Friday, September 29, 2006

Sibiu-Râmnicu Vâlcea.

Trip dist: 101 kms. Trip time: 5 hrs, 23 mins. Tot dist: 6,659 kms.

Ha ha ha!

"Mischief managed." :)

Crossed the Carpathians today. Child's play, really. :)

I set out 2 hours later than expected, even though I wanted to leave early to leave plenty of time for the Carpathians-crossing before Vampire hour (ha ha! Do you like it? I changed the name in honor of beloved local legend!), because it took no less than 1 full hour to clean the panniers and backpack from the mud of two days ago, and I am still not quite done (the mud sticks and if you use a moist rag to clean it off, when the "cleaned" surface dries, over half of the "clay", which is mixed with some shiny asphalt and glittery quartz powder, still remains). Then, it took another hour to do the back tire replacing, not because that took long in itself, but because I had to clean the mud and grit from the pedal cranks and gear sprockets, an impossible task, basically, without a strong-pressure hose (or even a rinky dink hose would do, at this point), which the hotel did not have. They provided me instead with a little bucket half-filled with water, and a tiny rag the size of a handkerchief.

If you consider that this mud/asphalt/clay/quartz/grit had gotten inside every single orifice and moving part of the bike, you can see why this was rather...time consuming. Towards the end the best I could do is just dump the whole remaining bucket of water onto the bike and hope that worked, somehow.

Even after re-oiling the chain and gears and with replacement tire my bike rode as if it had aged 10 years after those fated 2 hours of rain and dirt approaching gutted Sibiu.

Anyway, the 350 meter pass was a matter of no consequence, especially considering that Sibiu is at 411 meters (there was a bit of a descent, though, before the climb to the pass). After that, except for some minor sections, it was ALL DOWNHILL!! (see for evidence the short time the ride took!), with the road flanking a river and weaving in and out between the towering mountains all around. It was a very beautiful ride (were I to plan a bike race in Romania, in the style of the Tour de France, this would definitely be one of the stages, though I'd probably run it in the opposite direction, to make it a bit more challenging), especially because right after the pass you descend onto the most beautiful spot on Earth, the approach to little town of B--(?), which is not even on my map, tucked away in-between the mountains and the sun illuminating the Orthodox church spires. Since there's nothing around this village for tens of kilometers except the fields and the mountains, I couldn't help but wonder how places like this get settled in the first place.

I was thankful, too, that the road went flat for 90% of the ride, for once you enter the Southern Carpathians, it is mountains, mountains everywhere (360°) for a full 70 kms. Imagine, if I had chosen the Transfăgărăşan road....

Anyway, by the way, I think I saw some rich gypsies!

Yeah, they were having dinner at Râmnicu Vâlcea's McDonald's. What an odd sight. So far all the gypsies I had seen were at the edges of the highways, driving along on horse-drawn carts or selling indeterminate objects at the edges of highways, the women in their characteristic, color-clashing flower-patterned skirts and headscarves, the men in dark pants, white long-sleeved shirts and vests, all of them, rather poor. But this group of teenagers at the McDonald's, while they too had the characteristic, round cut patterned skirts, the fabric of these was lighter and silkier, vaporous, with gold and silver threading and shining brocades, the tops body hugging in modern fashion cuts, head scarves shimmering in luxurious patterns, earings long and of fine gold.

Râmnicu Vâlcea, by the way, in spite of Lonely Planet's claim to being an uninteresting industrial town, seemed to me instead rather pretty: clean with tree-lined streets, and at least all the roads were paved here.

But the best part of it all: no more mountains until I get to Istanbul! :D


Anonymous said...

So fairy tales have their true part, I'm almost sure that they dance in a very charming way..

stotty - said...

first started reading your blog when i was looking for info on cycle touring through Romania...was well impressed but have only got round to reading some of the other bits from your trip. We were well impressed by your ride across romania (and shoddyness with that tyre!! haha)..anyway we think we found some of those dogs you mentioned, planning to cycle south america this summer so i think a purchase of a dog dazer is on the cards. Just a note to say well done and i hope you are considering another epic tour. Ian and jenny.