Not for the faint-hearted...
01.06.2012 20 °C
Ah it's good to be alive. I said goodbye to Sighetu Marmatiei this morning, having suddenly decided last night, that I actually quite liked the town. I think it was something to do with the rather handsome barman who suggested I have my first taste of palinka. I agreed, but only on the condition that he carry me upstairs if it had an adverse effect, and besides, he was shouting me. Its pretty strong and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, but having had years of practice with tequila, I remained upright, so I had to climb the stairs myself.
This morning, I packed up my bindle again and headed for the bus station. To my relief there were quite a few women waiting to catch the same bus. I've found if I just point at me and say place names, I can have quite a conversation. “New Zealand, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Sighetu”. During the day, as each of these women reached their destination, they made a special effort to say goodbye to me, which was really touching.
I knew it was only a minibus, so hoped I'd be guaranteed a seat since I'd reserved in advance. I had read that there's just a rush and whoever gets on, gets the seat. 11 oclock came and went, and still no sign of our bus. Everyone started pacing, except me. I told myself it would come and when a young women joined us who could speak English, I was informed that the driver was new, slow, and probably lost. At 11.30, it arrived, packed solid. I thought people would get off but they didn't so I rushed around the back and threw my bindle onboard, and then rushed back around the front and inched my way in until the driver took my money and I was safely on board. Or so I thought.
Soon, 28 of us were crammed into the 15 seater. For the first two hours I stood, wedged between a woman behind me, and the armpit of the man in front of me. If the roads didn't kill me, the smell soon would. Fortunately, the driver had his window open because he was smoking, so every now and then a whiff of fresh air would hit me. When the driver wasn't smoking, he was talking on his cellphone, or filling in forms, which seems to be quite normal here. Every now and then we'd stop to let one person off and another on. Several passangers were intellectually disabled and had to get off every now and then to relieve themselves. Finally a woman who had completed her journey offered her seat to someone, then great conversation ensued, during which I heard “New Zealand” followed by oohs and ahhs. Everyone around me was nodding in agreement, then a young man stood up and offered me his seat. I was so embarrased and tried to decline, but the decision had been made and for the remaining 4 hours, I had a seat.
It was a journey I will never forget. We climbed high up over the Prislop Pass, up a mountain road that made the Devil's Staircase seem fit for a Sunday drive. Now that I could see out the window, the scenery was amazing. Remote villages scattered all along the way, many of them logging communities, and each with its own gorgeous monestary. This is the Romania I had imagined.
Unfortunately, being able to see out the window meant I could also see that there was bugger all between the road and a plunge to certain death over the edge. Then the potholes started. So, the driver was forced to zig-zag across the road to avoid them, first towards the bank, then towards the edge of the precipe, blind corner or not. The only vehicles that passed us in the other direction were logging trucks, and I knew that they wounldn't be on the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes, even if we were. We stopped and a young guy got off to throw up. We seemed to climb for miles and I was relieved when we made it safely down to the other side of the Carpathian mountains, as I'd noticed at an earlier stop that the handbrake wasn't really working.
Eventually I saw a sign with my destination just 5km a head. Coming into Bucovina, I noticed the houses were quite different to that in Maramures. Here, they have pointier roofs and pretty floral decorations on the outside walls. As we drove into town, I saw a sign for my accommodation, and as soon as the driver stopped, I was out of there, but not before profusely thanking the young guy again who'd given me his seat. I've found it doesn't matter if I don't know the language. All that matters is that I can convey how grateful I am for someone's help, and the language barrier is broken.
I've now reached my accommodation and have fallen directly into the lap of luxury. Tonight I am going to enjoy it. I think I've earned it.