The first day back on the road after a brief interlude of buffet breakfasts and silky sheets can be a little difficult, especially when it looks like rain. As we wheeled out of the Hotel Anna parking lot Tara was more than a little wistful. I was mostly excited for another round of cave-hunting. Thankfully we managed to avoid the rain and it didn't take long to get back into our groove.
The sun came out as we pedaled through yet more of the captivating Romanian landscapes we've come to know and love: green fields and hills, rivers, woods, wells everywhere and pastures aplenty. Old people tilling their earth, shepherds tending their flocks, dogs running around everywhere. A world teaming with simple, respectable, down to earth living.
We encountered some odd characters today, both noting that people seem to be getting a little weirder as we move eastward. For example, we passed a few men sitting by the side of the road this afternoon with dark, craggy faces, weathered clothes and eyes transfixed in thousand yard stares. Our hellos and bun?s were met with silence, their faces not even registering the slightest bit of recognition that we'd spoken to them.
In fact their faces showed nothing at all. They were devoid of body language of any kind, sitting entirly motionless. It wasn't as though they were being unfriendly either, they were just …vacant, as though occupying a different space and time. One of them was so ominous to Tara that she gave him a good five-foot berth while she passed. Maybe these are the steely gazes we were warned to expect everywhere? I feel doubtful.
Not far from our destination in the town of Polvragi we heard a great flapping racket and pulled over to investigate. There, on the side of the road, we witnessed a gaggle of geese quacking and honking and flailing around in a whirlwind of fury.
This guy was stuck behind a fence and clearly none-too-pleased about his inability to join in squabble. When I tried to snap his picture through the slats of his wooden barrier, he hissed violently at me, tongue lolling out of his open mouth as he ran towards the fence, head weaving around like a lunatic. Whoa. I didn't even know geese could hiss. By the time I pulled out our recorder, the racket had died down. I did manage to capture a hiss though!
Leaving the angry fowl, we made it to Polvragi with ease, pleased to see signs leading to our cave. My not-so-secret hope was that we'd arrive at the entrance of a remote cave where we could simply push our bicycles in and camp, exploring the darkest of dark regions in the wee hours of the night by the light of a headlamp. Basically, I want to meet a vampire before we leave Romania.
Unfortunately when we arrived, we found that not only was the cave sort-of touristy, it also had guided tour times (meaning we probably wouldn't be able to wander at our leisure, take photos, and poke around all the roped-off places), and the next one wasn't until the following day. It was closed, gated, and locked.
We decided to hit the road again. I was a little bummed about being 0 for 2 in the Romanian cave department. Oh well. Tara was worried about things a little more practical as we left, like finding a good free-camp in the endless chain of villages we'd been riding through all day.
As usual, I was unconcerned about locating a place to sleep. I really enjoy hunting for a good stealth camp when there is plenty of daylight. It is like playing hide-and-seek, a game I have loved for as long as I can remember. In fact, before we left on our trip, I would play it almost every week with my little brothers and sisters, Gabe, Vivian, Isaac, and Esther.
I always took great pleasure in finding a spot to stump them, sometimes remaining contorted there long enough for them to give up yelling for hints. Then I'd emerge secretly so I could use the spot again next week, but I'd always give in when they insisted I tell them where I was. I really miss playing with them, it is one of the things I look most forward to doing when we return.
So, with a keen eye for a hiding place, I spotted a rare bit of un-fenced land leading down to a stream. The clearing wasn't ideal; you could see it from the road, but it would do. Then, as we were about to set up I spotted a field of land across the brook, instantly deciding it would make a great home. Sure enough, the river was shallow enough that we could cross it with our bikes to reach a beautiful green clearing. It was perfectly secluded.
I heaved our bicycle through, giving the bottom half of our front panniers a decent soaking in the process. I love our waterproof Ortlieb panniers; they are hands down the best piece of gear we have. The field we arrived in was practically glowing in the golden light of late afternoon. Having a picturesque, private place to make camp at the end of the day is one of our favorite parts of this trip.
I really enjoy our time at camp, puttering around together, cooking food and doing our work. Before I set up, I climbed a tree to take some photos. They didn't really turn out as expected, save for these two:
…but who cares, I just wanted to climb a tree.
Down on the ground, Tara and I made focaccia bread in a mostly successful attempt to re-create a delicious appetizer we had at Hotel Anna. We both had a good laugh when she pulled out our arnis baston to roll out the dough, thinking about the last time one of us used it. Tara's note: there's no yeast in the dough and we didn't actually bake it, so it probably shouldn't really be called focaccia. Flat-breads fried in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, garlic powder, and chili flakes, are delicious alternatives though!
It is good to be back on the road, meeting interesting animals, cave hunting, playing hide-and-seek, cooking in the wilderness, climbing trees and camping in a tent with the love of my life. How are these my days? I can hardly fathom it at times. The countless hours of planning and what felt like endless hours of work to make this happen have been repaid overflowing.