Day 5 - Transfargasan Highway
After finally getting out of Serbia I was torn. On the one hand, I really needed to make up some time. That meant driving late into the night, sleeping a bit, no then putting in another long day of driving. On the other hand, that is EXACTLY the scenario that got me into major problems in Serbia! What to do?
Considering I was buzzed on energy drinks, I decided to push on a bit more. My navigation was working again, and Sibiu was within reach. That would put me back on track for hitting all my dates! Unfortunately, the Romanian highway department had other ideas.
About 120 miles outside of Sibiu, the freeway stopped. There was major road construction happening and they shut down the highway. I followed the two other cars onto the off ramp. I figured that there would be a small access road that ram parallel to the freeway, or some other slight detour. Nope. What ensued for the next 90 minutes was weaving and swerving through little towns, up and over major hills, and generally not going anywhere near the direction I wanted to go. Adding to my stress was the fact that, after the first couple of kilometers, the detour signs ran out. IT was like they had forgotten we were supposed to be getting back on that road!
Many, many miles later, we were deposited on another highway that would take us to Sibiu. I was a wreck. I had not planned on being up this late. I was already knack eyed from the day’s adventures. I just wanted to sleep.
I pulled off the freeway about thirty minutes later and found a large field in which I parked and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning I was up early again. I didn’t stop again until I was at the door of the Transfargasan Highway. The Transfargasan Highway is a 90km stretch of what has been described as the best road in the world. It did not disappoint! There were stunning views, fun switchbacks, and many places to pull over and take it all in. I was having my very own Top Gear moment. I might have yelled, “More Power!” once or twice.
There were a few other teams on the highway at the same time. This was the first time I had spent any real time with other teams since the first day. It was nice to see some familiar faces and to have people with whom I could share this experience. While the other teams stopped at the top of the highway to do some tourist kitsch shopping, I barreled down the other side. I was hell-bent on making Vama Veche that night for the second Mongol Rally meetup.
The remainder of Romania was a beautiful blur. Lots of winding rivers and rolling, forested hills. This was Dracula country and I could only imagine Vlad the Impaler reigning over the lands.
I pulled in to Vama Veche just as the sun was setting. The Black Sea shimmered on my left, and the small resort where we were staying was on the right. It was a welcome sight. I was tired, hungry, and in need of cold beer. There were high fives all around as I pulled into the parking lot. Several teams I had seen that day were there (their cars go much faster than mine) and they seemed surprised to see me. They had all had to rotate drivers several times. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “What? I told you I’d be here. There is beer!” Someone had to show these kids how it was done.
Dinner was pasta with mussels from the Black Sea, and a bucket of cold beer. It was exactly what I needed after the adventures of the past couple of days. I met several other teams, swapped driving stories, and heard about everyone’s planned routes. It looks like there are going to be several of us all doing more or less the same route at the same time. That is a relief. It was getting lonely out there!
About the time the slip n slide was rolled out, the shots of Romania fire water started around. I did mine (it was actually pretty good) and put it back on the tray. I commented to the kid next to me that it was smooth, and he put another shot in my hand! Bottoms up!
About fifteen minutes later the shots kicked in, and it was time for me to go to bed. I wanted to hit Istanbul the next day and I had heard rumors that the borders were a nightmare. I staggered back to the Rascal, set up my hammock, and fell asleep.
The next morning was rough...I’m not twenty two any more. I had kept up with the youngsters the night before, and I was feeling it. I made it to breakfast and surveyed the carnage. While there had been close to two hundred of us partying the night before, there were fewer than fifty of us up and moving. Breakfast arrived and I just stared at it. While my brain was saying, “eat something, you idiot!”, my stomach was saying, “Don’t even think about it!” In the end, I took it to go and figured sometime later on it would be appreciated.
I packed up the Rascal and decided to have one more look at the Black Sea. I walked the block to the beach, joined by the guy who gave me the extra shot the night before. If I felt “rough”, he looked 60 grit. He informed me that he had partied until about 4am and he was in trouble. It was his turn to drive this morning. Another team mate joined us. The two of them waded into the sea, the cool water soothing their pounding heads.
With the Rasca packed, it was time to leave. I pointed its nose south, and we scooted out of Romania and into Bulgaria without any problems. Even the borders were giving us a pass.