Day 30 - Flirting with the Ukraine

Friday 25th July 2014 

Riding on the Lake Bicaz shore

Whenever a BMW GS bike comes into earshot Charly, who has an ear for recognising specific exhaust notes, mutters "Bastard". It's just his way.

 So we bid farewell to our new found friends on their bastards and head north along the lake. After an hour or so of fairly treacherous mountain roads we see a sign for a pension-restaurant off in the forest and over a seriously rickety bridge spanning the River Bistrita. We have to give it a go so we adopt Ewan & Charly mode and ride across.

The rickety bridge

Next we head for the Pasul Prislop, a pass over Mount Rodnei. It's 50km of the worst road I've ever had the misfortune to ride. The road has been ripped to shreds with huge areas of deep pot holing and undulating waves of tarmac. It's as I imagine road would be after an earthquake or heavy shelling.

Strange growth on my shoulder
Church on Parcul Pass
Monument on the summit
We wind all over the width of the road, picking the flattest route through the craters. Unfortunately so do the other road users which leads to some interesting confrontations. As a rule Romanians drive as fast as their vehicles will allow whether on the open highway or passing through the interminably long villages. They overtake with inches to spare with no warning, into blind bends as if no oncoming traffic would dare to take their road space.
But this road defeats even them. It's painfully slow progress for everyone if you want to arrive at your destination with suspension and wheels intact.

 We are in the Parcul National Muntii Rodnei and heading for its highest pass, the Pasul Prislop.
Finally we get to the summit where an extraordinary modern church, or maybe it's a monastery, stands proudly looking down from the heights.

There's more cratered horror hairpins going down the north side but gradually the road improves. And improve it certainly does. Another EU project transports us rapidly west. It's like stepping out of the 18th century into the 21st.

 Before reaching here we have covered about 100 kilometres in 4 hours. I was thinking that the 3 days allows for the 550 miles from Bran to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia was a tad optimistic.
But now we are making good time as we head through the Carpathians towards the Romania-Hungary border.

It's time to call it a day. We are both pretty tired from the switchback riding and total concentration on the next 25 metres of potential disaster in front of the handlebars. It's only when you stop that you have time to look around and take in the breathtaking scenery. My forearms are aching from constantly manhandling the heavy front end on the K around the potholes. It's very hot and humid and sweat is trickling into my eyes and making them sting.

Seated at the feast

Yet again we drop on an excellent lodging for the night. It may be luck, but The tourist areas of Romania seem to be filled with lovely pensions run by lovely people. Of course certain principles apply. You can tell a lot by studying a potential lodging from outside. If the building and gardens are neat and tidy so will be the rooms. Look for secure off-road parking. Is it well-signed with the attractions it has to offer? Restaurant, wifi, rooms?

We choose the Pensiuneu Marin in Rona de Jus, three kilometres from the Ukraine Border. Our room is on the ground floor, under the main house, with access from the garden. It's clean, with a good shower and twin beds.

 Our host greets us with glasses of a clear liquid that breathes fire into our tired bodies. This is palinka, plum brandy of extraordinary potency. He makes it in a collective with three neighbours. It's fierce and very good. The bottle stays on the table for us to partake of whenever we want. The price is 100 lei each for evening meal, bed and breakfast, the palinka is free.
A young couple from Bucharest who speak good English are also staying here. After settling in we sit at a wooden table on the garden under a wooden roof. There's lots of wood in Romania, and we have a wonderful evening eating traditional local fare and swapping our life stories, discussing politics and our travels around Europe.

Cheese course

New courses arrive every few minutes. it is an amazing banquet of traditional Romanian dishes.
sweet and sticky

Soup and sausage roll
Anghel has brought several flagons of great wine made by his uncle. It too is potent and the evening slides gracefully away.

One of those sweet experiences that you just know you will regret in the morning as you don your riding gear, but to hell with it,
 "It's life Jim, but not as we (generally) know it". 


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