17 August 2007

CYLING ROMANIA - Szeget to Oltenita

30 July - Szeget – Arad – 78km

Left Szeget with a stiff tail wind which became a near gale force cross wind, difficult to keep bike on the road, with all the trucks, road very busy. Arrived at border post to find that Hungarian visa, was not what I had expected, but in fact 2 x 10 day visas, (where did that come from?). I therefore overstayed and after a lot of hand signals, back and forth from building to building, I was allowed to go.

Arrived in Arad very late looking for a campsite, as indicated on the map but all that remain of the campsite, is an abandon field. So now it is raining and quite dark. So booked into a pension at 120 Lei. 3.1 euros to a Lei

The language still remains a problem, everything (as expected) is in Romanian.

31 July - Arad – Bârzava - 60km

Arad is a very busy town, with many old buildings, but few seems to be in good condition, most appear to need some TLC. 50 Years of communism also left its mark and there are numerous apartment blocks, all very unattractive and in a state of poor repair.

Got on the road to Barzava by 12:00 and found the countryside interesting with many small villages, gypsies, horse carts and old ladies dressed in black.

Campsites are few and far between and the cheapest places to stay are at the truck stops where there is cheap food and accommodation.

1 August - Barzava – Deva - 100km

Fixed slow puncture and then on the road again, the roads are extremely busy with trucks of all shapes and sizes. The small villages are however very quiet and people stare at you in amazement. Each village also appears to have a well where water is colleted.

The road is still fairly flat between wooded mountains.

2 August- Deva - Geoagiu Băi – 27km

Left the busy town of Deva along the main road, but found the road extremely busy and the road in very poor condition, which makes cycling plain dangerous. So turned off onto a smaller road at the first opportunity.

As I turned off I found a sign for a Roman thermal bath, so as it was only 12 km away I headed in that direction. Geoagiu Băi is a small but busy town.

Camping was in a lady’s back yard with chickens, dogs and an old long drop.

3 August - Geoagiu Băi – Blaj - 91km

Carried on along a gravel road, past numerous small villages, farmlands with cornfields and even some vineyards. Now in the hart of Transylvania.

4/5 August - Blaj - Fagaras - 135km

6 August - Făgăraş – Bran 63km

Tried to find breakfast but at 9.30am it seems to be to early for food, but not to early for beer, everywhere people are sitting drinking beer, but when I asked for food the reply was "don't know at this hour". A most beautiful ride through the mountains, heavily wooded and along a river. Arrived in Bran expecting to find clues to Dracula Castle but only found "Vampire Camping".

7 August - Bran

Spent the day in Bran visited Bran Castle (very touristy) and at last got the real story about old Vlad and the castle.

8 August Bran – Campulung - 37 miles (59km)

Came over the Carpation Mountains via Bran Pass. Not a bad ride and the dividing line between Transylvania and Valencia. Found excellent accommodation in a pension, very up market at 120 Lei.

Lanuage still a problem have by now bought yeast instead of butter, a fountain pen without ink instead of a ballpoint pen and cream instead of yogurt!!

9 August Campulung – Targovista - 41 miles (65km)

Excellent downhill ride, got to Targovista early but better to stay over than to carry on to Bucharest which is still about 80km, and not so good to arrive in a big city after dark. Found accommodation in "pension king", which is not much of a king of a place, real back street next to scrap yard but very cheap.

10 August Targovista – Bucharest 61 miles (98km)

Getting into Bucharest is as hair raising as most cities, loads of traffic, specially on a Friday afternoon. Got directions from taxi driver for a campsite, on the other side of the town, later found internet cafe and found the real campsite all the way back through the city where we came from in the first place. Camp slightly mozzie infested but at least lots of trees.

Discover Romanian visa was only granted for 2 days (valid for 3 months) and not granted for 3 months as expected!!!!! Plan of action is to try and find SA Embassy and see what can be done about the situation.

11 August - Bucharest

Still in Casa Alba Campsite, doing usual, shopping, laundry etc. Very nice city lots of old buildings with oyster shell shaped canopies. Loads and loads of high rise blocks of flats from communist era.

12 August – Bucharest

Found out that there was no SA Embassy in Bucharest.

13 August – Bucharest

So up and down to the Romanian External Affairs to try to sort out my visa, but they sent me to the Romanian Consulate and they in turn sent me to the Illegal Aliens department. After all this I got told to contact the border police or go to the border and they will deal with it there, it does not sound quite right, but what can a person do?

After all this running around I was to late for the Bulgarian Embassy which is only open between 10 - 12!!!!

They also need booking confirmation for the time that you plan to spent there, so back to the internet to book some Youth hostels, I found a website, but you still need to pay a 10% deposit which is not refundable.

14 August – Bucharest

Up early this morning and made sure I am at the Embassy at 10:00 after a lot of frowning they accepted my application and I can phone tomorrow after 3:00 to see if it is approved. So wait and see again.

I also tried the Turkish Embassy but they informed me that I can only apply for a visa in my home country. What a bummer.

Well after phoning Amanda in SA, she came back with the news that the Turkish Embassy in SA said that I must just ask again.

15 August – Bucharest

So back to the Turkish Embassy to beg for a visa and it worked, had my visa by five o'clock!!! I phoned the Bulgarian Embassy and yes the visa was granted, I could pick it up the following day!!.

16 August - Bucharest – Oltenita - 61 miles (98km)

Well needless to say I was at the Hungarian Embassy at 10:00 sharp, just to find a lot of people milling about. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to this order of things, so after a while, they pointed at me and took me to the front of the row and I was promptly handed my visa. So a visa was granted for 15 day which is fair enough and by 12:00 I was on my way to the border. So instead of taking the main highway to Giurgiu, we (still cycling with Eddie) decided to go to Oltenita which is a much smaller road, only to find that there is no border crossing as indicated on the map!!!!. I can't seem to get out of Romania!!

In the process we met Peter, a local Romanian, who invited us to his house, a very small 2 room wooden house without a bathroom or kitchen. One can however go for a wee in the back garden amongst the chickens.

17 August - Oltenita - Silistra - 85km

After a breakfast of fresh tomatoes and paprika from Peter's garden we were on our way to Calarasi where a border crossing is also indicated on the map. This time we were in luck and took the ferry across the river to Silistra. Now for the dreaded border control, to see what they will do about my Romanian Visa dilemma. I have now been in the country 20 days on a 2 day visa!!! Well, I said nothing and just handed them my passport with which they disappeared. After a while they appeared again and just handed me my passport and all this without a single word!!! Bravo, now I am in Bulgaria!!

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