Day 42: Headwinds into Bechet
Wednesday August 7 - Day 42 - 61miles - Total 1663miles
We tried to start early in Calafat. We went down for breakfast but there was no-one in the dining room. We had to go to reception to have them page the waitress so we could have breakfast. To be honest it wasn't really worth the wait, as it was weiners with eggs. Andrea got a semi-decent omelet. At the least the coffee was good.
The tandem was already gone by the time we got downstairs, so we didn't get to meet whoever is piloting that sweet machine. We left the hotel and avoiding a pack of dogs to get to the grocery store. For the first time in two weeks Andrea couldn't get "Jogood" drinkable yogurt for our yogurt break, which made her very sad. We had to be content with a Romanian knock-off which wasn't nearly as good.
We headed slightly uphill out of town, past fountains and a pedestrian mall. We turned left to head out of town. Not that there was a sign to tell us to turn left and it looked like a pretty minor street, but it was the correct street. It was a good job that Bruce knew which street to take otherwise we would still be cycling around Calafat looking for the exit.
Once out of town, the road surface deteriorated just enough to be a hindrance. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't a surface that you could keep a decent momentum on. Combine that with the nice easterly headwind that had sprung up... and we were not making very good time... We haven't had an easterly this whole trip! It must have something to do with the river creating a microclimate as the Danube turns a corner at Calafat and flows pretty much east until nearly the Black Sea.
We passed through lots of villages on the road as we pedaled in the direction of Bechet (pronounced Be-ket). Some of them were bigger than others, but they all had a lot of similarities. There were benches outside of nearly every house. Most of them had some sort of shade, usually in the form of a tree that had been trained or trimmed appropriately (for the past 70 years) so it would provide shade for the most of the day. The people would stare at us from that delectable shade as we went by. It was essentially a repeat of yesterday's adventures with the local inhabitants with a few "Ciao! Ciao!s" thrown in ... just to confuse us...
This area of Romania seems like it hasn't moved forward as much as some parts of the country. There are communal wells that are still relied upon for drinking water. People sweep their dirt yard free of leaves with homemade twig brooms. We even saw one old lady who looked exactly like an evil Disney witch, complete with scoliosis, pinched little face, and homemade broom! It is actually rather depressing cycling through some of these places.
There are horse and carts everywhere. This is pretty much a staple of the rural villages here. There is horse shit all over the road and sometimes it is difficult trying to avoid the fresher deposits!
Having said all of the above... the people seem genuinely friendly and happy to see us. They do shout out to us and a lot of the kids come out onto the road to give us high fives as we cycle past. 90% of the time this is fine, but of course there is always the spoilsport. One middle-school aged boy gave Bruce a high five and then tried to duck behind and grab the bags on the rear of his bike. This unhinged our GPS transponder. We yelled at him, and so did his sister, mother, grandmother and various other matriarchs of the village (all sitting in the shade watching the event). We don't think he will be able to sit down for a week.
We only had small problems with a few other kids during the day... hard high fives and a few "I speak English!!! " from shrill teenage girls. Andrea will have plenty of those to deal with again in a few weeks... :)
We actually travel faster than the carts (donkey, horse, or oxen driven). So we play leap frog with them. We pass them and wave hello and they smile and wave. Then they may hurry their beast of burden along to try and keep up with us or we may take a break in the shade, and they will pass us again and they wave and chuckle... this is funny only until the horse takes a "break" and we have to avoid the after effects...
We had lunch again in the shade today on one of those infamous benches under the canopy of a tree. We probably broke some more social norms but we really needed some coolness for the day. The refrigerator in the pannier worked well to keep the grapes and cheese cold so we could have them for lunch.
The head wind continued all day so we had to power along the flat to keep going. It was a hard day. The sun flowers are all done and dead, left to dry in the 100 degree heat.... we really felt similar! You would think after 42days in the saddle that this wouldn't be an issue but we were flagging today.
Right at the 50 mile mark there was a stupid 7% down and then back up again for no good reason, which is demoralizing, and there was just too much flat between them so that we couldn't keep any momentum from the downhill either....grrr
We finally made it to Bechet and stopped at one of the little Magazins (mini-markets) to ask where the hotel was. Turned out that it was about 200m away on the other side of the street! Yay! So we have a room for the night at the Hotel Tata Si Fi in Bechet, Romania. When we put our bikes in the back storage area, the tandem was there again! The Owner told us that they are Belgian....we look forward to meeting them!
We had dinner at the hotel and we both got stuffed cabbage rolls and polenta, washed down with some of the local beer. The Owner speaks good English and brought out his homemade firewater. In this part of Romania it is called Tswika (or something like that!). Not too bad! Burns just a little! Tastes very similar to Rakija in Serbia, but of course we don't tell them that! We also found out that "Cheers" is "Norok" in Romania.....good things to know!
The World is Ours!