After riding well into darkness the night before and pitching my tent in an orchard just off the roadside, I woke up early and found my tent covered in a thin layer of frost. It was freezing outside!
I packed up my bicycle and after no more than twenty feet of pushing the bike out of my camp did I run over a giant thorn and a rush of air poured from my bicycle’s front tire.
Changing a flat tire first thing in the morning with freezing cold hands is not a lot of fun. But I did what I had to do and got back on the road as soon as I possibly could. I was cold, thirsty and in a horrible mood.
I had to tackle a short, but super steep hill before settling in a long and relatively flat valley that would take me more than 80 kilometers to the city of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The challenge, however, was the reach the city before nightfall and to find a bank somewhere along the way to withdraw some cash and purchase some food and water.
Entering Moldova the night before, I had been unable to find an ATM machine or any kind of bank near the border. This mean that until I could find an ATM and withdraw some of the local currency, I would be unable to buy any kind of food or drinks for myself, as local markets in the small villages I was cycling through did not accept credit cards or any other outside currency.
Just before reaching Chisinau, I got another flat tire. This time, I again ran over a thorn bush that had found its way into the center of the road. I pulled into a nearby gas station to repair the flat tire and then jumped back on the bike. My mood grew even worse!
Moments later I finally found an ATM machine and after withdrawing some cash, rushed inside the nearest market to get myself something to eat and drink. Water was my main concern – despite the fact that I had pulled some relatively clean water from a well earlier in the day.
After a long day of riding, I finally made it into the center of Chisinau, Moldova, where I quickly ran about the city trying to find an affordable hotel. I was desperate to get inside and get out of the cold. More than anything, I just wanted the day to end. I was cold, tired, sore and sleepy. On top of that, I had had to repair two flat tires in a single day. Unfortunately, the hotels in the center of Chisinau were very high-priced compared to what I had been paying in Romania (50 to 160 Euros in Moldova vs the 15-20 Euros I was paying in Romania).
After asking around, I did find a relatively cheap hotel on the south side of town called Hotel Cosmos. Walking into the lobby, I felt like I was entering into a real-life Russian gangster movie. The lobby was massive, with large eastern European men sitting around in gigantic arm chairs while chatting silently with one another. A wall of booze filled the bar in the background.
My room in Hotel Cosmo cost about $40 USD a night, but I needed a rest, so I booked the cheapest room they had for three full nights, went up stairs and promptly fell asleep. I was cold, dirty, tired… and I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t care how much the hotel room cost. It felt so good just to be inside!