Day 25 – A shepherd’s salute

Looking at the map of today’s route, the Danube Cycle Path takes a big loop before heading east once more. I was not that keen to head off in the wrong direction so I took the main road instead. The road rose onto the edge of the floodplain and followed that elevated path. I took this, and with a good smooth surface I covered 100km by lunch time. The road overlooked the floodplain of the Danube; wide expanses of flat ground almost entirely planted with wheat, corn or sunflowers. Not much by way of interest for a naturalist, but I did see a nice Great Grey Shrike, and there were plenty of Black Terns just loafing about in the fields. I couldn’t get over the number of stray dogs, many of which were killed on the road; there were dead ones in varying stages of decomposition every couple of miles along the road.

I am getting more and more attention from people as I pass through villages, usually just a good hearty salute. I suppose seeing a sweating pasty Irishman cycling past in lycra from the shade of a fruit tree is something to cheer about. For although bikes are a common mode of transport here it is rare to see one where both wheels are aligned and are missing the buckles. The biggest cheer of all came from two shepherds on the side of the road; a hand raised from me with a ‘Hello’ resulted in them cheering as if it was for the leader in the Tour de France. That was great. I’m sure in a world of watching sheep, moments of light entertainment are welcomed.

Had lunch at Calafat with the intention of planning my afternoon leg of the journey. Was surprised to find that the next accommodation option of any kind was a furter 96km down the road! How could that be? Are there never travellers in this part of the country that need a bed for the night? So I guess it was Calafat for the night and any further attempt to build on the good distance made in the morning, thwarted.

Went for a short cycle to explore the town and its environs; as it was Sunday almost everything was closed and the town seemed deserted. On passing a house of Roma gypsies I heard a commotion and out ran two men in their 30s, running beside me looking for money. I had expected this from children, but not adults. I managed to shake off the two lads, but on turning the next corner I was met by four barefooted waifs surrounding the bike with their little hands everywhere looking for some treasure. The only thing that they could pilfer was my very expensive sun block which I kept in a side pocket of the paniers. Had to go after them to retrieve this. No harm done but it was a lesson for me to take more care of my possessions.

I was going to say that one of the upsides to being stranded in Calafat is that I managed to see both World Cup matches, but those are a few hours of my life I will never get back.