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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 Five

Saturday 11th July.

Up and get some breakfast, washing and packing done, the bathrooms were extremely filthy and with no money (well not quite true), we decided that we better pay for one night and find a bank quickly, so we left. We unfortunately only found the right bank 5 minutes after they closed, and they even accepted Visa the only place in Rumania any of us saw, damn, what now.

The cop that had taken our money talked about a ATM machine in the city where he stopped us, so we drove back, we didn't find it (it apparently didn't exist, maybe we misunderstood him). We calculated who paid how much and set the record straight and I said good bye to them, they had 36 hours to get back to Denmark, before their normal weekday began again.

I was now only a few kilometers from the Iron Gates where the Sharamudoi people lived in the saga about the Earths Children, and it was one of the places I hoped to see.

Well it's actually four gates along a 130 Km. (81 miles) stretch off the Serbian/Rumania border the one the maps and road sign pointed to is a relatively new dam, made to tame the river a bit and make it safer to travel.

Iron Gates

The "modern Iron Gate", seen from up stream, looking towards the east and the delta. The first (or fourth). The area doesn't look much like the description in the books and I would like to see the other three gates, so I tried to follow the coast line/road.

This photo and the two following were taken from the same spot.


Seen towards south and the Serbian side. Some of the "Sharamudoi" (in the books) lived here but below today's water level.


And towards the west. Several caves were excavated between the four "gates" before they closed the locks in the "new" dam.


Orsova with the second (or third) gate to the left. The first one in Orsova ended in a cul de sac, but it was very beautiful and promising and the map showed a road from there to Berzasca along the coast. I found it and is perhaps the most beautiful piece of Rumania I've seen on this trip, I'm glad that I didn't follow the plan and leave Rumania yesterday.

The two middle gates are definitely the landscape described in the books, although I didn't see the precise spot, and I believe it's in the imagination of the author, and mine too for that matter, because I've seen what she describes elsewhere in the world.


The modern church in Orsova.


My very promising "dead-end" street in Orsova Note the unfinished house, here you build the inner walls, put a roof on top and then you and your family moves in. Next time you got some dosh you buy the bricks for the outer wall and the insulation etc. . It makes sense to me but it would never be legal here in Denmark (too much bureaucracy).


Between Gates two and three.


The river between the second and the third gate, it's the Serbian side we are looking at here.



Photos of the Danube between gates two and three, near Orsova.


The local version of Mt. Rushmore ?


The second gate counting from the upstream side, the third from the downstream.


Between the first and the second gate, counting from the upstream side.


Upstream of the first (or fourth) gate.

I arrived at the last gate a little later, there's a fort on the Serbian side of the gate, called Golubac, confirming that in the old days you had to pay a toll to the gate keeper when passing up and down the Danube.

The road was totally destroyed from falling rock around the last gate, first gear for quite a distance before I got to Berzasca.


A few hundred metres after the first (or last) gate. When I took the picture above it only showed the castle and not the gate but it looked like this spot might give the perfect shot. As you can see; almost perfect except for the tree. There's a very important archeological site called Lepenski Vir further down the gorge.

It didn't spoil the joy for me, but to never see a gas station after several hours of driving was making me a bit anxious since I was almost down to the fumes. The road was suddenly worse because of falling rocks (in spring?), then after a few Kms like this, my prayers where (almost) answered, I could see a gas station and a small village 1 Km. ahead, thank you.

Well when I got there I saw that the entrance to the station was blocked for traffic and the road ahead was missing for a few hundred meters, the gas girl just said no to all my questions (including to buy gas). There was also a road going up the cliff, blocked too, but a bike can pass in several places where a car can't fit, so what the hell.

Luckily I got suspicious after 50 metres, stopped and walked a few more metres, in the meantime one of the locals was screaming his lungs out in warning (I didn't hear him until I stopped the engine), and I could see why, the upper road had fallen down on the lower one.

Now I had a bit of a problem, not enough gas to go back to Orsova and no way ahead, went back about 300 m. to be by myself and think, and while I was taking a leak, a car came from the village and a small motor cycle passed me and entered the gas station.

I started to look carefully to see if he could buy gas (one never knows), while I was looking, a car came from the other side of the missing part of the road, he turned down to the river among the entrepreneur machines for a little later to appear on my side, well, well, a detour (without signs).

That improved my mood quite a bit and after 20 Kms of ok asphalt, a brand new Shell station almost in the middle of nowhere. I was tired of the old style pumps they all sloshed the last ½ liter over my tank, impossible to avoid, so I chose the Shell only to discover that it was so new that they haven't got any gas yet.

The keeper at the old station next door filled more gas than I could pay for, before I could stop him, thank god he spoke a bit of English, told him that I only had a few dollars. He was more than happy to accept them instead of Lei, in fact he would like to change all my money and his price was ok, but I wasn't interested because I would have to strip to get the rest of them.


The last I saw of the river in Romania.

I had also seen many armed soldiers along the way and at one point there was a border control, two nice young men who spoke a bit of English, they examined my passport and wrote my data in a log, I was rather surprised and asked if it wasn't Rumania on the other side ; they answered that it was Rumania on both sides of the border control, sorry but I don't get it.

The road improved a lot from Berzasca to Naidâs, but no hotels here (that I could see) and the border that I had planned to cross was full of beggars, so I continued to Oravita, it looked big enough on the map to have a hotel. Found Hotel Rouge in Oravita, sitting outside were three men drinking a beer, entered and asked for the price, 100.000 Lei, I only had 64.500 left, so I asked if she would accept dollars (she didn't speak English or German), she pointed down the road, but wanted me to pay for the room now.

I couldn't explain that I haven't got the money, so I just left, found a gas station and asked for the money change office, they didn't understand either, so I tried the same signs I've seen earlier in Rumania when somebody wanted to change money for me. The gas keeper didn't like the idea, but the customer (looked like his brother?), told him to pay 8000 Lei for the dollar (same price as last), finally he agreed to change my last $8 (in the wallet) to 64.000 Lei. Back and pay for the room, the receptionist told me a lot of things, of which I didn't understand much, until the "bellboy" showed me the room, they where so poor that there was only water for a few hour every day, so they filled a bucket to flush the toilet and a big jug to wash and brush teeth.

I could live with that, so I collected the luggage and carried it up to the room, then I went down to see if I could find a place to park the bike. One of the men outside presented himself and his companion, they where musicians and had played in most of Europe, Denmark included, he told me to go down and see them play this evening. Then he spoke to the receptionist and told me to park the bike inside the hotel so it wasn't stolen, they guided me and the bike to a four bed room on the ground floor, I must say, I had to pay 100 K Lei to get a two bed room and the bike gets a bigger room for free.

Well it couldn't go through the door so they decided to leave it in the hall, I told them that it dripped oil, ok, then we remove the carpet, no problem. The whole time the "bellboy" had closely observed me without saying anything, so I signed that I was going upstairs to wash myself, and was left alone.

Unpacked a bit and found the telephone, but absolutely no connection to the outside world here, counted all my money, I had 28.000 Lei, $136 and 250 Dm. Hopefully enough to get me something to eat with the rest of the Lei, wasn't sure because I payed between 40.000 and 60.000 Lei for evening meals all the other places, the problem being that I couldn't ask for the price, since no one spoke any of my languages. And the dollars and Dms ought to be enough to get an insurance for the bike in Serbia (Yugoslavia) and back to Hungary.

The agreement between me and my parents was that I should phone them and ask if the war in Serbia had escalated since I started my holiday, if so I would continue through Rumania to the Hungarian border, and if not I would try to go through Serbia (I had a visa).

Better start by trying to get something to eat, went downstairs and was introduced to the landlord by the musicians, he opened the restaurant for me. He turned on the lights and asked what I wanted to drink, I replied a Fanta, so he turned on the fridge too, Coke Cola obviously supplies almost all the fridges in Rumania (in stores or gas stations), I didn't see any other brands (I know Coke doesn't make them).

Then he asked if I wanted something to eat, I nodded yes, five minutes later he showed me a piece of nice meat the size off a big plate and asked if it looked ok, I nodded yes again and wondered how much that was gonna cost me. The meal was very good and it costed 25.000 Lei including the Fanta, phew, but it probably also meant no breakfast in Rumania tomorrow.

I had taken a table right in front of the stage since I wanted to see the musicians play. When I had finished eating, a man with a jolly expression asked if he could sit at the same table as me, to look at the music, ok with me even though the rest of them were free.

He couldn't speak with me either, but he and I agreed that the musicians where good, and all of a sudden, there was another Fanta and a beer on the table, very nice of him, if it was for me, but I couldn't repay the favour. It was for me, and I felt a little guilty drinking it, when I finished it, he ordered a new, and I took my wallet and indicated that it was my turn to pay, but he wouldn't have it, I understood so much as, he was proud to be an Rumanian and he wanted me to like the country/citizens too.

Shortly after he arrived at the table, he invited a handsome young girl to sit at our table, he payed for her drinks too, but she left after half an hour, a little later he bought me a cappuccino, but I get sick if I drink coffee and I really had a problem on how to tell him in a polite way in sign language.

After that he invited the "bellboy" (who had been observing me again) over, and I realized that the "bellboy" was a girl. Don't tell me, I know, but some young people are difficult to distinguish, especially when neutrally dressed, I also couldn't tell you if she was 15 or 21, but I would guess 17 - 18.

A little later the musicians took a break and the young girl who had been singing with them, sat down at our table and talked to her friend, just before they started to play again, I discovered that she spoke a few words of English, French and good Italian (we probably had a 100 words in common).

I had tried to leave the room in a polite way, so now they wanted to know why and I told them that I had a bad memory from a motorcycle accident, so I had to have some time to write in my diary.

They understood, but the Fantas kept coming and they told me to stay, the singer came back in the next break, and they wanted to know how I felt about Rumania and Rumanians. I answered that I liked them but not all their cops, they didn't quite understand, so I told how much I had to pay him, and what had I done? A fine that big almost meant that I must had murdered somebody.

Just before I left the company, I realized that the "bellboy" had a very big crush on me, like most people, I have 20 - 20 hindsight, so I have no problem seeing that it isn't me as a person but what I represented to her: I payed in dollars and I rode a big motorcycle. Each of them are big icons of freedom, and to top it off I travelled where I felt like going. She had probably never been anywhere and couldn't see herself ever being able go in the future.

At the right moment, I told everybody goodnight, including the musicians, and left before they protested again. When I got back in my room I started to write, it was more than 48 hours since the last entry, but after only 10 minutes, people started to talk loudly about the "Danese" down below, and I wondered if they had been a bit mad over that I left before the music was finished, so I turned off the light and went to bed.

After ten more minutes the noise got even louder, I snuck over and peeked out between the curtains; down below there was three police officers trying to tell a lot of the young people in the village to go home to their parents, but they wanted to see the "Danese".

Christ, they probably had never seen a tourist before, I got back into bed again and the noise died down after a while.

80211 Km. => 248 Km. (154 miles).

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