Another two long days in the saddle as I succumbed to the temptation to bang out some miles again, taking only two days to cover distance that was scheduled for four. As a result, I’ve arrived in Sighisoara, Romania, seven days ahead of schedule, despite having just enjoyed five unscheduled nights in Kiev.
It was a foggy early morning in Kiev on Friday 11th July, so I lazed about the hotel a bit and had a late breakfast. The sun had burnt off the haze by 10.00am, so I got underway and headed to Klevan, near Rivne. I had seen an internet image doing the rounds about amazing places, and one of the featured places was the Tunnel of Love in Klevan. As I was in the general area, it was an opportunity for some interesting photos.
I covered the 350km to the general vicinity by about 3.00pm, but the GPS coordinates from Wikipedia took me to the front gates of a factory. I made some enquiries with the factory security staff who called down a guy who speaks English. He was bemused that tourists would travel to the town to see ‘that thing’, saying it was a ‘tunnel of negligence’ rather than a tunnel of love. Anyway, he kindly gave me directions so that I could find it. On the way, I saw that if you drive to the town of Klevan, the tunnel is signposted as the Love Tunnel.
Once I arrived at the parking area for the tunnel, I recorded the GPS coordinates (will be added here later) to assist those who might be following behind me. An enterprising woman and her daughter have put up some decorations in the parking area and are selling souvenirs, as well as insect repellent. The mosquitoes were coming in thick and fast, so repellent would be very useful!
The tunnel seems to be becoming a popular spot for visitors, as there were several couples there during my visit. I was the odd one out, visiting the ‘love tunnel’ all alone! As you can see from the photos, the trees have grown wild around the railway track but the regular passing of the train has created a tunnel.
Klevan was supposed to be the final destination for Friday but it was only 4.00pm when I left the tunnel, so I decided to begin the journey to Kamanets-Podolsky and the Romanian border. My intention was to drive until about 8.00pm then find a cafe with a parking lot so that I could eat dinner and then sleep in the Defender. Unfortunately, about 8.00pm, the Garmin decided that the ‘fastest route’ was along some narrow, pot-holed back roads. By the time I came out on a decent road in a village, it was almost dark. I was able to get some directions from a local resident that were more realistic than the Garmin was providing and then I found the first lay-by on that road, where I climbed into the back and went to sleep (without any dinner).
That quiet lay-by turned out to be very popular after midnight, with several cars pulling in during the night, playing music and holding loud conversations. As it got light at 5.00am, I pulled out with music still playing! Within 15 minutes, I was pulled over by the police with the blues and reds flashing! He didn’t speak English and after looking blankly at my passport, driving licence and vehicle registration, he started pointing into the rear of the Defender and trying to pronounce ‘baggage’. I was having none of it. I wasn’t about to start pulling out my gear onto the (wet) side of the road for this guy’s amusement, so I kept playing dumb. Finally, in frustration, he waved me away.
I got to the Ukaraine-Romania border about 9.30am and it was a speedy border-crossing. I was through both sides within an hour which was very pleasant after the usual 3-hour crossing in Russia and Central Asia. I plugged Sighisoara into the Garmin and kept driving. There were several mountain passes (all smooth tarmac) as I crossed the Carpaithian Mountains, heading south.There was another police stop – this time because one of my headlights was out (I’ll sort that out in the morning) but once again, not speaking the lingo worked a treat and I was sent on my way.
The speed limit on open roads in Romania is 100kph, but in built-up areas it is 50kph. The roads constantly run through towns and villages, so it is a rare stretch of road that allows speeds to get up to 80-90km. Add into the mix the twists and turns of the mountain passes, and forward progress was generally pretty slow. But it was nice to be in the beautiful Romanian countryside.
On reaching Sighisoara, I tried to find the campsite for which I had GPS coordinates. No luck! And I didn’t take a note of the campsite phone number. Oh well, it was sprinkling with rain anyway, and after two long rainy days, I wasn’t in the mood to keep searching for the campsite. I saw a bunch of motorcycles parked outside the Hotel Korona in the middle of town. If it’s good enough for a bunch of bikers, it’s good enough for me. A quick check at reception and I was soon booked in for two nights. When I saw the pool and terrace area I was quite surprised. This isn’t an overlander’s place – it’s quite fancy! But it was a great place to hang out for the early evening – have dinner and a few beers whilst updating the blog. There’ll be time tomorrow to do some sightseeing.