2800 km done! Moldova and Romania
At the moment of writing this post I’m sitting at my hostel in Constanta, relaxing after some pretty eventful days. It’s been a mix of some really tough, but also heartwarming times. After entering Moldova, I was instantly met by loads of curious people. Though they didn’t speak much English, they were eager to speak with me about the project. I had heard from lots of people that Moldova would be boring, and that I should just go straight for Romania instead, but I was already enjoying it, and so I cycled on. Moldova is the poorest and least visited country in Europe, which was pretty apparent upon entering. In the countryside, people are riding horse-carriages, pulling water out of wells, and using old handheld tools for farming. I was getting some priceless looks cycling through the cute villages. I eventually made it to the city of Balti. I arrived around 8 p.m. with nowhere to sleep. I went to a restaurant, pulled out my phone, and went on to the Couchsurfing app. Within just a few minutes, I had found a girl who was willing to host me for the night. She lived with her mother and brother in the edge of the city, in a big apartment block from soviet times. Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised as we entered a spacious apartment on the 9th floor, with a stunning view over the city. As it turns out, my host was just 16 years old, and her parents didn’t actually know that she was hosting me. But she ensured me that it was all right, and we ended up having a great time cooking and singing and what not. She told me that I would probably be better off heading towards Romania rather than continuing in Moldova, and so the next morning, that’s what I did. Since then, I’ve been helped along by all sorts of people ranging from teenage girls to young families and old men. Upon crossing the border to Romania, I met a man also on a bicycle. He had cycled the 20 km from his home in Iasi in order to do a bit of duty-free shopping in Moldova. We ended up cycling a bit together, and he invited me to stay at his house for the night. We went to his house where we were greeted by his wife, who had cooked an awesome dinner for us. After dinner they gave me a nice shirt to put on, and we went out to explore the city of Iasi. The morning after I went to a hostel in the city, and here I met a guy from California who told me about a festival that was starting that same day. I couldn’t help myself, and so I ended up buying a ticket. He told me that it was a psytrance/techno festival, but when we arrived there was a Romanian band playing with flutes and the likes of it. As the night went on though, the party got going. I did end up breaking my daily budget that day pretty bad, but we had tons of fun, so I honestly didn’t really care. I woke up in a tent at 7 in the morning, and started making my way back to the hostel I was supposed to have slept in. Once I finally made it to the hostel, I packed my bags and got going. It ended up a short day, as I met a guy in the town of Vaslui who offered me to stay the night. Finding spots for camping had been a pain in the ass due to wide open fields, and so I thanked the guy and went to his house for a night’s sleep. The day after turned out to be my toughest day yet. Despite a pretty bad headwind, I made good progress for the first 50-60 km. I had some lunch and continued on. As it was getting dark, I finally found a tiny speck of trees that I was going to camp in. I went in and realized that this would definitely not be a good place for camping. The entire place was covered in razor-sharp thorns, that were cutting up me and my gear. As I was heading out onto the road again, one of the thorns went all the way through the sole of my shoe, and a long way into my foot. It was painful, and a bit bloody, but I didn’t really have any choice but to continue. The next city was still 50 km away, and it had already gotten dark. I decided on having my night-riding debut right then and legged it toward the city. Riding in the night was a whole new challenge. The Romanian country-side roads aren’t exactly the best, and so I was falling in and out of potholes the entire way. Not only that, but it turns out that the lazy stray dogs weren’t so lazy in the cool of night after all. Every now and again, a pack of dogs would come jumping at me from the fields, giving me a minor heart attack each time. After reaching the city I started calling up all the hotels to see whether any of them had space for me, and before I finally got a room, it was 2 a.m. The day after my knees felt pretty bad. I had cycled 160 km, which is way more than I should be doing. I found a new host on Couchsurfing and crashed for the night. Prior to meeting up with my Couchsurfing host, I was checking out the town of Braila and had my first slightly uncomfortable encounter with another person. I was relaxing on a bench in a park, when a guy came up to me and started speaking with me in nonsensical English. He was very interested in my bike and was inspecting every little feature of it. At one point he even wanted to have a look at my phone which I didn’t let him. After a while, I told him that I would be going, and as I cycled off he started running after me to stop me. He seemed like he was getting pretty angry each time I tried to get going. I stopped to speak with him, and he kept asking me where I was going to sleep and tried his best at getting me to follow him. I was really getting annoyed with him, but he didn’t really seem like the sort of person who would deal with a conflict in a civilized manner, so I did my best to keep my cool. Eventually I got away from him. Nothing really happened, but it was a reminder to stay alert.
The day after it was raining. Again. The rain doesn’t bother me quite as much as it used to. It’s been raining so much that I’ve become more or less accustomed to it. I’m becoming one with the rain. What I haven’t become one with is lightning. So, when I was hit by what felt like the thunderstorm of the century (lasted for two days on/off), I honestly got a bit frightened. I was cycling around in wide-open fields with lightning right above my head. The lightning was accompanied by deafening thunder, extremely heavy rain, and winds that made progress very slow… Romania has also been very hilly. The hills aren’t extremely high, but you are always either going up or down. I don’t think I’ve been riding a flat road since Ukraine. It makes progress pretty strenuous, since you obviously end up spending the majority of your time going up. The feeling of flying down a massive hill is pretty damn good though. After the thunderstorm I was getting ready for the night, and just as I was setting up my tent, one of the poles snapped. So once again, I cycled into the night to find a hotel to sleep at, once again being chased by dogs the entire way.
I have become pretty good at dealing with dogs now though. Chris White from ridefar.info (awesome website) has put it quite nicely. There are basically three techniques to deal with dogs. The Pink Panther, The Mark Cavendish, and finally The Mike Hall. All three come naturally to you once you start having to deal with angry dogs, but since we’re not all out riding bicycles, I’ll explain them to you here. The Pink Panther basically involves sneaking unnoticed past the dog. It does, however, require you to spot the dog before the dog spots you. And since guard and sheep dogs are usually very alert to their surroundings, the method is rarely used. Smelly cycle-tourists aren’t exactly very stealthy anyway. It’s worth a shot though. If stealth doesn’t work out for you, The Mark Cavendish is the next option, which involves outsprinting the dog. You’d be amazed at the sort of acceleration you can get out of a 50 kg touring bike. Most of the time, you’ll actually be able to evade the dog this way, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Certain types of dogs are just too damn fast, especially if it’s going uphill as well. If sprinting doesn’t work, The Mike Hall is the last option. It’s named after bikepacking legend, who was supposedly extremely good at using the technique. It’s basically a full-on confrontation that involves stopping your bike and viciously screaming right back at the dog. Thankfully you rarely have to use this method. It gets a bit awkward, but honestly it’s probably the most efficient (and safest) tactic for getting rid of ‘em.
I’ve now made it to Constanta by the Black Sea, and I’ve spent the day relaxing, swimming, and treating myself. I’m heading towards Bulgaria next, and soon I’ll be hitting Istanbul in Turkey. It’ll be the first major milestone on the trip so far, and I’m really looking forward to exploring the city. I’ll write a new post once I get so far. My body is feeling pretty tired at the moment. Knees are stiff, neck is locked up, and I’m just generally feeling a bit worn out. I’m planning on staying in Istanbul for a slightly longer break before I continue on.
As always, I’m cycling for the Association for Greenlandic Children! As I’ve been speaking with the people I meet along the way, I’m surprised by the amount of people who don’t even know of Greenland’s existence. They’re all very interested to learn though and seem fascinated by the cause. Donations has come to a bit of a halt since last time though, so If you’d like to support the cause, please do so by donating through the link below. You can also contact me if you’d like to know more. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far!