Day 23 (19th March, Hungarian border – Tasnad)

Frustration without limits

Just before before we went to bed yesterday we understood from the TV in our room that we were in a new time zone. For me Romania is the first country on this trip that I haven’t been to before and I didn’t know it was in another time zone.

In order to stay with the local time we should have gone to bed a little earlier, but when you get to know it 30 minutes before bed time it is difficult to do anything about it.

From our window we had a view over the border passage area and it wasn’t any beautiful view, but once we understood it was a view from the future over the past, we instantly felt better. I can just imagine how good it must have been to be in that room during the first hour of the new millenium. It is not everyday you can look back over a neighbouring village still stuck in another millenium.

Yesterday when cycling we planned to start extra early today. That didn’t work out since we were already one hour late from start due to the time difference.

First thing we usually do in the mornings is to check the weather. This morning we glanced at the sky over the neighbouring village in Hungary and noticed it was grey and the ground was wet but it appeared to be no wind. It wasn’t a beautiful weather, but it could be good for cycling.

An hour later when we started to cycle, the clouds had started to break up and we could even see the sun. There was no wind and only 5-6 km into todays cycling we had to stop to take off some clothes. For the first time since leaving home I could ride with only a long sleeve merino shirt under my jacket. I also had to fetch my sunglasses that were packed deep into one of my panniers. I bet that if I had them easily available in my handlebar bag, then there would never be any sun.

We managed to exit Hungary with only the equivalent of 25 SEK (approx 3 €) left in our pocket. In Romania they use yet another currency and we had to stop in the first town to get some local money from the nearest ATM.

Giving a helping hand
Giving a helping hand

It is always hard to estimate how much money we will use in each country. In Poland we left with too much cash, but we like Poland and will use that money when we go back. Slovakia uses Euro and that is a currency we had brought from home. We planned to be in Hungary only two days but stayed four days so there was a bit of a cash squeeze in the end.

When we rode through the first village two men were trying to push up a car that had got stuck in the mud beside the road. We stopped and offered to help pushing the car back up on the road. That was today’s good deed….

The landscape around here is completely flat and there are hardly any trees. Fields lie on both sides of the road and I think this is a pretty good area for agriculture. No trees means no protection from the wind and the little wind there was in the morning grew stronger and stronger. In the beginning it was irritating and when it started to rain too we had to seek shelter behind a single tree for a couple of minutes while waiting for that rain shower to end.

In a a small village we went in to a local bar to buy something to eat. They had no food so our lunch was two packages of peanuts and a snickers bar each. The sky was all black and there was even some lightning. An old man that came by told us something, pointed to the clouds and made a sign with his fingered that I interpreted as big hails. The weather was apparently going to turn nasty.

Next proper town was 10 km away. We thought that a little rain won’t hurt us and off we went. Once outside the village we could actually see the town some 8-9 km away. The road there was straight, full of pot holes but had trees along its side.

Straight road, almost no trees and fields on both sides
Straight road, almost no trees and fields on both sides

I am a road cyclist at home and 8-9 km is not much, it should take 15-17 minutes to cycle in average speed. The head wind had now grown stronger and it took us almost one hour to go over that plain and it was really terrible to see the town in front of us all the time without getting any closer.

When we entered the town it started to rain. From no rain to full rain took less than a minute and we hardly managed to get in to our rain jackets in time. We stopped at the first gas station we found, bought coffee and a map and discussed what to do. It was lunch time and we were hungry, cold, wet and super frustrated about not getting anywhere.

One minute later a massive rain shower started.
One minute later a massive rain shower started.

We decided to go to a motel to have lunch and discuss what to do. Our conclusion was that it is a long distance in the headwind and rain to the next motel and since we haven’t camped yet during this trip we want the conditions to be good when we set the routines. Besides that we also prefer to have trees to hide behind when wildcamping.

Our frustration level is now at peak levels. We seem to get nowhere.

The last few cycling days we have done have been 63, 73, 12 and 56 km respectively and today we finished after 35 km. What is disturbing is that it always seem to be some kind of weather related issue that slows us down. Fighting uphill is much better because you know that at a certain point there will be an end and often you can see it too. These days with strong and endless headwind combined with rain make us frustrated and irritated.

If we at least had met some interesting people along the way we would have a good excuse for not moving forward, but the last couple of days we haven’t had much interaction with people. But don’t worry – we will fight on and we won’t give up…..

Cycling day 23 statistics

Distance: 35.3 km
Traveling time 02.23 hours
Cycling time 05.01 hours
Average speed 14.8 km/h
Top speed 23.4 km/h
Altitude gained 94 m
Altitude lost 82 m

Day 24 (20th March, Tasnad – Cluj Napoca)

If anyone counted us out after reading yesterday’s post about frustration at peak levels, I can just tell:

We’re back in….. 🙂

Today we did 143 km and climbed 1126 vertical meters. We started extra early to avoid the wind. Wheels rolled at 7.20 and it was a pleasant morning with sunshine and almost no wind.

Today's altitude profile
Today’s altitude profile

The kitchen opened later than our departure so we got our breakfast sandwiches packed in paper. It was a sandwich with a wiener scnitzel in it 🙂 We stopped to eat half of it after 20 km and continued. Next stop was at a gas station after about 35 km where we had a cup of cappucino each and made a Facebook status update that some of you might have read by now.

Eating our breakfast sandwiches from the motel
Eating our breakfast sandwiches from the motel

Next stop was in Zalau. When we entered the town we did first not know which way to take. The sign posting was a bit confusing, but we followed the traffic and ended up in the city where we had yet another cup of coffee at a gas station. It was +15 degrees in the shade so we sat outside to have the coffee and the reminder of our breakfast sandwiches. At the gas station we met some guys who told us that there would be a major climb south of town and that would be difficult. They said they never heard of anyone cycling up there.

Go straight or turn right for Zalau???
Go straight or turn right for Zalau???

The climb was indeed high, about 400 vertical meters but the gradiant was OK and the road was in perfect condition so we rode up slowly and gently. The sunshine was still strong and about 500 meters into the climb we stopped to take off our jackets. This was a great moment for us – it only took us one month, four days and about 1350 km before we finally could wear only cycling jerseys and no jackets.

We passed a lot of switchbacks like this today
We passed a lot of switchbacks like this today
Zig-zag cycling over the mountain
Zig-zag cycling over the mountain

After the hilltop we found a couple of hotels but it was too early to quit cycling. We decided to go on and either camp somewhere or try to go for Cluj-Napoca. The kilometers went by easily. We have passed two major climbs, but apart from that it has mainly been slowly downhill in the afternoon. It would have been much worse to ride today’s route in the opposite direction.

Now we are super tired and need food, so today there will be no more updates. Just this story about the road, rather than any story from the road which I prefer to tell.

This is a short video in Swedish about todays cycling.

Cycling day 24 statistics

Distance:            143.6 km
Traveling time    12.17 hours
Cycling time       08.09 hours
Average speed    17.6 km/h
Top speed            55.7 km/h
Altitude gained    1126 m
Altitude lost           929 m

Day 25 (March 21, Cluj Napoca – Turda)

We knew already yesterday night we would not cycle far today. When we woke up our legs were stiff from yesterday’s extra long day in the saddle. We didn’t want to have a speedy morning and rush out of town. Instead we had a long breakfast and didn’t start to cycle until 11 and then we went into the city centre to do some sightseeing from our saddles.

National Theatre in Cluj-Napoca
National Theatre in Cluj-Napoca
The Orthodox Church in the city centre
The Orthodox Church in the city centre
Sightseeing from my bicycle
Sightseeing from my bicycle

Cluj-Napoca is situated between mountains and this morning the climb out of town started a few blocks from the main square. It was a climb of 400 vertical meters and all the way up we had a distinct feeling of lack of strenght in our legs due to the marathon ride yesterday.

We want to go on smaller roads but today we made a mistake and went on the big road that leads south from Cluj. It was a nightmare to ride on and it was one of the reasons why we stopped early today.

When we found a nice hotel in the town of Turda some 30 km south of Cluj we decided to stop. We have spent the afternoon doing maintenance on our bikes and we have also taken a walk in the city center.

View from our window
View from our window

In the city center we went into a big grocery store. It was the first time since leaving Sweden that we went to such a place. We are not homesick at all, but we felt excited to do such a normal thing as going to the grocery store to buy tomorrow’s breakfast. I think that being excited over doing something you do every day at home shows that we have started to leave or normal lives behind.

Doing my duty to clean our chains, chainrings and cassettes
Doing my duty to clean our chains, chainrings and cassettes

We have not camped yet. Our plan was to stay in cheap hostels or motels as long as it was winter and then start to camp. Now the temperatures are OK but here in Romania the price for staying in a nice hotel in a town is about 100 SEK (11 euro) per person and night. With that kind of prices it is just too difficult to motivate ourselves to use our tent.

Staying in hotels saves us about one hour every morning since we only need one hour from waking up until we go. If we should pack tent, sleeping bags and cook food it would take a lot longer. Everytime I look back on my rear rack and see the tent or look to my left front pannier where all the cooking gears are I get a feeling of carrying too much up the switchbacks of Romania. But we will certainly need all the camping equipment later so it wouldn’t have worked to go without it.

Cycling day 25 statistics

Distance:             30.8 km
Traveling time     4.53 hours
Cycling time      02.20 hours
Average speed   13.1 km/h
Top speed           52.5 km/h
Altitude gained     480 m
Altitude lost          476 m

Day 26 (March 22, Turda – Medias)

Where did the spring go ?????

We started off on February 16th in a snow covered Göteborg. It was cold and snowy all the way through Sweden and for the first 2-3 days in Poland.

In central Poland we had two days with nice spring weather. For a short time Poland offered sun on our faces, wind on our backs and nice temperatures and we couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Then Slovakia and Hungary joined forces and showed us what it’s like to cycle in a real blizzard.

Romania welcomed us with such strong headwind and cold temperatures that we only managed to cycle 35 km. The day after she had changed her mind and offered the best spring day so far. Sunshine, +15 degrees and a slight tailwind.  Then she changed her mind again and offered us winter for the third time during this cycle tour.

Our aim for the day was Medias, but we had also checked that we could opt out earlier and stay in one of the towns before Medias which had some motels.

Maybe we should sell our bikes and go with this thing instead. Much faster :-)
Maybe we should sell our bikes and go with this thing instead. Much faster:-) Look at the flags – the wind was on our backs

It was raining a little when we left and soon it soon turned into sleet. There was a slight little wind on our backs and we could move at a good speed. The landscape was rather dull and soon the sleet changed into snow.

To follow our procedures we had a coffee and a sandwich at a gas station. All our gloves were wet so we put them on top of the heater while trying to let the lower part of the heater warm up our toes. We bought a number of cups of coffee to have an excuse for staying inside. Outside the weather got worse and we stayed longer in the warm gas station than we had initially planned.

Wej having coffee while gloves are drying on the heater.
Wej having coffee while gloves are drying on the heater.

It shows how it was before things got nasty on the last hill. All the talk is in thai, but sometimes pictures talk for themselves too.

After leaving the gas station we turned to a smaller road. The quality of this road was B-A-D and for a while we thought we were back in Tajikistan again. The good thing with that road was that there were hardly any cars – I suspect it has something to do with the quality of the surface of the road.

The weather forecast had promised anything between 0 to -2 degrees, rain and some snow and moderate winds from the northeast. We knew we had to climb three hills of about 200 vertical meters each. The two first hills went just fine. The wind was strong and it was snowing and we felt more like being in the north of Europe rather than the south. We passed the motels we had checked out in advance and all were closed for the season.

The altitude profile of today
The altitude profile of today

Hill number three was a completely different story. The snow fall had increased and the road started to turn white. We rode up the switchbacks and had quite good grip in the soft snow on the side of the road. The cars seemed to have more problems on the hard packed snow in the middle of the road so everytime a car approached us we stopped to let it pass. Unlike the car drivers we were not worried about not getting up, but we did have some concerns that it was soon going to get dark.

Wej saw an abandoned and empty house beside the road with no windows and suggested that we put up our tent in it, but without any supplies for cooking something to eat we were not too tempted and went on. A contributing fact to this desiscion was also that Wej has a 3-season sleeping bag while mine is a pure summer one.

Less than 200 meters beyond the highest point of the road on our way down we saw a truck and some cars that had got stuck. The police was there to try to organize things and I guess they were not too happy when two tourists on bicycles appeared in the mess and for a brief moment we feared that they wouldn’t let us continue. When approaching the scene one of the officers pointed at us and said:

– you, bicycleta, walk !!!

We interpreted it as he wanted us to walk past the truck that had got stuck, which we did and kept walking until we got to the next curve. Out of sight for the police officers we saw our chance. The truck that had got stuck blocked all traffic going down which meant that we had the road all to ourselves until things behind us had been sorted out.

A truck on its way down.
A truck on its way down.

The road was very icy and we tried to ride on the hard snow on the side. After a while my brakes clogged up and although I tried to clean them up they didn’t provide enough breaking power. I then tried a new style of cycling. I simply sat on my toptube with one foot sliding on the icy road to gently break my descent from the mountain. It must have looked funny and in order to wear my shoes evenly on both sides I kept changing breaking shoe from left to right a couple of times.

Eventually we heard the truck that had got stuck approaching us from behind and after it a long line of cars. We stopped to let them pass and then continued down to the city of Medias.

Medias is a medival city built in a circle and with gates to enter and exit the central parts. We had some difficulties finding our way into the main square but once there we saw a big sign ”Hotel Traube”. Three stars below the name on the sign promised that this could be something for us. It was a Friday night and a large group of young people who were not completely sober were standing in front the hotel shouting loudly to each other and to them we must have looked like men from Mars. Imagine a snowy Friday night, you are out with your friends to have some beers and all of a sudden two people completely covered in snow come riding on fully loaded bicycles that are equally covered in snow.

I brushed off most of the snow, made my way through the large group of partygoers and went in to the reception and yes, they had rooms, and our bikes could be stored in their storage room.

The hotel was in a very old house and we got a room on the top floor with a view of the roofs of central Medias. The room was carefully renovated and had kept it’s old charm with visable wooden details and furniture. All for the sum of 250 SK or about 30 Euro.

The slippery road, the fading daylight, the problems with my breaks, police and to monitor the road in front of you as well as keeping an eye if any car came from behind made us quite stressed and once in a warm and dry hotel room it was hard to get ready to go out to find something to eat.

Now we think we have had enough of winters this trip.

We want spring number 3 to come now…… 🙂

Cycling day 26 statistics

Distance:             88.0 km
Traveling time     9.40 hours
Cycling time        5.21 hours
Average speed   16.4 km/h
Top speed           54.3 km/h
Altitude gained     749 m
Altitude lost          794 m

Day 27 (March 23, Medias – Sibiu)

We woke up to a blue sky and sunshine that glittered in the snow covered roof tops of the medieval houses in central Medias. Water from melting snow were flowing down the roofs and it looked like a beautiful day.

Completely exhausted from yesterday’s ordeal we couldn’t make up our mind if to cycle or if to take a rest day and enjoy the nice weather and stroll around in the beautiful city center. The arguments for cycling was that it is 330 km to Bucharest and two hilly sections so it would be difficult to do it in three days and that we would have tailwind and no rain if we started today. The argument against was that we were tired and my brakepads probably needed to be replaced (I replaced them yesterday before going up to those hills). We also thought that it could still be some snow and ice on the road.

An inspection of the brakes showed that there was no problem. They only needed to be adjusted a bit. The sun was shining and we decided to go after lunch and ride for half a day, i.e. the 55 km to the city of Sibiu.

Before leaving Medias we circled around in it for a while to check out the major buildings and the architecture. It is indeed a very cosy little city that I really recommend you to visit if you have the chance.

Medias medival city centre
Medias medival city centre

As soon as we started to ride, some clouds came and the nice sunshine disappeared. Everything once again got dull and the fields on both sides were all snow dappled. There are few trees and the landscape didn’t probably show its most pretty face.

We passed a couple of villages and we saw hardly nobody outside. No lights in the houses and no people walking around in the village. Not even any horse carriages were out. We started to discuss if the villages we rode through were abandoned or if it was some sort of holiday that made people stay indoor. The only living things we could see as we rode through were the dogs that run around freely on the streets.

Medias city centre
Medias city centre

We had hoped that a cafe or gas station would be open somewhere along those 55 km so that we could drop in to buy a coffee and warm our feet, but there was nothing. We took our break after 35 km at the side of the road. While sharing a snickers bar and half a bag of peanuts we jumped on the spot to get warmth back to our feet.

The cycling today was easy, but boring and we just kept going. Sibiu is a large city and we had to navigate around a bit before we found a cheap guesthouse where we could stay.

Looking for accomodation is always the issue at the end of the day. When camping we start to eye for good camp spots before it is time to stop and even though we are not camping I can’t avoid pointing out good tent spots. It seems to be some sort of afternoon instinct for me.

No place open to have a coffee so we had Snickers and peanuts beside the road
No place open to have a coffee so we had Snickers and peanuts beside the road

At the dinner table we discussed the situation. We both find it convenient to stay in guesthouses and hotels as long as they are as cheap as they are. What we don’t like is having to go out to eat and we will probably start arrange our own dinners and breakfasts soon.

Another thing that we discussed and that we both (luckily) agreed on is that none of us is bored of the cycling, not even when it rains or is shitty weather. Both of us find it meditating to sit on our bikes and just keep going while watching the villages and the landscape pass by. It is when the weather makes the landscape look dull and there is nothing to see that can bore us. We are not tired of the cycling itself so let’s hope for some better weather soon.

Cycling day 27 statistics

Distance:             60.0 km
Traveling time     4.25 hours
Cycling time        3.30 hours
Average speed   17.1 km/h
Top speed           37.1 km/h
Altitude gained     501 m
Altitude lost          394 m

Day 28 (March 24, Sibiu – Ramnicu Valcea)

If yesterday’s cycling was charachterized as a ride through dull landscapes, then today’s ride was the complete opposite. Minus and plus evens out and now we are even…. 🙂

Before leaving the city of Sibiu we cycled around and checked out the old town. This city too seems to be a very charming city just like Medias was yesterday. I really recommend visiting these towns if you want to go for a long weekend and see nice old cities. It is just as interesting as going to France or Italy but the prices for food and accomodation is a lot lower than in those countries.

View over the roof tops  from our room in central Sibiu
View over the roof tops from our room in central Sibiu

When we left the old town we soon came to the commercial centers where all the big international stores are. We saw some Swedish brands like H&M and some more there.

As soon as we came outside the city center we saw the really tall and snow covered mountains south of the city. They really looked majestic and to us they seemed like a giant wall. We knew there was a little hole in that wall though but we couldn’t see it until we got closer.

After some 15 km we came to a big roundabout where some major roads in southern Romania link to each other. We had a cup of coffee and a sandwich there and then went on to the smaller road that lead to the ”hole” in the giant wall.

At the start of the road there was a sign that we have seen before that we interpret as cycling, walking and horse carriages are forbidden. We have never cared about it, the police have never said anything when they have seen us and we have met plenty of horse carriages on roads with these signs. Anytime we ride on such a road and notice horse dung on it, then we understand that the ban on that sign is not enforced.

Buying smoked cheese from a roadside vendor.
Buying smoked cheese from a roadside vendor.

The cycling through the valley was a stunning ride along a river that had cut through the mountain range. Someplaces the road was straight and elsewhere it meandered just like the river it follows. The mountains were never far away and there were sections where the valley was so narrow that the road was actually built on a bridge in the river.

Today’s ride was also mainly downhill and besides that we had tailwind.

The marvelous scenery, downhill ride, tailwind and sunshine made our day. The only drawback was that since this road is the only way to cross the mountain range the traffic is rather intense. Many trucks passed us and as long as the shoulder of the road was wide it was not a problem. Where the shoulder was narrow we usually stopped to let them pass.

I can imagine that a ride along this road in summer must be even more fantastic.

When we stopped outside a small village to take some photos we heard music from the village. Although not yet in Balkan proper, the music was absolutely characteristic for that area. We cycled closer to take some more photos and listen a little more to the music. It was like the stereotype becoming became real. I like that kind of music and even more so when it is played on a lousy radio in the backyard of a house in a small village in southern Romania.

The road without any cars...
The road without any cars…

I think I have mentioned before that dogs roam around freely in the Romanian countryside. Today we have been chased by dogs for real the first time. They haven’t been angry though, but with a bunch of dogs running and barking loudly on your inside and cars passing on your outside can be a bit frustrating. But we can just as well get used to it because we will be chased regularly by dogs from now on until we arrive in Bangkok.

At one occasion two dogs came running towards us from the opposite side of the road but then we were saved by two trucks coming towards us and separated us from the dogs. Trucks can be good too…. 🙂

In cycle touring circles the topic of how to deal with chasing dogs are often discussed and there are a number of techniques to be used. We’d better start to find out which method that suits us best. My guess is that there will be a lot of dog chasing stories later on in this blog.

The end of the hole through the giant wall and the end of this blog post.
The end of the hole through the giant wall and the end of this blog post.

Cycling day 28 statistics

Distance:             99.5 km
Traveling time     7.50 hours
Cycling time        5.17 hours
Average speed   18.8 km/h
Top speed           41.6 km/h
Altitude gained     373 m
Altitude lost          540 m

Day 29 (March 25, Ramnicu Valcea – Vranesti)

The river that we cycled along yesterday runs through the city of Ramnicu Valcea and there is a bridge in the city centre. When we got there work was going on and the bridge was blocked by large trucks and excavators. Signs showed the re-routed way to Bucharest and we followed them until they simply disappeared. We ended up in a residential area and an older gentleman approached us to offer some help. He spoke none of the languages we know, and we spoke none of the ones he eventually knows. He pointed towards the re-route north of the city and walked away. Then he got second thoughts and came back and made signs of us lifting the bikes. We understood this as it would be possible to pass the construction site. We went there and found a path that we cold take that led us past the area where work was going on and we could go over the bridge as planned. Going on the re-route would have been caused us ot cycle 7-8 km extra and that was someting we were not interested in.

Skärmavbild 2013-03-26 kl. 00.19.00

The morning was cold, it was only -1 degree, but it felt a lot colder. We had to ride 10 km on flat ground until the hilly section started and we just wanted to get there as soon as possible so that we would get warm again. Climbing is hard work and it is strange, but when it is freezing cold we often want a hill so that we can get warm again.

These hills were rather long. Both were a bit more than 200 vertical meters and between the first and the second one there was a long downhill section that took us back to the level we started at 🙁 Going down those downhils were terribly cold and we had to stop on the top of each pass to put on extra layers of clothing to not get deep frozen during the descent.

We took many long breaks today to get warm and to find motivation. We have supported the gas stations along today’s route with a lot of money by buying their coffee.

In one of the switchbacks close to the top of the second hill there were a resting place with lots of restaurants that sells grilled food. It looked just like on a mountain road somewhere in northern Thailand. Car drivers had stopped to eat, truckers had their lunch, dogs ran around everywhere and all people looked at the crazy foreigners passing by on bicycles towards the top of the mountain.

Barbecue at one of the restaurants at the highway rest place
Barbecue at one of the restaurants at the highway rest place

Once down from the moutain it was still some 15-20 km to go to the town of Pitesti and there was only one road and all trucks in the southeastern part of Europe seem to pass there. One of us had to cycle mostly looking back and shouting to the other one when trucks approached so that we could go to the side and let them pass. The trucks came in large groups, often 5-8 of them together followed by a long tail of ordinary cars. It was good to stand beside the road when all those vehicles passed and between those groups we had the roads to ourselves.

Like a scene from any hilly road on Thailand. Barbecue chicken vendors side by side of each other.
Like a scene from any hilly road on Thailand. Barbecue chicken vendors side by side of each other.

When we arrived in Pitesti we were extremely cold. We wanted to go at least 10-20 km further to have Bucharest within reach tomorrow. I have a thermometer in my cycle computer and during the last our of cycling I could see the temperature falling from -2 to -4.5. The wind caught up and it started to snow.

Trucks from Syria and Turkey show that we are approaching warmer areas...
Trucks from Syria and Turkey show that we are approaching warmer areas…

It is now ”only” 102 km to Bucharest on a small road that is mainly downhill. Weather forecast looks bad with colder temperatures tomorrow, headwind and snow. We called our friend at the Thai Embassy in Bucharest and she said that schools would be closed tomorrow because of the weather conditions.

As mentioned in a post a couple of days ago we have now had winter in Sweden, in Hungary and in Romania. The problem with the weather in Romania is that it changes form day to day. Nice spring one day, snow storm the other and then next day again it is once again spring. We are sick of this kind of weather….

We want spring N O W…. !!!

Cycling day 29 statistics

Distance:             77.2 km
Traveling time     8.51 hours
Cycling time        5.00 hours
Average speed   15.5 km/h
Top speed           40.9 km/h
Altitude gained     666 m
Altitude lost          660 m

Day 30 (March 26, Vranesti – Bucharest)

Part 2 of section 1 completed – mostly wearing snow goggles

For a Swede it is normal to travel south to meet the spring and for us our plan was to meet the spring somewhere south of the Tatra mountains in Poland. Instead of spring we got a major blizzard and the further south we have travelled the worse the weather has got and maybe there will be igloos along the streets of Bangkok when we arrive.
I have used my snow goggles much more often than I wanted to and my hope was to not need to use them on the ride into Bucharest, but once again the surroundings were all white when we glanced out from the window in our motel room. It didn’t look like a snow goggle-free day….

The strong wind from yesterday evening had ceased a bit but not completely and it had started to snow heavily instead. To say that we were happy for the cycling conditions would be an exaggeration, but nevertheless there were one major advantage that we immediately noticed. There was hardly any traffic on the road.

The view from the window when we woke up.
The view from the window when we woke up.

It was 102 km to the address where P’Pat (diplomat at the Thai Embassy) lives and if it hadn’t been for the weather conditions it would have been a normal distance to ride. Now it looked like we would have trouble to reach the capital within one day.

We set off at 8.20 without having decided any goal for the day. Our aim was just to get a lot closer to Bucharest so that we could reach it tomorrow if we can’t do it today.

Red bike on white snow. A combination that we have seen far too often during this trip.
Red bike on white snow. A combination that we have seen far too often during this trip.

At first the cycling went without problems. We were almost alone on the road, the wind was in our sides and the snow that fell was dry so we never got wet. The road had been cleared of snow and sprayed with salt so there was only a string of slushy brown melting snow in the middle of it. Everytime a car overtook us we got a spray straight into our sides and we soon had to put on our rain pants to not get completely wet from those showers.

Our routine is that one rides at the back act as a rear guard shouting to the one in front whenever cars or trucks approach from behind. Being the rear guard during the early hours of this ride was easy because there was hardly any traffic to warn about.

After some 20 km we came to a small gas station that didn’t belong to any of the big chains. There was no nice cafe with wifi that we had got used to. This small gas station looked like the gas stations of the old days where you could get your car repaired and on the shelves there were all sorts of spare parts for a car, but nothing for a bicycle.

The guys at the gas station. The guy wearing a coat wants to be a sumo wrestler
The guys at the gas station. The guy wearing a coat wants to be a sumo wrestler

We were invited in to this little station and there was a small group of people gathered there for their daily gossiping. We were placed on chairs in front of a heater and although we couldn’t understand each other’s language at all, we used sign language. Wej was once again asked if she is Japanese. One of the guys seemed to be a real joker and pointed to his belly and said he was working hard to be a sumo wrestler. We then invited him to ride with us and he then struck his forehead with his hand and exclaimed something that we understood as ”crazy”.

The wind got stronger and the snow turned into rain and we stopped at every gas station we passed to get warm. Our daily budget for coffee has probably to be revised after this trip.

Everytime we came to a village or a gas station we looked at our map and GPS as well as asked the locals about where the next motel would be. Sometimes the weather got a little bit better and then I felt that we should go as long as possible but when passing long straight sections over open fields, then I just wanted to get to the next motel. The headwind was fierce and we couldn’t communicate properly without shouting.

The longer we got, the more the thought of maybe reaching Bucharest got on to our minds.

Normally we have a plan for the day and in the afternoon we discuss where to stay for the night, but if anyone of us feels week it is that person who has to decide to stop earlier. I have made such a decisions a couple of times when I have been completely worn out. During this ride it was Wej who felt weak while I could have gone on.

As the day went by we just kept going and going and aimed at a motel some 20-25 km outside Bucharest. When we got there around 5 PM it looked nice and I looked forward to the nice shower, but I had hardly put my feet on the ground when Wej said:

– Let’s go for Bucharest.

She is really tough and I hesitated a bit, but she was stubborn and just apparently she didn’t want to bike the following day so off we went. The road had made some turns and we now had tailwind and could ride at hight speed. We passed the ring road that encircles the city and just kept going following the GPS.

Bikes in diplomatic custody at P'Pat's balcony... :-)
Bikes in diplomatic custody at P’Pat’s balcony… 🙂

When looking at the map of Bucharest it resembles a cycle wheel with the ring road as the rim and the big avenues leading into the city as the spokes. We rode in to the city along one of those ”spoke-avenues” and soon we were outside P’Pats house.

Before lifting the bikes up to her apartment, they needed to be cleansed. Wej fetched bucket after bucket with warm water and we rinsed everything form panniers to the bikes itself.

In the evening we had some very welcome change to the Romanian cuisine. P’Pat served home made spring rolls and a Thai omelette. Things couldn’t be better and once sitting down in her apartment, we really appreciated that we had put in the extra effort to reach Bucharest in one day.

To conclude today’s cycling I can just say that I arrived Bucharest using my snow goggles. They have been used in Sweden, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and southern Romania. This was not planned, but now we are finally here…. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I really hope I won’t need them all the way to Bangkok.

Cycling day 30 statistics

Distance:            100.1 km
Traveling time      10.33 hours
Cycling time          6.30 hours
Average speed     15.4 km/h
Top speed             28.8 km/h
Altitude gained       196 m
Altitude lost            370 m

Rest days in Bucharest and flying to Sweden

We cycled for 10 consecutive days from Pere in Hungary to Bucharest in Romania. Although two of those days were in fact only half days in the saddle, we were very exhausted when we arrived to Bucharest. It was the same feeling as when we arrived in Krakow after 8 days of cycling.

The first rest day after such a long cycling session has to be a real rest day and we spent our first day in Bucharest visiting an old church and walking around in the downtown for an hour before we sat down in a cafe for almost two hours. Then we went home to sleep.

Still snow on streets
Still snow on streets

During our second rest day we had re-gained strength and could do a lot more interesting things. P Pat’s driver sent us to the village museum where we spent two hours walking around the premises looking at old farms, churches, windmills and so on that had been brought in from various regions of Romania. It is good museum with signs in English and we recommend anyone to visit it.

The way back from the village museum to downtown is a long walk along a major boulevard and we passed various embassies and the Arc d’ Triumph. When we got to the museum of Natural History we found out that ”the Human Body Exhibition” was on display there. The exhibition has traveled around the world for a number of years now and is rather controversial since it uses real human remains.

Colourful window at the village museum
Colourful window at the village museum

I have read about this exhibition before but Wej had not heard about it so we decided to go in. Only after a while did Wej understand that it was actually real human remains that were used and not plastic models. I must admit that the exhibition indeed was fascinating, but did I learn anything about the body that I didn’t already know?  Probably not!

Instead it left me with lots of questions like, why not do this exhibtion with plastic models instead? Would millions of people visitit the exhibition if plastic models were used instead? Were do the bodies come from and were the donors fully aware of how their bodies were going to be used once donated????

Semi-underground hut at the village museum
Semi-underground hut at the village museum

Apart from visiting museums, we also strolled around the snowy town and once again ended up in a cafe. In the evening P’Pat prepared some Thai food that we had together with grilled porkleg and sauerkraut. Truly crossover cuisine and very tasty. Thanks a lot P’Pat.

It took us 30 cycling days to reach Bucharest, but only one day to fly home. We left P’Pat around 11 and departed from the airport at 13.10. The flight went to Munich where we had to wait for some 5 hours before flying the last one and a half hour to Göteborg.

We don't need to rent bikes! We have our own :-)
We don’t need to rent bikes! We have our own 🙂

In Bucharest airport there was a free wifi and so it was in Munich airport too. When we arrived to Göteborg airport we had to wait for 35 minutes for the airport bus. There was a free wifi at the airport but it was so complicated to register and log in so we couldn’t use it.

Free wifi at airports, gas stations and cafes everywhere in central Europe and a long procedure to register to use the free wifi at a Swedish airport. Sweden definately has something to learn from Poland and Romania when it comes to providing visitors with access to the IT-world…. 🙂

Finishing the long walk with coffee, a nice chair and some internet reading
Finishing the long walk with coffee, a nice chair and some internet reading

Problems with our route – advice needed !!!

We have been thinking about cycling from Sweden to Thailand for a couple of years now. The decision to go was taken in the late summer of 2012 and since then we have been busy planning everything.

Initially we had four different routes. Two of them were through Russia, one was through Ukraine and over the Caucasian mountain range and into Iran. The last option was through central Europe and then through Turkey and Iran before entering central Asia.

As you understand we have had many discussions over our dinner table regarding which route to choose. We eventually ended up going for the route through Turkey and the reasons for that were:

  • start going south instead of east would mean reach spring quicker (we now know going south means going into winter…)
  • We felt we wanted to see Turkey and Iran more than Russia. In cycle touring circles those two countries are seen as nice countries to cycle in.

We have now run into a problem that we didn’t forsee. There will be a presidential election in Iran in June which is when we plan to cycle through that country.

A few weeks before we started to cycle I read rumours in various forums that visas won’t be granted for independant travel in Iran during the spring and summer. It was just rumours and we thought we will find out later. Now when it is time to start the visa application procedure we have checked and double checked too and the fact is that visas will not be granted for crossing the land border on your own. Flying in is OK, but cycle across the border will not be allowed.

We are happy we got to know it already now when there is still time to change the plan.

There are two alternative routes to choose between.

Route alternatives
Route alternatives

A – northern route
The northern route from Bucharest to Ukraine, Crimea and southern Russia and go around the northern end of the Caspian sea

B – southern route
The southern route from Bucharest to Istanbul and then through Turkey, Georgia to Baku in Azerbadjan. From Baku we will take a ferry across the Caspian sea to Aktau in Kazakstan and then go east and join the original route somewhere in Uzbekistan.


  • Northern route  – Will allow a visit to Crimea. Not as hot temperatures as the southern route.
  • Southern route – Corresponds to orginal route. Turkish and Georgian food and wines. More mountains!!!


  • Northern route – Hard to get a visa for Russia. Less interesting nature with too much steppe
  • Southern route – Long wait for unpredictable ferry crossing

For the time being our discussions is mostly about the southern route. It corresponds most to our planned route but the major drawback apart from missing out on Iran, is the very unpredictable ferry crossing. We can look forward to a lot of bureacrazy and up to two weeks wait until we can board the ferry that has no timetable.

A friend of ours who is a seasoned touring cyclist said ”it’s a no-brainer. Just look at the map and see where the mountains are. The more mountains the more interesting”.

When cycling to work or the grocery store one tends to avoid hills, but when cycling for training or for tourism as we do, mountains are always more interesting even if we get tired of them sometimes. A dead flat area can be really boring to ride on.

We have not made any final decision and we are all ears to listen to our followers opinions, so dear follower – please write a comment about what route we should choose and why… 🙂

We are back again

Dear readers and followers,

After spending 9 days in Sweden we are now back in Bucharest again. We had a wonderful time in Sweden with clear skies and lots of sunshine eventhough the temperatures were unusually low. Best of all was the complete lack of snowstorms…. 🙂

Visiting Åstol island. Clear sky, sunshine and no snowstorm
Visiting Åstol island. Clear sky, sunshine and no snowstorm

When we left our home on February 16 we were so busy so we hardly had time to say good bye to friends and family. Now we have compensated for that and visited lots of people. We have enjoyed sauna & beer, sailing on the westcoast and traveled around by train (our car is sold) to visit friends and relatives. We have not cycled at all, not a single meter….

Our experiences during the first 6 weeks on the road has also made us change some equipment and we have spent a lot of time (and money 🙁 ) on shopping new gear.

We left Göteborg at 9 in the morning yesterday and arrived in Bucharest 4 in the afternoon Swedish time. The distance that took us 6 weeks to cycle was covered in less than a day with a Lufthansa flight through Frankfurt….. That is food for thought…..

Lightwind sailing in sunshine with our friends Kalle and Johanna
Lightwind sailing in sunshine with our friends Kalle and Johanna

Now we are now busy re-packing all our equipment and installing some new things on our bikes.

We have left all our winter clothes in Sweden and brought along summer clothes instead. The panniers where the clothes are kept look a lot smaller now. I have bought a new handlebar bag from Vaude which has a couple of small compartments and pockets inside, zippers, a plastic map pocket on top and a good carry strap. The Ortlieb I used to have had just one big compartment and a single small pocket inside, no plastic map pocket, no zipper and a lousy strap for carrying. Wej has had such a bag for a long time now and I hope I will like my bag as much as she likes her.

Visiting my brother Jesper and his family
Visiting my brother Jesper and his family

We haven’t cycled anything for 11 days now so today we will make a soft start and only ride some 65 km. We still have Romanian money so our plan is to stay one more night in Romania before entering Bulgaria tomorrow morning. The break has also made us loose a bit of our routines in packing so things seem to move slowly now, but who cares??? We still have plenty of time 🙂

I wrote I would make blog updates during our break with summaries and so on. There was simply no time for it and we are sorry if we kept you waiting.

This break has been good for the planning and thinking process and we will come back later and tell more about our reflections of the first two months and the plans for the future route.

Day 31 (Bucharest – Giurgiu)

Exactly two weeks ago we cycled into Bucharest. It was snowing and the ground was all white. The temperature was around -3 and I was wearing my snow goggles all the way to the place were we were going to stay. We then stayed in Bucharest for three days and walked around in a snow covered Romanian capital.

Today was the complete opposite. We had temperatures around 18-20 degrees in the shade, lots of sunshine and a tiny little headwind. I started by wearing my jacket, but after only 3-4 km I stopped and took it off and rode with only my long sleeved cycling jersey. After a while I even had to pull up my sleeves 🙂 The difference in weather couldn’t be bigger.

Wej in front of the Romanian parliament.
Wej in front of the Romanian parliament.

During the 9 days when we have been home trees have started to blossom, some have thin light green leaves, birds are singing and lots of people wear shorts and T-shirts.

Knowing we only had a ride of 65 km from Bucharest to the border we intentionally left our Bucharest and Romania maps at home in Sweden. This meant that we could only follow road signs and the signposted road was super boring with long straight sections. We rode over vast flatlands with fields that were so long that we could only see a horizon. It was like looking out over the ocean. The traffic was only occasionally heavy and most of the time it was on a acceptable level. If we would still have had our map we would definately have tried to go for another route.

Before starting we had to re-pack all our panniers and fit the our new equipment to the bikes. This took a couple of hours and we didn’t leave the hostel until 13.30. It was good to have a slow start and especially since I had been a bit anxious about the re-start of our journey.

Apartment blocks in need of renovation in Bucharests suburbs.
Apartment blocks in need of renovation in Bucharests suburbs.

Despite snowstorms, headwind and big climbs I have enjoyed being on the way and before we went home for our week long break I worried that such a break would disrupt the magic of being on the way on a slow trip from one corner of the world to another.
I enjoyed every second of being home to visit friends and family but I never worried about going back to Bucharest and resume cycling. Not until this morning anyway……

While I was busy preparing the bikes this kind of worries started to grow inside me. We have already biked all the way to Bucharest, which is an achievement in itself. I started to think ”what if it isn’t fun anymore when we start riding?”

Once on the bike it felt just like usual. We were busy watching the traffic while navigating out of Bucharest and after some time I remembered my worries from the morning and understood that the worries were probably my brain playing tricks to me. We enjoyed the weather so much that it is hard to understand that yesterday we were walking the streets of Göteborg and two weeks ago we were cycling into a cold and snowy Bucharest

Being on the cycle means being on the way, and the feeling of being on the way has become my normal state of mind which the trip back to Sweden luckily didn’t change.

Cycling day 31 statstics

Distance:               71.9 km
Traveling time        6.10 hours
Cycling time           4.14 hours
Average speed     16.9 km/h
Top speed             40.9 km/h
Altitude gained       124 m
Altitude lost            172 m