Oltenita to Lipnita (with ferry across Danube) 111km, Thursday 21st June 2018.

Setting off today after another hearty, protein laden breakfast was not as sombre and morose as the previous morning. Yes we were one day closer to the Black Sea. In fact the end looked to be less than 36 hours away from us now. The big difference was, that having been virtually the only foreigners on bicycles for days (with the exception of Peter the Trigamist) we now were part of a proper international troupe. Given that exactly half of our number were Italian we might have even called ourselves after a circus. Something like the “Wandering Galivanties and their Wonderful Wheelies (no animals are mistreated in this show)”. The was Norman doing the fireman’s equivalent of postman Pat on his Imperial Imperator,  Luca filming as he cycled with no hands, Jozef and his technicoloured anorak and the “Young Team” of Stefano and Carlota. Of course Stefano was not exactly that young but Carlota being just 13 brought the average age of the pair of them way below the rest of us and they were after all on a tandem. Hence “Young Team”.

The Young Team had gotten into mechanical trouble the previous day and had to replace a wheel which had buckled. They had equally miserable experiences with the roads of Hungary. They were hopeful but not certain that their new wheel would get them all the way to the Black Sea.

The Young Team
Cameraman Luca (left) getting his bike in balance for hands free go pro filming, along with Jozef and the 70s colour set for the day..

We had discussed at length our goals for the day and there was an outline understanding that we would try to team up that night. However, given the lack of information around ferry times across the Danube and also the apparent scarcity of accommodation on the other side of the river, nobody was ready to commit to anything definite. We eased on along the road through Ulmeni, Gradistea, Spantov stopping at Stancea to avoid a brief thunderstorm and we had managed to more or less stick together until then. A break of coffee and biscuits was ended with Luca filming Norman and I doing our Galavanti departure act from unusual angles. Norman and I had, with very few words, reached a common goal of just getting to the ferry as early as possible in the day and then using any delay around and on the ferry as a break to take stock and plan for the evening. As a plan for that particular day it fitted fairly well in that we just kept the head down and I don’t think we missed too much in terms of scenery. From Dorobantu onwards through Ciocanesti,  Rasa, Cunesti and Gradistea the traffic became heavier and heavier. As we approached Calarasi it became very unpleasant and dangerous. Thankfully a few kilometers outside of Calarasi we were able to slip southwards off the main road towards the ferry. From there on we were on a sort of raised dual carriageway. We were passed by the occasional heavy lorry and nodded to fisherman sitting by the canal every now and again. The landscape looked somewhat bleak in the greying skys – flat flood plain to the horizon on one side broken only by the odd stand of trees, sheep, cattle and round bales of straw. On the other side across the canal the post industrial skeleton of Calasari hulked in the distance. It did not look inviting at all and if Norman and I had any doubts about taking our chances on the other side, they were soon chased away by that vista.

The ferry, like previous ones upriver was a simple raft, pushed across the river by a powerful tugboat. We had to share it with a 16 wheeler, some Italian tourists and a Romanian fake map expert in a shiny new Alfa Romeo.

Norman on the ferry.
16 Wheeler only looming a little over us on the ferry

Our fake expert started conversing with us about the weather and then where we were all from. He had spent several years living in New Zealand and spoke excellent Kiwi. He was now working as a salesman for Claes farm machinery. He had a huge market to sell into as the tens of thousands of “Universal” tractors that survived from the communist era slowly stopped beating their overengineered hearts. He claimed to travel all over the country of Romania. He next asked us where we were headed. Upon learning that we were aiming for Constanta on the Black Sea he erupted. “You are going the wrong way, you should turn back on the next ferry, this ferry only goes to Bulgaria”. Now having come as far we did without getting lost, we took this in our stride and calmly showed him our map which clearly showed Romania widening along the south bank of the Danube away from Silistra. He quietly buttoned it and sat back in his car long before we arrived at the other shore.


We disembarked on the lookout for a place to eat. It seems that we would have had to cross the Bulgarian border to get into Silistra for that. We did not fancy wasting the time at the border and also changing money again. This meant we had a lonely lunch in a village called Ostrov down by the river sitting in a childrens playground watching to see if we would get rained on again. We didn’t and so we climbed steeply up on to the plateau above the river some rewarding views. If the Calasari side was crazy busy, here was peaceful paradise. We saw no body or traffic for hours.



Small river……
Big ominous skies
Lake in the distance.

We kept going past an impressive looking Monastery at Galita and hid out in a concrete bunker like out house on a what may have been a marshalling place for heavy farm machinery in times gone by. We had to wait an hour while about 5 centimeters of rain fell (Norman claims 2 inches but I don’t know what that means).

There was no sign of the Young Team, Luca or Jozef. When we got back on the road we were quite stiff and seriously considering pitching tents and camping. We passed a sign for a hotel on the side of the road. We investigated the hotel a few hundred metres up the road with mounting excitement. The last time a guest stayed there was probably 1989. The birds were flying through the paneless windows. A major let down for the weary circus clowns… but a few hundred meters further on down the road in an anotherwise buildingless stretch of road we stumble on what claimed to be business apartments. Stroll up to the front door. Try to dial the phone number on the sign. No answer. Stare down the barking dog that came racing out to chase us away. He was shortly followed by his owner, the manager of the building. In no time and for less money we had acquired very comfortable lodgings. Luca, Jozef and the Young Team held back at Calarasi at the hotel near the ferry port on the basis that it was certain accomodation. They planned to start out the next morning at 05h30. Best of luck to them.

We had no food but pre showering we were able to scoot downhill to Lipnita for some bread, cheese and a couple of tomatoes before struggling back to our palace. A fine feast we had then! We both had a small stock of emergency powdered meals and desserts that we milled into before getting a nice long kip before the last day on the road……

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