Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Rimena the first house on the left *if your coming from the east, is a pension with an outstanding set lunch menu.  If they happen to be a full house on the other side of the road is a lady who has two rooms she will let you stay in for approx $6 each.  If your lucky she will spoil you rotten and feed you coffee, homemade raspberry cordial and hand over a 1kg bag of beans.  No language required, this wonderful lady kept watch over our bikes as well and waved us off down the road with a beautiful smile. 

There is alot of red here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Goodbye Romania

We cannot describe the feeling of riding the bicycles into the unknown.  We like a path; see a sign; a stranger recommends a journey; or it looks like a good way on the map..... and then you end up in a valley with waterfalls, fields with fish farms, or a quaint little country town.  Often there will be a tiny town that we cycle through and all the old people are sitting out getting some afternoon sun waving and smiling as we roll past.  Sometimes there is so much rubbish we feel our lungs cringe and we cannot understand how this comes to be.  Catching glimpes into peoples lives as they kill a chicken for dinner or milk a cow behind a see-through fence.  We try not to stop and stare and often find ourselves - jaws on the floor - saying to each other random things like "was that guy using a big knife to carve the bark off a tree stump? Is that his job? It is 6:30pm, maybe its his hobby? How many stumps a day do you think he gets through?".   

We were close to Rimena, a town we had been told to visit for its beauty, and that was enough for us.  Approaching this tiny town we could see an incredible backdrop *see above picture, and as we rode closer Curtis said;

 "how much fun would it be to climb that and camp on top?"

 "yeah that would be so great hey" Cara replied.....

so we did and it was the perfect way to finish off a very special country.

You may be wondering what we did with the bikes so check out the next post for that story.

this really awesome dog followed us for the first half an hour, we named him Barny.

I wish it was beer.
Things got a little crazy with the lack of oxygen.

where the sun shines

The Transilvanian plains lay before us as our hands ached from squeezing on our barely there brakes.  We found a little camping spot attached to a cabana and for 3AUD, we had access to the showers as well!  Still high on the days intense two pass ride, we ate so much food and drank a few brews to rejoyce in making it. 

We had kept hearing that the region of Sibiu and Brashov was worth visiting, however the national road (two lane major highway with no shoulder) was very dangerous and the only link between these areas.  Looking at the map again, we decided to just ride to Sebes and see what the road to Sibiu was really like. 


So we caught a train the 70km.  Don't judge us.  We arn't purists.  It really was the safer option.  Ok, it does get worse, we got to Sibiu and found out that the transfargashan highway (the one in top gear) was literally 60km away.  So we hired a car and Curtis did what all men in his circumstance would do... drove it three times.  Its 90km in length.  It was fun, except for the part of the road that had fallen away and there was only space for one car.  More impressive than the hairpin corners and fast straights, is the valley that the highway meanders through. The scenerary is outstanding, and amongst the most beautiful we have seen so far. It was the first time we have been jealous on our trip, as we saw tour cyclists riding this incredible road on our ascent. The mountains and lakes create a beautiful back drop to the roadside cliffs that drop away to a certain death. Your heart is in your mouth as you speed along this road.

Ginga Stig

The water was Freezing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Almost Transilvania

The last town before our accent was a little dirty and boring so we pushed on knowing it couldn't hurt to start our climb that day.  Even if we pushed out another 20km we would be in the cool pine trees or a little guest house sipping on soup and rubbing some deep heat (Cara pretty much eats the stuff) into the legs.  After passing a couple of bear signs and seeing no other signs of life we stopped after 18km.   

With darkness approaching and a little tea house in our sights we pulled up and to our amazement we were greeted like royalty.  We were the first Australian tour cyclists to come through, with only a Japanese cyclist ahead of us by a few months.  The owners took photos of us and we signed the guest book scribbling a kangaroo, thanking our hosts for the outstanding homemade Romanian meal that would fuel us for the two mountain passes we had to ride the following day.  As we began to ride higher I saw wild rhubarb lining the side of the road, and fresh raspberries drooping on bushes.  We pulled over to sample the raspberries and I had one of those moments in life - I looked at Curtis and said "we are in the Romanian mountains, riding push bikes, eating wild raspberries? Does it get better than this?"

The first pass was 1600mt, then we had to decend 450mts to climb again to 1800mts before the long decent into the Transilvanian plains.  The roads were gravel to start off but we were lucky enough that a new road had been built over this mountain range and officially opened two weeks prior.  The bad news was that it was still really fucking steep and every Romanian who owned a car was going for a Sunday drive on this new road.

It wasn't Everest and we know we weren't saving lives but it was the most empowering, mind blowing, tough and self satifying experience to cycle the bikes, bit by bit to reach the passes.  At the second pass we stopped to soak it up, however, the wild pigs on the road side eyeing us off made us kick on.

I didnt want to put this pic up but it really does capture me chasing the pain!
We had just climed the one behind me, and started to climb again.

Free camping was a little tense. We never did see the flowers.


Dogs, mountains and deep heat

Please keep in mind when reading this blog, that on more than one occassion we witnessed small packs of dogs hunting moving cars. Often unsuccessfully attempting to bring the vehicle down by snaping at its tyres. The dogs have some fight in Romania.

Almost every day in Romania we were on the look out for dogs, unlike other countries with wild/stray dogs we noticed instantly the Romainian dogs were big, mostly healthy and ready to attack.  They would hide in the grass until we were just riding past before lunging out.  They would work in packs, with one dog circling from behind and his mate waiting ahead behind a tree.  Or just standing in the middle of the road putting on a show as soon as we were spotted.  Or the play dead trick managed to trick us! We tried to cross a road and get into a pension one afternoon and we had at least 8 dogs in full attack coming down the street towards us.

We found ourselves exhausted, flopping into the tent or dirty pension bed every day from the extra adreniline they would purge from us.  Early on we realised we had to have a counter-attack plan so we could make it through Romania rabies-free. 

What began as a conversation with tears in our eyes and belly laughter ended up being our saver every day several times over....

Curtis: ok you should ride in front
Cara: yep and I will look out for the dogs and Ill yell out to you - one dog/nine o'clock ect?
Curtis: ok and then we just stop the bikes if they come to attack and we get on one side of the bike and then just walk past them and Ill get the stick out and wave it around.  
Cara: ok, but if we're on a downhill we ride fast.  I might have some rocks handy too.
Curtis: ah these old salty sea dogs won't stop us.
Cara: we should call them old salty sea dogs.
Curtis: no we should call them salty barnicles.
Cara: yeah and we should call out if we think they are nasty or not?
Curtis: Salty barnicals if they are nasty? and then just barnicles if they look ok?
Cara: what if its an old dog?
Curtis: hmm Ol' Salts?
Cara: no we should call the old ones Ol' Silver Salties?

*at this stage we were in histerics and weren't sure what the hell we were calling anything!

Skip ahead to our first wild romanian dog experience;

Curtis: what happened to our plan?

We got the hang of it though and soon enough as we winded through the rugged countryside, between valleys and mountain roads lined with pine trees I would shout out to Curtis - we got two barnicles and an ol silver salty up ahead approx 200mts on the left!

Apart from the dogs, these early days in Romainia were outrageous as we were greeted by people with warmth and kindness.  Offering's of food or just a big toothless grin made us feel welcomed and reminded us how little we need to live.  Meanwhile the sun gave us a good bashing.

In Brisbane the extent of our riding was to work and back if the sun was shining, and when Curtis suggested cycling across Europe I rolled (literally) around with laughter.  We were unfit, unhealthy and doing pretty good impression's of the mitchelin man.  But here we were, the mountains approaching and thanks to our good mate bluey our mantra for tough days was being thrown all over the place with either of us shouting out "chase the pain" or another favourite from Cara (insert terrible american accent) "we've been training all summer for this boy!". 

having a bite to eat and still being harrassed by dogs - this dog actually climbed into the resturant after this shot

delish half liter soda waters with fresh lemon - approx $1.50

stopping for a top up on water - this is maybe my favourite shot of my bike

you can't see the dogs ahead but these guys meant business so we jumped off the bikes early to call their bluff - they lunged a few times but our own bark and stick waving put them off.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

From the tent take two

Turkey and Greece was a warm up for the terrain we discovered in Romania.  We could see the Carpathians in the distance as we climbed our hearts and legs out on our first day of riding.  Stopping on a very steep hill to watch a very old lady herd cattle across a road.  As we watched and took a few pictures we realised this would be a perfect camping spot and after some handy sign language it was decided this is where we would spend the night. 

After setting up we saw that the old lady had sent her daughter over to us with a bottle of cold water and a plump three month old baby to goo and gaa over.  The sun was setting and we were using wet wipes on our filthy feet as we looked at each other and said "do you think its ok to camp here?  You know with bears and stuff?" - "yeah, should be fine, I mean why would they let us camp here, right?" - "They were taking all their livestock inside though, and they had two massive dogs..." - "hmmm.... well inside the tent then hey!"

Less than two minutes later the farmer let off two rounds from his shotgun...... a dog howled.... we froze.

Maybe an hour later we hear the dogs behind the walls of the house/farm/compound start to go off, barking like crazy and thats when I remembered I left a plastic bag outside with all our grotty wet wipes and some old cheese spread.  No, I decided not to tell Curtis this. 

Turns out wild dogs love wet wipes so much they lick them until they are white again!  They also love cheese spread.  After this, they love nothing more than to sleep curled up at your tent door, and in the morning sit twenty meters away watching you and slowing creeping closer.  Ah, Romania... this is going to be a fun three weeks!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Heading to Romania

Cara posted;
Surviving Guca allowed us to re-visit the map of Romania and try to plan exactly where we would be able to ride given our time frame of just three weeks.  Finding it hard to judge the best places to visit we decided to follow the danube into Romania and make our way north tackling the Carpathian mountain range that would drop us into the transilvanian plain.  From there we had planed to head further north before heading west into Hungary and making the push back to Vienna. 

We hadn't expected following the river into Romania to be as spectacular and outrageous as it was, our last day in Serbia provided breath taking scenery and ridiculously scary tunnel rides.  A pitstop for some food in a small town provided a chance encounter with fellow tour cyclists Betty and Joel - who are riding to Kathmandu, Nepal from the UK - thanks for a great chat guys even though it was quick!

We hadn't even made it over the boarder bridge into Romanian soil when Curtis was harrassed by a stray dog.  Unfortunately this event repeated itself several times before we even reached our first town!  Realising (whilst relaxing having a coffee in town) you can only change Serbian currency into Romanian dinar at the boarder was bit of bummer and Curtis took to the challenge doing the 24km round trip.  We soon set off in the direction of the Carpathians, not sure what to expect and with dogs in tow we pushed hard and chased the pain.