Breakfast in the breakfast chamber with the travelling salesmen, truck drivers, Luca and Jozef. Hello Luca, hello Jozef. I told them my plan for seeking out the nearest bike whisperer and that I was in a hurry. I would see them down the line perhaps. They were all set for another big long cycling day of 150km or more. Bye bye Luca. Bye bye Jozef.
I left all heavy gear in the hotel room and set off at 8am in the full hope and expectation to be sorted out in an hour or two at the most. Blessed is he who expects damn all for he shall not be disappointed. The first place was sort of an open street market and while there was plenty of bikery around, they did not have spare spokes or wheels to fit my spec. The next place was an actual bike shop and looked like it had everything I needed. However the bike whisperer was not in residence and would not be available until 14h00 at the earliest and even that was not sure. Perhaps he was sleeping something off.
Nothing for it but to head across the Friendship Bridge to Ruse, another city in another country. I had my passport and money with me and the bike was holding up.
The bridge was named the Friendship Bridge by the Soviets but is known on the Romanian side as the Giurgiu bridge and on the Bulgarian side as the Danube Bridge. It is one of only two bridges connecting the two countries so as luck would have I would shortly have crossed them both . The other connects Vidin to Calafat. The bridge is over 2km long and has fairly heavy traffic although thankfully the long queues of trucks I had seen the nigh before seemed to have already made their way across. What lines there were at passport control I easily skipped past on my breezy two wheeled wobbler. Passport in one hole of a kiosk, lobbed across the desk to Bulgaria and handed back to me through the next hole. Ruse is a large enough city where a good friend (a former chairman, treasurer and secretary of the Munster supporters club of Bulgaria (all posts were held at the same time)) spent his formative years. As I recall the way Dimitar describing it, he spent an inordinate amount of time after floods with his friends having competitions throwing rocks at bloated wild boar carcasses bobbing on the banks. First exploder winner. Some more of the time was spent trying not to get killed by traffic while playing football on the streets. The fact that he is alive and well in London is testament to his skill at that one. Skill that one still needs today. Luckily I was soon out of the traffic standing at my first Bikorium which was of great repute on the interweb. From the outside it looked just the ticket. I reckon it had all sorts of bikes here even the sort of one that you would use if you had to abseil on a bike down the side of a cruiseliner docked in Monaco before cycling across a rake of steps, over a few moving cars, through a casino, rob a necklace from around the narrow ivory neck of an heiress, escape through the fountain, back over more moving cars, along the very very narrow balcony of a restaurant where you snatch a glass of wine from yer man just as he was about to sip, and it is good wine too by the taste of it!, sideways down a metal bannister nearly breaking the chain, speed wobble on a tram track (happens to the best of us), wink at the child in the back of the tram, jump off the street over the wall down onto a well placed canopy over a cafe at the dock, up the mooring cable back on to the cruise ship and into the helicopter and away. They could well have had a bike just like that in this shop. I will never know though. Feckers were closed.
It was not looking good for the Jimser today. 3 bikerys and no bikewhisperer. What do you do? What can you do? Go to the next place. The place that wasn’t really a place because it barely existed on the interweb. Except it was a place. A great place and a bike whisperer! An unassuming man in a shop coat with moustache and glasses. He was able to assess the issue in less than 30 seconds of my demonstrating, hand waving and bad Serbian. Another 10 seconds to agree a price and 10 more to tell me to feck off for an hour for a coffee up the road and don’t be annoying him. Best coffee I had in a long time too! I also had time to buy a belt because I was wearing my regular walking around shorts (as opposed to the spandex ones) and they were falling off me as I had turned into such a skinny fecker. I had to hold them up with a least one hand in a pocket at all times. Belt duly bought (with several extra holes punched into it) I went back to the whisperer. The bike was ready and he was able to sell me a spare pedal (and kept the other one as well. All done for less than 10 euro including a tip that he was reluctant to take.
Back through passport contral, across the Friendhip/Danube/Giurgiu bridge, get lost in Giurgiu, find myself again and then the hotel. Pay, load up and finally after 1pm get on the road to Daia to catch up with Norman. It was supposed to be a short and easy 75km day and I had already clocked up about 55km. On the way out of Giurgiu on the 6 lane dual carriageway I spotted a fellow long distance cyclist taking photos of the sunflower fields on the other side. He waved at me and I waved back. He waved again so I stopped and waved back. He clearly wanted to talk and came right across the 6 lanes. A mad man from Gibraltar who was living in Holland and on his way from Holland to meet his daughter in Istanbul before continuing onwards to the south coast of Turkey for a holiday. He went by the name of Silver. Can’t be too many of them from Gibraltar so if anyone knows him say hi from me. I couldn’t hang around too long as Norman was waiting up the road and it was getting late even if there were only about 70km left to cover over relatively flat land. Just after Daia the road forked and thankfully we peeled away from the main road to Bucharest. The noise stress dropped off almost immediately and the going became pleasant again. We pulled in at Baneasa for refueling and were soon flying along the N41 westwards through Pietrele, Prundu with a stop again in Greaca. We were less than 50km south of Bucharest and the villages were indeed becoming more and more well kept and wealthier looking:
We were cycling up along a plateau that was about 100 metres above the flood plain of the Danube. At one place we passed what may have been a giant gravel quarry:
All along the roads in the balkans there have been “bornes” or stones marking the distances in Kilometers:
Norman and I both spoke English but for any conversation relating to, where we wanted to go and how far away it was and quickly we would make it there, we probably only understood 70% of each others coversation. Norman always firmly enunciated everything in imperial measurement whereas I had long ago moved across to the logical and familar meters and kilometers of metric. You can take the man out of empire but you can take the piss out of while you are at it 🙂
I found the red and white bornes of Romania to be quite comforting and familar along the route. They were for the most part well maintained and easily visible. However in some counties the paint had long ago flaked off such that they were illegible. Onwards we went through Cascioarele and past lake Catalui before our last break of the day in Chirnogi where some local farm workers had finished for the day. As they lounged outside a small shop with us they tried very hard to make conversation with us but we were not able to get past the basics. Even so they eager to share what fruits they had with them and waved us off as we hit for Oltenita. We had made an AirBnB booking that turned out to be completely different but altogether better than what we had hoped for. The road into Oltenita was quite busy with trucks bringing in the harvest but they eased off as we got off the main road in the town itself. We found the address of the AirBnB but it did not exist. We called the number to no answer and went back the way we came to pass what looked like a guest house. Lo and behold, Luca and Jozef were there along with a father and daughter tandem team from Italy. Luca and Jozef had given up on their idea of a big long day and had decided to enjoy themselves en route a little more. They were also looking for accommodation and the guesthouse had lots of free rooms but no manager/owner. After the young lady who had the keys gave us the number of the owner who was on holiday in Greece we were able to quickly sort things out. Quickly showered and with our things packed away we headed with our new best friends to the nearest eatery to feast while the mosquitoes feasted on us. This was the second worst mosquitoe night of the trip with the prize for the worst going to the campsite in Vannes, France on the second night. I suppose the mozzies in Vannes were keen to get stuck into fresh meat at the time. Said meat generally became tainted with various tinctures and potions along the way which made it unappealing to the suckers. Suitably sated I was soon in the land of Z.