Friday 21st July - The fork in the road
Today's plan was to reach the Transfăgărășan, a road made famous on Topgear. Sorry to be the bearer of bad rally news but we didn't make it. In true mongol rally style our phones became overheated and we had to rely on our own wits and gut instincts. Unfortunately for us though we came to a fork in the road, Pats gut was telling him right. Natalie's gut was telling her left. We took the right fork and unlike Robert Frost found that the road less travelled was not all the better. No Transfăgărășan for us. On the upside though, the valley we drove through was quite incredible and gave us a taste of what the Transfăgărășan may have looked like.
Our day started off with a rearrangement of the roof tray. We seem to accumulate more junk everyday, but in saying that, it is junk we want for the harder leg of the journey. James' eight pack of coke cans exploded as he tried to squash it in the boot. Safe to say that coke, although delicious, is not an essential part of the journey. We were quick to leave behind the other unopened cans for risk of them exploding all over the car.
As we were packing we noticed another rally car parked right near us on the street. Closer inspection revealed that it was Team Three Men And A Goat. Yes, they had a plastic goat on the back seat. We discovered that they'd actually got a sharpie out and graffitied our front bonnet with their team name. Of course, we returned the favour and put our team name near their fuel door. A local man asked James for a cigarette in broken English, James made the mistake of also giving him some spare coins. He wouldn't leave us alone after that, constantly watching us pack the car. Three Men And A Goat came out of the hotel and had a chat with us, they were from the UK and had also opted out of the beach party to visit other locations in Romania. We all commented on the serendipity of coming across another team in such a small town. They were planning on visiting Corvin Castle this morning and then hit up the Transfăgărășan. As anyone should be, they were quite impressed at our packing skills and the fact we'd squashed four people's luggage in a Mr Bean sized car.
We drove to the nearby Corvin castle, an absolutely incredible sight. Entry was approx ten Australian dollars. The rooms were decorated as they would have been centuries ago including the grand dining room with Game of Thrones looking chairs. The torture chambers were quite gruesome with mannequins hanging from their limbs. Haylee commented that this castle trumps Bran (Draculas) Castle which she visited last year, Corvin Castle is much larger and more beautiful with 2/3 less tourists.
Following our castle adventure we decided it was finally time for a team photo with our trusty steed. We pulled her into a small ditch off the road and angled her so our sponsors stickers could be seen. The backdrop of the castle looked incredible, another one to hang in the pool room!
It was lunch time by now so we decided to eat in Hunedoara at an Italian place down the road. The staff didn't speak much English but we managed. Bellies full we drove on to our destination for that evening, Bucharest. We were still on a mission to find the Transfăgărășan though, Pat and Natalie the most excited. We eventually had to stop a few hours later as the car was at risk of overheating; it was getting terribly hot. We could have cracked an egg on the bonnet and cooked us up a meal! After stopping to give our Panda a cool down we found that the two phones we were relying on for GPS (Haylee's and Pats) were overheated and wouldn't work anymore. Damn! We had come to the aforementioned fork in the road, and as you know by now we took the wrong fork. An hour later we pulled over, quite suspicious that we were in the wrong place. Some locals were in front of us standing near their truck. Pat went over to ask for directions, no English of course but the bloke squatted down and started drawing in the gravel. True rally style directions! He kept pointing the direction we had already come. We had a chat and did a vote in what everyone wanted to do. Pat was keen to go back and still find the Transfăgărășan. Haylee, Natalie and James were opting to continue on to Bucharest and just take in the beautiful scenery of the valley already around us. As James put it, "the Transfăgărășan would be awesome to do but not in this car, come back and do it in a better car".
The valley we were in seemed to be some sort of Romanian Bermuda Triangle. Even with our phones fully charged the GPS navigators wouldn't work. We just had to keep following signs to Bucharest. Any other Rally team would probably say we're cheating using our phones. They'd say "pull out the old paper maps!" We drove through some incredible small Romanian towns complete with blokes using horse and buggy to transport their loads around. Of course we received some very funny stares as we drove though.
We arrived into Bucharest late in the evening. As we drove down the main road of the city fountains were spouting down the centre line with lights reflecting the colours of the Romanian flag. A true Royal welcome! We drove past the famous Romanian Palace of Parliament (the largest building in the world after the US Pentagon). The place was all lit up showing its enormity. We managed to find our accommodation and check in, our Panda parked just around the corner. Tomorrow we'd be driving to Bulgaria for lunch then on to Turkey!