Day 23 - Storks and art-deco camping

Friday 18th July 2014 

Long, long straight roads slash across the Hungarian plain. It's hypnotic but great care must be taken. Oncoming traffic overtakes anywhere, whether you are approaching or not. There is a strong and constant head wind, the air is dry as a bone. Giant trucks create huge back washes which blow us off-line. The road surfaces are varied, from new and excellent to seriously rutted. More of the latter as we approach Romania
Coffee stop at the border

The inside track is a rutted , broken and sunken nightmare, best steered well clear of. I pity the frequent moped riders that we overtake, whose life is spent on this horrible inside track.

In places the road is scarred with miles long ridges of graded stripes, about the width of a tank track, with parallel grooves that will capture your front tyre and force the bike to follow the line until you can wrench the front out of it's trough. It's like you get when roads have been planed prior to resurfacing at home, but only in these two strips either side of the centre line.

It's unnerving.The concept of back streets has not been incorporated into village planning hereabouts so the frequent villages stretch out for ever with 50kph mandated between the village name sign and it's crossed out counterpart on exit. We're very law abiding, the villages are many and often, so average speed is low, around 40mph. We stretch the legs on the well-surfaced carriageways when we can and thunder on across the interminable plain.

There are hundreds of stalls selling melons along the route. There's rarely much of a pull-in for shoppers so we're often forced out to the tank tracks as we pass them by.

"Well I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun.
There were children crying and colors flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun.
They were flying Mother Nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun."

I often get a song stuck in my head as I ride along. This time it's a good one. Once I drove 300 kilometres across Germany stuck on "chirpy-chirpy cheep-cheep".

Storks guarding the border
We arrive at the Hungarian-Romanian border crossing. It's old style, with full document check. Vans are asked to open up the back doors so the guards can have a good nose around.

But we get a smile and a mock salute.
"Good bikes" says the armed uniformed guard.

We smile and thumbs-up in return and are on our way. On the Romanian side there is a gas station. Petrol is cheaper still. We fill and change some money. The rate is appalling but at least we now have a few Lei. There is a squadron of storks nesting atop the power lines pylon, guarding the border.

(Mick spends all night and next morning chuntering about the exchange rate as he interrogates all his receipts and strains away at mental calculations. I hope it's not becoming an obsession!)

We ride through the centre of Arad in a gathering thunderstorm. It's very busy. It's an unattractive town with massive concrete blocks of flats overlooking the Main Street. We stop at a flashy Gazprom service station to zip up and get the rain protection locked down.

A broken down truck causes a huge jam and it takes ages to shake off Arad. Fortunately the rain stops and watery sunshine and the winds help us to dry out.

Arriving at Camping Baile Lipova

We are looking for a hotel or camping ground along the route. We spot a sign for Camping Baile Lipova, 5km off to the right. It's great. Faded art-deco splendour, presumably an apparatchik holiday centre from Ceaucescu-era communist Romania.

Tents up

Faded art deco glory

It's unkempt now and the swimming pool is murky. Don't fancy a swim in there though it is nearly 9pm and still hot and steamy. We pitch camp and just make it to the restaurant on time. Grilled chicken, chips and a salad for me for 12 lei (€4). Mick has two Romanian sausages and chips for €1.10. That and beer at 60c cheers him up no end.
Mick's loving the food

Two Romanian couples are also camping here. They stroll over for a chat, very friendly, like everyone we have met so far in this country. No sign of thieving gypsy itinerants or wild brown bears so far, despite various warnings from Western Europeans along the way.

So we get our heads down,wondering whether we will be summoned at 6am for a compulsory calisthenics session.


Tomorrow the Transalpina.


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