Cycling Romania – The Industrialised Southwest

Caransebes – Petrosani (132 kms); Petrosani – Filiasi (136 kms); Filiasi – Calafat via Craiova (130 kms)

Power Plant

This road should never find its way into any tourist guidebook:

I bite the bullet hard and never once stop to rest or ease up my pace as I cycle past the apocalyptic Rovisan thermoelectric power plant sprouting out of a flat, featureless wasteland.

Past a gargantuan steel shed with a thousand sinister black windows gazing down at me through  shattered glass panes.

A spawn of factory workers are milling around the grimy factory canteen – a swarming colony of worker ants nailed down to their daily grind incapable of escape.

Grotesque biconcave, tapering chimneys shoot straight upwards for a hundred metres, belching a billowing white stream of dense smoke – fanning out sparse, vanishing into blazing hot,  dead still  air.

Steaming sentinels of sun scorched badlands.

I shy away from their stern gaze and focus on the road ahead. Only the road ahead.

Stunned by the blinding, brilliant white glare reflecting off the tarmac.

Sky – washed out blue, very pale, almost white.

Rock and soil and grass bled to dry monotonous tones of lifeless dun colour.

But what brilliant, white sunlight!

And yet this utterly bleak and dismal feeling!

Vigour and beauty utterly bleached out of this place.

I accelerate my pace, determined to pull clear fast and out of sight of the horrific eyesore.

One last hurdle still to go:

A cavernous steel hulk looms up on my right, bearing the uninspiring logo – Exploratory Mine.

Could there be anything worth exploring and living for here?

It all feels so very depressing.

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Roadside Grocery Store

Rest stop at a spartan, ramshackle roadside grocery shed about fifty kilometres before Filiasi.

A minivan pulls over and a gaunt, leathery geezer gets out.

I attempt a  hotchpotch of sign language spiced up with a smattering of English and Italian  meaning to say –

“Where’s the nearest hotel, motel, guesthouse?”

The elderly woman who owns this grocery store has just told me that there’s no accommodation all the way to Filiasi. But I need to make sure.

The good man explains as best he can:

With a sweeping flourish of right hand and forefinger he scrawls out with gusto  large, invisible numbers I cannot decipher.

My heat-dulled imagination is the slate he’s trying to write on but I just can’t make out his numbers!

Perplexed!

He notices my confusion and squats down scribbling out a large “50” in the dust!

So now I know for sure the woman was right!

Best to leave fast and get going.

Hurried handshakes all round.

I step out of the store into the torrid 5 p.m. mid-August inferno.

Ready to cycle off but the man won’t cut loose and is quick on my heels.

He’s just suddenly taken a covetous interest in my bicycle pinching the tyres hard between scraggy thumb and forefinger.

“Riserva? Riserva?”

I guess he means to say:

“Do you have any spare inner tubes or tyres?”

“Yes.”

Next, he mimes a snatching grasp with both his arms so I think he now wants to know what happens if someone nicks the bike!

I have no answer to this one and just keep looking at him blankly, cursing to myself his dim wit and smug attitude and the fifty kilometres still left to cycle.

But hey I can’t believe it – he’s not yet done and determined to keep up the conversation even in the face of rude reluctance.

And he sure isn’t waiting around for my answer. Too impatient for that.

So he answers his question himself shrewdly suggesting:

“Politia!”

Yes, I guess I’d call in the police!”

I get back into the saddle and prepare to cycle off but I’m still not free to go!

He points at my right trouser pocket:

“How? How much?”

I just grunt “Euro” as I look away and push down hard on the pedals.

Copyright(c) David Bugeja 2016 All rights reserved

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