Sunday, 19 October 2014

Through a forest - September (by Polka)

After leaving Sinaia we were going to spend a night at a campsite in Brasov. However, to our utter surprise, the campsite changed location and there was no other campsites nearby. Aaron was always eager to wild camp and it seemed like the easiest option. We followed some small road taking us to a river where we were hoping to find a nice spot. As we turned into a track leading to the river, all off a sudden we entered a different world: a world of tiny poor houses built from different kinds of wooden boards with mismatched windows where a group of kids immediately surrounded the car, barking dogs just behind them and eventually even a couple of adults joined them. We turned around as fast as we could taking into consideration the safety of these kids and drove away as far as it made us safe. There was no time to take photos of this particular settlement but we took a few photos of the nearby area. 


 Typical for Romania: rubbish is everywhere, although admittedly this was more than just rubbish normally left on a side of roads.

Our wild camp far enough from the 'danger zone'

The book Aaron used to plan our trip around Romania had 14 routes, some quite long. Although the German people who themselves did all the routes on motorbikes were able to do one route a day covering even over 200km in one day, I found it impossible to do the same. I don’t think our way of travelling suits such long distances. But we didn't always follow the book exactly and Aaron sometimes mixed in parts using ‘main’ roads. This is how our next route started,  going on a mountain road to get to a forest track. Even that can have its excitement. Since the kids were getting hungry, we planned a quick stop to make them sandwiches at the back of the car. Aaron pulled over in a village and got out of the car to prepare the food. It wasn’t long before he suddenly appeared by my side whispering: Start the car and go! Completely surprised I didn’t know what to think and do so he repeated: Start the car and go! And then went to the back. I found my spare key and jumped into the driver’s seat without getting out of the car. Aaron got into the passenger’s seat and we drove off. Once we moved away from the villages Aaron explained that a very dirty (as in probably hadn't showered or washed her clothes in a long time) old gypsy woman had immediately come to the back of the car as soon as Aaron opened it and wanted items from the car and she would not take ‘no’ for an answer. She was actually attempting to buy items, such as Micky Moo's nappies, for 1 lei (worth about 20 pence).  She wouldn't get out of the back door so Aaron couldn't close it, hence the car needed to be moved forward.


A town on our route completely off the tourist track.

Nearly the beginning of a route we planned to take through forests: an old mining town. To be honest we expected a ghost town but apart from a few abandoned blocks of flats , the town was liveable and full of people. It did, however, feel like in the middle of nowhere as the sealed road didn't go any further.

It is very poor here.

Here's the beginning of the forest track.

 What a fantastic location for a house!

We were so pleased we took this route as the forest and views of the mountains were stunning.  And this is how it often is in Romania; a poor and not well maintained town located in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

A small pass above the forests.

 A well maintained church in the middle of nowhere - a sight we are now used to.

Heading down the hills with dusk falling, looking for somewhere to set up camp.

 Another night of wild camping
 Dinner time!

 Beany loves camp fires! Even though it was a warm morning, the boys set the fire anyway.

Aaron’s shower and water heater unit comes in really handy when we have to do some dishes too.  Obviously, the water tank has to be refilled every so often but with the equipment Aaron has it can be done anywhere. He even has filters that stops bits like little rocks getting into the tank.  In these photos we are sucking water up out of a mountain stream into the tank.  The water looked pure, but in any case water that goes from the tank to the tap in the car passes through a 0.5 micron filter that can remove giardia and cysts etc.

Still a very common sight in Romania, not only on a forest track, but also sealed roads.  One or two of these went up the hill in the dark of night to steal logs that had been cut down awaiting collection by trucks.

That day we were supposed to do a short version of one of the routes just to get to another point. However, Aaron likes making use of his maps and he found another forest track that was going to take us to a ‘main’ road a bit further up. Sounded good so off we went. As one can imagine nothing is easy with mountain dirt tracks. First we came across a wooden gate which looked to us like it might be intended to be a cattle stop. Since it was already quite high up and I didn’t feel like turning around at this point, we carried on (it didn't have a stop sign nor a padlock). Then we turned a wrong way and ended up on a very narrow track. Fortunately it wasn’t too far when we realised we’d taken a wrong turn and it was also easy to turn around. After some trouble of finding the right track we then got to a very steep way down. This was very close to the end point so we were really determined to carry on, though Aaron had to walk all the steep sections first to ensure 1. that the car could get safely down and 2. that we'd be able to get back up in need.  I.e. don't go down something you can't get up, or you may end up stuck down there. The car handled this difficult bit really well. Relieved we got to the end just to see a metal gate with a big padlock! Watched intensely by a woman selling honey on the other side of the gate Aaron walked around the place to see whether we could somehow get around it. On one side – a steep hill, on the other side a river which could be drivable if there wasn’t a low bridge. Then the lady came to a rescue. As she didn’t speak any English, she pointed a way out up the river bank which Aaron hadn't noticed. The advice was highly appreciated as it worked and we didn't fancy going back.

Getting ready to drive down the steep bit.

Aaron walked further down to check before driving this part.  The steepness and terrain aren't well depicted in the photos.  We had to lower tyre pressures and use low range to come down.

Happy to be in the clearing at the bottom.

After  a little bit of trouble driving along the river and getting around the gate we were back on a sealed road.

Taking our shortcut on a main road, still going through some interesting places

Doing a shorter route that day didn’t really make any difference to the arrival time at the end as the off-road part with its difficulty took quite a bit of time.  The sealed road we took turned out to be off the tourist track and it was interesting to see some ‘regular’ Romanian towns and villages. We found that in lots of places in Romania houses had high fences and entry gates around them. Along this road there were modern houses with front gardens and regular fences.

The smallest bank branch we've ever seen!

Unfortunately, driving off the tourist track meant that there weren’t any campsites on the way. We decided to spend a night at a pension (B&B). The pension we stayed at offered tent pitches as well. Then it turned out that a room in a pension could be very cheap so it seemed like a good option after a rainy day and long drive. The pension we stopped at also offered dinner. There was no choice of dishes, the owner, Vladimir, served a three-course Romanian meal. We had chicken soup for a starter, polenta with peppers stuffed with meat for a main and pancakes for a dessert. There was also a selection of beverages: wine, beer, homemade cordial. And the dinner started in Romanian style with a shot of homemade brandy. The owner made everyone feel very welcomed. He was a friendly, talkative man and Aaron spent a whole morning the following day chatting to him. 

Vladimir's pension

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