I really wanted to see the Danube meet The Black Sea. It’s Delta is the largest and best preserved of Europe’s deltas and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, definitely a place to see.
To get there I cycled along the coast from Bulgaria, entering Romania in Vama Veche. At this time of the year, nothing was opened and the beach that in summer is full tents of people camping was windy and deserted. I’m afraid to say that I broke an unwritten rule: anyone visiting Vama Veche should always camp on the beach and boycott the new hotels and businesses in order to restore the place back to the old look and hippie feel. I was too cold and wet and had a nasty cough. At least that’s my excuse.
I went pass Constanta, a town with a lot of history and the largest port on the Black Sea. In Constanta I had my first taste of wonderful Romanian hospitality. I stayed with Marius, a nice young man who showed me around the town and told me about it’s history and it’s people.
The following day, I cycled through flat land. There was nothing but the stubble of crops as far as the horizon. As I went by on my bike I disturbed huge flocks of birds that took flight in unison forming huge clouds that soared and turned in themselves, bestowing the most incredibly acrobatic displays on me.
I went through villages, with houses lining the road, that seem to go on forever, kilometres between the sign indicating the beginning of the village and the one indicating it’s end.
And everywhere I went, I continued to be blessed with Romanian hospitality: kindly being allowed to camp in the terrace of a café and offered steaming coffee in the morning, being shown around Tulcea by Aurora, my Couchsurfing host and her husband and leaving their house with fruit from their garden and delicious home made preserves and having a house to myself in the middle of the Delta that belonged to a Warmshowers member.
To get to the house I took a catamaran from Tulcea to Sulina, a village in the the mouth of one of the three branches of the Danube that make the Delta. The catamaran was full of villagers returning home with huge amount of luggage from shopping expeditions in the town. Everyone settled for the journey, the men in the back of the vessel smoking and drinking beer and the women inside with the children running in and out. I closed my eyes to absorbed the hubbub of music, laughter and conversations mixing with the noise of the engine. I love human noises, find them really comforting.
Either side of the waterway there were villages and everywhere there was life on the river – people crossing from one side to the other in boats, people fishing, transporting goods and going about their daily lives. I was amazed at the ease with which they went about in the river using it as I would use the road and the streets.
To get to Dan’s house I had to cross the Delta from it’s middle branch, the Sulina branch, to a village called Periprava in the Chillia branch, in the north, the longest, youngest, and most vigorous. In Sulina I was warned about the wolves and jackals and other wild life that roam in the Letea forest, the northern most subtropical forest in the world, and about the ‘bad people’ that may attack me seeing me on my own. In addition to these new perils, I knew I would encounter quite a lot of sand. It was my first inroad into real wilderness.
I was a bit apprehensive and I wished I was travelling with someone else. In times like this I am sure it would be much easier to dispel the fear of the unknown. Weighing the pros and cons and working things out on my own should be getting easier but the cold and the early dusk seem to be slowing down this process.
I cycled first on a good track by a side water canal in brilliant sunshine. Birds everywhere, reflections of clouds in the water, no one around and a tingly feeling in the pit of my stomach, a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
I went pass tiny villages with reed roofed houses, saw lots of snakes sunning in the track and going into hiding went I went by. I also saw lots of water, wild horses in the Letea forest, big open spaces, and the forest itself silent and beautiful. I had a very special day, stopping often to admire the beauty of my surroundings.
Fourteen kilometres before Periprava the sand tracks started and it was impossible to cycle so I pushed and pushed my heavily loaded bike until I arrived in the village tired but elated.
The little house exceeded all my expectations. It had all I needed and more – electricity to charge my gadgets, a cooker were I made a hearty lentil stew, a drop toilet and a little cane enclosure where I had a shower with water from the well. I spent a wonderful day there tending to my bike and to my knee which was getting a bit sore.
I left Periprava on a very early catamaran, this time on the Chilia branch which forms the natural border with Ukraine. I felt really good and looking forward to cycling to the famous Bucovina Monasteries.