After arriving at the vineyard Nige asked to borrow my shoes for a minute so he could have a quick “bez” on my bike. Immediately I felt 14 again. We set off into the morning drizzle and it felt great to be rolling down the road again. After a couple of hours of enjoying the mountain views and country roads we took a coffee in the village of Dud, and discussed where we might head off to next. The consensus was that we should head either to Minis de Sus or Minisel beyond the Lake at Taut. In the end the turning for Minis de Sus was blocked by dogs so we headed on to find the dirt track towards Minisel.
Dirt track you say? You must have been riding some kind of MTB or at least have swapped tyres then. Well not exactly, my wheels were still shod with the 25mm slicks that brought me to Romania last year, and Nige had something only slightly wider and more suitable. Luckily the first part of the track as far as Minisel was fairly dry and mostly an easy, if bumpy, ride. We started thinking about carrying on to the next village called Vasoaia, and decided to take some advice from the first villagers we came across. And so ensued a ten minute debate between these typical Romanian men in the country, about what might be the best way, and whether it was passable by bicycle, and if they could even agree on the correct way to go at all. They didn’t seem at all taken aback by our dirty appearance and general out of placeness, and probably would have continued their discussion for some considerable time longer, had we not got their attention long enough to say thank you for the advice and that we would do our best to make it to Vasoaia.
So we pressed on up the valley, fording streams and taking on rock gardens; the mud becoming softer and deeper all the while. After disregarding the first possible turn off we found a second one which had some walnut trees nearby as the men in the village had described. Sadly there were no țuică drinking chainsaw men sitting at the x roads to confirm so we took the decision to follow the track rather than turning back where we had come from (which never really felt like an option at any point). The thing was that the track was so steep and so muddy that our only choice was to walk and push the bikes from this point. We must have trudged uphill for over an hour, increasingly hungry and making ever more speculative navigational choices.
As we climbed higher, hoping that we might stumble across a small village shop in the next couple of hours, when suddenly we see a big white dog up ahead. We pause, resolve that turning back is still not an option, pick up sticks and carry on. Eventually we came across a series of pylons at the top of the hill and followed them in the hope that they would lead us to the village. We started finding small groups of houses but as our shouts of “allo?” failed to elicit any response, the chances of eating at any time soon were looking slim. Hope still dwindling suddenly I could hear Nigel in conversation further up the trail. He must have been charming this lovely Romanian couple who were staying at their hilltop house for the weekend, as by the time I arrived they were on the verge of inviting us in for food. My goodness me, it was great to hear and they really took care of us. We spent the next hour chatting over glasses of țuică, wine, eggs, bread, meat, peppers, coffee… everything we could have hoped for and more. It really was a great time and I hope we bump into them again sometime.
We set off again before we had drunk so much țuică that our only option would have been to accept their offer of staying the night, taking on the next 10km of muddy dirt track before we hit tarmac again. We both had a spill on the way down but pressed on anyway, aware that we were losing the light. Hitting the road again we clocked along nicely, both extremely happy with the days events thus far, not overly concerned that we only had one rear light between us, hitting the odd section of cobbles on the road between Buteni and Tarnova and outrunning numerous dogs. It was looking like as long as we could make it back through the darkness we would remain unscathed, when without warning my left crank came off the bike.
Even more concerning than this mechanical issue was the presence of several large, angry sounding dogs just off the road to my left- only just visible in the moonlight. I did my best to pedal away from the danger one legged, and eventually caught back up to Nige. Queue much laughter. There was no way we were going back to search for the bolt, so I replaced the crank and pedalled carefully the last few km’s into Tarnova- holding faint hopes that we could find a mechanic in the village. By some crazy stroke of luck the husband of the woman working in the village shop happened to be a mechanic. We were so well looked after this day, it was 6.30 on a Saturday evening and the guy greeted us as if we were long lost friends. After some deliberation he managed to get the crank to hold on by putting a wall plug into the bottom bracket spindle, followed by a large screw. Amazing ingenuity, classic Romanian smecheria.
After this there were no way we couldn’t make it back home, and we soon arrived back in Siria, smiling from ear to ear. What a day, what an adventure!