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Intruders on the Danube

by Tyler

It must be 2AM when we are awakened by the sound of voices chattering in cryptic Romanian outside our tent. In moments, we are both wide awake. We watch intently as a shaky flashlight passes over our home, casting ominous shadows on the paper thin nylon walls of our shelter. Tara squeezes my hand tightly.

I respond to her iron grip by whispering almost inaudibly, "Relax, you'd be curious if you came across two bicycles and a tent in the middle of the night too." Though I've just made a very calm dismissal of our late night guests, my mind is racing. As my heart begins to pound with a deafening beat, I wrestle my thoughts into submission.

I make a mental picture of our tent, planning the fastest way to grab our survival knife and arnis baston, playing out in my mind exactly what I will do if I choose to use them. I strain to hear more clearly, trying to pick out how many voices there are, how many footfalls are crushing shells on our tiny beach.

We lay silently. We listen. As long as our bikes remain untouched, I see no reason to greet our visitors. After several minutes of quiet talking, I hear what sounds like a buckle of our panniers clicking open. I spring to action.

My right hand reaches over my body, whipping the long zipper of our sleeping bag open as I leap to the corner of our tent in a single motion. I snap open the zipper of our interior door, grabbing the baston that lays beneath it immediately after, purposefully making a racket as I do so. The flashlight in the distance flails erratically and disappears.

I can hear our guests running down the beach as I dash out of our tent, grabbing our survival knife as I exit. Seconds later I am standing on the shore of the Danube in front of our bikes, baston in one hand, the end resting on my shoulder, knife in the other, hanging calmly by my side.

I wait. While watching the moon's pale yellow light reflecting in the water before me, I wonder to myself if this is a good idea. When I notice my heart is racing again, I focus on my breathing. A few minutes pass. Then, the darkness is lit by the cherry of a cigarette. Its fiery ember breathes slowly in the distance as it approaches.

Two men arrive. Their flashlight snaps my widely dilated pupils shut, blinding me as it passes over my body, pausing on the knife in my hand. The flashlight flicks off. My vision slowly returns. I greet them with the steeliest gaze I can muster and a monotone "Bun?." They respond with something I cannot decipher. I stand quietly in front of our home and all of our possessions, waiting for their next move.

A few eternal seconds pass. The man with the cigarette takes a deep drag and puts his hands out in front of his body face down, patting the air gently in a "slow down" gesture and says, "Quiet please." I take this to be a peace offering and respond with a slow nod. They turn and walk away, I lean down to clip our pannier shut.

I return to our tent where Tara is waiting. Inside, the reality of what just occurred hits me. I feel a little shaky as I recount the events of the last five minutes to her. I am unsure if my actions were prudent, but I am relieved the brinkmanship was successful. Safe once more, we fall asleep with surprising ease.

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scary!! glad nothing got taken and nothing bad happened. were they vampires maybe? :)
Posted by Sarah on April 20th, 2010 at 4:40 PM
It was pretty unnerving. I keep playing the scenario over in my head trying to decide if what I did was smart or really stupid.

All they would have found rummaging around in our panniers is some food, rain jackets and spare bike parts.

I think if they were vampires they would have come for us, not our cookies :p

Anyhow, it all turned out okay!
Posted by Tyler on April 21st, 2010 at 1:07 AM
It's not the first tale I have heard of bike tourists having things stolen at night in Romania. Glad you were able to avert the problem! Stay safe you two.
Posted by Friedel on April 21st, 2010 at 2:01 AM
Damn, that's some scary stuff. I know what you mean Tyler, on the few occasions I have had to confront someone with a weapon in hand I wasn't really sure I was able to use it... but I'm sure I would have if the situation escalated. I think maybe you did the right thing, you told them "don't tread on me." I was telling someone recently about your blog and that was their first question, "have they ever been mugged camping in lonely places?" I'm glad it ended well, and I'm not a praying man, but I wish for your safety often. Best of luck!!
Posted by Mark on April 22nd, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Hm, the banks of the Danube are rife with nocturnal activity mainly in the form of smuggling. Lately since Romania`s entry in EU it has also become the main route for illegal emigrees from Asian to Western Europe. The first group were probably thieves, the second probably border guards.
Posted by Marius on September 28th, 2010 at 7:23 AM
Wow! Uber intense. Great writing too!
Posted by Jeremy on January 5th, 2011 at 5:16 AM