It has to be said – drivers in Romania are some of the worst in Europe. They drive fast and take very little notice of cyclists and/or pedestrians and totally ignore all speed limits. In fact, I’d say they are even worse than Belgians.
If they slowed down, they might even notice the numerous road-side graves and shrines that pay tribute to those who have died there. Most are men and most in their 20s or 30s.
Anyway, as Romanian drivers sped around the country at high speed, we woke up to some incredibly high-speed winds and some bleak looking grey rain-clouds. It wasn’t hot, which after the daily sweat-fest I’ve endured since I starting last week was actually quite nice, but it didn’t look good for cycling. As we left we had a strong headwind and I suddenly understood why cyclists always bitch and moan about headwinds. At one point it was so strong that it had us crawling along at 6km per hour – the same speed as going up a steep hill. It wasn’t fun and we had planned a long day of cycling today.
Thankfully, the winds eased by lunchtime and for most of today we were winding our way along quiet riverside roads with very little traffic and very few hills. We saw lots of Danube, lots of small streams and rivers running into the Danube and lots more old people sitting outside their houses watching the world go by.
We stopped for lunch in Berzasca, which may well be a ghost town as pretty much everything was closed and deserted. We joined the few locals (and two Police) who were sitting outside a shop and left shortly after a group of Italian hikers arrived.
Across the river is Serbia and as you wind through the valley and Iron Gate National Park you have some stunning views of the cliffs that line the Danube on both sides. It was a picturesque day but due to the headwinds in the morning and some serious hills after 80km I was running low on energy and motivation before we hit 90km.
Thankfully, this is when we met Alexandru – a friendly young mountain bike racer from Orsova. Alexandru rode with us, took care of us and helped us find the next town which had accommodation. He also took us to the big cliff man/face which was carved into the side of some rock in 1994. He basically carried us with him and thanks to his help and against all expectations we managed another 100km day.