The Iezer-Păpușa and Făgăraș revisited

Just a few days after I had come back from my hike across the main ridge of the Făgăraș, I went back: I wasn’t quite done with these mountains yet. During an earlier hike into the Iezer-Păpușa, I had planned to cross over into the Făgăraș via a connecting spur, but was prevented by the weather. This time round the forecast didn’t look too favourable either; 5-10mm of rain or more was predicted for every afternoon, so I resolved to go on short hikes and pitch my tent before the rain. But I was fortunate: I was much faster than expected (I suppose I’m getting the hang of this hiking thing) and there was less rain than predicted.

On Wednesday I took a train from Cârța to Brașov, and from there I intended to take a bus to Câmpulung Muscel; however, on calling the autogara I found out the bus wasn’t going – presumably because it was a religious holiday (St Mary’s ascension). This left me and some other aspiring passengers rather dismayed; I decided to take another bus to Moieciu de Jos and hitchhike from there. It took me a bit longer than usual to find a ride (I blame Mary) but eventually a German Mercedes stopped. Its driver was a German builder doing some summer projects for his Romanian in-laws. His destination was Rucar, where he dropped me off.

I walked out of town to find another ride – only to find the same car stopping next to me a few minutes later. The kind man had decided he had nothing much to do the rest of the afternoon, figured he could visit some relatives down the road and pick me up again. Eventually he drove me all the way to Câmpulung, refusing any money for petrol, so that in the end, I wasn’t all that delayed. I called Irinel, who has a taxi service and had driven me to Cabana Voina the previous month, and he punctually showed up with his comfortable BMW.

I decided to pitch my tent among the pensioners again, who had treated me so kindly after my last hike here. They recognized me alright and before I could pitch my tent, I got offered a caravan that was empty for the night – and of course food, țuica (which I refused because my stomach was upset), hugs and kisses.

The next morning I set off towards Iezer refuge after swallowing more Romanian delicacies with difficulty, and politely refusing carrying even more food with even more difficulty. I had drunk some wine gone off earlier in the week and ever since my bowels had been misbehaving, which didn’t make the hiking easier – I soon realized that I was feeling a lot weaker than usual. I was hoping to reach Iezer refuge before the rain, but alas – it started coming down before eleven already. Fortunately, it stopped within half an hour or so and I reached the refuge, which was under construction, by half past one already. Clearly this was too early to stop and the sky looked fine, so I continued to Curmatura Oticului, over the massif’s highest peak, Roșu (2469m). Curmatura Oticului lies on the verdurous spur that connects the Iezer-Păpușa with the Făgăraș. To my delight, I met no one else there and as I descended, I got into blueberry territory. There was a spring just 200m away from the saddle; it took me a long time to get there though because I just couldn’t stop picking berries! It was a very restorative night.

The next day I arrived at Curmatura Bratilei in the Făgăraș very early again – and got overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings. This was the point where me and Dan arrived after our first day in the Făgăraș the week before. Sadly, I had lost all the pictures of our hike up to this point through a fault of my computer (it deleted all the folders from my SD card, not just the one I selected). The pictures of the beautiful red mushrooms in the forest; the pictures of the sheep drinking from the lake in the morning… All I have left is Dan’s pictures of me taking pictures, and my memories. This is something I found, and find, very hard to cope with. But these things happen – and fortunately I still have lots of amazing pictures from the five days that followed.

As I retraced my steps along the main ridge, memories of the previous week’s hike resurfaced. It felt so odd to be on the same trail again so soon. Going to the supermarket five times a week – that’s ordinary. Hiking up the same mountain twice in one week is not. But there I was, and this time round there was a lot less fog so I could see Moldoveanu Peak in all its glory from far away already – before the rain came down again, that is. Somehow I didn’t mind too much – it wasn’t the worst sort of rain and it wasn’t cold, and I was well wrapped up.

I reached Cabana Valea Sâmbatei at half past one again (every day I seemed to arrive at a potential destination at that time!) and was appalled at the crowds gathered there. I swallowed a bowl of bean soup, talked to some Spanish girls who needed advice about a new itinerary, and set off again as soon as the sky cleared up. And thus I found myself at the end of the trail after just three days. I got a ride into Victoria, where I planned to eat something – but the only two restaurants in town were both taken over by wedding parties. So I bought some grapes and crisps and joined two sweet old gentlemen on the bench near the bus stop, and had a lovely chat with them until the bus came, an hour later. They both gave me their addresses so I could come and stay whenever I needed to. I probably won’t return to Victoria anytime soon, but they are now securely locked in the treasure chamber that is called my heart.

And now I’m trying to do nothing much. My husband arrives on Thursday – it’s time for me to get into the holiday mood. It can be hard for me to take a break – the line between leisure and work is very thin considering the nature of my job. I just need to flip a switch every now and again – from ‘let’s get this thing done’ mode to ‘let’s see what the day brings’ mode. It can be a bit of a struggle. What helps though is that I’ve put my tent in a shady spot – I slept until 11:11 this morning!

Another thing I’ve noticed I’m struggling with is my body image. Every time I’m up in the mountains I’m pretty happy with how my body looks and functions. I’ve dropped a size, have gained strength and can see that my arms and legs are getting toned. But every time I return to lower regions, I get dissatisfied with the selfsame body in no time. I see lots of other fit people walking around on the campsite, see pictures of super slim trail runners on my facebook timeline, and get envious. I know – comparison is the thief of joy. It’s just so hard not to compare. I am still happy with my body, but at the same time I’m being incredibly harsh on myself. I try to keep reminding myself that this is my body, my life, my story – all these other people have other bodies, other lives, other stories. We are all works of art, we have all put so much work into our lives. So I will continue trying to respect myself and others – but it’s a tough battle. A battle that requires some gentleness and some lightheartedness; and some pizza very soon.

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