The road trip
The road trip for our ecoventure was uniquely different from any other Erasmus+ Youth Exchange or any other project we have heard of. And it truly was a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable experience.
Some of us, basically the Romanian team, were lucky to arrive at the wild camping near Robaia after a relatively short car or bus ride, not tired and ready to face the challenges of camping in the wild. The other team, well, had a long road in front of them, a road that I experienced personally on the way back home… I’ll reach that point later in my story.
I and Dan had to drive to Argeș county from Cluj Napoca, the city where we are studying, and we decided to take the scenic route through Transfagarasan against everyone’s advice (including our previous experiences on the road) that it would be too crowded and we’d wait in traffic for a long time. We, however, got lucky and got to see the amazing scenery and a mamma bear with her baby bears next to the road without being stuck in traffic at all.
Unfortunately, just after we started to descend the mountain, the worst rainstorm I’ve ever seen was bestowed on us for the remainder of the drive. We had gotten away with traffic, but the downpour was so bad that we could not see the road and everyone was going 20 km/h trying not to miss the next turn. Thus, the remaining 60 km were covered in about as much time as the first 240km, but we did eventually arrive and were pleased to see people sitting around the little barbecue underneath a tarp, sheltered from the rain and chatting joyously.
The pros of having our own cars right there next to us, instead of a rented bus, became evident in just a few hours. While we were camped in the wild, the shops were 15 minutes away in case we needed something and we managed to do things like – collecting wood, getting water supplies, seeing the surrounding, etc. – things that we probably couldn’t have gone to otherwise. Also, we felt a lot safer this way since we could have reached the town and the municipal hospital in a maximum of 30 minutes in case of emergencies.
The drive from Romania to Bulgaria would’ve been pretty uneventful if it weren’t for the Greek team, well, at least one of them. At 8:55 he was in the car, ready to leave, and at 9 AM, the time agreed upon a day prior, he “packed” all his team into the car and left, as he clearly pointed out in our last meeting. Almost no one else was ready.
Seeing that and my car being ready for the trip to lake Batak, we up and left 5 minutes after the Greeks. We stopped for gas, to buy a month of BG vignette and also went to the supermarket in Bulgaria to grab some food, snacks and something to drink. We thought the Greeks would be long gone by then, but they sent a photo of them sitting at a restaurant, eating. And we were on the freeway, around 80km away. So…the whole thing kind of turned into a bit of an unofficial race. We cut all stops off except one stop for gas and were anxious to see who would arrive first. Yeah, we are still kids and crazy, but we promise, it was always safety first! The “race” was close, but we got there around 4 to 5 minutes earlier. Obviously, when we saw them, we all yelled “Μαλακάς!!!”
On the road it was nice, we all the time kept in touch, chatting, sharing food at the border while waiting to cross and enjoying the people watching – why in the hell someone from a car registered in Romania is giving food to someone in a car registered in Bulgaria and a car registered in Greece?! To anticipate the things – “what kind of weird combination is this?”.
One thing this drive made me realize was that my car’s AC was not up to the task of dealing with 35+ degree heat, so I had to get it fixed before going to Greece. Thankfully, Angel, one of the Bulgarian participants, knew the area and we went to refill the refrigerant. After checking the level, the guy said there’s enough refrigerant and that the cabin air filters are clogged. He shook Angel’s hand and said smiling: “Ten leva is the thank you”. We couldn’t find replacement filters so we went back to camping and had to do “o romaneasca”, something only a true Romanian would do. We took out the old filters, unclogged them with bamboo skewers and cleaned them up with wet wipes and then, stuck’em back in. It worked like a charm.
We set off to Greece, AC as strong as an industrial freezer. Except that, our car went to the wrong border crossing. We didn’t know that we should avoid the border crossing near Kulata so we just followed Waze. And follow we did, straight into a 3km traffic jam while everyone else was sending pics and messages saying “We’re in Greece!”. We were completely stuck. And, because we hit the jackpot, the AC decided to barely work since there was no airflow. For 4 hours, we put up T-shirts on the windows and drove looking around a car sunshade stuck to the windscreen.
Driving in Greece was kind of horrifying, the roads were good but everyone seemed to sort of obey their own traffic laws and everything was a bit chaotic. But we had a ton of fun, listened to obnoxiously loud music and really bonded by the time we hit our final stop in Greece. Spending hours upon hours in a car with the same people really makes you get to know one another.
The road back was really long, and at times the traffic was really annoying, especially when a 3-lane highway turns into one lane through a very long tunnel. We left Greece at 11 AM (yeah, no more Greeks to push us in our cars at the set-up time!) and got to Romania, where, one by one, its participant to its home, and each of us arrived home.
It is useless to speak about all the emotions we couldn’t let behind, so we are carrying them with us during this whole long road called life.
Ecoventure bit: „What kind of weird combination is this?”
Well, this is not really my story to tell since I was stuck in the wrong border, but the stories are meant to be said, doesn’t matter from whom. We were (ok – they were) at Kato Nevrokopi border between Bulgaria and Greece. Some of the cars decided to mix up, so in each of them was a mix of Romanians, Bulgarian and Greeks. At the border only one check-point, so all the cars passed through the same guy that was carefully (not really carefully) was checking all of our documents. The first message in the group – we are in Greece! The second message on the group – We are in Greece! The third, the fourth and… for a while… silence! Ok.. we were stuck, but what happened with the fifth?
Well… at a moment, the guy at the border got suspicious and stopped our friends at the border – this time, checking carefully all the documents! After a while, he said – Romanians, Bulgarians and Greeks in a car? What kind of weird combination is this?
We started to explain to them about our project and everything, but our story didn’t seem to pay off… in about 5 minutes we were approached by a sniffing dog and in less than 2 seconds, he conquered our car and smelled every little corner of it.
At that moment we were thinking about only one thing – what kind of weird combination is this?
The content for this post is part of our online blog called “Ecoventure” which aims to share our experience in the Erasmus+ Youth Exchange ”Ecotourism Ventures for Youth Environmental Education”. The project was financed with the support of the European Commission through Erasmus+ Programme. This blog reflects only the author’s views, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
We got to work… One morning amidst our adventures in Greece, we all gathered for a brainstorming session. What we had were a bunch of people, tons of ideas, a lot of enthusiasm. Of course, we had to make use of all our resources, including the beach right in front of our camping and the drone we had with us…
Chalkidiki except for a great place for vacation or an Erasmus+ program is a natural gem of Greece. Lying in the Macedonia region and being one of the 13 units of it, it is the end of Central Macedonia in the Aegean Sea, which penetrates deep into it (talking about geology please concentrate)…
During one of our last days in the project, we came across a very unpleasant surprise… while in Greece, at the far end of the rocks, we found a dead baby dolphin. It was an infant, no more than a couple of days old.
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