Today, July 18th, was my last day as a twenty-something and what better way to have spent it than journeying towards Sibiu, Romania, a town I remembered from my days as an analyst and a town that now promised us free beer for the whole evening. Another informal checkpoint, a small pub in Sibiu which was owned by presumably a friend of the Mongol Rally, boasted to provide free beer to ralliers all night long making this a stop we desperately wanted to make.
Having crossed the border into Romania and paying for the necessary insurances and road taxes, we were well on our way to making it to the free beer haven for the day. Romania was particularly a welcome sight for me because I realized that this is the one country on our journey where Spanish and Italian mildly translate here. I was better able to make myself understood than in any other country so far, save for France due to elementary French skills.
The first town we encountered in Romania was a basic one with modest services and the occasional horse-drawn buggy. The one oddity about it was the vast number of elaborately designed and mansion sized homes that appeared to be vacant. No one ever gave us a clear explanation for why these were built, but if you happen to be in the market for a bargain priced mansion in the middle of nowhere, Ciorani is the place to be. Further on the outskirts of town we were so excited to have spotted our first road side prostitutes. I wanted to scream out the window and let them know that Liam Neeson was on his way from Albania to come save them but my jokes are always lost on both the locals and pretty much everyone else who doesn’t have the same taste in cinematic art.
It wouldn’t be a regular day on the rally for us if we didn’t hit our daily obstacle at a crucial point in the day and so we did just a few hours outside of Sibiu. After an hour long traffic hold up we began driving steadily and heard that terrifying rattling noise that put Money Pit out of commission in the first place. Eyes bugging out, Dillion didn’t waste any time pulling off into the conveniently placed gas station only 100 meters away. We lifted the hood and out came a bunch of steam from the bubbling water reservoir. It appeared that we stopped the car just in time and now had to wait a half hour for the car to cool down. Dillion also took the time to fill up the radiator with water in what was to be the 2nd round of several hundred of filling up this radiator.
In the time it took us to pull up and open the hood, we were already being approached by an opportunistic salesman (I use the term loosely) to get his cut out of our troubles. He attempted to try and help us with the car by giving us the ever so helpful advice of waiting for the car to cool down. I admittedly left Dillion to deal with him because I figured they could talk cars or something and I wouldn’t have to deal with him. When I came back though he had already sucked Dillion into a conversation about how little money he makes per year and how it’s such a problem he has having 3 kids. I really detest people who complain about having too many children. Knowing we’d be here for a while listening to this crap though I went through my change purse and found the smallest bills in preparation for the “give me money” plea. I did end up giving him a few bucks and oddly enough he tried to give me designer perfume that he was selling. Then I realized, oh it’s stolen or it fell off a truck. Somebody judged me later for saying it was stolen but logically speaking, no traveling salesman who’s aching for cash gives away perfume that retails for $70 for a few bucks. This belief was further confirmed when he then tried to sell us a $500 smartphone that suspiciously came with apps already loaded and a carrying case.
Sketchy salesman behind us, the car had cooled down and we cautiously drove into Sibiu, making it in time for the free beer and festivities. This was one promise that didn’t fall short. When we entered the bar with our empty mugs, the lady hosting this event pointed us over to the group’s dedicated table with two beer taps. Dillion and I looked at each and literally fought our way to the taps to see who could get there first. I believe my left boob was even restrained at one point. Again, I do admire Dillion’s steadfast focus on the mission sometimes. We both got our beers in due time and set about doing the socializing thing.
Morning came and with it, my 30th birthday, something I guess I’m supposed to whine about but in reality, I could care less except for the fact that I did want a bit of a celebration. Unfortunately for me, our afternoon was spent looking for a Suzuki mechanic to take a look at our car. Dillion discovered that the car was overheating due to a faulty fan. After an hour or two of wrong turns and false hopes in the city of Brasov, we arrived at the proper mechanic and settled down to play the wait and ‘guess how much this will set us back’ game. As it turned out, this was much easier than expected. The English speaking mechanic named Bobby, quickly set about diagnosing Money Pit, while I was allowed to sit at his computer in the garage and watch funny YouTube videos. In no more than 15 minutes, he effortlessly discovered that two wires had been switched haphazardly thus causing the fan to not turn on. He made the switch and sent us off on our way free of charge. I was feeling a bit emotionally drained that morning due to the car frustrations and felt overwhelmed by his helpfulness and generosity. Dillion shook his hand and I gave him a space invading bear hug.
The rest of the day was relatively smooth sailing for us. We ventured on a scenic route through the Carpathians and I realized that being too nervous about the car overheating again led me to forget to pull the camera out for some pictures. Money Pit managed the winding climb well enough though, topping out at 3,500 feet. Continuing on to Constanta, a beach resort town on the Black Sea, we encountered more small towns with their individual quirks. One town was populated with dozens of men who were selling large fish on the side of the road and another had the same dozen men but with no fish. These men just held their arms out and we decided that they were selling hugs. Once we arrived, Constanta, the scene was quite similar to Miami Beach, one long strip of beach with numerous clubs. On Oha beach towards the northern end, we found numerous campsites, a sight not so familiar on American beaches.