Monday, 25 June 2018

Day 19 - A supposed rest day in Satu Mare

Thank goodness for a rest day! So much for that! Today wasn’t much of one as things turned out but I made some important strides to ensuring that next time I get a puncture the show can go on. 

I was very relieved that the hotel that I’m staying in offered to do my washing. If another day passed then my kit would be walking itself to Moscow! I handed over the washing to the receptionist and was very apologetic as I did so.

The day started with a bit of a walk around Satu Mare town centre. The Central Park was very nice and well maintained and I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the sunshine.

I found Satu Mare’s Administrative Palace to be a bit of a strange building. It’s the tallest building in Transylvania. It kind of reminded me of the old Get Carter car park in Gateshead. It’s architecture is “brutalist” apparently. It’s very much like something T Dan Smith would have built.

On the way back from town I paid a visit to a local bike shop called Loui’s Bike Shop. I enquired as to whether they could construct a duplicate wheel for me. The thinking behind this is that I could simply slip the old wheel off when punctured and put the new one on. This would allow me to continue the journey without delay and fix the puncture, say at the end of the day. The guys at the shop said that they could in principle but they may need to order parts. I said that I would bring the wheel in to show them.

After I left the bike shop I passed a tool shop. I went inside and it was like Christmas! Racks and racks of spanners and tools. They had the tool that I needed but I wasn’t 100% sure that it was 17mm that I needed.

I walked back to the hotel and got the tool that I use to loosen the outside facing nut of my wheels. It was 17mm. One quick taxi ride back to the tool shop and back to the hotel with my new spanner meant I could take my problematic wheel off for the first time without any problems. My current tool set just hadn’t been good enough. I needed more torque when garages tighten the nuts beyond what I normally do.

I then took another taxi ride to the bike shop. The driver wouldn’t take any money after he learned about my fundraising.

I showed the lads at the bike shop the wheel. The good news was that they thought they had the parts but really needed to see the bracket on Chappie that the wheel fits in to. It was time for another taxi back to the hotel! I then walked the 1 mile with Chappie back to the bike shop. They confirmed that they had all of the parts and the wheel would be ready tomorrow.

Thanks to Loui’s Bike Shop for fitting me in. It was thought at one point that a part could take as long as Friday or Monday to arrive!

I walked back to the hotel with Chappie via the local supermarket to get some supplies. The main purchase was a razor and some shaving foam!

I went to the local tennis club for tea again and had chicken, salad and some home made chips. It was, yet again, delicious and only a little over £4 with a drink of coke.

As I walked back from the tennis club I saw Vasily, the man who introduced himself to me yesterday when I arrived at the hotel. He was tending to his garden, which was really a mini vineyard. He gave me a tour of the garden and his wine cellar.

He pointed to one drum of wine stating that it would be ready to drink in November.

We chatted about Satu Mare and its history. He told me about the different groups of people in Satu Mare now compared to in the fifties. He also mentioned that 18,000 Jewish people were sent to Auschwitz from the area during the war. There are now only a very small number of Jews in the city. 

Vasily knew that I was tired and didn’t keep me too long. I think we’ll have a longer conversation tomorrow. He’s a very interesting man and I find his English very easy to understand. I didn’t leave empty handed and he gave me a bottle of his wine to drink. He referred to it as “medicine” and insisted that it would help me sleep. I had a glass when I returned to the hotel. It was very nice indeed. Not bitter. Not sweet. Very passable!

Back in the hotel, I was able to speak to my border policeman friend Branko in Śid, Serbia via Facebook Messenger. It was the first time that I’d been able to speak to him and thank him for tipping off the Serbian border police at the crossing into Romania. He was one of the reasons my exit, as well as Chappie’s went so smoothly. I celebrated getting rid of my beard with a glass of Vasily’s wine and a soak of my feet in Tea Tree Oil.

The final act of the day was to read a sobering email from my contact in Kalush, Ukraine. “Hi Mark. I have been following your live posts on FB and I am so glad you reached Satu Mare with time to spare. I hope you can take a well deserved rest. I saw that you are taking the time to more deeply plot your next leg and I wanted to warn you about a few things. Judging from your videos, the roads in Romania are really so much better than Ukrainian roads. And if you are having problems with punctured tires there, you will have a much worse problem here. Also, the drivers here are even worse than the roads. Though the bad roads contribute to the bad driving, since they weave all over to avoid the potholes.”. 

The final paragraph did, at least, give me something to look forward to. “I am not writing to discourage you, but to help you prepare. Because Ukraine and its people are really wonderful.

Finally, I'd like to thank all those kind folk for sponsoring me today. The fund for this campaign is inching towards £36,000 which is absolutely brilliant at this stage of the run.

If you're enjoying my journey then please consider making a donation to St Benedict's Hospice via my Virgin Money Giving page here. Thanks in advance. Your support would be hugely appreciated.