Yesterday has been a very full day – in the best possible way. I wrote a whopping seventeen pages in my (small) notebook – I brought only one because I thought that would suffice for a month in Romania. But by now I only have eight empty pages left. After only two days in the mountains my heart is full and my head is brimming with stories. That’s why I’m taking today off – or rather, have decided today needs to be a processing day. It’s pouring it down outside so that makes it easier for me to reconcile myself with the fact I’m not hiking today. Not that I feel bad about it – not at all this time. These past two days have brought me so much that I really need to sit down and think, write, sift through the stories, the images, the recollections, the conversations. It’s going to be quite a task, and a long read. If you don’t feel like reading, there’s pictures. I won’t blame you.more “Mountain magic in Măgura”
Hello dear people. It’s been a while. This blog is turning into more of a quarterly than, well, a blog. I’ve been wanting to write a post for a long, long time, but finishing the manuscript of my guidebook to the mountains of Romania and handling the feedback has swallowed me whole. It’s not that I didn’t have the time – but I’m feeling so depleted that I spend 12 hours out of every 24 sleeping and am so tired that I can’t handle much in terms of cognitive and creative effort. But I do want to write. I don’t imagine any one of you wakes up in the morning thinking ‘When is that girl finally going to post again’ but I do feel some sort of duty towards you, and myself – mostly myself perhaps. I want and need to write, and share. So here is a little update on how things are going and I’m going to treat you to some more Romanian mountains – the Ceahlau. So scroll down if you don’t want any of the personal dribble or read on if you do. (You’ve been warned.)
After my snowy venture into the Călimani during the first weekend of October I returned during the second half of the same month. I walked back up the red cross from Gura Haitii to Poiana Izvoarelui and saw a rare cocoș de munte (western capercaillie) on the way. My goal was to complete the circuit of the Călimani as I had planned to do earlier, so I continued towards the famed Twelve Apostles reserve.
One of my favourite ways to start a hike is when I can walk out of a town and straight into the mountains. One perfect base to do this from is the charming town of Vatra Dornei, in the northeast of Romania. I used to be a little scared of the northeast. It is arguably the remotest corner of the country and I’ve had some negative experiences there in the past. Most recently the dog bite, and in the more distant past I thought I wanted to buy a campsite in this area. It didn’t feel right, it wasn’t a good plan and I ran away screaming. Ever since I get a little mental shudder when I think of the northeast. But not any longer: I’ve discovered the northeast is perfectly friendly and perfectly gorgeous.
Let’s just say I got more than I bargained for. More mud, more rain, more wind, more snow. The Călimani Mountains are giving me a hard time… First the dog bite, now this. (I haven’t written about the dog bite on here yet – full disclosure on facebook.) But admittely, they are beautiful enough to revisit. Which I plan to do soon. Here is a report of this week’s three-day endeavour.
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.
Oh Făgăraş. You kept me waiting for so long! But It Is Finished: I hiked across the entire length of the Făgăraş Mountains in less than a week! Five days and a rest day, to be precise. I still find it hard to believe that it went so well. But the pictures, the bruises on my legs and sores on my feet serve as good reminders that this actually happened: the longest hike is down! more “Hiking across the Făgăraş: Romania’s longest ridge”
I intended to write a reflective post after my first month in Romania, but then all of a sudden two months had passed – and then three. This doesn’t mean time flew – it didn’t exactly. Last year’s start was tough – this one was tougher. When I look at my walks list I am not impressed – I only managed one three-day hike in June, for instance. In terms of kilometres it looks a little better – I did about 240km which is almost half of what I did in total last year and the year before – so it looks like I’m getting somewhere. Although that said, I have no idea how many kilometres I have ahead of me. I can only hope that I’m about half way, since in another three months winter will force me out of the country.
After my hike in the Iezer-Păpușa was cut short by the rain I planned to return there, but the rain wouldn’t stop so I started looking around for alternatives – and settled for a hike in the Cozia and Buila-Vânturarița, after lengthy consultations with the 500th liker of my facebook page. So after two and a half months in and around Brașov I set off for Cârța, a lovely little village in between Brașov and Sibiu at the foot of the imposing Făgăraș mountains. Actually my host, Sorin, drove me there – he happened to have an appointment in Aiud that same day and Cârța was pretty much en route. So that saved me a lot of dragging and sweating.
I just came back from a wonderful two-day circular hike in the Iezer-Păpușa Mountains. After even more torrential rain which flooded half the country and even brought down a railway bridge (wettest June in 40 years), I set off towards this beautiful cousin of the Făgăraș, the longest of all mountain ranges in Romania. It lies tucked away to the southeast of it, and west of the Piatra Craiului. I took a bus to the town of Câmpulung Muscel from Brașov over the Rucar-Bran Pass, which took me through the beautiful Țara Branului – the land of Bran. It was by no means a comfortable journey, but it was worth it for the views alone – the rolling hills around Bran, the Bucegi to the east and the Piatra Craiului to the west.
This week I finally got to go on my first full-pack hike, after three frustrating weeks of waiting for the weather to clear up. There were thunderstorms and torrential rains almost every day, and I just couldn’t find a big enough gap to go hiking without risking getting absolutely drenched. Now I don’t mind a little rain – it’s part of the adventure – but I know three days of rain would mean misery. So I was overjoyed when the weather forecasts (I check multiple sources) ‘promised’ three days of reasonably favourable weather from Sunday to Tuesday. So on Saturday I took the train to Predeal so that I would be able to start early Sunday morning. Well, my early – I left at 9am.
I’m back from a long weekend in the Netherlands – my sister got married, I got to spend some precious time with my husband, saw some friends, wandered around my lovely hometown, Leiden, and stocked up on cheese. And now I’m back in my little abode in Brașov. Time to rest and write. The week before last I completed a crazy hike in the Piatra Craiului mountains, as you may have noticed on facebook. It was definitely the most challenging one-day hike I have ever undertaken and is probably one of the most difficult hikes in all of Romania. I’m very proud that I managed to pull this one off so early on this year, and absolutely loved it so am going to give you a full description so that you can do this too, if you need an adrenaline shot. more “A very exciting day in the Piatra Craiului: the Lanțuri route and Southern Ridge”
The first hike of the season is under the belt! I am so glad I made it to the start. Of the third leg of this Roamaniac project, I mean. I was far from sure I was up to it. But, as another hiker wisely wrote, nothing gets you fit for hiking like hiking. For starters, I picked an entry-level hike – and although my body protested a bit during the climb through the forest (and afterwards, i.e. now), it went well and I enjoyed it. Here is a description of a hike through the fabulous Șapte Scări Gorge – Șapte Scări meaning Seven Ladders. I combined it with a hike to Piatra Mare Peak and then walked back down an easy path. But the beauty of this hike is (amongst others) that it has something for everyone: you can keep it short by doing just the gorge part, make it longer by hiking up to Piatra Mare cabin or even longer by hiking up to Piatra Mare Peak.
When we grow up, we learn to walk – but I am walking to learn. I’m a perfectionist, so I always want to get things right the first time round. But there is no way to do that with an adventure like this: I have to learn on the go. About my surroundings, about myself. About my limits, my body, my fears; about techniques, gear, the weather. In fact, I no longer even want things to go perfectly right from the start; I love the everlasting learning process. I’d probably feel very bored without it. These are some of the things I learned throughout my second hiking season in Romania.
This is an old story – but one that needs to be told. I have so many of these – but they keep heaping up and then I end up focusing on the ‘more important’ posts about routes and the like. But I like stories. And telling them.
31st of July 2016, Poienile de sub Munte. I have just arrived in this hamlet in the Munții Maramureșului, the northermost mountain range in Romania that borders on the Ukraine. I managed to sprain my ankle – badly – in the last 500 metres of my hike from Lacul Vinderel. I have pitched my tent near an abandoned and derelict cabana. Now I need a drink.
So, this is the post I intended to write before the end of last year – but although the clock doesn’t cheat, the way we experience time differs from time to time, person to person. Never mind – January is still a fine month to do some reflecting. These are some of the things I learned in Romania last year. I haven’t read my notes for a while so I will probably do some re-learning while I write. 🙂
Let’s just be clear: the Retezat Mountains should be on top of your list if you want to explore the Romanian Carpathians. Many Romanians will agree with me that it is among the most beautiful mountain ranges in Romania, if not the single most beautiful. I can sum up the facts – like there are over 20 peaks over 2,000 metres, some eighty lakes that gleam like blue eyes – there are bears and marmots and chamois, ancient beech forests and rugged ridges, scrambling sections and lovely meadows. But you should really just go and immerse yourself.
One of the hikes that I’ve most enjoyed so far led through Râmet Gorge, or Cheile Râmetului in Romanian. It is perhaps the most spectacular hike in the Trascău Mountains: walking this trail means actually having to wade through the river that streams through the gorge, for a distance of about two kilometres. The water streams pretty fast and can reach as high as your chest in some places – although in those cases you can always rely on cables and footholds in the wall of the gorge. This hike is absolutely delightful on a hot day and the scenery is stunning. If this sounds like fun, read on and find out more.
By now I’ve spent a month in Romania, so it’s time for a review – and a post. Things haven’t been easy, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time pondering how I want to use this blog. I feel a strong urge to write Real Stories – as opposed to Smooth Stories that may make my adventure sound like a dream come true (which it is) and encourage you, my reader, to come visit Romania, but don’t reflect the hardships that are also part of my dream project and of my life. It’s a lot less scary to write up an attractive itinerary and a cheerful account of all the beautiful moments I go through here, but the truth is that Real Life comes with Rough Edges. more “First Month: Ups & Downs (and two routes to Scăriţa Belioara)”