Mao, The Devil Cat

Mao The Devil Cat

My hitching journey had taken me to Romania.

After the initial freak out about how dangerous Romania might be, my hitching partner settled down and we started to enjoy the country. We were somewhere way out in the sticks, eating fresh pancakes and farm produce and I was day dreaming about my own farm one day. There were so many animals and the whole set up was something I hope to recreate in a distant future.

Maybe not in Romania, but who knows. It could be.

Part of the farm under the rule of Mao ZaCat
Part of the farm under the rule of Mao ZaCat

After my horror at nearly treading on a snake in Slovakia, I nearly face planted on the bathroom floor as I climbed into the shower to be greeted by a coiled up rubber snake. It was an amusing joke that would have been much more amusing if it was played on someone else.

The Shower Snake
The Shower Snake

Minor heart attack over, we hitched a few rides into the local town of Timișoara and each time were careful to explain that we had no money after being warned that Romanins would ask hitchhikers for money. This notion seemed completely unfounded as every car that took us seemed completely uninterested in our money. The only sub-perfect experience that we had was that of our Romanian car drivers running out of fuel after picking us up. This in itself is not a problem. The two guys then jumped out of the car and one poured gasoline through a funnel into the car as the other held everything steady. He leaned over the fuel supply with a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth. I don’t know if fuel will alight once it is in a car, but when several litres are being free poured just inches from a lit cigarette, it makes you wonder. I chose not to tell the girl I was hitching with until they had finished their fuel pouring activity. ‘So you would have let me get blown up?’ she asked when I shared what had happened.

Ideally, I was hoping that none of us would get blown up. And we didn’t.

One thing that has always made me uncomfortable is going to get my hair cut. Often I end up doing it in foreign countries and I never know what I’ll get until they are done. The worst two haircuts I ever had were in Australia and Uganda. The Ugandan haircut was an experience in itself that I will never forget. The poor guy had never cut someone’s hair with scissors.

In Romania, with no understanding I received one of the cheapest hair cuts of my life. Zzz here, snip there I told them with noises and hand gestures. It looked alright. When you have no plans and you simply walk, you sometimes end up in the right place in life and sometimes you don’t. During the day, we joined in a celebratory rugby parade for the champions of Romania which was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time. In the evening, it was dark and cold so we decided to take the last train out of town and then hitch the remains of the journey. Unfortunately we had unknowingly moved a time zone and as a result, missed the last train by an hour. This is a perfect example of being in the right place at the wrong time.

A small child started following us and asking for money. He was covered in a layer of grime that made me sad as I have never seen such a dirty child. After many kilometres of walking we reached the edge of town in pitch black and started hitching, semi-hoping that we were on the right street. A car pulled up and drove us all the way back to our village, which was well out of the way of theirs. Preparing to leave Romania in the morning, we didn’t need any money and handed them everything that we had left as a gesture of thanks. It was a couple of pounds and initially it seemed as if they were refusing the money. Then everything seemed to get a little heated and we opened the door and ran from the car before it escalated any further. Initially I thought that they were offended at the offer of money because they gave us a lift out of kindness. Then it seemed that they were offended at the tiny amount offered.

Despite being from the UK and USA respectively, we were living a life that only required a couple of pounds a day between us and at the time it seemed like a respectable offer. Somewhere in that rural Romania village, we hid behind some trees as the couple sat there in there car before eventually pulling away.Good riddance.

One of the best things about travelling is the new food you get to try. As a vegetarian, some countries offer less choice than others but there is always something tasty to eat. The next delight we had the pleasure of trying was plum dumplings. A piece of plum cooked inside a potato dumpling and rolled in cinammon. It sounds unusual and it is.. but it is delicious. It was so delicious that the devil cat stole it from our plate.

Mao ZaCat
Mao ZaCat

Appropriately named Mao, this little monster kitten not much bigger than my fist was the boss of the dogs and the cats on the farm and took what it wanted. It strutted around as if it owned the place unfazed by goats, geese, or pigs. While eating plum dumplings, Mao sprung onto my plate from nowhere and started devouring my food. Wrestling with the cat, it hissed, telling me to back off and then disappeared with the dumpling. The cats on the farm were encouraged to hunt their own food such as rodents, earning their keep on the farm. Eating my food was not meant to be part of this.

It’s interesting to see what a strong character the little cat had. Despite being the smallest of all the creatures, this cat rules the roost. Nothing would mess with it, except maybe for the chained up dog. Last time this particular dog was unchained, he started killing all the birds and is now on a permanent leash. If Mao was bigger, I’m sure she’d sort him out.

With sadness I left Romania wanting to see more. One day I will come back and see more. I walked through fields until a huge lorry turned up out of nowhere and once again, we were on the road. Not the right road for where we wanted to go, but we were on the road. Waving goodbye to Romania, I wondered how many other people felt the same way as I did. I also wondered how many Romanians felt the opposite way and would soon be leaving the country to find work in other countries. Romania still has a precious way of life and it will be sad to see it disappear. Catch it, before it’s gone.

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