Operation Steppenwolf: Part Five


As I had gone to sleep late and still I had set the alarm clock for 5 in the morning, getting up was more difficult than it usually is for me. But I&39;m not the one to give easily in, so at 5:40 I was already on the road. The planned distance this time was very moderate - something between 80 and 90 km, which was good as it was not that easy to start cycling less than 7 hours after having finished the previous evening. For the first thirty minutes or so it was actually cool outside - the sun had just appeared above the horizon, everything was in the shade and cycling was super pleasant.

In addition to that the scenery was a pure marvel - the first part of the road lead me through an area where the road crossed a lake for a few kilometers, with all kinds of seabirds on both sides. I&39;d be great if I had any idea what exactly kinds of birds I saw, because some of them were really spectacular, but I don&39;t have any bird spotting skills, and neither was I able to take photos of them. So I just made photos with my eyes, which sometimes is also enough.

As it sometimes happens, I did lack one thing - water. And something to eat as well. I planned to stop by in a shop in a village that I would pass by, but it was too early - everything was still closed, and my best chance was to buy something in Orlivka - a village in which I arrived slightly before 8 AM, but I decided that it was no use waiting for 15 minutes for the shops to open, so I rode on. Little did I know that it would be 25km more until the next populated area - the town of Reni, with no shops along the way. Which basically meant that I was more motivated than usually to ride fast which is also good. Still it was very pleasant to arrive in Reni and to be able to choose which shop to enter and what to buy there.

Not that my choice of products was something too exotic - a big cone of ice cream and two bottles and water. While I was enjoying my ice cream, and older man came to talk to me. He told me that he had once gone on a motorcycle from Moscow to Reni. Now he was obviously too old to repeat such a feat but at least he was able to understand what it actually feels like - to be on the road. And I have to say - it feels great! And now I&39;m slowly giving in to the idea that a motorcycle perhaps is not such a silly form of transport after all. Obviously I still dislike sports bikes and I&39;m not even fond of the idea to use a motorbike to get from one part of the city to another, but I could envision myself on a cruiser or on a touring motorcycle. Or maybe not. After having my ice cream I went off towards the direction of the border, but then I decided to make another stop - I had to have my daily yoghurt with some pastry, and that&39;s just what I did. When I felt comfortable again, I went on.

To get into Romania coming from Reni, first you have to cross the border between Ukraine and Moldova, and then just a minute or two later comes the next border - between Moldova and Romania. According to what Anatoliy (my host in Bilhorod) had told me, previously the village of Giurgiulesti had belonged to Ukraine, and it was given to Moldova quite recently, so this country would have access to the Danube. Thus nowadays you have one more additional border. Happily neither of the two border crossings involved any incidents. I was a bit lost at first, as I had no previous experience crossing a border on the bicycle but it turned out that I didn&39;t have to do much there - just get a few new stamps in my passport, and I was told that I was free to go.

Did Romania surprise me? No, of course it didn&39;t. Apart from the fact that the road signs were in Romanian instead of Ukrainian, there wasn&39;t that much of a change. And you know anyway that people are more or less the same everywhere you go - mostly they are nice but there are some assholes. Luckily on my trip I had encounters just with the former.
I got to Galati - my destination for the day - quite early, I think it was around 1 PM, maybe later, maybe earlier, it doesn&39;t really matter. So I called up my host, found out that he was at home and went to meet him. I was Costel&39;s first couchsurfer and he had created his CS account just a few days ago especially for hosting me. Ok, not exactly that way, but this is more or less truthful. I had written asking about a couch to Elena - a friend of his - and as she couldn&39;t host me herself, she found a friend who could. I hope that I was not the worst couchsurfer in the world and that Costel will continue to use this fine service both as a host and as a guest, gathering new experiences and new adventures which this form of traveling usually brings along.

As I had spent two nights in a row in a tent, it was truly a godly experience to be able to take a shower. And to lie on a bed. That&39;s one of the most enjoyable aspects of going through any hardship - you start valuing the smallest things much more after you have gone on without them for a while. The same bread tastes better when you&39;re hungry, and the your own bed becomes ten times more comfortable after you have slept on the floor. At the same time I think that this trip helped me to become better at survinging without the comfort that I&39;m used to. When you think that you lack something, you just have to open your eyes and see that you have more than enough - at least of what you really need. A sidenote - while the approach "be satisfied with what you have" works well in many situations, it is not a good principle to follow at work, at least not in my current line of work - there you have to be gutsy, you have to be aggressive, you have to ambitious, you have to hungry. I drifted offtopic here, but that&39;s what I&39;m all about after all. And to stay further offtopic, I just listened to a Beatles song the lyrics to which I had never bother to listen to, and they stroke me a appropriate to quote on my description of the spiritual steppenwolf journey:

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine,
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine,
No-one&39;s frightened of playing it,
Everyone&39;s saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All through your life I me mine.

It was decided that in the afternoon we would go to meet Elena and her boyfriend, go get something to eat and then - for a walk around Galati. Before that I had time for a power nap (my regular 15-30 minutes of sleep in the middle of day) and then I wanted to go and find a geocache. Romania is not a geocache rich country by any means, but I had seen that there was a cache in the distance of just 10 km from Costel&39;s apartment, so I had to go there. I did have some doubts about how exactly I was supposed to cross the Danube - the map had a rather strange markup for what I thought to be a bridge. Or maybe a tunnel. But being me I didn&39;t ask Costel about it, I just rode to the supposed location of the bridge... and found a ferry there. Normally I have nothing against ferries, but not when I&39;m short on time, and I certainly did not have the time to wait for a ferry, so I returned to Costel&39;s place thinking about how I could find a geocache in Romania on the following day. Basically I had just a few options:
a) to take the ferry in the morning, find the cache, return back and just then resume my regular journey (which would mean losing a few hours of the morning this way),
b) to extend my route by something around 40km and go searching for a multicache somewhere North from Galati. The tricky part of this in addition to the fact that on Google Earth this part of the road seemed to be mostly uphill was that no one had found this geocache so far - which meant that if I were not able to find it, I&39;d end up without finding a single cache in Romania, which leads me to option c,
c) not bother.

I preferred to leave this question for a later time. It turned out that if we wanted to walk to the place where we were supposed to meet the others, it was nearly the time for us to start. So we did. Costel told me some parts of the history of the city, advised me to get my hair and beard cut if I don&39;t want to get into trouble in Moldova, and something about his own views on life, the universe and everything. We arrived at the meeting place early, so we could talk some more, mostly about programming (because as it happens, Costel is also a programmer). Then Elena and Laurentiu arrived. We went to a nearby cafe, talked a lot (mostly me, as I had a chance to pretend to be wise and experienced in everything - mostly in all forms of travel), ate some and afterwards we went for a walk, just as planned. A significant part of the time was spent looking for a park, because I had told one of my golden stories - about the drug dealing park in Charleroi - and the locals wanted to prove to me that they too have some parks of a quality not worse than that found in Belgium. For some reason we were not especially lucky with parks - how strange it may sound, most parks in Galati happened to be closed for renovation. You know - replacing trees with a more up-to-date brand, installing a new version of grass, and suchlike activities. I don&39;t know about the others - but I had a good time. And that&39;s important, because "I me mine". No, it is not - I really want to give more and take less, which in some way I do through my talking as well. Share and enjoy, so to say. I&39;m pushing it here with quotes that most people are not familiar with and can&39;t even recognize as such probably.

It being late, Elena had to go home to prepare for her final exams. It being late, Costel and me went to his apartment. The last part of the evening was spent with Costel presenting to me various Romanian songs and translating their lyrics in the process. It was interesting, but at some point I started to doze off, and that was a good sign to go to sleep. Which is exactly what I did.

In the morning we had a breakfast and I had decided that I would take the ferry to go searching for the geocache. So now I can say that I have crossed the Danube on a ferry. Twice. Isn&39;t that impressive? And I have seen some ruins not far from Galati. Not that those were the most amazing ruins that I&39;ve ever seen, but they didn&39;t have to be. By this time I had certainly learned to enjoy everything that I saw - be it a magnificient church, a shabby hut, a shepherd with his goats or a nice girl on a bicycle (although I&39;d still prefer seing more of the latter instead of the former category). Obviously I found the cache, and was happy about it - the fewer caches you find, the more you value each one. At least in my case, it may be different for others - I certainly know, the more caches Gatisk finds, the more he enjoys each one, being a true adept of the Zen approach "Zen way is the beginners way". Then - the ferry back and the road to Cahul can start. Which will be the subject of the next chapter. Which will be even more offtopic and pseudo-religiously preaching than this one. I wish you patience! And as a conclusion - thanks again to my hosting team in Galati!