Monday, 7 May 2012

7 May Stage 25 Rosiori de Vede - Giurgiu

Dep 11.00   Arr 8.30    Dist 86.6 km (bike)    Total 2808.5 km

How can I describe today? I think it's best if I do just that, ie describe in order what happened and include my thoughts at the time for what it's worth.

Great kip for a start. I woke up and my phone was on charge in the bathroom so I played that game. No, not that one, the one where you lie there and guess what time it is from the sounds around etc. I plumped for 7.30 and was disappointed, when I eventually had to use the bathroom, to find I was 3 minutes out. I went and had another lie down and planned the day. Breakfast was another help-yourself but with a few negatives. There was cereal, honey nut loops, but the bowls were tiny and there was no milk. I mentioned this to the lady and she brought me a cup of warm milk. Cereal just isn't their thing, I suppose. I managed three bowls. The rest was great. Loads of coffee and the usual bread with delicious ham, cheese and jam.

I went back up and was amazed that I actually managed to repair the three punctured inner tubes within half an hour. Little did I know that this would have an effect on future progress. I then got myself organised, got the bags sorted and made my way out. This 'getting the bags organised' by the way is a tortuous process. Things have to be done methodically and in strict order depending on the priorities of the day. An hour usually sorts it. An important part of the procedure is checking the route for the day. I had no printed maps so wrote down the towns I would be passing through and the road numbers. It wasn't a complicated route but seemed a bit round about. I made my way out of the town of Rosiori de Vede and joined my old mate the E70 which was not as smart as in other parts of the country but still good for cycling. There were the usual roadworks here and there and a little hill or two. I passed through a couple of typical villages and then came across the amzing sight of Buzescu which I have found out since is a village or group of houses built by rich gypsies, all trying to outdo each other for lack of taste. After Buzescu I got to the city of Alexandria in decent time. There was no rush. I noticed the rear brakes were rubbing on the tyre rim again and loosened the brakes a bit more. They still worked ok so I didn't pay too much attention to it, knowing that this is a problem that would get worse and would need attention sooner or later. I actually rang Robin the West Lancs cycling guru and after a brief chat he warned me no to attempt fixing the buckled wheel myself. I do like a challenge but also respect good advice from people who know what they are talking about so didn't interfere.

Just past Alexandria I saw a sign saying 504 Giurgiu 40km. Now this was a lot less than I expected so I decided this would be the route for me. I rode on looking for the turn until the original chosen turn off was only a couple of km ahead so I checked my location on my phone. I had missed the 504 turn off. So, should I stick to the chosen route or go back and find this 504? As I pondered a chap appeared from nowhere and smiled and asked for water. I offered him my blue bottle which had had milk in yesterday. He had a swig and pulled a bit of a face. It wouldn't have bothered me. I nodded and smiled but felt a bit uncomfortable with him sizing up my stuff so I eventually turned the bike round and made my way back. I found the 504 and could easily see why I had missed it. It was a dirt track with cornfields either side as far as the eye could see. The surface wasn't too bad and it would be shorter than I had expected so I went for it. After a km it got a bit worse and then after another it got a lot worse. It looked like it had only ever been used by tractors and only in wet weather. I checked on my phone and it looked like the town of Cernetu was about 10km away. I just got my head down and got on with it. I had to really concentrate about the line I was taking and that was making me sweat more than the effort. An hour later I rode past a graveyard which meant some sort of civilisation and then what looked like a tip but it was just a random field full of rubbish. There was an old lady with some goats stood by a stagnant pond with some sad ducks on it and I mentioned the name of a town which was on the way to Giurgiu. She nodded and pointed ahead and I heard the word asphalt in there. I checked with a younger lady up the road and she pointed straight ahead again. I turned a corner and there it was - the black stuff. What a relief.

I belted along up hill and down dale and round this corner and that for half an hour or so until I realised that the road on the map I had seen this morning was dead straight with no bends at all. I checked again on my phone and found I had missed a turning again. To be fair to both ladies they didn't have the chance to explain maybe that they were pointing the way for the asphalt route. Now, I could stay on this road and meet up with the original route (which may be tarmac but then again may not) - we don't want to do that do we? Noooo. We went back and there, after retracing my tracks, was the sign 504 pointing to Giurgiu. It was another dirt track, better than the first. It didn't deteriorate but still wasn't that good. My brakes were rubbing again which severely reduce the efficiency of the bike. I adjusted them further and found that the rear wheel rim had a split where a spoke joined. It was becoming cooler by this time but it was nearly 5.30. I checked relative distance on my phone and reckoned an hour would get me to the next village. An hour later I was still in this really remote landscape with endless cornfields both sides. I heard a "ping" as I rode and checked the back wheel again. Another split. This was only going to get worse and fast. There were telegraph poles alongside this track for as far as they eye could see and not a town or building in sight. Another hour went by and the wheel had become so distorted that the tyre just came off. I was then reduced to walking along with the bike. I was knackered and could have stopped and rested and maybe kipped in the cornfield but there were no vehicles using this road and I would only have to get to a village tomorrow if I didn't make it tonight so I had to go on. Then, a building in the distance, a farmhouse maybe?

As I got closer it became obvious it was an electricity station with nobody about. Then I heard a vehicle coming from miles behind me, a farmer perhaps on his way home? What happened next is just the best ever result anyone in my position could ever have expected. As the car slowed down I stood there looking as pathetic as possible, no acting necessary. "Are you OK?" the young man asked, in English. I explained my position. A lot of welcome conversation took place after we had packed the bike and me into the car, such as. "Would you like a cold beer?" George and Sorin were from Alexandria and were going fishing. They had a chat between them and decided that George would drop Sorin off at the lake and then take me to Giurgiu to a hotel. I just can not possibly do justice to this interlude at the moment so will finish for now by saying here I am in a hotel in Giurgiu, fed and watered and so happy to have met these two fantastic lads who made a very unlucky day, compounded by a few bits of bad judgement on my part, into one very happy one. I will tell the full tale about these exceptional people some other time.

I didn't make it to Bulgaria today but I am so happy to be here in this town of Giurgiu.

(written next day)

Just a bit more on the circumstances of my amazing “ rescue” last night. The vehicle was a Hyundai 4x4 type with a big space at the back. Unfortunately it was full of fishing stuff just thrown in, including an inflatable dinghy, fully inflated. We manipulated stuff and got the bike and bags in the back and thought that was job done until we then noticed there was a dinghy on the roof! A bit more fiddling got me and the dinghy in but I was squeezed on the backseat perched so high that my head was touching the roof. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. When Sorin handed me a beer from the cool box I was so high up I couldn’t get the angle of elevation on the can to have a decent swig, which is just as well because it would have gone down in one.

It turns out Sorin is a professional photographer and George, the driver has an amazing occupation of organising hunting expeditions in various parts of Rumania for people all over Europe including many English clients. I was amazed to find they have bears here in the hills and wild boar, chamois and a number of types of deer. So if there’s anyone out there fancies a bit of that sort of stuff, George is your man. I have to give the man a plug. His website is The fishing area was beautiful in the evening as the sun was going down. I felt really guilty depriving George of a bit of this special time but by the time he got back Sorin had probably done all the hard work setting things up. Anyway, friends for life, or what?

The Vlasca Hotel in Giurgiu was a very poor excuse for a hotel, a sad old place. The woman on the desk said she didn’t speak English but she understood what she wanted to. I had a lukewarm bath and did a bit of blogging and then realised it was 10 o’clock, end of restaurant time. I rushed down and a gentleman watching the telly assured me in German that all was OK and shouted a lad to sort me out. This he did nicely thank you. I asked this boss man in German if he knew of a bike shop or a mechanic who could help me. I knew I needed a new wheel but where to get one? He told me someone would come tomorrow at “Halb neun”. In German that means half past eight. Don’t ask me why. I finished with a bottle of Rumanian beer - Skol.

I went back up to the miserable room with the uncomfortable bed and followed the football scores. What a result for Wigan Athletic. Europe next year?

Today's track - note the backtrack near Cernetu. I was picked up near the dotted line by Izvoru. The track is vehicular after this point. The lake is Gogosari. My phone battery went before Giurgiu.

Today's route

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