Travel through the Balkans in Dacia

We are Agustín and Sol, travellers by choice, anthropologist and social educator by profession, together we form Raíces en Movimiento, anitinerant project.

Since 2010 we have been travelling the world with the aim of becoming aware of what is happening on the planet, getting to know new cultures, ideas, ways of life and having an impact on the places we visit. Our luggage is made of experiences and memories forever engraved on our retinas.

We understand life as a journey in constant movement, an infinite circuit whose goal is not to reach a place but to enjoy the journey, to be able to nourish ourselves, to exchange and grow from the encounters, from each new and unknown landscape. The journey is a great apprenticeship, full of experiences and challenges. It is a constant change in the course of life, a change in consciousness and perception. And for all that the journey brings us, one also wants to bring something valuable to all those people and places that welcomed us so well. This is why we always stop for a long time in each place, to really capture the essence, to connect with the everyday and immerse ourselves more in local life, so that we can offer something more of ourselves. Giving and receiving keeps the world turning.

We are used to travelling without time limits, like for example our trips through Latin America, where we travelled more than 50.000 km by hitchhiking and public transport, participating in different social projects that we met along the way. This time we decided to come to Transylvania to participate in a 9-month project with the European Solidarity Corps and the dynamics of the trip changed because the time we have to travel is mainly limited to weekends and 18 days of holidays.

When we arrived here we made our first trips by train or by hitchhiking, we discovered that in Romania the distances can be a bit tricky, because the routes and public transport are not the best. But that is no excuse for missing out on the amazing landscapes, villages and people you can meet here. Knowing this, we realised that in order to really get to know the territory around us, make the most of our free time and move around more freely, a good solution was to have our own transport.

That’s how we started looking for cars for sale in the village where we live, Sékelykerestúr and we came across a beautiful green Dacia, a storm of Balkan style. There is no more Romanian vehicle than a Dacia so we thought it would be the perfect companion for this experience. This 2001 Dacia Supernova was born before Romania joined the European Union and so many more modern second hand cars entered the market from other countries like Germany. Although there are many Dacias in Romania, we have seen only a few Supernova on the roads.

After doing a mechanical check-up and making all the basic safety adjustments to withstand our journey, such as fixing the rear-view mirror, changing the windscreen wipers and the seat belts, we made our first test drive to Lake Bezid. We invited our friends Antonio and Sara to join us. Following the road signs, we took a dirt road in very bad condition and extremely narrow that went into a lush forest, amazingly beautiful but somewhat dangerous for our old car, due to the abundant pits and mud. At one point the temperature of the car was getting quite high due to the effort required by the road and as it was the first time, we preferred to stop and let it rest for a while. Sara and Sol went for a walk, while we waited for the car to recover. The girls walked along the narrow road until they were out of sight. Fifteen minutes later, Agustin and Antonio heard a very strange noise in the distance. It sounded like a motorbike or a grass cutter approaching. But it wasn’t that, suddenly a huge white Land Rover appeared in front of our car, as there was no room for both of us on the road. The driver stopped and got out of the car. The guy was quite peculiar, looking like a safari explorer, he started talking to us in French to which we replied with one of our most valuable linguistic resources in Hungarian, “nem tudom, angolul, angolul”. The man was accompanied by his three children, his wife, a dog and, surprisingly, Sara and Sol, who got out of the back of the car. Apparently the man had found them walking along the road and had very kindly suggested that they get into the car because it was very dangerous to walk there because it was full of bears. He advised us to leave as soon as possible, as standing there could cost us our lives. The warning was accompanied by an invitation to go for coffee at his house whenever we wanted and to watch bear videos he had recorded. We said goodbye and he pulled the Land Rover into a ditch on the side of the road to avoid us. We continued our journey until we finally reached the lake. Apparently there was a paved road which was much quicker and safer but being completely unfamiliar with this place, we tended to get lost quite often. As soon as we arrived, a very kind Romanian family invited us into their home, and we ended up eating Gulyas and drinking palinca all afternoon. It really was a great baptism for our Dacia. The next day we went back to the lake on the right road and arrived without any problems. We parked the car on the shore of the lake and after an afternoon of kayaking and relaxing, when we tried to go back home, we realised that the car had no battery. It turns out that being an old car, it doesn’t warn that the lights were on. Luckily, almost immediately a driver stopped to help us, towed the car up a slope and showed us how to start it in reverse.

For our holiday we left in mid-August for Bucharest to meet friends who were coming to visit us. The car was packed with all kinds of survival luggage such as clothes, mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets, tent, food, camping gas, torches, first aid kit and emergency items. Arriving in Brasov, the night started to catch up with us and was accompanied by a terrible storm. We were crossing the Carpathians, the rain intensified to such an extent that visibility was very bad, we got a bit scared so we decided to stop for the night in Comarnic. The next day was a very good day and we were not far from Bucharest. Once there we were surprised by the ferocity of the drivers, even our GPS told us to do manoeuvres that in another country we could never have done, but when we saw that all the cars were doing it we took courage to face the chaotic mass of the capital’s traffic. We are sure that those who program google maps here are Romanian drivers. Of course, being a capital city, it is a more aggressive way of driving than we were used to in our beloved Hargita. We really appreciate the tranquility of our town. That day we went to pick up our friends at the airport. We slept one night in the big city and the next day, we packed all the luggage, our friends’ and ours. There was really no place for anything else. When we were ready to start our journey, all happy and celebrating, we wanted to start the car and nothing happened. We realised that again the battery was dead, but this time the lights were off. However, this time we had the charging cables ready for any emergency. We showed the cables to drivers on the street because we don’t speak Romanian. One stopped and pulled his car over to charge our battery. What were five foreigners doing in a Dacia Supernova with Harghita plates? We quickly figured it out.

Once on the road we plunged back into the Bucharest traffic. We were overjoyed, our friends chanting in unison viva viva our driver, driver, driver, every time Agustin made some extreme manoeuvre to avoid the cars. The chaotic traffic required all the concentration of Agustin and Sol, who were trying to decipher the road and foresee the unexpected reactions of the drivers and the GPS. It was in that frenzy that we started to think about naming the car. We were looking for a Balkan name, so Dragomirna came up, but Dragoberta was easier to remember. So Dragoberta was left. After a slightly stressful half hour, it seemed that we were finally at the exit of the big city. This was the moment of greatest excitement for our friends as they finally entered the long awaited Romania.  But on a rise to take the road to Transfagarasan, the accelerator pedal sank and it was no longer possible to move the car. We couldn’t believe it. We stood at the side of the road, put on our safety gear and put on our reflective waistcoats, signalling to cars to stop and help us. The police showed up, told us they were coming back with help and we never saw them again. A while later, a guy with a black eye stopped. Although he didn’t speak English, we were able to communicate through gestures and a few words from the translator. The guy started to check the car, he seemed to know what he was doing, he told us that the problem was the accelerator cable. Very determined, he said he would go to the “dezmembrare” to get the part and fix it. He left. Was this our Romanian super hero? Would he really come back? Would we be able to continue our journey?