We left the posh hotel in Gyula with some trepidation – an set off towards the Romanian border. The good news was that, although the air had a distinctly cold and autumnal nip to it, there was some blue sky around and a brisk westerly wind mainly on our backs. This was our first proper, passport-inspected, border crossing since leaving St Pancras, and it was all taken very seriously.
Romania was different straight way. There were people, bikes, handcarts moving along the main road. There were stacks of hay in fields, and pigs and chickens loose beside the road. People called out to us and waved. But the main road was newly surfaced and in excellent shape. One major advantage is that the language is so much more intelligible – a lot of latin roots for words. We can read or guess at most of the signs, which is a relief after the incomprehensible Hungarian we have been coping with.
I had been concerned about choosing a route with the right balance between main roads with decent surfaces but possibly too much fast and heavy traffic, and small roads with impossible surfaces. But for the first 15 miles there was no alternative to the main DN79A road. I had studied the arial photos on Google maps – counting the cars and lorrys on a measured distance and comparing it with the arial photos of UK roads whose traffic densities I knew – in order to try to work out how busy it was going to be. My research had suggested it would be ok (provided the photos weren’t taken on a Sunday afternoon!) – but I was much relieved when the traffic proved to be fairly light. For much of the time we rode side by side, just pulling in to let lorrys and cars pass as needed.
The first town, Chisneu-Cris, saw us drawing Romanian Lei from an ATM, buying food and trying out our first Romanian cafe. Once they had got over the shock of our arrival, people were friendly enough – and the coffee was very welcome. By now it was threatening to rain – and still cold. As we shivered over lunch, at 100m altitude, and looked at the distant, cloud-covered hills, we couldn’t help but wonder what things are like at 2000m at the top of the Carpathians. Having been complaining of the heat only just over a week ago, it now feels as though winter is arriving early. Let’s hope the mountain road is still passable!
We ploughed on and, at the village of Bocsig, a funny thing happened. The road crossed a final irrigation ditch and went up a short bank – and we suddenly realised that we were on gently rolling ground. After almost 200 miles cycling from Budapest we had finally crossed the Great Plain. Now the hills were closing in a little as we began to head up the valley of the river Crisul Alb. It started to rain. We had made very fast time (for us) all day – thanks to the tailwind – but we had lost an hour on entering Romania (we are now 2 hours ahead of you on BST). So we rolled into our intended destination, Sebis, after 54 miles at 3.30 pm and were lucky enough to find an English speaker who was able to direct us to the only hotel. We are right off the tourist track here – there are no sign boards in town, no information of any kind. The hotel does not even have a sign out and we would not have realised it was a hotel without help. It is very basic, as you would expect, but clean and welcoming enough. Time to recharge the batteries before heading on up the valley tomorrow.
Helen’s track of the day: Simon and Garfunkel, Kathy’s Song, just because of mention of drizzle and rain and there was quite a lot today.