BAREFOOT & barefoot. Part One

Is there a point in raising children? Can you walk 150km barefoot? What’s on your mind at Field of Stupor? Do the Waffle Mountains really exist? What is bio chewing gum made of? Are all mayors equally useful?

When people ask me who I am and what I do, it’s hard for me to answer that question because I do so many things. I am an entrepreneur, athlete, designer, inventor, investor, cartoon director, and many other things…

But if I will have to choose something without which I don’t see the meaning of my life, it’s parenting. So I won’t hesitate to answer that I am a father first and foremost.

  Life flies by, affairs, meetings, business, profits, repairs, stores, calls, the Internet, chats, chat rooms, and somewhere near it, in the background, live our children. They look up at us and wait, waiting for us to stop to squat and talk to them, play with them, or even just hug them.  We, parents, understand how little time we spend with our children, it’s hard for us to find the time and energy to communicate with them.  And now we are walking with the kids, but we are not looking at them, but on our smartphones, we are watching TV at different ends of the couch, and even playing board games with the kids we are thinking about our own affairs. The Masters of сompromise…

And  the sons  especially suffer without the attention of their fathers. After all, raising a son is harder than planting a tree or building a house.  The formation of a man out of a boy is a difficult and thorny path, and the father plays a key role here. A father must teach his son to be strong to overcome difficulties, caring and considerate to support the weak, to teach him to overcome laziness and weakness and convince others to follow himself, to be persistent but also flexible, to talk less, act more, be himself no matter what, and not depend on others’ opinions. Being a husband, father, friend, partner, and a hundred more “to be”.  To be a man.

So one day, realising how little time I was spending on my child, I decided on an uncompromising challenge – to fulfil my son’s long-held dream. Mishka and I are going on a camping trip! And we are not just walking, we are GOING. Through our country, Moldova. We start from the house in Floresti, where I lived when I was the same age as Mishka. And to the house in Chisinau, where we live now and where our girls will be waiting for us with cake!

Six days and a hundred and fifty kilometres barefoot on roads, paths, forests and fields.We will cross rivers, meet people and animals. We will walk through villages, monasteries and homes of good people. My son will see the real Moldova.  He had never seen her like this. With cows and mud underfoot, with vast fields and poor villages, with incredible natural scenery and hospitable people.

We with Mishka immediately outlined five rules :

1. To move around without using petrol or electricity.

2. Walk barefoot if it possible.

3. Stay overnight only with people who are willing to let us stay overnight.

4. To use a minimum of money, to try to do without money at all.

5. Get to know all the people we meet.

We have a tough road ahead of us because it will be raining all week. But we will make it, we will crawl, we will swim! Looking ahead, my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.

We started early in the morning from Florest, from my house in Kaplunovka, where I lived from 1986 to 1991.

The mood is upbeat, the weather is beautiful and we are walking and chatting.

As soon as we left the town, there was a field of daisies in front of us.

There we made real bast shoes out of mud. I have to admit that it’s very comfortable, cheap and practical. And most importantly – no blisters!

And Mud Angel is a masterpiece.

On the way, we met many nice people – some wanted to give us a lift by car. The shepherd took a long time to explain to us how to get to the village, and an elderly married couple took us for a ride in a cart. It was Mishka’s dream and it came true. We sat in the straw, cuddled up, looking up at the sky and smiling.

We ate what we could find – water from wells, fruit picked from trees, and sometimes asked the owners for it. Occasionally we bought kefir and bread from shops. Our total budget for the trip was not more than 300 lei.

We saw a stunning Moldova – it turns out that in this area the meandering river Reut is as good as the old city of Orgeev, and the endless fields of wheat are awe-inspiring and mind-blowing.

The ordeals was not long in coming. We suddenly ran out of drinking water. It was very strange as the river Reut was running to our left. We were walking on green grass and it felt like we were in the Sahara Desert because we could not find any water.

We have given this area the name Green Heath

Standing with my son by the river and throwing pebbles into the water –  is invaluable.

But climbing a mountain, especially barefoot, is a dubious pleasure. Nobody said it would be easy.

At the top of the mountain we saw a huge field of about a hundred thousand square kilometres, so we decided to go straight ahead. On the way, I decided to explain to Misha what a square kilometre is. But after an hour he still didn’t understand what a square kilometre was. So we decided to call the field ‘Field of Stupor’ so that no one would be to blame. Poison pollen, that must be to blame.

So while we were wandering in search of life-giving water, suddenly we came across a bison and Misha even saddled him.

What a bison, the Battle Bugs!

We are tired, Misha stops more and more often, cranky. But what good is stopping – no one will magically transport us to the village. And so we walk forward again.

At last civilisation was in sight, we reached it and were rewarded for all the hardships and sufferings. We crawled to the nearest Alimentara. We ate and drank all we could, and even drank the forbidden Coke. We spent the night at mayor Stefanesti -Zdragusz Ludmila, who picked us up on the street and fed, get drunk and put us to bed. Thank you very much, good people!

The first day was difficult and very long – we walked 30 km (37,000 steps) and burned 4,000 kcal. I have a small hole in my foot, and Mishan’s leg doesn’t bend well. But it was worth it!

It was a wet day. And not just wet, but watery. Today we continue to go in the rain and there is a surprise for Mishka soon.

In the morning we went to the river to see a small miracle – there is a place in Moldova where the water burns. This spring springs up from under the ground and nothing grows around it. Mishka gave this phenomenon the name Hell’s Spring. And “Suddenly”, there was a boat with oars on the shore. Hooray! We’re sailing on a boat.

Just before we left, arrived Ludmilla, at whose house we spent the night. She brought Mishka some warm milk for the journey. It was very touching. That’s the kind of people we have in Moldova.

Travelling is a small life, especially travelling with my son. I saw everything through his eyes as if for the first time, marvelled with him at this beauty, admired the river, but it turned out not to be worth relaxing…

It rained like a bucket and the calm River Reut turned into a dangerous mountain river. We had no idea our Reut was capable of such a thing. It was bubbling, wriggling and flooding us. Then, at one point, he managed to drive us into the strámina and jam us into a vise.

—Misha, row! On the contrary, stop!

—Dad, we’re getting turned around! Aah!

—The water’s pouring in! Stand from under!!!

A second more and we’re underwater. The boat, things, oars, clothes are all being carried downstream. I look at Mishka – he’s all right, he’s got his waistcoat on.

I swim quickly after the boat, pulling it out to the reeds. Misha is upset, his phone drowned. Thank God the video camera is intact, but not working. Oars and pump are gone.

I help my son to the boat, pull out my phone to film the incident and then… accidentally drop it into the raging river. Screaming. There was everything we had filmed! I dive down, there are rocks, the water knocks me down, no chance of finding my phone…. Suddenly, miraculously, an iPhone floating underwater hits me in the hand. I grab it. Unbelievable, the materials are saved! Exhaling….

We turn the boat over, collect the rest of our belongings, find an oar and a pump and go to dry off. Lots of emotions, we hug and stand for a long time, warming each other up.

Then there were the Waffle Mountains, the Standing Glade where the boat stands still, the Willow Jungle in which we became entangled and the Sinister Falls which threatened to overturn our ship.

Kind people helped us haul the boat, shared their knowledge of fishing and just welcomed us. We were like one big family.

We learned team rowing, saved a bug floating on an apple, chatted with fishermen, talked about friendship and played association games.

And at one point Misha was left almost without his dad. When I went to the toilet, the boat suddenly began to drift. Mischa paddled heroically against the current, and I, buttoning my trousers, ran through the mud to the boat, as if trying to catch a departing shuttle bus. And I made it. Thank you, son.

In the evening, after we had paddled 30 km down the river, we were met by the mayor of Negureni – Ion Popa. He sheltered us, fed us and introduced us to his parents and his village. Thank you!

We also say thank you to Ludmila Zdragus for the milk, the genuinely good hugging photo and the delicious lunch. Special thanks to Alex Gutsaga for the boat, camera, friendly support and help.

It was the hottest day of the year, with the sun beating down on us from the morning until the evening. Not surprisingly, it was the shortest night of the year. The day started in Negureni with breakfast at Jonah’s house. And as it turned out, one caruza was on its way to the village of Zaikan – it was on our way!

And now we’re riding in the cart with our feet dangling and chatting. We found out that there is nothing more beautiful in the world than riding in a cart with our bare feet dangling, chewing sunflower seeds and squinting in the sun. Yes, and there was bound to be grass that Misha mowed with a real sickle.

But this was not enough for the son and he took over the cart and started to steer the horse himself, like a professional coachman.

But everything comes to an end, so we are standing in the middle of the road and wondering whether to take a detour down the road or go straight through the woods and off-road? For me, the answer is obvious. And it was nice that my son thought so too.

With difficulty climbing the hill, we got lost in the Grass Labyrinth, wandered oriented by the sun and baked like two Thanksgiving turkeys.

But here the road is found and we, happy as can be, walk along the cool Wet Alley.

When our strength had already left us, from the top of the hill we saw a tiny village with only a hundred inhabitants – Saratenyi Noi.

There we met cheerful beekeepers who treated us to honey and stories about bees, and Misha tasted natural wax gum for the first time.

After gathering branches, we cooked dinner in the woods, over a campfire, learning the physics of heat diffusion.

Mum, I’m sorry, we lit the fire with your maths copybook – but now your son knows how to make a fire.

After lunch, Mishka realised that the giant dandelions were aliens and busied himself destroying them by listening to songs by Viktor Tsoi and B2.

Another 10km barefoot on a country road with clouds and stunning scenery, and here we are in the village of Koropceni. There, Mishka invented the Shooting Stick and started assembling an experimental prototype.

It is evening. We knock on the gate and ask for a place to stay for the night. We are politely refused, some are sent to the mayor’s office to have our issue resolved. Mayor Koropceni turned out to be “hospitable” and suggested that my son and I spend the night in the damp basement of the town hall. We sighed and agreed – it was still better than the street.

But then a small miracle happened. Suddenly the mayor of the neighbouring village of Suhulucheni, Iakov Stegarescu, called us and kindly offered to stay at his home.

Thank you very much to Jacob’s family for the warm welcome, the bread, salt and delicious strawberries!

As they say, not all mayors are equally useful…

Read on and you will find out what a father should learn from his son? How does a jerking internal combustion engine work? Where do dinosaurs live in Moldova? What is the food in monasteries? What horses do princes ride on? Is it okay for men to cry? 

Part Two.

The wisdom tooth

The wisdom tooth

This story happened to me long ago, but I still remember those unforgettable 40 minutes and dream of repeating that trick again.

BAREFOOT & barefoot. Part Two

BAREFOOT & barefoot. Part Two

What a father should learn from his son? How does a jerking internal combustion engine work? Where do dinosaurs live in Moldova? What is the food in monasteries? What horses do princes ride on? Is it okay for men to cry?