Day 27 – Counting the miles

I must be losing perspective but only 100km today seems like just a stroll. The journey at this stage is really just about counting the miles to cover the ground, stage-posting between meals and places to stay, cutting across the south Romanian landscape.
Passing through two villages early in the day, Seaca and Navodari, the number of large ostentatious houses (by Romania standards) along the road was remarkable. House after house, three storeys with balconies and ornate railings. But many were only half finished, and the other looked like they were only half lived in. On checking later, apparently these were homes of Roma gypsies who had made it big, as a way of showing off their wealth. I can understand the statement made by building a big house to live in, but to only half build a house I couldn’t understand. They must have a different attitude to money as we do.

The towns along the route all have a similar character. The outer approaches have grim derelict and decaying industrial buildings, I presume from the communist era, then long straight roads leading to the centre. But the centres are busy with people shopping, carrying small bags of groceries and vegetables. It is noticeable there is none of the blatant consumerism you see at home. The town centres have a nice casual air to them. And usually they have a leafy well maintained park with a children’s playground, and groups of three or four men around tables playing Rummi – a tile-based game combining elements of the card game rummy and mahjong.

On the road, at one stage I heard the distinctive ke-ke-ke-ke of a Red-footed Falcon calling from a tree. It was answered by another a short distance away. I stopped and watched them, I couldn’t be sure what they were doing. Then I noticed there were more around; at one stage there were nine or ten calling and flying around the trees by the side of the road. They are a lovely falcons, and great to see them so close.

A convoy of cyclists passed me going the opposite direction flying the Canadian flag, obviously having just started the Danube Cycleway from the other end. I saluted them and they returned the salute, but had no interest in stopping for a chat, they were powering ahead. They were bright, clean and enthusiastic, and you could tell they had fresh legs. Ah, yes. I remember those days!

It got me thinking about travel and the pros and cons of group travel versus solo travel. One of the things I like about travelling alone is that it forces you out of your shell to engage with others at every opportunity. There is also a curiosity about others. There was no such need for the Canadians to stop for they had their own company. Which is fine, it is the other way to do it. While my trip is a personal one, with one of the objectives being to see how well I’d hold up to the physical challenge of covering the distance, I have been writing this blog to share some of my adventures with family and friends. Their feedback and response to the blog is a nice way to keep in touch with the family.

I was thinking about travel and the education it provides if you have a curiosity about the environment around you, and I would encourage everyone to do some travel. Towards the end of today’s leg, I came up to a cyclist laden down with a fair amount of baggage, frying pan attached to the paniers and a guitar case on his back. He was well tanned, with very long black matted hair; obviously had been on the road a fair bit. We got talking. He was a young Spaniard, 21 years of age.

As we cycled he told me he had been cycling for the last three months having started in Spain. He was heading to Greece, or perhaps Poland, he wasn’t quite sure. He was free-camping, pitching up for the night in some secluded spot in the countryside. Being all in favour of solo travel, I asked him why he was travelling. He didn’t know, he said. I tried to get some sense of what motivated him, but couldn’t. He didn’t seem to have much curiosity, indeed I was surprised how little awareness he had of his surroundings. When he needed to plan a direction of travel, he would ring his brother back home in Spain to ask him what was the best way to go. I was surprised with my own response and attitude, but I got increasingly frustrated with him and his aimless travel. What was the point of travelling without some aim or purpose, hiding away from humanity each evening?

Surprise with my own conservativism coming to the surface, I couldn’t help but think it would be far better if he cut his hair and got a job, rather than wandering aimlessly around Europe with his frying pan and guitar.