Europe | Romania | Tulcea – Pelican watch
After the sleepless night I went out in search of a boat to take us into the Danube Delta. My great grandfather would have travelled via Kilia, or Chilia, now in the Ukraine and most likely off limits. So, next plan: operation Pelican watch. Sexton and I are not birdwatchers really; we just like things with long necks. I’ve even sold a goose painting while on this trip – I got the news via email. Birds would inspire both of us for further paintings. Now just to find them…
A place that vaguely resembled an information office had only a money exchange operator. I wandered out in front the bland, expensive Hotel Delta, and spotted a minibus with ‘Birdwatching tours’ written on the side. This was to prove a brilliant stroke of luck. Ibis Tours is a top company and happened to be between tours when we arrived. The price was over our budget, but after talking to the English birdwatchers (average age 50, with long nosed cameras and telescopes) and being reassured we would see pelicans, I agreed to hire the boat and guide. We had limited time on the Delta and couldn’t really fart around looking for a fisherman to take us. If you do go there and have more than 3 days, you’re meant to be able to barter with a local to row you into the more remote areas. However, the local will not speak English and could rip you off.
I went back to the grim hotel and woke up a very unhappy Sexton, who was still angry about the dog barking all night. We waited for quite awhile on Ibis’ floating hotel (they also let us stay there dirt cheap when we came back from the Delta. I think it’s usually used for groups only) and finally the head boss appeared with a young guy carrying a small backpack. Great, someone to share the costs, we thought. But he turned out to be the guide : “I am young and not quite awake…” said Bogdan, who was, in the next 2 days, to teach me more about birds than anyone I’ve ever met.
As I said, Sexton and I are not really birdwatchers. We’re even kind of embarrassed to tell our friends we like birds, as it’s an old folks hobby, really, isn’t it? No shame from Bogdan, who couldn’t have been much over 20. He scorned his contemporaries who waste their lives in discotheques. He spends as much time as possible in nature and knows about all sorts of animal life. And he speaks perfect English. I think he was relieved that Sexton and I were not experts and really only interested in big birds, as he’d been called to work on his w days off. We all lazed around drinking coffee, talking, eating cheese, and watching the water go by – and, of course, the birds. Herons, Kingfishers, Egrets – and finally, the second day, those elusive pelicans, in flocks of hundreds, taking off and catching thermal winds, floating like kites in the sky.
The boat trip was magical – 2 days spent on water. The ground was still moving under our feet when we got back to land. We slept at a small hotel somewhere on the Delta (Crisan, the place was called) and were fed masses of Romanian food and fish. We watched a storm over the Delta at night, totally unaware of the flooding upstream at Salzburg, Passau and Prague….
Yes, it’s always harder to write about the good parts of a trip. I’ll add some photos to this when I can, but even those won’t do it justice…more later…