Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Our Drive Out :- Day Four

Day Four

We woke up cold and stiff, well before the birds were up. The joys of Chisineu Cris had long since evaporated, we were hungry and in need of coffee, maybe there would be something in Arad, on the map it seemed like a big city, and it even had an airport. My logic said where there is an airport there would be coffee and something to eat, so with that thought in mind we set off, it was still too dark to sort out the animals and Fenny was still snoring.
The road heading for Arad was just as bad as we had remembered from last night, it seemed to be more pothole than road. Thank heavens we had decided to take the 4x4 and not something else which would have shaken itself to bits. It might have been early but lorries were still out and about. We reached Arad as dawn broke, it certainly didn’t look appealing the roads for a city were just as bad as we had been travelling on. The city was awake though, cars being driven at breakneck speed, engines revving and horns tooting. You definitely needed your wits about you as cars cut you up, and all the locals seemed to think that it was your fault, they were introduced to the universal two fingered salute on several occasions. What a revolting city, they could stuff their coffee and something to eat, we couldn’t wait to get out of there, which was when we hit roadworks. They were a joke, maybe they were putting pot holes in and not filling them.

Once we left Arad and the roadworks behind us, we pulled over to sort the animals out. We had been spoilt throughout the rest of Europe with their service stations, loos, and something to eat and drink. These niceties seemed to have totally bypassed Rumania, the layby was just a bit of dirt and gravel at the side of the road, at least we had nearly a full tank of fuel.

The road hadn’t improved either and this was meant to be a main road. No wonder everyone else had said allow yourself a day to go through Rumania, and to do it in daylight. We seemed to be passing through shanty town after shanty town, Rumania was no longer on our list of places to visit, Dracula could keep it. We were in the back of beyond when at last we spotted a sign saying fuel, cafe, loos and rest stop. We pulled in and all we could see was articulated lorries, if it was good enough for truckers it would do for us. The animals were soon sorted out and Fenny had a bit of a walk in the freshish air. We headed for the cafe and disappointment, we were able to order coffee but the Lei notes that I had were too big. So two coffees cost us 3 Lei and 3 Euros, we wouldn’t have minded too much had it been nice coffee but warm mud would probably have tasted better. We couldn’t even use the loos on the other side of the car park as they were locked, and looked as though they had been for a long while. No wonder the car park smelt of wee, at least our mobile litter tray didn’t smell out of place.

Back on the road again and we headed for the Carpathian mountains. The road climbed and dipped, by now we had had enough of Rumania and decided that if nothing else we would get out of the country by the end of the day. We ploughed on mile after mile, or should I say kilometre after kilometre at least the scenery was starting to improve as we passed through mountain gorges beside rivers, with kids trying to sell bags of walnuts beside the road.
We managed to stop for fuel at a petrol station in a town, we don’t know which one as I have said before all we wanted to do was get out of the country as soon as possible. At least we were able to get cold drinks and some biscuits to nibble on, which would keep us going. The road started to become a switch back as we climbed up and down hill sides. I think that it was about at Pitesti when all of a sudden the road improved, no more potholes. We were able to make good time on towards our next hurdle, Bucarest.

The Sat Nav was behaving itself, and a service station with loos came into view. They were nothing special, but at least they were clean, had running water and were actually open. The only down side were the packs of dogs that were barking at each car that came in for fuel. A much needed pit stop behind us we continued on wards towards Bucarest. We had been made aware that it was easy to miss the turn towards the border, the Sat Nav took us straight to it before trying to send us in the wrong direction, at least we were able to go round the block and get back onto the right road. At that time we decided to phone the estate agents, as it looked like we were going to arrive a day earlyThe road surface seemed to have degenerated to little more than a dirt track again, but at least we were heading for Giurgiu, and the border crossing.

To get to the border seemed to take an eternity, the light was fading thank heavens for the early start. We even noticed that they still had Christmas decorations up, and sparkly lights on the pedestrian crossings. At long last the bridge over the Danube came into view, now all we had to do was find out how to get to it, the road signs for Ruse were not a lot of use. In the end we followed a car with BG plates and eventually arrived at the border crossing. We waited in line and eventually passed through after paying a bridge tax. Once through, the next challenge was to try and find our way onto the bridge. A lorry seemed to know where he was going so we followed him, at long last we were on the bridge and about to leave Rumania, halfway across we both let out a sigh of relief. We were sat in a queue of lorries and didn’t seem to be getting any further, a car behind us decided to pull out and try beating the queue. A moment later it was reversing past where it had come from being pursued by half a dozen lorries. Maybe there were traffic lights up ahead, and slowly the queue of traffic started to move forwards.

We managed to get off of the bridge, but were still snarled up in amongst the lorries, and had to wait until we got past the crash barriers to get into the car lane. Patiently we waited our turn, the car in front of us was having to open its boot and bonnet, and take all bags out to be checked. Someone was in for a big surprise if they chose to do that with us, hopefully they would have a very bad head cold. Then it was our turn, we presented all 6 passports which were barely glanced at, we confirmed that we were English and that we had bought a house in Bulgaria. With a nod, a wave and a welcome to Bulgaria we had arrived, the only thing left to do was buy a vignette. Again a cheerful Bulgarian, speaking excellent English welcomed us to Bulgaria.
Now it was a straight run down to Veliko Turnovo, as command had decided that we were in touching distance of our goal and that we would press onwards. The roads were an awful lot better than those in Rumania, but I was getting tired. I kept my speed down, much to the annoyance of the lorry drivers behind us, but I would rather get there in one piece. That was the only time throughout the whole journey that nerves got a bit frayed. I concentrated on the road and followed the signs and the Sat Nav for VT. Once in VT I nearly had our first accident of the trip, I got confused with the road layout and couldn’t remember if the memorial was a roundabout or not, it probably worried the two kids on a scooter more than me. We pulled up outside the estate agents at 10pm, and phoned them up, at which time we found out that they had sent us a text message saying that if we were coming in on the Ruse road they could meet us at Byala if we would like. We had been through there over an hour ago.

Not to worry they would meet us at the office, they duly turned up and it was a great relief to sit on something other than a car seat. While we were drinking tea they even loaded up a Bulgarian Auto Route onto the Sat Nav for us. They said that they would lead us to our village, and once we had finished our tea we set off. We hadn’t even left VT when they remembered that they had left the keys in the office, we waited while they went off to collect them.

Back on the road again, we headed off for the village. I am glad that we opted to follow them, as there is no way on earth that we would have found the house otherwise, the Sat Nav had managed to find the village but without street names we would have been totally buggered. We pulled up outside the house and it felt like we had finally arrived home. We unloaded the car, and opened up the cat boxes once indoors. At which point Greebo made a bee line for the girl’s box, and promptly burst his banks. All the way across Europe and he had kept his legs crossed, that first evening he really made up for it. With great relief we got out the blow up mattress and had our first decent night’s sleep since the UK. We still had a couple of days until the lorry turned up with the rest of our bits and pieces.

That is the end of our travel blog, and we would like to thank all those who have taken time to read it and offer their encouragement.

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