Our usual attempts at getting out the door early were only somewhat successful. Though a wet tent didn’t slow us down, the hotel’s self serve breakfast certainly did (we really struggled to figure out what exactly we were supposed to eat) but we finally got out the door and headed for the bridge across the Danube.
It took a little circling around town and we had to run off a couple of grumpy watch dogs. Last nights rain had collected in the road and every time we hit a puddle, we got sprayed with bursts of muddy water. With so much horse traffic on these roads, I hated to imagine how much of the mud we were now wearing was actually manure. The muck coated our bikes, our legs, and arms, adhering itself firmly to our tacky sunscreen. It was an icky mess but soon, we were in a crush of truck traffic, lined up at the bridge.
We got in line to pay the bridge fee and got waved through for free! From there, it was a quick ride across the wide muddy river to Romania. We were stoked to be riding on the bridge and excited to be headed into a new country. Border control was a cinch and we got stamped in an out in just a few minutes. We then exchanged our Liv for Lei at a nearby currency exchange booth and hit the road.
Like always, right from the border, everything looked different. The houses were more ornate, the men wore different hats, the wagons were wider and the horses bigger. We pulled over to consult our map, trying to figure out which way to head. Watching from a distance, a cow herder in the field was making huge gestures pointing us in the direction we should go. No matter where we are, we always find helpful people!
Instantly, we were relieved to see all the signs using the Latin alphabet. It makes a huge difference to be able to read even the basics, making it infinitely easier to get around.
We enjoyed quiet farm road for a few kilometers before we hit the highway, Bucharest bound. The highway was less busy than it might have been, which we credited to it being Saturday, and the shoulder was wide. We passed a handful of groups of cyclists, all dressed in their matching gear, waving as they went by.
Unfortunately, my legs were mostly used up yesterday, so today I felt like my quads had been hit with a cheese grater. Every mile into the light wind felt like a fight, our only saving grace being the clouds plastering the sky keeping the temperature nice and cool.
The gentle grades and relatively flat terrain made for quick miles. As we barreled down the highway I could see the dark clouds getting lighter and lighter and before long beginning to break up – a sure sign that we would soon be exposed to the hot sun. With that in mind, we pushed through our cement-laden legs and made really good time as we rolled by fields of corn, wheat, and sunflowers.
About 10 km from the center of town, the clean shoulder we had enjoyed for our entire ride in Romania gave way to potholes, mud, and busy traffic. It only got worse as we maneuvered around chunks of missing asphalt, and tried to keep out of the way of less than patient cars and trucks.
Feeling unimpressed by the outskirts of Bucharest, we were relieved to get into the heart of the city. Instead of dirty potholed streets with fast and somewhat worrisome traffic, the center had big, wide streets with the chaotic traffic that we love riding through.
We made our way quickly through the city, noting various sights along the way such as the Parliamentary building and a large garden where we stopped for lunch. Being burnt out of big cities, we decided to stay in a campground on the very north edge of town so it was unlikely that we would be returning for any sightseeing. After taking our compulsory pictures of a handful of notable buildings, we headed for our campground at the north end of the city.
We were somewhat wary of the campground since it received such bad reviews online, though for a tent it really quite nice. It is about 1 km from one of the largest Carrefoures ever (grocery store) – one that rivals even those that we found in the French suburbs, and is set back from the road with a lot of tree cover. The RV situation is a little ridiculous- more like a cramped and glorified parking lot than a campground – but our quiet spot in the trees amongst the friendly German and Dutch RV’ers seems to be where we feel most at home.
At home or not, we were both completely wiped out after the long day. After showering I collapsed in the tent and slept for several hours, caring little for the fact that it was uncomfortably warm in spite of the shade. A heat wave is approaching the region we are in, and we have two long days of climbing before we reach our first stop in the Carpathians. Here’s hoping that we can gut it out so that we can finally take another day for rest and beat the heat.