Day 7: Crossing the Danube
Leaving the fleas behind, Team OMJ and Team Adventure for Dementia checked out of the hostel and began heading South via Bucharest for the Bulgarian border. A full day’s drive was ahead of us. Aside from the odd hill or two at the start, after the Transalpina yesterday, the rest of Romania’s roads were considerably flatter. We again split with Team OMJ who couldn’t cope with the slow speeds were we moving at. Their Mini Moke would overheat if it went below 50 mph, so we agreed to rendezvous at the Bulgarian campsite we’d planned for the night.
On the way to the capital, we passed a few village slums and continued to get interested looks from the local tribes who were probably trying to work out what our four wheeled plastic crate was. Eventually the poor quality roads turned into decent flat tarmac courtesy of the EU, we were told. Surprisingly, these were pretty much empty except from the odd gypsy with their horse and cart going down the wrong side of the road.
Cooking in the urban sweat box, we decided to park on the edge of the city and walk into Bucharest, a decision that we would later regret. We found ourselves walking the best part of 5 miles to get to the city centre during the hottest part of the day when temperatures soared to a high of 40 degrees. We know this because we bought a cheap thermometer from an electrical shop during our wander around the city.
We grabbed some lunch and walked around the Bucharest parliament building which is apparently the heaviest building in the world. Another useful fact you always wanted to know. You’re welcome.
After our accidental hike around the city and with another 5 mile walk back to the car, we were both feeling worn out, but we started the onward journey to the Bulgarian border anyway. We hoped catch up with Team OMJ before we reached the campsite, but Bucharest took us longer than expected.
A slow cruise later, we were within inches of the Bulgarian border when we took a wrong turn. We ended up getting swamped by very large local women trying to sell us coffee. We weren’t thirsty though so ended up disappointing them. We got our bearings together and worked out how to get to the border crossing which was a huge bridge crossing the Danube River. We were glad to leave the women and their ginormous udders behind.
Being greeted by Bulgarian officials, the temperature gauge started to rapidly increase and yet again we had stumbled into another issue with the cooling system. Nursing the powder puff to the nearest petrol station, we started to troubleshoot the issue. It turned out the front cooling fan stopped working all together which started to seriously cook the car. The temperature dial hit an all time high of 118 degrees while the car was sat stationary in the border queue. Luckily however, the temperature had dropped that night so we decided to let it cool down naturally and continue our crawl to the campsite with the front fan removed.
Using our off road spotlights for the first time, navigating through the dark B roads of Bulgaria was extremely scary and dangerous. On multiple occasions on our way Veliko Tarnovo campsite we were nearly ran off the road by kind Turkish lorry drivers who were proceeding with some very daring overtakes in limited light conditions. Roughly 2 hours later, with the engine temperature rising and the oil pressure diminishing we had arrived at the campsite. We rolled through the front gates at around 1am and saw where Mikey and Pete from Team OMJ setup their tent. We put ours up nearby trying not to make too much noise to wake our neighbours. We were too tired and lazy to put both tents up so both of us bundled into a single tent.