Miorița

Today is a sad day. Today, on my way from El Calafate to the Chilean border, I ran over a sheep. Today I want to tell the story of Miorița. I didn’t kill the sheep, but I must have hurt it pretty badly because it was shaking and tried frantically to limp away from me when I approached her on foot.

The tale of Miorița was related to me in Samarqand, Uzbekistan by a group of shady-looking Romanians who were running the Mongol Rally, their team was called Free Miorița. The views about Romania in this article reflect what they tried to convey with this tale. As far as I remember anyway.

Miorița was a sheep. She was very fond of her shepherd and when she heard that two other shepherds, envious, were plotting to kill him in order to steal his herd, she went straight to him and told him about the danger to his life. Despaired, the shepherd asked Miorița that, should the worst befall him, she should make sure that he gets proper burial and never tell that he was murdered.

The actual poem is much longer and has other nuances but the point is that this tale symbolises the conformism and tragic mood of the Romanian people. Their aim as a team, and in their lives was to fight against this and debunk the myth of Miorița as a foundational story for the Romanians. I wish them good luck.

On my bike I have two stickers that they gave me and the other day I was about to cover one with another sticker. Maybe now I won’t. I have been meaning to write about this story for a very long time but somehow I couldn’t fit it anywhere. Now seems to be as good a moment as any.

Miorița
Miorița

Of course the sheep I ran over has nothing to do with Miorița but I felt sorry for it as I felt sorry for the shepherd when I heard the tale for the first time.

The bike didn’t suffer any damage as far as I can tell but I did get a hell of a scare. After hitting it, I lost control of the bike for about 20 meters. I didn’t think at any moment that I would come off, though.

By the way, sheep are not usually that stupid. Most sheep run away from the road when they see you coming. This particular flock was having a cow day and decided to cross the road when they saw me coming at 100kph.

321

Wikipedia says 321, the Lonely Planet says 320. Tonight I stopped at Walpole, Western Australia for the night and I was complaining about the quality of wifi and the fact that Vodafone doesn’t cover this “city” when I decided to check the total population.
On a more cheerful note, this morning when I was leaving the campground I saw a kangaroo for the first time. Two kangaroos actually.

Not the kangaroos
Not the kangaroos
No, those are obviously not the kangaroos. Those are Myriam and Koen, the gentle Dutch couple that camped on the site next to mine and shared dinner with me. I had beef sausages, they had vegetables. I had wine, they had chocolate. I had bread, they had, well, they had bread too. And fruit! They had everything that I can’t carry on the bike. We had dinner together and a lot of fun chatting into the night. They are from Utrecht and they are travelling in a rented van for a month around Western Australia. Naturally, this morning they wanted to share their breakfast with me too and even though I didn’t have anything to contribute, they shared pancakes and coffee. Awesome breakfast! Thanks!
While I went on with packing, they left to try to find some drinking water and the way to the beach so when I set off, I didn’t expect to see them again but when I was almost at the exit, I saw them on a side road and they were pointing somewhat excitedly to somewhere where there was not the exit of the camp so I pulled the break, turned around and came back to where they were and started looking at them quizzically. They were still pointing at something behind me, so I looked.

Kangaroos
Kangaroos
The 2 kangaroos
The 2 kangaroos
 Later, on the road, I saw a dead one. That happens a lot in Australia, they get hit by cars that drive in the evening or early morning and they die.

Chinese trains – Intro

Baby and durian
Can you spot the durian?

Not only there’s a shouting baby in my compartment, his mom has brought some durian as a snack. I think this summarizes pretty well what it means to take a train in China.

Kronstadt

Brasov's fortress
Brasov’s fortress

Three days are not enough to know Romania but they may be just enough to fall in love with the country. Romanians are so kind that when you pull out your map, before you even finish unfolding it, there is already someone asking you “Unde something something?” or event better if they speak English: “Where are you going?”. Always ready to point you in the right direction. Not always ready to admit that they don’t know the place you are trying to reach, though.

That last “morning” in Brașov was an interesting experience. Needless to say I didn’t wake up early, after finishing that last post so late, I could only wake up later than before. It’s ok, I wasn’t in any hurry, the road to Bucharest is not very long. Only I didn’t count on the total randomness of life to slow me down to the point I didn’t have time to visit Bucharest at all. I did take a better look at beautiful Brașov though.

German couple
The first Germans of the day

I set off at noon, a good time to set off if you are looking forward to melting inside your riding jacket and you know I’m always looking forward to that! I wanted to take a closer look at the Black Church and was hesitating to go into the sidewalk with the bike to get closer to the entrance when I saw another travel bike with its bikers right by the church’s entrance. That was my cue so I got closer. It turned out to be a very nice German couple travelling around Eastern Europe. We talked for a while and they recommended me a monastery to visit in the Turkish border. I might just go if I leave early from Sunny Beach. I took a regular I-ve-been-here pic of the church and left for the other church in Brașov and the first Romanian school. There I was, lazy me trying to figure out how to get closer to the church without leaving the bike when the usual Romanian kindness pushed some guy on a bike to ask me where I was trying to get to and where I came from. He spoke French and was happy to speak French with me. t turned out to be a German-Romanian whose claims to fame were many, one I can remember was to have founded the Romanian ski school.

Nicolae Chibac
Nicolae Chibac on his smallest bike (he had at least 2 more in the garage)

His name is Nikki Chibac and he invited me to this house on the hill. Little did I know that it would mean my first fall with the bike, and the second one too. See, I said house on the hill and conveniently omitted to mention that to get to it the only way was a little dirt trail ending in a very steep curve. Yes, that was my cue to touch the floor. No harm to me or the bike apart from a scratch on the left pannier. In no time I was surrounded by 3 of his gipsy workers that were helping me to pick up the bike and asking me in broken English if I had ran out of gas. Shame on me, I answered “no, no, bad driver”, countering his broken English with my own brew of broken English. After showing me the property and taking me on a hike up the hill to show me the road to Poiana Brașov that I should take if I wanted to go to Bran before leaving for Bucharest, he invited me to soup but I had to refuse. It was already 3pm and with my proverbial slowness, I was never going to get to the capital before nightfall if I stayed for the soup. Pity, it would have been my first home cooked Romanian meal. On the way out, I fell again and this time, 4 of the gipsies and Nikki himself took me down the ramp carrying the bike with small steps of clutch release and brake. After a brief reminder by Nikki of how I should ride a trail, I was off on my way to Bran. The rest of the road was uneventful, beautiful but uneventful. The only thing to say is that I ran into a lot of bikers. With these roads, there had to be bikers. I got to Bucharest very late as expected. It was still day but not for long, time to go for dinner at a Romanian restaurant, my first since I hit the Romanian roads.

View from a hill
The view of Brasov from Nikki’s hill

PS: Kronstadt is the German name of Brașov