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A journey from the delta of the Danube / Donau / Dunarea to its source, tracing the path taken by Ayla and Jondalar in the book 'Plains of Passage' by Jean Auel.

Page Two

Monday 6th July

motel at the border

Outside of the motel at the border between the Czech and the Slovak Republic. Rise at 805, the sun is visible between the clouds and the road is dry. Went to the bath room, water in the face etc., back in the room 5 min. later, everything is wet (Da....) ! The sun returned during breakfast, but it is rather dark and overcast, so back into the rain gear again.

Over the border, that is to say I thought so, but I'm being stopped again, what now, do they believe that I'm smuggling ? Nah it's just a higher ranking officer with a bunch of aspirants that wants to show them what and how to check a Danish passport!!! You can't change currency on your way into Slovakia, but only on your way out, so I decide to drive all the way through without buying anything.

Half an hour later it's so hot that I've got to stop to remove the rain gear, another half hour and I'm starting to sneeze from hay fever, stop, locate the pills in the luggage, yes, the weather is definitely improving, aathju, snif. A little later change to summer gloves etc., the weather keeps improving as long as I'm moving eastwards, it's beginning to be darker behind me, so I'm glad for every piece of motorway where I can increase the distance.

Turn south in Zvolen towards Hungary, and I'm almost caught by the bad weather again, but get off the hook. Hmm.... Everybody (Me) talks about the weather, but.......... The Slovak Republic is just as pretty as the Czech, the biggest visible difference (to me that day): Everywhere in the Czech Republic people are working on a Sunday, including improving the motorway. In the Slovak Republic I hardly saw anyone working on a Monday !! The motorists in both places were very good at keeping back for crossing traffic, only one slip in Slovakia, "fortunately" am I used to all the murder attempts back home, so I managed to stay clear of his car.

Hungary: the customs man had to check the bike, you know, how "fast" is the speedometer.... Big bikes almost don't exist in this part of Europe, strange, I can see that they have a lot of new cars here. A pair of big boys on mopeds, yes they are a lot faster than the ones at home, are almost falling off their mounts in order to look at my "moped", so I drove along side them for a short while, so they can study it.

I sneak the bike into 1st gear when we passed the end of town sign, give them a last look and a wink, before I open the gate for all the horses and deliver a high power wheelie in the first two gears. That will probably keep them talking the next few years, at their age. Well frankly, I'm not sure that the kid in me has left completely......

Suddenly the landscape is totally flat, like one of the big moors back home, I didn't know that the Pusta stretched so far north + west. Hey that's Donau, the real purpose for this trip is to follow it, but later. Hmm I ought to be in Vac now, well there's still signs pointing to Budapest, ah well a gas station and food, wonderful we need a fill up (288 Km.'s before reserve tank), ask the cashier for the road to Budapest (or rather the ring way), and he tells me that the town centre is just a couple of Km.'s ahead. Sh.. That means that the start of ring was where the motorway "ended", that is, the new part wasn't opened yet. Now I only need to find the road leading east out off town, in a hurry, I succeed 30 Km.'s and 45 minutes later. But I don't think it's the right one, turn into the gas station ahead to locate the next map in the luggage. The one I have followed until now ends here a few Km. from Budapest.

While I'm removing my helmet, the bike turns over (I don't see it, and can therefore not catch it), on it's right side. #@*\|~{}&^%$#@#!!!!! (not something I will repeat in writing). The attendant at the gas station is very quick to arrive and help me to rise it up again, it might be the old model weighting only 197 Kg.'s (434 lbs.) but with full holiday luggage it's not that easy to rise to vertical again. The paint is scratched on the fairing and the glass has several cracks now, I don't wanna think about it before I'm back home, but the new CBR 900 RR mirror is shattered (the glass part, the housing is ok), damn. No hope of replacing it here, no spares, not before Austria on the way home. And for somebody like me that's a bit paranoid regarding what's behind me, not good, Not good at all........

(Don't think that you ain't being followed / watched, just because you ain't paranoid).

Well better fix the luggage again, find the new map, look, no this isn't the right road, the one I should be on, is 5 Km.'s further south. Just and almost...... At the gas station there's a road going south, I'll take it, it soon turns a bit west, no problemo, what the f... Budapest again. 45 minutes later finally on the right road and another half hour later I'm back to earth, begin to relax and enjoy life again.

Suddenly I spot one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, in a very summery outfit and high heel shoes on the opposite side of the road, Jesus Christ, when she discovers that I'm looking at her, she sends me a smile that quickly can melt an iceman like me....... followed by a very telling movement of the mouth -- finally the penny dropped (needed the change...).

She wasn't alone, there was approx. 10 of them the next 15 Km.'s. I quickly discovered that the girls had a very hard facial expression, this was cool business, not tempting. Saw the two Tisza's, but unfortunately couldn't stop on the highway to take pictures. If I guess correctly, then their names mean the blue Tisza and the dark Tisza, which fits very well.

Two big rivers with a lot of wet land around, but I couldn't see any current in them. Found a Zimmer Frei just before the Rumanian border, 30 Dm.'s ok. Went "down town" to get some thing to eat, the waitress didn't understand English or German, so I had to order by the most international (and least precise) language ; sign: something to eat, got the menu card, only in Hungarian, said; muu, she pointed to two places on the menu, I took the first one and waited excited. It turned out to be "stewed beef" done the same way as schnitzel, bread, vegetables and french fried potatoes, tasted good.

On the way back to the Zimmer, I saw a van with the BT logo and an English numberplate, so I called them and asked if they were British, yes, British Telecom, yes again. Then they wanted to know where I was from (answer Denmark) and how I knew British Telecom, I answered that my sister is married to a Yorkshire lad. Bigger interest, where do they live in Yorkshire ? Doncaster ; I'll be damned, that's only 20 miles from us, small world.

We had a long and interesting conversation, that was the 3rd time they where going to Rumania and install telephones up in the mountains (same town). They had a lot of info on which roads where (very, very) bad, I on the other hand, was able to tell them that there had been a flood in the northern mountain regions. 78048 Km. => 568 Km. (353 miles) today.

Tuesday 7th July

It rained again during the night, it's overcast but the sun is peeking through the clouds. Rise at 8.05, no hot water in the very nice bathroom -- discover that the "Tire Repair" has delivered all its contents into the rest of the luggage in that pannier, yup, no more clean socks for the rest of the holiday.

Ready to leave at 9.45, suddenly an almost clear sky, lovely. Found fresh milk at the local "Netto" market, the neighbour came out and offered me a glass, because I was drinking it directly from the container, nice guy. His little shop sold cappuccino etc. so I went in and looked at the menu, the only thing that I recognized (beside ice-cream) was a hot dog and a large hot dog. I'm not one to eat a lot in the morning, but an empty stomach isn't good either, so I ordered a hot dog. This was the strangest breakfast I ever had and not quite what I expected ; You take one bread and slice it like a normal hot dog, fill it with ketchup, macaroni + ½ sausage split on the long axis and put it all into the microwave, and presto a few seconds later a Hungarian hot dog !!! Maybe I should have bought the ice instead....

Ah well, down to the border, only 100 m. of queue, but it took 15 minutes before I was allowed to leave Hungary, 100 m. to the Rumanian border control. Had heard that there might be a problem, but the officer at the passport control talked perfect English (phew), 30 seconds later he realized that I didn't have a visa, please park the bike behind his booth, go to the other booth over there to get a visa and change money, he said. (Big signs warning people against black money changing in 4 languages: Your gonna be cheated or mugged !!). The officer at the other booth talked a little English + German, and had a god humour by the way (3 to 2, Brasil vs. Denmark, in the world soccer cup), 3 minutes later and I had a visa and money. Back to the first officer, wait a moment until he was finished with the current expedition, after that he fixed the last part of the paperwork, all in all 10 minutes. So quicker into Rumania than out of Hungary!

Come again. 25 Km.'s of new asphalt to the first bigger town / city, and here the nightmare starts ; Big holes and very uneven surfaces where the pavement wasn't completely missing, beggars and street sellers. The latter was actually very nice, the first two washed peoples windscreens when they where waiting for green light, they could easily see that I didn't represent any income, but the bike fascinated them, so they came over and asked if they should wash the "screen". I waved disarmingly (I wasn't going to fumble after my wallet and money in the middle of a light intersection), but they washed it anyway (that didn't make it any cleaner, they could probably not afford any soap). The car driver next to me protested over the fact that they washed it when I had said no (no I don't understand any Rumanian, except the word "gratis" in the boys reply). They tried anyway to ask if I would give them a Dollar, but I waved disarmingly again, ok with them, then they greeted me and shook hands with me and talked a bit and presented their partner (dad ?).

What a nightmare/monster, dr. Frankenstein couldn't have done worse: The stump of his right arm came out in the middle of his chest, he was naked from the belt up and I could see many big scars after a lot of operations. That really made me appreciate the Danish doctors once again: My left under arm is filled with stainless steel => one useable arm + hand.

Well out of town and the asphalt is ok again. I soon discover that the roads in the bigger cities are awful, but the main road in the villages ( = main route) as a rule of thumb normally is almost ok, while the side roads, more often than not, are dirt roads. Of the approx. 2200 Km. (1367 miles) I drove in Rumania ; there were a few hundred Km.'s that were so bad that I crawled in 1st gear, and the rest can be divided equally between areas where the sensible top speeds are: 40 Km./h (25m/h), 65 Km./h (40m/h), 80 Km./h (50m/h) and 110 Km./h (70m/h). And I'm not talking about traffic, city limits or anything like that, only the quality (or lack) of the road surface.

To be fair to the Rumanian ministry of traffic, I'll have to tell that there was ca. 100 Km. of extremely good road with perfect surface, I enjoyed them enormously, some of the best I ever had the pleasure of driving a MC on ; all the reservations went overboard and I opened the airconditioning almost all the way (it was very hot). I'm glad that the policia didn't see me (the speed limit for motorcycles is 60 Km./h (35m/h)), that is, they did but no comments. Every time they saw me, I only saw smiles, and then they quickly stopped the next truck. The middle of the country is very beautiful and very varied, but most of the houses are a sorry sight except where the owner has spend time and money on paint recently. All the roads to and from the capitol are under repair and the 3 x 30 Km. of very wonderful road was definitely under 2 month old (no white stripes yet).

Appro pos, you can be sure when the Rumanians has placed a warning sign on the road, they aren't kidding, respect them. The air is very polluted, smells bad + headache. The English gents told me that the diesel is badly cleaned / contaminated, last year they had to change the fuel filter in the van 4 times (and they only had to tank two times, as far as I can tell). That might explain why their trucks are making so much smoke and why so many of them break down (and why most of the time, the chauffeur is disassembling the fuel lines).

There are horse carriages everywhere in the traffic, poor animals, to be working in that bad air !! For the same reason, don't drive in the dark, most vehicles have no light or reflectors on them !! And while we are at it, don't drive through a puddle of water ; it might be a meter deep !! The destination of the day was Sibiu (Herrmannstadt), the last 50 minutes and 30 Km.'s are some of the worst until now and it's raining again which makes it slippery.

Sees a sign in town for a motel (unusual, the only commercial signs I normally saw were Vulcanizer, they were everywhere !), find it after 5 minutes but no one in the reception. He returns ten minutes later, he talks a bit of English and German, so I ask for the price ; 50 Dm., here ? In that case, I want to see the room first, he thinks that I should pay first and then look, but I insist, so he tells me that the key is in the door on all the rooms that are vacant. So I left him to inspect the rooms: The first, the water is running in the bathroom (and not where it should, leeks), no hot water. The next, the lights in the room don't work, and no hot water, etc.. He comes over to me and asks for the money, I tell him that there's no hot water, he insists that there are, I tell him that it's not true, and suddenly he can't understand me, so I ask him if prefer to speak English or German and he answers that he doesn't care witch currency I pay him in but he wants the money, NOW.

So I say good bye, and walk over to the bike, put helmet and gloves on and leave while he yells and screams after me. The neighbour is a very gallant hotel, so I enter, a very sweet receptionist, she speaks perfect English but the price is a lot higher than I expected. I'm cheeky enough to ask her if there are any other hotels that are cheaper, except next door, not to her knowledge. I'm saddle sore but it's only 18.03, so I leave town toward tomorrow's destination.

I spotted the first bike bigger than a MZ 150 on my way out of town, a Honda CBR 900 RR Fireblade that was customized as a Street Fighter on Rumania numberplates. I was shocked, where will he ever get it out of first gear around here ??????? The city and a radius of at least 30 Km. looks a lot more like a motocross track than anything else I ever seen with pavement. I find a "little" hotel out in the country side, stop and ask, and gets an excuse, the boiler doesn't work, so no hot water and they haven't got any single bed rooms but if I'm still interested, the price is 50.000 Lei, roughly a fourth of the price in the city !! I took it and the bike came into their private garage. Unpack and turn on the mobile phone, no signal, so I takes the stair to the top floor and find a window to the westside, the receiving is poor but possible. Phone home, all well. Back down and wash myself, later down and order today's special, soup and pork chop: $5 inclusive my orange juice and tip. Back to the room and make another entry to the dairy. 78407 Km. => 339 Km. (210 miles).

Wednesday 8th July

Rise at 755, breakfast at 925, can't remember when I left the hotel. The first 300 Km. (186 miles), was pure torture and the bike responded by losing torque at 12.55 half an hour after the last tank stop, my first thought was bad fuel, because of the info from the two British guys, open the screws on the bottom of the float bowls. That was quickly done but the gas was ok, next step, remove all luggage in order to get to the toolkit, remove the leather, because it was getting rater hot. Remove the fairing, unscrew sparkplug no. 4, looked ok, but no spark, remove no. 3, ok spark. Find a new plug for no. 4, but no difference, hmm.... out with no. 1 (the mate on a 4 cyl. In line Jap. Bike), looked ok, but no spark either. New plug here too but still no difference, screw no. 3 back in and start engine, exactly the same sound as with plug no. 1 & 4 in.

Aha, possible errors; ignition coil, wires, igniter box or pickups. Well I haven't brought a multi meter with me, but by changing thing between the two ignition systems and watch when the problem follows should, tell me which part caused the problem. Oh yeah the tank needs to be removed too and in order to get to the screws the side panels must be removed too. Hey that's the igniter box and the wires from the pickups, lets see what happens if I disconnects and reconnects them, before I disassembles the rest of the bike. Press the button => spark, ok, screw the old plugs back in, press the button again and it fires on all four again......... phew..... reassemble the rest and place the luggage back on, and 13.50 we're back on the road again. (I could have avoided myself a lot of trouble if I had removed the tank at the time, the "real" problem was one of the wires to one of the ignition coils, easy to know later).

When I later, on my way out off Buzaü, stop to check the map, to find the next way point, it dawns on me why the road was so bad ; it was the direct minor road instead of the planned longer main road from Sibiu to Buzaü, I took. Well it can't be undone. On my way from Buzaü to Brâila (by the way 110 Km./h quality, most of the distance), I realize this is definitely flat farm land, and out in the middle of one of the very big corn fields there's a oil pump of a type one's familiar with from American movies. As I go on I count ten of these pumps, all in this single field, and these are the only ones I see in Rumania even though they should have a lot of oil.

Brâila is a very handsome city with many elegant people, in the city centre, later in my searching for a hotel, I saw the slum, it's worse than the country side. I never found a hotel in Brâila ( I'm sure they have some there) and I never found the bridge to the delta. I was saddle sore, but I didn't feel like waiting for the ferry as the first thing the day after, so I drove on board immediately when I discovered that it was in harbour.

The ferry sailed 5-7 minutes later, the trip cost a bit more than a liter of gas, ca. $0.50. The first engineer on board spoke some English and he was very interested in Suzi, and remarked after he heard the price that anything foreign is out of the question and even domestic cars are almost impossible to buy because the Lei are constantly being devalued, he had been saving for years to no avail. The last thing he says to me (with a little envy in the voice), before I'm going to depart from the ferry: Hey, I bet you just turn the key and it runs !? I answered yes, and 30 seconds later Nemesis arrives ; it fires, but only on two cylinders, muffled laughter behind me, arrgh !!! v Half way up the landing there's a bump and presto it runs on all four again. That soon turns out to be very symptomatic of the next approx. 100 Km. (62 miles) before I found a hotel, a sign of an interesting trip home........... Actually the next approx. 3000 Km. (1865 miles), before I solve the problem. The English guys told me that the van they used last year was brand new before the trip, and ready for the press when they got back......

There's a lot more roads over here in the delta than I have seen on any map of the area, so I'm rather ignorant on the navigation part and of course end on the "wrong" road to Tulcea where the only 2 hotels are located (according to the Policia). Nice hotel, one of the two in Rumania where I was able to get a hot shower, no locked parking area but a guard that I had to pay to keep an eye on it. The transit part is almost over (only 70 Km. to the Black Sea) and the holiday starts tomorrow (if the Lord approves!).

motel at the border

Mountains in a river delta ??? No, me on the wrong "track", they are the southern "border" of the delta. Sunset by the way.

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