Stops: Transfargarasan -> Curtea de Arges -> Bucharest
So... many of you have heard by now.... we got robbed. Passports, visas, car ownership, camera, pretty much most of our digital accessories, anything and everything.
We had an incredible night last night on the mountain. Justin spent the evening taking photos of a sky you'd never even dream of where we're from. He got a bunch of long exposure shots of cars driving by on the highway and winding up and down on the crazy road. He was playing with flashlights and lighting up the car, spent hours. I was feeling a little aloof, so I grabbed the altitude sickness pill, and mostly hung out and ate chocolate in our humble abode. Eventually Justin crawled in and we went to sleep hoping to wake up to the sunrise on this side of the mountain, flying the drone, and heading on our merry way.
WELL... let me tell you. There was nothing merry about today as we spent the whole day at the police station.
We fell asleep around 11:30, and woke up at midnight to a flashlight in our window. There was a face pressing itself up against our window, now remember, we are 6000ft from the ground, so frigging remote. So not only are we sluggish from the altitude but we had just fallen into deep sleep.
Completely disoriented, we ask if he's ok. He keeps saying something about parking in broken English. All our windows are closed. Justin can't recall at this point if the guy opened the door or if justin wedged the door a little, but he does recall grabbing the handle to keep it a small gap. Somehow, it ended up opening wide and the bag he was using as his pillow, "fell" out. I say "" because it may have been pulled out. The funniest bit is Justin apologizing because the bag "fell" on the guy's toes. He started repeating "no problem, no problem" leaned to pick up the bag and started handing it over when he yelled to his accomplice that we speak English. They start bombarding us with questions if we're from the UK, and they repeat questions and just overall started confusing us. Now remember, we're dazed, confused, and lacking oxygen. So we get distracted and then they leave in a few minutes. We lay back down and are both all "wtf was that". I thought the guy was so dirty and out of sorts I asked if he was drunk. Justin was already half asleep and I just had a bad feeling at the pit of my stomach. So I twist around until justin opens his eyes and asks whattt. "I know I'm being paranoid, but just check the roof." Everything is there. Cool. He goes back to sleep while I continue to lay there staring at the ceiling and unable to sleep. Every time I see headlights, I sit up. Justin is starting to get annoyed that I keep waking him up but I'm just not feeling well. So he tells me to get the crowbar or wrench, or whatever was under my side of the mattress. Once I know he has that, we cuddle up and I eventually pass out.
When we wake up, we're grumpy we slept through the sunrise so the drone video we had planned was not going to be as epic. Little did we realize that's the least of our problems. We start cleaning up and putting the car back together when he makes a comment about the bag. I tell him to relax, no way.
Yes way. It's gone. It's all gone. Our passports, our $4000 visas for all the countries, $500usd, our car ownership, both international driver's licenses, MacBook Air, Nikon D3000 camera, and all the accessories for the camera, the GoPro, our chargers, adapters, wires, everything, and worst of all, all our footage that we can't get back. That bag was worth $7000-10000 for us while it was worth a mere $500 to these assholes who don't even know what Apple products are.
And the worst part why we can't get over this, is that we're so good and smart about travelling and this was ONE time we let our guard down since we thought we were so remote. We broke 4 rules that we don't usually:
1. We never keep everything in one place. But for sleeping in the car, it was easier to do it all together to be a pillow for Justin.
2. We usually keep the bag at the foot of the seat with the seats bent forward so tight, you can't access it unless the seat is unfolded and we're out of the car. Why did we not do this for the first time this trip? No idea.
3. We usually put up curtains on all the windows so no one can look in. This time we decided to just do the curtains on the side of the car facing the road, and didn't do anything for the one facing the edge of the cliff. He was able to peer in and that's how he made his move.
4. We're not generally stupid enough to engage crazy. Let alone open the door ourselves or leave it unlocked for someone else. Not sure what happened.
I don't think I have to go into how we feel but it was a silent drive today. We skipped any drone flying and just got in the car and drove an hour down the mountain until we found a little town and tried to find the police. Took a few tries until we found a guy who spoke English (turns out he was retired but used to be on the police force). He was the first person that was nice and polite since we've entered Romania 3 days ago. So far, we are not to a good start, plus the Mongol Rally page is full of horror stories from Romania. People here do not seem to know or care how to drive. So at least we're still intact.
So buddy (who heard all about the Mongol Rally on the news the night before) calls the cop on duty on speed dial and insists on buying us coffee not letting Justin pay. The cops show up with not a word of English and we go through our whole story a second time. We even had to reenact it since they just did not comprehend the idea of sleeping in our tiny car full of crap. Our friend has goosebumps from anger and even throws things at a wall from this. Apparently the thieving on the highway only started this year and we're only the 5th case. We're also the highest value case. The cops didn't know what a MacBook Air was or what the camera was and half the people in these towns ride a horse and buggy. It seriously feels like Amishland. They have electricity, but so very minimal and are mowing acres of lawn in 40 degree weather with a push mower.
We end up having to part with our friend and follow the cops about a half hour to the nearest actual police station since the rural town we were in didn't really have one. There we give our statement another 3 times to various cops, and one brings out a lot to fingerprint our car. We then get fingerprinted ourselves, and have to go write statements. For the most part, we were very overlooked and were told to go sit outside in the sun in 40 degrees instead of the air conditioned empty station on a Saturday. We were even rejected when we asked for water. There was one person who was sweet and seemed to sympathize but even then, just enough to get the job done. We were constantly told 5-10 more minutes but we spent the full day there without a bite to eat or a drink until a different cop showed up around 3 and gave us a glass to share while we continued to wait.
Eventually we got our paper to help us at the embassies and such, and we were on our way to desperately finding food. We got to the place and we're bombarded by gypsy children. Now, I know this is probably politically incorrect in Canada, but that's what the cops kept saying straight up and said it is what it is. It is a culture of people who thrive on robbing anyone and anything and they are exactly that, gypsies. And here are these children bombarding our car with their hands out. We told them we don't have anything and they would not leave and got in the way of us getting out of our car. We watched them all through our meal and they were constantly shooed away by staff, and multiple times by cops. They did sucker in one guy who bought the little fat kid an ice cream and a pizza in a box. As the kid strutted past is to his friends, I wanted to smack him for his smugness and laughter to the other 8-9 year olds. It's disgusting and it makes me nauseous. This is all they know.
We got in the car and made our way to Bucharest where we were trying to figure out where to sleep. I don't know if we're biased, but we are not impressed with the city so far. Then a local came by recognizing the mongol rally sticker from the news and asked if we needed a hand. He suggested to not sleep anywhere where the car is not in a garage. Frankly, of all places to be stuck for a week, this is so far down the list.... I hate feeling this way about a place but from the second we crossed the border and for the last 3 days, it's been very unpleasant and it doesn't seem to get better. Please prove me wrong Romania, for Andrei's sake. I'd love to share in his pride and trying to still be open minded about, but frankly, I'm terrified. If it was a one off case here and there, fine, but for this to be the norm... and people choose to live with this...
I have to rethink one of my favourite movies now, sorry Hunchback of Notre Dame, sorry Esmeralda. You can take your goat and shove it.