Back to the Future
It is day 20, country number 8, 2 days to go until Constanta and (fingers crossed) our first sight of the Black Sea. The Danube was never gonna let it be easy though…
After our encounter with fellow cyclists outside Belgrade we passed into the Iron Gates, a dramatic gorge like valley crowned at the entrance by the mighty fortress of Golubec. It was definately the scenic highlight of the trip, although it did throw in some enormous climbs and pitch black tunnels, the first of which I zoomed into with my sunglasses on and wondered why I couldn’t even see the white lines. The final tunnel, 350m long, was so dark we could hardly see the road and ended up crashing into the curb and losing our panniers in the blackness.
The next challenge was Romania, a whole different ballgame. Without trying to build it up too much we set our targets on a 180km day across the flood plains and, in the main, it went very smoothly. We passed through village after village in the kind of poverty you don’t really expect to find in the EU. Woody delighted in waving at smiling old folk sat sleepily by the side of the road and kids ran straight out to greet us with high fives and, in our particularly annoying instance at the start of a huge climb, a skipping rope held across the road at neck level. They seemed to find it very amusing. We also suddenly became the fastest thing on the road as car were replaced with horse and donkey drawn carts.
Our over night stop in Bechet, which was a bit shit, was about as rural as we’ve gone. There was a disco though in our hotel, only active on Saturdays, but the hotel owners son decided to turn on the entire thing just for us, spin some techno tracks with brain numbing bass, get out the chairs and turn on the lasers. We just stood in the middle of the empty dance floor with a beer in our hand wondering what the hell we were supposed to do next. We were saved from pulling out the upper body dance (lower body being exhausted after the 180km) by the lads father who came downstairs to turn it all off before all of his guests left.
We’d had enough of the flood plain and the scenery was monotonous to say the least, so we decided to make it another bit one and get to Bulgaria. Despite a flat on Ezra’s back wheel we made the ferry in the nick of time and, after navigating the most disturbingly smelly and industrial border I’ve ever seen on the Bulgarian side, we made it to Svistov and breathed a sigh of relief. We’d arrived, back in the future. Supermarkets, vehicles powered by motors and not animals, banks, and other such things we take for granted.
Bulgaria has still had it fair share of new challenges to throw at us on day 20…it’s got hot again, we scaled the biggest hill of the tour this morning, got another flat and a broken spoke on the outskirts of Ruse, where I now sit in the English Guest House. Just to keep him on his toes, Woody got stung/bit by some nasty bug coming into town that made him curse and shout, but at least he forgot his arse pain for a while. There’s more to come, big climbs tomorrow and then, on the final day, our map showed about 8km of hilly COBBLED streets. If that doesn’t send all our spokes pinging out into the Bulgarian Danube then maybe we’ll be in Constanta on Monday…
Thanks so much for all your contributions to our fund raising efforts, it’s really incredible that we’ve pushed way beyond our target! Cheers!