April 30, 2014, 10:05 p.m.
Pungeşti

Going out of the way in Pungesti

Having camped right outside the walls of the lovely Brasov castle, we woke up and warmed up  the engine, a long push to Pungesti awaited us. The roads in Romanian Moldova are  notoriously tricky and we had to show a lot of driving skill along the way. I had heard  people complaining how you could encounter cars driving in the wrong lane. Well, that's what  you have to do especially if you're in a caravan and you value your passenger's sanity and  kidneys. See, riding in a caravan on treacherous mountain roads with lots of hairpins and  sharp corners, really does take it's toll and on top of that, you get all sorts of objects  flying around at the back all the time. Including human bodies. Thus avoiding potholes is  important.

We could already see the sign that said "Pungesti - 2km", but it wasn't just this sign that  was waiting for us in the middle of the vast Moldovian meadows. Three cars were parked  around the junction and upon seeing the wobbling caravan, policemen jumped from all the  vehicles and gave us signs that we need to stop. Being the driver at that time, a fellow in  a police uniform approached me and asked for my license and the caravan's documents. Seeing  that I'm Bulgarian, he asked me in Russian how many people we are, also explained we need to  show him our passports. Then another man stepped in, with a gendermerie uniform, who spoke  good English and sarcastically explained that the policeman is his boss for the day. He said  he just wants to see our passports and doesn't need anything else. We complied and the  others joined in trying to decipher our passport layout and twisted foreign names. The whole  situation was reminiscent of some police related comedy flicks. One guy was trying to spell  out our names, while the other was writing them down and they would often stop this to  argue, a third one would come to give advise. This was all performed right beneath our  windows regardless of the fact that most of us were laughing wholeheartedly at their inept  efforts.

15 minutes later, we were entering Pungesti, where there were even more police cars  scattered around. To underline the absurdity of this, this is a group of villages with  around 3000 inhabitants and normally you wouldn't have such a police presence in the area.  Normally you won't, but if a multi-national corporation with a yearly revenue three times  the Romanian GDP is involved, there might be some exceptions. The company in question is  Chevron and their aim is to tap the shale gas reserves in the region using the method of  hydraulic fracking. As you'd expect, people resisted. During one such protest, the perimeter  of Chevron's private property was breached, which the Romanian government used as a pretext  to declare the area a "National security zone". This allowed them to station numerous police  units, who started harassing the local population that were against the shale gas extraction  taking place near their property.

We passed by another police roadblock, where once again our papers were checked and we were  asked about the exact duration of our stay. Here they had a policeman filming all cars and  passengers. After that, to be sure we are of no threat to "national" security, they had  assigned two cars with no police decals to follow us. One would question the enormous  government dedication to protect the interests of a private company. If you look at it from  a different angle, more or less the locals' taxes were used by the government to mobilize  the very same policemen that were harassing them and were protecting the facilities they are  protesting against. So much for serving your people and working for their interests.

Back to the journey, it was our turn to do something rather silly. For the second time, we  decided to take a shortcut to the village where we were supposed to meet our contacts.  Again, it was a dirt road, only this time much worse than the one before. We were warned by  locals that the road could be muddy, but thought to ourselves what could be the worse that  could happen? Our whole crew was quite hyped about the offroading until the most logical  thing happened - we got stuck in the mud. Took us about three hours to get the vehicle out  of there and we had to send Robert to trek to the nearby monastery to get a shovel so we can  literally dig the wheels out. Eventually we managed to get out of there and briefly met with  the anti-fracking activists and a local family affected by Chevron's drilling.

For raw footage of our endeavors, you can see our video diary from that day.

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