To mark our final day in the Cindrel Mountains Rich drove us back to Paltinis to walk route number 8. Romanians seem to take their bike races very seriously and the road below the chair lift car park was already closed off by the time we arrived. The doggy was still there to greet us though.

After walking 600m up the road to the start of the footpath we didn’t see another soul until we came to the refuge just below Vf. Tomnaticu. There the peace and quiet was sadly shattered by two scrambling bikes. Unlike may scrambling bike owners in the UK however they slowed as they passed us and nodded an acknowledgement. Back home we’d no doubt have had to throw ourselves to the ground to avoid being squished.

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There’d either just been or there was about to be a mountain bike race in the forest as there were markers and signs along much of the path. There were also claw marks on many of the trees so we tried not to think too much about the bears, reasoning that they woudn’t be hungry enough to try and eat us until post nap next Spring.

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At 12.15pm we saw our first fellow walkers of the day, also aiming for Vf. Oncesti but in the opposite direction. Not for the first time we felt very conscious that we were wearing good walking boots and had lots of walking paraphernalia, whilst many Romanians walk in trainers and carry their belongings in carrier bags rather than rucksacks. There simply isn’t the money to spend on walking kit. And yet they get out and enjoy the hills regardless thank goodness. This didn’t stop us feeling bad for having walking poles and vibram soles though as we couldn’t miss the sideward glances at our kit. We’re both very grateful for what we have anyway, but this is one of many reasons why we travel and why others should do so – many people the world over don’t have anywhere near what we have, and yet you still hear people moaning that life is unfair because they can’t afford this or that gadget. Who cares?

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After stopping for pictures and lunch at the signal tower the footpath became quite a bit busier. The chairlift runs on Saturdays and it seems to be the done thing to get a little help up the hill. The path followed the line of the chairlift though so we still enjoyed the cheery hello’s and waves as each chair passed, and were able to count a number of missing shoes on the ground. We got back to find Lulu hemmed in on all sides by race goers. Fortunately, given her tiny size and Rich’s maneuvering skills we were able to release her eventually, but it did annoy me that the car owners doing the hemming in just sat and watched us, rather than moving their cars out of the way to help.

2km down the road Rich pulled over so that I could drive 29km of hairpin bends. I was a little tired and a migraine had started to creep in but thanks to the race road block the roads were quieter than they were yesterday, and I was able to focus all of my attention on getting us home, in one piece. This meant avoiding sunbathing dogs and families barbecuing whole chickens at the side of the road. Fortunately no creatures were killed during the making of this blog.

As Rich had predicted the house opposite the cottage is indeed a weekend/holiday home, and one of their guests had nicked our car parking space. Still, watching their little people have water fights with a hose pipe made for a very entertaining end to the day. The shepherd also celebrated the weekend by sitting on the grass verge and lighting up a cigarette whilst his sheep nibbled.

We talked about how much we’d miss the cottage and Vale, and just after 9pm I finally made it up to the village church to take a closer look. Most of the exterior frescoes have been removed but it’s still a beautiful building, and an extremely peaceful place to sit. There were hardly any streetlights but I felt very safe, making me crave the village life for ourselves back home even more!

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Rich wasn’t impressed when I discovered that we had an infestation of flying ants once he was already snuggled up in bed and I refused to go to sleep until they’d gone. They’d come up through a hole in the wall and had covered the lamps and a corner of the bedroom. Trying to push thoughts of waking up covered in ants to the back of my mind I switched the lamps off and wiped most of them away with a damp cloth, and then just hoped that the ones on the floor went back to where they’d come from. Sure enough within an hour they’d all disappeared and I was finally able to sleep. And yes I know that there are parts of the world where I’d REALLY have to worry about the damage that ants could do, but hey, baby steps n’all.

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