I awoke with a feeling of having the hard work done. Sure, it’s only a short hop of about 90km to the journey’s end. And so the day continued, me feeling I had the job done, yet I still needed to get to the Black Sea. And rather than my anticipated glorious victorious final stage, with a glass of champagne raised in salute as the winners of the Tour de France do, lethargy set it. Each kilometre was a slog, not helped by having these distance markers at each kilometre taunting me for such slow progress. The rolling hills were picturesque and I stopped to take photographs, but even this felt like a distraction from the real work at hand, an excuse for not putting the head down and getting the job done.
It was a long hot day on a road that got busier with each mile closer to Constanta. Then about 20km from the end, onto a busy dual carriageway that went on and on. At one stage it was quite dangerous as there was no hard shoulder and after a couple of trucks passied me way too closely, I cycled along a grassy track for a couple of kilometres, further slowing progress. Quite a bit of the heavy traffic was lost when I got to the motorway junction, then it was busy local traffic heading into Constanta for another 15km or so. I was delighted to reach a big colourful boat at the side of the road with Constanta blazoned across the side, but this was only to trick you into thinking you were nearly there- you were still only at the outskirts.
Finally, on arriving at the centre of Constanta all access roads to the beach were blocked off, and there were police everywhere directing traffic. I never heard so many policemen blowing whistles at traffic to such little effect. Constanta was in the throes of a huge beach festival; there were stages and inflatable banners everywhere. The beach was also a good 100ft or so below me, with no apparent way to reach it with a bike. Rather than battling my way through the festival and festival goers, I headed north to get to the beachfront further on, or so I thought. But I was first forced to make a couple of detours to get an encore from the policemen’s whistle ensemble, before finally getting out of the chaos. A couple of kilometres further on I took a right turn towards the beach. I was met with a long flight of broken steps, then a sort dusty track through waste ground, had to lug myself and the bike over a low wall, and only then could I make a break for the sea. Lathered in sweat, covered in dust, and with a big red sunburned face, I pushed my bike through bronzed and glistening bodies to finally, finally dip my feet in the waters of the Black Sea. Such was my victorious conquest of the Danube!
It was with a great sense of achievement, and relief, that the journey ended. It was a wonderful experience to get familiar with the flow and landscape of one of Europe’s mighty rivers. To get some sense of how the river is the artery for commerce, and how it has influenced history and culture. I really only got a fleeting glimpse of some of its wildlife; getting a better impression of that would take far more time. And of course, the whole trip was a personal journey, not only testing my physical endurance, but challenging me to tell a story so that I could share some of my experiences with family and friends. Social media gets alot of bad press, but having facebook and twitter as a channel of communication was wonderfully comforting, in a way I didn’t anticipate.
After a journey of 3,290km ‘Down The Danube in 30 Days’ has a nice ring to it.