set of maps.
After the tickets were purchased for the next morning, we went to check in at a pension right across the street from the train station. It was there that we spent the rest of the afternoon and night just napping and eating right next to the water.
Bucharest (June 16, 2015)
We got up to have breakfast around 8AM and was ready to go to the train station before the train’s arrival at 8:54. There were a few people waiting at this old run downed station. There was an announcement and the people waiting shifted over to the second track from the station. We followed their lead when the train arrived. The conductors made us go to the last cart where we had to remove our bags and lift our bikes up to the train. They didn’t let us keep our bikes together so I had my bike at the front of the cart while Harry’s bike occupied the end of the cart as well as the train.
It was a long train ride to our first stop at Rosiorii de Vede at 12:30 before we have to catch another train at 3:30 to finally get to Turnu Magurele at 5:40 in the evening. This gave me time to see what was coming up on our last 250 miles in Romania. What was coming up was really bad riding conditions as our day may include longer mileage with much more up and down riding. All this didn’t sound fun at all. It made us think back to why we were doing this trip and it was to see and experience all the new things in life. It is about enjoying our journey as we set our eyes on this arbitrary goal of crossing Europe. We were not looking forward to the ride and this morning was no exception. We had to ask ourselves why are we choosing to suffer on this bike tour? Why are we not happy when we were near the end? Why did we dread our days? I struggled to come up with a good reason. All I knew was that Bucharest was just 100KM away from Rosiorii de Vede and we could just stay on the train and pay for the difference with the conductor.
That afternoon, we chose to be happy again. We chose to end our bike tour across Europe. If you’re scrutinizing this technicality of us not actually crossing Europe, it really doesn’t matter. The experience and the fact that we got to where we were is enough to last a lifetime in unforgettable memories. We may not have gotten the opportunity to dip our front tires in the Black Sea, but we gave it a hell of a try and had fun doing it. As we spent our last night in Eastern Europe in the city of Bucharest, we are in awe about our accomplishments and relieved that we have ended our trip.
Madrid, Spain (June 17, 2015)
The trip may have ended but the drama continues with the challenges of getting us and our stuff back home. We got up at 8:30 and left our hotel towards the bike shop that was going to pack our bikes and box up our stuff. It was drizzling while we navigated along the sidewalks toward the Spoke, The Friendly Bicycle Store. We got there well before the 9:30 meeting time so we waited for Cat, one of the owners, to show up.
When she got there, we unloaded our bikes and piled our stuff for them to pack. It was just easier to pack Maria aka Rosa (my bike) in a regular bike box than create a smaller box and try to pull it apart to fit in a smaller 26″x26″x10″ box. We left all our things at the shop while we took a taxi out to the center of the city and explored Bucharest’s Old Town. This was a touristy area completed with all souvenir shops and dozens of restaurants. We found a barber shop and had all our hair trimmed and clean. We then enjoyed a lunch while we tried to get used to each other’s hairless face.
We walked around for another hour before we took another taxi back to the bike shop. Bucharest is such a busy city. We can see where they claimed that they’re “Little Paris” of Eastern Europe but it falls short of anything spectacular. Outside of the touristy area, people appeared to be down and out. There was certainly a lack of tourists there compared to other Western European places like Vienna or Paris.
Back at the bike shop, Cat and her team had our bikes packed and our stuff in 2 separate boxes. She even arranged a shuttle service that was going to take our boxes and us to the airport. We ended up to be stuck in really bad traffic but finally got to the airport after about 45 minutes on the road. We got dropped off at the only terminal in the airport and we retrieved a cart to wheel our boxes in. The airport was small but busy. They didn’t let us check in our bags until another 30 minute later. When we got to the front of the line, they wanted a printed copy of our ticket or to show the ticket on their app (which we didn’t download). If we didn’t have any of these options, we were charged €70 for them to print it out for us. I got out of line and went to get better WiFi reception to download their app to show them our tickets. It was such a frustrating experience as they made it very difficult for us to get on the plane. I’m not even going to mention the airline’s name and give them any credit for anything. By the time we got into our gate, we had to line up immediately as people were getting ready to board the plane. Harry was concerned that we would not have room for our bags.
The 3 and half hour flight was long and tiring complete with crying babies and kids kicking the back of our chairs. We got into Madrid at 9PM and didn’t get to our hotel until 10:30. We had dinner and called it a night. The plan is to explore Spain and getting plenty of rest for the next few days until our flight out on June 29th.
Thank you for those who followed along in our 2 and half month journey. I am sure there will be more to be said about this in the next few blog updates.