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Sean Barker

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  1. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Seven - Sunday 24th June 2012   
    Zimnicea (ROM) to God knows where (Bul)

    It was a late start as the ferry crossing was at 11:30am and I rode today at a gentle pace due to my delicate state.
    I’m well off my intended course and completely lost. Finding my way around this part of Bulgaria is no easy thing, all the signs are in their own unique script and impossible for me to read or pronounce. All I can really do is keep on a southeast heading until I hit either the Black Sea or Turkey.
    This evening has been nothing short of nerve-wracking.
    I stopped around 5:30 and saw an entrance leading into a field of sunflowers. I followed the edge of the field between the flowers and the hedgerow in search a more secluded spot when I came upon a large clearing and a field full of marijuana plants. I was tired and hadn’t the energy to go much further so made camp by the edge of the plantation.
    Shortly after I had cooked and eaten my meal two men in camouflaged combat gear with automatic weapons and three dogs approached me.
    One spoke broken English, the other none at all. I was asked what I was doing here and I told them I was cycling to Istanbul. They were clearly suspicious and at that time seemed to me quite hostile. They talked to each other briefly, then the one who spoke English asked me “Do you know what these plants are?” I suddenly realised that the answers I would give could well determine my immediate future. I needed to gain their trust.
    I said “Yes they are marijuana plants”
    I was then asked “Do you smoke it?”
    To which I replied “Whenever I get the chance”
    I was acutely aware that this crop was worth millions and my life here and now nothing. I needed to make these know that I was no threat to them or their business.
    At this he smiled and sat down beside my tent and rolled a joint which he lit, puffed on it and passed it to me. I drew on it and inhaled deeply holding it in for a few seconds before exhaling. I repeated this once more and handed it to his friend.
    We chatted for an indeterminable amount of time before they said they had to be going.
    The English speaking man rolled another joint and gave it to me saying here is one for you for tomorrow.
    It was only at that point did I feel confident that there would be a tomorrow for me.


    Making the crossing on the ferry from Romania to Bulgaria

    The Bulgarian road signs weren’t a big help, in the end I just used my compass and rode southeast until I hit the Black Sea




    Lost in Bulgaria
  2. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Six - Saturday 23rd June 2012   
    Izvoru (ROM) to Zimnicea (ROM)

    After a nervy night I got up at sunrise and was on the road for 6:00am.
    I made my way through “Slobozia”, “Tatarastii” and on down to “Alexandria” and then down the 51 to “Zimnicea”.
    When I reached the border I discovered that it was a ferry crossing across the Danube and there are only five sailings a day.
    So I decided to made my way back some 7km back to a pension I had passed earlier and make the crossing tomorrow as I was absolutely shattered.
  3. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Five - Friday 22nd June 2012   
    Corbini (ROM) to Izvoru (ROM)

    An altogether less inspiring day after the thrills of yesterday, but on the upside it was for the most part all down hill.
    I clearly have a bad gastric bug so the easier terrain was most welcome.
    I made my way along the same road until I came to the busy city of “Pitesti” whereupon I got totally disorientated and took the wrong road. On realizing I had been traveling in the wrong direction I tried to take the dirt roads to get back on track. Eventually I found my way back onto a main road (64) just outside the village of “Ionesti”. I made my south through “Zavideni”, “Dragasani”, and on into “Slatina” before getting back onto the minor roads through “Recea” and onto “Izvoru”.
    I am now well off the beaten track and in an area that could be potentially very dangerous. I had no choice but to make camp in the overgrown grounds of a ruined house. I can’t be seen from the road but I can hear the villagers as they pass by.
    I shall sleep lightly tonight.

    Dracula’s castle (or at least the castle that inspired Bram Stoker)

    Un-surfaced dirt roads made up a considerable percentage of my days down in southern Europe
  4. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Four - 21st June 2012   
    Cartisoara (ROM) to Corbeni (ROM)

    What an epic day!
    I awoke this morning feeling quite delicate, not sure if it was the home distilled alcohol last night or the fact I've been feeling a little under the weather with a slight tummy bug over the last couple of days but I was still excited about the stage to come.

    The climb could best be described as gruelling. I took around four hours to cycle the 30km to the top as the heat took its toll on my weakened body.

    I stopped occasionally to take photos and have a drink. It was on one of those early stops that two German men pulled over to see if I was OK, Thinking I was in trouble they felt compelled to pull over and come to my assistance. I reassured them I was fine and that I always looked this bad when temperatures were over 35c and I was cycling up a seemingly never ending mountain.
    We stopped and chatted about football for a while; they were both staunch Borussia Dortmund fans but had a keen interest in the English game.

    I headed off again but it was clear I wasn’t right, I was sweating profusely and feeling nauseous also I was going through my water faster than I had anticipated and was now concerned that I was going to run out before getting to the other side.

    At an altitude 1650m just as I passed the tree line I was forced to stop as I was getting quite unsteady on the bike. As I sat down in the shadow of a great boulder a car pulled over and an Israeli couple came over to see if I needed help. I told them that I was exhausted and was taking a rest. The lady was quite concerned about me and insisted I took a selection of fruits to eat on the climb. She asked if I had enough water and when I explained that I had water in my drinks bottles but it was now quite warm she bid her husband to go to the boot of their car where he returned with a two litre bottle of half frozen water. I drank deep and drained the bottle, she smiled and getting another insisting I fill my bottles.
    They told me that they were driving over the mountain to see the beautiful “Lake Vidrau” beyond and that they would look for me on their return. We bid each other adieu and I watched them vanish around the next hairpin bend as I continued my accent.

    Refreshed and feeling somewhat stronger I pushed on until I reached the summit. No sooner had I got there than I saw a cyclist coming towards me. We immediately made a bee line towards each other embraced in utter disbelief in seeing another cyclist. His name was Sylvain from France; we chatted for a while and told each other of our adventures. He was also a long distance solo cyclist enjoying the unique challenges that it brings, Once again he hugged me and said “Sean we are brothers from a very small family”.
    We said our goodbyes and descended the mountain in different directions.

    Some half way down the mountain I stopped to cook a meal and take a rest. While there the Israeli couple on their return trip pulled in and the lady in quite an emotional state told me how proud she was that I did it and how relieved she was to see me and how they had worried all day about me.
    In yet another gesture of kindness she gave me more food that they had bought for me in the town I would get to some hours later. I thanked them for their generosity and told them it was an act of kindness I would never forget. She hugged me and I shook his hand before heading in our different directions.
    I continued on past the beautiful “Lake Vidrau” before finding a pension under the shadow of Draculas castle in a quaint little village.



    The ascent but still with the much appreciated shade from the trees

    The sheer drops at the edge of the road, if you lose your line on this road you won’t live to tell the tale

    Landslides are a constant threat up here. There are signs every kilometre or so strongly advising you to be quiet.

    Above the tree line the sun really takes its toll on the cyclist but the views are spectacular

    You know it’s been a real climb when you get this white stuff on the higher ground

    And now for the downhill section on the other side, time for your hands to ache on the brakes instead on your legs on the pedals.

    A quick stop for another shot of this truly breath taking landscape

    OK maybe just one more


    Just taking in the stunning views


    The stunningly beautiful Lake Vidaru
  5. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Three - Wednesday 20th June 2012   
    Miercorea Sibiulut (ROM) to Cartisoara (ROM)

    A really tough and stressful days cycling as I made my way along the busy 1 and through the city of “Sibiu”. Then it was on to the equally busy and stressful E68 through “Bradu”, “Avrig”, “Porumbacu de jos” and on to the “Transfagarasan Highway”
    I found accommodation in the little village of “Cartisoara” where a local family have a home with a small annex that they rent for weary travellers. They invited me to join them in their evening meal where they fed me and questioned me at length on my tour so far. We ended the meal with strong liquor that they distilled themselves, I think it was from pear but it was bloody strong stuff.
    Today was hot, 35c in the shade and considerably hotter out on the road.
    Even now in the cooling evening it is still well over 30c and I find myself transfixed on the snow-capped Carpathian Mountains to the south that I will have to cross tomorrow
    I have no doubt that tomorrow will be a day that I will never forget.

    The hot Rumanian summers, probably not really conducive with long distance cycling but I soon got used to it

    The beginning of that famous road and the daunting Carpathian mountains in the distance.
  6. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty Two - Tuesday 19th June 2012   
    Abrud (ROM) to Miercurea Sibiului (ROM)

    I left "Abrud" and started the climb towards "Zlatna", through “Metes” and on into the thriving town of “Albaiulia” before taking the altogether busier 7 through “Sebes” and on into “Miercurea Sibiului” Where I checked into quite a plush hotel which cost twice as much as the place I stayed at last night but at around £20 I can live with that.

    I really thought my number was up today when on the descent into Zlatna a maniac decided to overtake three vans in a row, as he was ploughing on the other side of the road (the side I'm cycling on) all I'm looking at is certain death unless I veer of the road and hope not to go over the ravine. Fortunately the combination of the thick bed of sand that lined the ten or so inches between the road and the drop I was never going to walk away from in tandom with the tree I threw my arms around for grim life were enough to bring me to a halt
    The maniac drove on but one of the guys he overtook stoped and came back to me. He said in his broken English that that driver was "loco' mad in the head" he then went on to say "you are a very lucky man, God holds you in his hand". I did think that was a particularly poetic turn of phrase, even if I have always seen myself as a batter for the other side

    The terrible roads are taking their toll on my bike; both front racks are broken and held together with string and duct tape. They clearly need to be replaced as soon as possible.
    I’ll look in “Sibiu” tomorrow but I haven’t seen any other touring cyclists in weeks and doubt they get many (in any) in these parts.
    I may well have to take a detour towards “Sofia” in Bulgaria to have any chance of replacing broken equipment.


    A typical and charming Rumanian church with obligatory silver domes
  7. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty One - Monday 18th June 2012   
    Beius (ROM) to Abrud (ROM)

    Today was the toughest stage so far but by far the most spectacular.
    I made my way from “Beius down the busy E79 to “Lunca” where I took the 75 and was soon to face my first real mountain climb of the tour. In a mere 20km I climbed 1000m but the descent was through some stunning countryside as I followed the course of the river through the ski resort of “Vartop” and some lovely villages such as “Izlaz”, “Arieseni”, “Raul Valcea” “Ursoaia”, “Vadu Motilor”, the thriving town of “Campeni” and on to “Abrud”. It was 35c at the bottom of the climb and only slightly cooler at the summit.
    As tough as today was I am fully aware that the big climbs are in a couple of days time.


    Making my way across the Transylvanian mountains


    The charming village or Vartop
  8. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Twenty - Sunday 17th June 2012   
    Sarkad (H) to Beius (ROM)

    Today was the hottest day yet at 38c. With no cloud cover, covering up was the order of the day. I wore the desert scarf which has turned out to be an inspired purchase.
    I made my way across the border and into the busy town of “Salonta” and then through “Tulca”, “Tinca”, “Soimi” and on to the busy town of “Beius” where on spotting a pension and the heat sapping my strength I decided to call it a day.
    The woman who ran the establishment asked where I’d cycled from and when I told her England she called out for all the staff to witness my tale. She later went on to tell me that they had never had a touring cyclist stay here before.
    This pension also runs a popular restaurant with a large stone oven where pizza’s are cooked to order. I enjoyed a large one and a couple of bottles of surprisingly good Romanian lager before heading to bed for an early night and a bed, something I hadn’t enjoyed since back in the Czech Republic which seemed so long ago.


    Desperately trying to protect myself from the oppressive sun in those early days
  9. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Nineteen - Saturday 16th June 2012   
    Biharnagybajom (H) to Sarkad (H)

    Another frustrating day, inasmuch as I made my way to the road on my GPS route only to find that it was also closed to bicycles. There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps some 16km in the stifling heat that was now up to 35c in search of another route.
    Through the back roads and cratered lanes I made my way through “Zsaka”, “Furta”, “Komadi”, “Zsadany” and on to “Sarkad”
    I must admit to feeling somewhat apprehensive about entering Romania after hearing some of the things people have had to say to me today. But what the Hell I’m not one for quitting.
  10. Like
    Sean Barker got a reaction from stumpy for a blog entry, Stage Eighteen - Friday 15th June 2012   
    Tiszasuly (H) to Biharnagybajom (H)

    Another rain free day but boy was it hot! It was 32c out on the road and keeping hydrated was the order of the day, it is now quite noticeable how much more fluid I am taking on board.
    I followed my GPS course through “Kunhegyes”and on to “Karcag”, where I hit the E60 motorway and couldn’t go any further by bike, so I followed my compass in the hope of picking up a road taking a favourable direction. After spending the late afternoon and evening totally lost I found myself in the village of “Biharnagybajom” and made camp in the forest just beyond.
    I’m hoping to pick up my intended route sometime tomorrow
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