Romania – will we survive?

26 Sep

This might seem an odd title for a blog but having ridden in front of, beside and behind Romanian drivers for 8 days, it is a question we have asked ourselves more than once. Between them and the weather, 3 thunderstorms in 4 days it is probably a justifiable question.

Oradea

We had been in Oradea for all of one hour and had set off to find an ATM and coffee when the heavens opened causing the roads and drains to overflow in next to no time and masonry to fall from the facades of already crumbling buildings.

duck !

The following morning the news reported a freak storm, of which Oradea was not even at the centre, had killed 8 and injured many to the south in Timosoara and had left a trail of destruction. About the same time Mexico was experiencing another earthquake. Nature seems to be getting its own back.

For us the day following the storm was quieter and the quest to get the final drive oil changed was next on the agenda. Apparently, after said expensive part has been changed, the oil in said part should be changed again at about 1000km and we had ridden 1008km; thereafter it’s back to normal change intervals. A phone call a couple of days earlier had amazingly shown that there was a BMW motorad dealer in Oradea and an English speaking person there. “Come in on Monday and we will see what we can do”. Monday arrives and Jim decides to ring them first. Different person – “our mechanic for the motorcycles is on holiday” – oh dear. Thank heavens for the internet though. This shows up a guy with a motorcycle workshop. He will come to the hotel and escort Jim there as he has recently moved his workshop. Toma (aka Batman) turns up on his Honda VF1000 F-II and sets off with Jim in convoy taking them to a place to buy the oil and then on to his workshop where said oil is changed and Bertie is happy.

In the workshop next door another man is customising bikes and creating some amazing machines. Toma gave up his whole morning for Jim and only charged the equivalent of £20. Kindness again!

Toma with Bertie

Later, wandering through a park we come across a young man with a coffee cart. His english is excellent, he has worked in Gloucester and London but is now home to build a business. He is very excited to tell us that he has just been granted permission to have a permanent kiosk in the park which will look like a takeaway coffee cup. We wish him all the best.

For Romania we have a rough route in mind in order to take in 2 iconic roads. The Tranfaragasen Highway and the lesser known Transalpina. But those are days down the line. Looking at the map we plot a daily route which will keep us off the main highways. Quite frankly the driving totally unnerves me and Jims comments are not particularly favourable either. On the open road, if you see a truck, expect a car to overtake it whatever is coming in the opposite direction. Watching a car almost become a lorry sandwich does not make for a relaxed ride. In the towns the favoured occupation is to see how fast you can drive down the streets whatever the size. All pedestrians cross at the pedestrian crossings. There is definitely a good reason for that!!!  The smaller roads are mostly shake, rattle and roll which equates to patched, potholes and ripio but occasionally you find a stretch with amazing surfaces and sweeping bends. These roads take us through small towns and villages, mostly poor and rural. Horse and carts are extensively used and the horses don’t seem bothered as the local cars thunder past them. We share the road with sheep, goats and cows being herded down the middle of the road. Houses have outbuildings and gardens are not for flowers but vegetable plots, chickens, even the odd sheep or cow. Elderly ladies sit outside their houses selling their excess produce, mostly potatoes and onions but occasionally wild mushrooms. Now is the season for them. People turn and stare when they hear and then see us. Don’t think they get many adventure bikes through these villages.

VIDEO – A ride in Romania

3 days into our riding in Romania, Jim’s intercom decided to pack up. The on/off button isn’t working and it needs a special screwdriver to get it apart. Arriving in Sighisoara, our first proper stop with a rich history, we spend the first part of the day looking for someone who can take it apart. A watchsmiths and then a computer and phone repair shop draw a blank. Jim spends quite a bit of time conversing with Laurie of Sportsmaxx in Targu Mures about 55km North who tries his best to get us a replacement but without success (but thank you for all your efforts Laurie). Being able to talk to each other when riding is really important to our travel so we explore our final option, getting one from UK. A call to Sportsbikeshop UK and yes they can deliver one via UPS to Romania in 4 working days. Neither of us wants to do the Transfargarasan or Transalpina without being able to talk to each other so map out, new route devised – we will head to Sibiu, then Brasov where we will wait for the delivery.

Sibiu from Sighisoara gave us a shorter days ride so we were able to walk into the old town and explore. Being a Saturday, we were unsurprised to see 2 wedding parties within 200 meters of each other. The old town is medieval with many old buildings and churches and ice cream stands, so Jim’s happy. He was even happier when we arrived at the main square to find a beer festival taking place.

In the old town, Sighisoara
Beer festival in Sibiu

Riding from Sibiu to Brasov we passed the turning for the northern end of the tranfaragasen highway. A glance up at the dark clouds made us glad we were not heading down it just yet and we turned north onto the smaller road we had selected for the day. The road was as usual bumpy and potholed but the sat nav must have been having a right laugh at us as we later turned onto a road or rather muddy track that would have given any ripio road in South America a run for its money. The Heidenau K60 tyres came into their own as Bertie trundled along with relative ease. We often read or hear disparaging comments about the BMW GS Adventure declaring a small, light bike is the only way to do adventure biking but 2 up fully loaded, Bertie tackles it all with ease, motorways all day or ripio – very few bikes can handle that combination and be comfortable for hours on end.

Brasov has an old town and a sprawling newer town. The old town dates back to the 13th century and has cobbled streets, old churches and towers in abundance and is a good place to settle for a few days while we wait for our intercom to arrive. Latest info on the UPS ‘track a package’ is that it has now arrived in Nurnburg via Lincoln, Tamworth and Frankfurt.

In the meantime Brasov is within reach of Bran (home of the fictional Dracula) and Rasnov so some sightseeing is in order. And Bertie, he has a nice position, securely parked in the gated car park, below our room.

A bit of navigation assistance from a local

 

Google translate – always useful, not always accurate!

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