Despite having read that Romanians are big tea drinkers (much like the Welsh), we could only find black tea bags in the largest supermarkets, and had to make do with fruit teas in most cafes. Fortunately our foraging efforts had paid off and we’d found some tourist tea, so after the requisite morning cuppa Rich drove us the 40 minutes to Paltinis, the nearest ski resort to Vale. It took us 40 minutes because according to the map part of the road to Rasinari was unpaved, and we didn’t think Lulu would cope with miles of gravel, especially on hairpin bends, so we’d taken the long way round. Lulu is lovely but I’m sure that even she would agree that whilst she has stamina, she lacks power and momentum. With Dervla egging her on you could almost hear her telling herself ‘I will do this, I will do this!’ as we climbed the mountain pass, in second gear.
We’d expected to see lots of cars and people given that there was a chair lift, cafe and a series of trails, but we had the whole place to ourselves. A dog who appeared to live in or close to the car park wandered over for strokes, and after taking advantage of the solitude to make loo stops behind a very handily placed portacabin, we headed off down ‘Route 11’. We quickly warmed up as we climbed through the forest, and close to the ridge line again met some local berry and mushroom pickers, although this time as one of them spoke Spanish we were able to enjoy a brief conversation. Whenever I see people foraging I always make a mental note to sign up for a course. I really ought to stop faffing and just book one as we’re both very much fans of wild and slow food.
The forest opened up at Poiana Gaujoara and just a few minutes later we came across a a stud of horses and a shepherds hut. A woman, who may or may not have been a shepherdess, came out and waved at us. Fortunately there weren’t any dogs or wolves in sight. We stopped on Vf. Rozdesti (1954m) to take in the views and a snack, and then back tracked to the tractor track and unpaved road, stopping for a quick lunch just before the final descent below the chairlift. By the time the sun was at its hottest we were back in the shade of the valley.
We don’t know where Romanian walkers walk, but it certainly wasn’t here. We couldn’t quite believe that we had such a landscape to ourselves. Perhaps it’s heaving in Winter. But in Summer it’s a little known oasis of peace and quiet, a secret paradise.
I drove us home, under the watchful eye of Dervla, and no one screamed when we took the hair pin bends on the shorter, recently paved route. Rich spotted a stork on top of a telegraph pole as we drove through Orlat so we quickly turned into a side road so as not to miss the photo opportunity. They truly are a magnificent sight. It must be a pain if they decide to nest on your chimney stack though.
After naps, more snacks, a spot of laundry and some reading we decided that we should get our final shopping expedition to Sibiu over and done with. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about buying any more dried and gluten free goods whilst we were in Romania. Unfortunately rush hour appears to be a little later here than it is in the UK, which meant that poor Rich had to trust Dervla to guide him past suicidal lorry drivers, cars not giving a shit about anyone else on roundabouts, and general road user craziness. We were both pretty shaken up by the time we arrived at the Carrefore, and very relieved that we’d opted to stay outside of any cities and towns. I’m not sure our marriage would have survived a car journey into Bucharest!
On the return journey we had to stop for a herd of cows, several horses and carts, several men on horseback, a man carrying ginormous bags of hay, and a man carrying two scythes. We’d learnt to expect the unexpected. Fortunately it was still warm enough at 10pm to sit outside with a well earned glass of wine and recover from the driving trauma by listening to the crickets, and thinking aloud about what the German family opposite might be having for their dinner. I hope that they didn’t think us too odd!