I had cycled up a hill so huge, that it can only be called a mountain. As I came close to the top of a road that reaches high up into the Carpathians, I was greeted by a great metaphor for the troubles that life can throw your way every once in a while; thick ominous dark grey cloud loomed over the top of the peaks, pouring it’s payload over the evergreens and remnants of snowdrift.
I was making my way across the Transalpina, a road that takes you up 2145m into the Romanian stretch of the Carpathian mountain range, when I arrived in the ski-resort town of Ranca (pronounced more like Runca). It being spring at the time, the town was almost deserted, save for a few locals and one or two shops. Realising that I would be unable to pass the high peak on my bicycle and descend down the long and winding road to the other side safely, I found a shop to stop by, have a coffee and consider my options.
Warming my hands on the coffee and resting my tired legs on the plastic chairs outside the little shop, I remembered what my mother had told me about getting yourself out of difficult situations. She’s called it ‘calling on the cosmic network’, when you need something or someone to help you, when you’re at the end of your tether and things seem hopeless, you make an open call. This is very much a major part of her life, she has the ‘cosmic chair’ where you sit to have revelations and the ‘cosmic landline’ an old rotary dial phone, which is used exclusively for all important calls and good conversations. By giving these physical objects a certain purpose, she’s creating a catalyst for manifesting her dreams. If you sit in the ‘cosmic chair’, you know that it’s purpose is to help you think about your life and the decisions you make, therefore, you sit and think. Much like you know the purpose of a toaster is to make toast, therefore you use it to make toast with. My take on this, is ‘fishing in the stream of opportunity’, when there’s not much you can do to make the situation better without the right opportunity arising, you find the right spot, cast out your line and wait.
I knew I was in the right place when I went to leave the little shop and get back on my bike, three builders that had downed tools and were sat on some stools just across, beckoned me over to talk with them. Realising very quickly that I didn’t speak a word of Romanian, they offered me a swig of the mystery spirit that they were drinking from an old cola bottle. Very much warmed up by the quick of tott of what I assume was some kind of Rakija (a kind of Brandy which is very common over that side of Europe) I hopped back on my bike with big smiles and waves from the friendly builders, to continue over to the far side of town. There I found another shop that had a better stock of tinned food, where I stopped to pick up some things for dinner. The staple of my diet for the trip was rice and beans, not having much money and planning to get all the way back to the UK from Greece, via as many big mountain roads as I could manage. With my kidney beans stowed in my panniers, I stopped, watched and waited, imagining the possible outcomes of the situation.
There were smatterings of rain from the vanguard of the great storm cloud, whilst the last hours of daylight gently died away. I imagined finding a place to set up my tent on the sloping green space just outside of town, hoping that I would not get in trouble with the local authorities for wild camping on someone’s plot of land. I thought that maybe I would be able to find a small flat place, just covered by the branches of the trees, where the bears, wolves or shepherds dogs wouldn’t find me. Just as I was perusing my map and hoping that I would catch myself the perfect camping spot in the stream of opportunity, someone called over from the chairs outside the shop. The two local policeman, introduced themselves as Florine and Florine, one was stout and the other was lean. The stout Florine knew a little English, enough to offer me a coffee and ask my name, after that we used a translator on his phone to talk. He asked all about my trip, passing the details onto Florine and the young girl from the shop that had joined us. The girl from the shop was especially astounded by the whole thing, Florine would relay the details, her jaw would drop and she would look at me with wide quizzical eyes, then she would ask him a lot of questions and he would tap them into the translator.
At one point, they asked where I was going to stay that night, I told them that I was going to go out of town and find a place put my tent. Upon reading this there was a lot of discussion, then through the translator, Florine asked me to wait outside the shop for ten minutes. Slightly confused by the whole thing, being completely exhausted after a hard day’s ride, I simply sat there and wandered what was going on. They returned shortly afterwards and asked me to follow them to the police station, they took me and my bike inside and showed me upstairs to a room and said that I could stay there for the night. I had focused on what I needed in that moment when things weren’t going as well as I had hoped, and it had come to fruition, not exactly as I had imagined it, but much better! They let me use the shower and fed me well, that night I was able to have a long deep sleep and rest my body after the many nights of the camping in the woods, where I was regularly interrupted by strange noises in the night and the temperature drop in the early hours of the morning.
I awoke refreshed and was seen off by the two friendly policemen, who gave me some apples and a tin of fish for my journey. Snaking up the last section of road to the very top, I was joined by three gangly young pups, that seemed overjoyed to have something to chase that early in the morning. A little before the highest point, I stopped and got off my bike to walk up a grassy peak just above the road, to sit and have my oats for breakfast. Although, instead of making breakfast, I simply looked out across the mountainous vista and cried.
The only thing that had been on my mind for such a long time, was making it up to the top of a high peak, to stand there completely alone and think. I had cycled for weeks to make it there, I had crossed countries and mountains to get to this high point, and if I hadn’t believed that I could make it, and if I hadn’t met the right people at the right times and kept that image, that idea in my mind, I don’t think that I would have been able to achieve what I wanted; I don’t think I would have been able to get to where I needed to be.