To the sea.
At last we’re on a cliff top overlooking the sea.
It has been 14 weeks and 4900 miles since I last saw the sea. The longest I’ve missed it.
Corbu may not be the best, but I’m very happy to be here.
But first we have two days of travel.
I left you with the youths at 2am who rather than smashing stuff up had come to our overnight spot for a raucous sing song and to play the accordion.
Was that just a week? It feels like months ago.
By the morning the rains had come. You know that crass phase of biblical proportions….
The inundation lasted a few hours and left the small town under a sea of muddy water. Everywhere folk were sweeping out paths and gardens.
A big truck had brought its pump to clear drains that had no chance against the deluge and its cargo of trees, debris and dead dogs.
A mile out of town a new river was ripping across fields and had flooded the road. We forded it, nervously.
We were neither brave nor foolhardy, we watched a few Romanians go across first, then followed their route through the mud.
Curiously their preparation for their auto-swimming was to secure their front number plates with cable ties, or to remove them altogether. I suspect that registrations stay with the person rather than the car and so the plates are easy to remove, easy for a river that is.
Since the monasteries of the north we haven’t seen anything more historic than the old houses that are still in everyday use, but now it’s the turn of the Romans and even the Greeks.
The original Greek city of Histria was founded in c.7thBC to control trade access to the Danube. It flourished for centuries, later in the hands of the Romans, until c.7thAD by which time it had been weakened by successive attacks and eventually abandoned.
Imagine being born that long ago and having to count your age backwards…
Its museum is a rather random collection of broken pots and not very good photographs. It’s a shame that the information was scant, but that left you to paint your own picture.
Wandering the ruins was far more interesting.
There are enough walls left to make it easy to piece the town together. Only a few stones of its original marble pavement left in tact, but it’s ample to set your imagination running, picturing the great of the town parading in their togas across gleaming white streets.
Putting down roots.
For most people roots involve a major investment in place.
For us, at the moment, roots are more like any stay of over two nights.
ArchieVan’s on the cliffs again.
When we pulled up on Sunday afternoon we both felt an excitement that has been missing for a few weeks.
We just sat there, in the van, gazing out at it.
It’s only water, but its draw is inescapable for anyone who has lived within its aura.
The Black Sea hardly compares to the Atlantic crashing into Cape Cornwall, or Penanven on a blustery day, but right now it looks pretty good.
The litter all around the approach is off putting.
The slew of decrepit vans that appear to be permanent features of the car park put us off a bit too.
But the beach is good and the water helped wash some of the pond stench from Polly’s coat.
Enterprising folk have set up makeshift beach bars with little more than a few sticks and an awning. In a country that’s so hot in summer that’s all you need. If it rains it flows right through, but give it an hour and it’ll be dry again. Last night we bantered with lads running a place where the beer was about 80p a pint. The first pint I ever bought must have cost more than that.
VanLife – pump.
Our water pump has been dodgy since we started. In April it was fixed, but it is unhappy again, losing more water out the back than into the sink.
We’ve tracked a place down in Bucharest that stocks the same make, and does repairs.
In the meantime the morning scrub at the sink has become a two person affair. I turn the pump on briefly as Minty fills her cup to wash her hair (two and a half cups, wash and rinse).
Our already minimal water use will need to become more frugal, or we’ll simply need to find more. We’re not cooking much in this heat and so that reduces the need.
While her hair was still wet I cut it. Short.
Short curly hair – the difference between a bad cut and good is about two days. Deeply tanned, she looks like a proper traveller, ready for the beach.
It’s 36 degrees at the moment, but somehow it has more impact in old money. I looked up 36 and was shocked to see that’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t feel such a whimp for my lethargy now that I know that.
Fortunately at our cliff top location there’s a cooling breeze from the sea and we’ve slept well for the first time in ages.
Late in the evening, as the sun falls, the mosquitoes come out, mosquitoes and their buzzy mates who look like house flies, but are faster, louder and bitier.
We manage until bed time, but then the van becomes a death zone as Ninja Minty unleashes hell with her fly swat. It can take half an hour to rid the air, and there are always strays that evade the first sweep. It sounds drastic, but that sweet drift into your first dream sequence can be badly interrupted by a mossie announcing her blood sucking intent. They have to go.
We spent three great nights on our cliff top.
A gentle routine quickly established.
Long (for Polly) walks including a swim.
After breakfast stroll to the deliciously laid back Unbar for noon coffees (and good toilets, it’s a focus of van life).
The afternoon on the beach. Much swimming.
Fetch Polly late afternoon for another swim, with sticks.
Two drinks in the beach shack.
Dinner of van dahl.
And good sleeps. Oh the joy of cooler nights and long sleeps.
Most of the bars around here are most informal affairs, knocked up with a few sheets of sterling board (and lots of packets of crisps).
Unbar feels a little more sorted, but only a little.
From early in the morning when doggo and I walk by there’s a youth on keyboard, or spinning some mellow tunes.
Most of the staff seem to spend their time in the hammocks, while someone hammers nails into bits of wood.
In the evening cooking is a communal (male) activity with fire, much meat and many onions.
Only a few kms north of the Bulgarian border is Vama Veche. It’s not quite a hippy colony anymore, but it’s still an alternative place where many live in shredded tents along the cliff tops, some right on the edge.
Clothing is optional and it’s a spotters delight.
Two fabulously fat men sprawl like beached whales, their tackle as brown as any other inch of them.
A girl rubs oil on and I admire her slinky knickers, but Minty points out that her knickers are just a rather fine tattoo.
Yes, there are the young and beautiful, but it’s the uninhibited old that are most interesting.
It seems that the clothed beach goers arrive later. When Polly and I swim at 8am the beach is already busy, and no one has a stitch on.
And the town?
It’s heaving with people. Busier than anywhere we’ve been since we crossed the old Iron Curtain.
I’d avoid any normal resort, but this place is ace.
There’s all the tat for sale that you’ll see in Benidorm. Clothes that look wonderful on the beautiful beach people that wouldn’t be quite the same in Croydon. Temporary tattoos, henna tattoos, ink tattoos. The food shops are rammed with booze but stock hardly anything to eat, and nothing fresh. Delicious looking dirty food at stalls that can’t produce it fast enough. Burgers, kebabs, pizzas, crepes and charred corn on the cob. Talented musicians play on the street, on the beach, in bars. A rock bar where I was served by a local lad who was just back from working in Sheffield. Rock – like real rock, rock that was rock when I was too young to enjoy it. Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motorhead. Tunes all night – I woke to an electro funk rendition of Bolerro at 6am.
And everything’s covered in a skein of sand and dust.
On the roadside, dusty cars look as if they were abandoned months ago. And the cars? Most are the usual tired Dacias, but it’s fun spotting the ludicrously expensive ones among them. Range Rovers. AMG Mercs. Mad huge Audi Q7s made twice as costly by a tuning house. And just as dusty, a beautiful 1970s Mercedes 450SLC with green velour interior. If I could choose one of these cars it wouldn’t be anything expensive, it’d be the SLC. If 20 mpg wasn’t a problem I’d have one right now.
In the rough scrub where we’re parked most sleep in tents. Up the hill there are old vans airbrushed with dolphins, wolves, and psychedelic colours. Many seem to be returning to the soil. And nearly all are Romanian.
The level of rubbish is depressing, especially as there are plenty of bins. Unfortunately it’s something you have to get used to here. We always take away more than we bring, but the concept seems alien to many. That aside it’s all learning for us, and must seem so radical for a country that was a communist dictatorship only a few decades ago.
By the time you read this we’ll probably be south of the border in Bulgaria. Our three nights in Vama Veche were a great experience. Experience is the purpose of travel. Vama has served us well.
Vama – should you go?
The town certainly isn’t for everyone, many turn in the parking area without even finding a spot. Its dirt, grime and disorderliness help people self select. But if you’re liberal enough to give it a try then it’s interesting to observe your own reactions. After three days little comes as a surprise, you stop noticing that many of the people around you are naked. And you become a lot less confined by the conventions you’re used to. After all, trying to change on a beach is so much easier without a towel…