I decide I'm wasting time checking in and out of hotels, so stay two nights in Cluj. That lets me do a circuit up towards the Ukrainian border through a very scenic area. It is of course still raining next morning....
In Romania, you may smoke a pipe in the shower - but we recommend you keep your hat on.
After a nightmare getting out of Cluj, I head north. There is heavy flooding just outside the city. People are trying to bale out their houses. The rivers are chocolate brown torrents and the locals are hanging over bridges just watching.
The road on the way north varies - nothing too bad. The road in to the mountains is again stunning - beautiful views, lovely curves.... but this time the surface is awful. Heavy trucks have destroyed the tarmac and there are waves, holes and all sorts of odd features in the surface. Most of them haven't actually cracked the surface, so they are tough to spot. Trucks have dropped so much diesel I can smell it. Scary. Coming down the other side in the wet is even worse....
Sighetu Marmetei is quite an interesting spot. If I had brought my kit I would have stayed here - could have even detoured in to the Ukraine, but I assume I need a visa. I visited a museum - a Securitate prison. The walls were lined with photos of victims and there were descriptions of the styles of torture in the cells. I can't read the text but the pictures said quite enough. Its difficult to understand how such a backward country could develop those practices to an extent that, arguably, no one else has ever achieved.
My average speed is a lot less than I predicted. I decide to take a different road back because it might be quicker - and because it is different..... This involves a long distance on a lower category road which is absolutely terrible. I start getting worried about making it back before dark. The locals are leading cattle back from the fields. Men are walking home carrying full size 'Grim Reaper' scythes or pitchforks. The smell of diesel has been replaced by woodsmoke - no trucks on these roads, and they are getting ready to eat. Few cars about, and I can still go much faster by skirting most of the potholes - but in some places that is still only 20mph ! I get back in to Cluj at dusk. Poor planning - must try harder !
I beat this train to every level crossing for the next 10 miles. And they were all closed waiting for it to come through.....Posted by Kevin Payne at August 19, 2005 05:08 PM GMT
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