Ozsdola to the Oituz Valley
Occasionally I join a group of enthusiastic and very fit alpine walkers from the Speoalpin Club. I am always slightly hesitant to join them as usually it takes me a week to recover afterwards! I was assured that this trip would be no longer than 13kms which doesn't sound much, but when the temperature soars to over 30oC with a rocky terrain to negotiate you soon become aware of your lack of fitness. As the trip started from the end on my road I managed to get an extra hour in bed while waiting for the main group to arrive in a small truck from Tirgu Secuiesc (Kézdivásárhely)
After registering our details with our tour leader we were off to the hills and soon overlooking the village of Ojdula (Ozsdola). As I live in this village I am quite familiar with these local forests and surrounding mountains. This area is well known to for its wild brown bear population, but walking with such a large group reduces the chances of a sighting due to the noise generated. Any bear on the same path would quickly dissolve into the undergrowth to avoid confrontation with us.
The biggest difference between British and local ramblers in Romania is that dogs are not usually part of the walking group. It was agreed that Foxy could join us and was soon generating a lot of interest and becoming friends with everyone. As is always the case she was up front and heading the pack!
I have a theory about Foxy which I believe to be true and without exaggeration. I firmly believe she runs 10 miles for every one that I walk. She is a power-pack and dynamo all wrapped into one small body. She is literally roving everywhere, zig zagging the path and penetrating the forest fifty to one hundred metres each side. As the trip progressed the group soon split into smaller groups which stretched more than five kilometres. There is no need for you to guess which group I was puffing and blowing in!. Foxy was running back and forth between the groups much to the amusement of the participants who soon questioned whether Foxy was in fact our tour leader!
High on a plateau we came across a family of Gypsies collecting firewood. Their return to the village required a steep descent, so they were busy preparing their horses and carts. Preparation is simple but has to be performed correctly to prevent the trailer from running loose and into the horse.
First, one wheel is locked to the cart with a chain to cause drag.
Then a trailing claw is deployed which can be stepped on if the trailer starts to descend too quickly.
The Gypsies were gone as quickly as they appeared and so we continued into the valley.
You can be sure of several vital ingredients for a summers walk in Transylvania, and that is a stunning variation of scenery, really wild country and great weather!
The forest is a generous provider right though the summer months, with bushes full of berries. This was a relaxing break providing us with an opportunity to take a nutritious snack.
Occasionally we came across a very welcome mountain stream or river. I was very tempted to strip off and take the plunge. However, the water was incredibly cold and only the brave ventured in!
There is one particular event that Foxy and I enjoy on our regular excursions into the mountains of Romania, and that is lunch! Foxy knew she was in for a treat with so many people around! Many were bribed with extreme acts of fondness and affection. No heart was left cold and meat and bread came flying in from every direction!
All this lovely food was then washed down with fresh mountain spring water, fed by hand!
I forgot to mention the originally discussed 13 km's turned out to be a miscalculation! In reality it was over 30! I felt like I had just taken part in an endurance test for the French foreign legion! With blisters on every part of my feet and muscles twitching I was glad of a rest in a meadow at the top of the Vrancea mountains. Sprawled in the grass I was happy to wait in the sun for the transport to pick us up. A small truck arrived some thirty minutes later with bench seats running the length of the truck bed which we straddled. A tarpaulin roof to cover and thirty of us crammed inside!
This would have been a UK health and safety inspectors worst nightmare, but everybody was having fun in-spite of the thick dust kicked up from the dirt track outside.
There was one nagging thought that would not leave my mind over the last 10 km's of the walk and that was ice cold beer! The rest of the group were heading back to Tirgu Secuiesc so they dropped me off as they passed through Ojdula. Luckily I was very close to my favourite bar, which had a little surprise in store for me. Half way through my rather refreshing beverage a cow walked in through the front gate and straight into the beer garden! Most of the cows know their own way home from the pastures, but this one either got slightly lost or had the same idea as me after a hard days walking!
I knew the bar girl would not be very impressed with me if I had remained in my chair and let the cow do a pat on her freshly swept floor, so I did the honourable thing and ushered the cow back through the gate.
Foxy was very tired but she did manage to muster enough strength to jump into her wheel barrow to eat few biscuits before going to sleep. She needs to recharge her batteries as we are off to the Lakoca weather station tomorrow, situated at close to 1800 metres!
Today was a very special day as I went to meet a good friend of mine, Biro Gabor. Gabor was the very first person that I met in Transylvania back in 1993. Arriving at the local hospital where I eventually worked, I met Gabor at 2am. Our first conversation was an explanation to my first of a thousand questions, "what was a Hungarian Doctor was in Transylvania, Romania?" I then received my first Transylvanian history lesson about the Szekely!
As is tradition on my visits to Gabor we start the day with a long walk into the hills surrounding the village of Lemnia. Densely populated with bears, Gabor always walks with an axe for self defence. He admits himself that this would probably have little deterrent effect against a charging bear, but it makes him feel better carrying one!
Sixteen years ago and twenty five years older than me Gabor used to leave me standing and panting on his mammoth walks. His level of fitness was quite outstanding for his age. Now aged seventy I was looking forward to a more relaxed and balanced excursion. How wrong could I have been! He was exactly the same leaving all of us in the party trying to keep up. It has got to be something to do with this mountain air and fresh spring water!
Gabor lives in the most amazing little forest cottage, originally a peasants house. He has lovingly restored it and decorated the place in original Szekely style. His two children, now adults Eniko and Zsolt spend a lot of time with their father at this special retreat, and I can see why. With antiques and beautifully coloured furniture everywhere it gave off a most warm and pleasant atmosphere. The garden too was an amazing sea of colour with hundreds of well cared for flowers everywhere.
As on all past trips to the Biro family you can always be sure of a wonderful meal after the walk is over. Today was no exception with a traditional game style meal!
As on all my trips Foxy is the star of the show. Gabor's grandchildren couldn't get enough of her! I could never have wished for a more friendly dog and she absolutely adores children. Saying that, she adores adults too!
We started the day by meeting in Tirgu Secuiesc at 7am. The drive to the base of the mountain near Brasov was just over a one-hour drive away. There were two parties, one for rock climbing and the other group made up of walkers. Although cloudy it turned out to be a day of incredible scenery with high alpine meadows full of birds, insects and wild flowers!
The first part of the ascent was through forest, which then joined a sheer rock face. We followed the edge of this until we reached a plateau densely covered with broad leaf plants buzzing with insect life. We then reached an open plateau where we met with other walkers, which had used a different route. At this point the paths converged before reaching the summit. It was much colder at this altitude and snow could be found in the shaded areas.
An hour later we reached the summit. What a fantastic view! You could see for many miles, and this was on a cloudy day! From where we were standing you could see further mountain ranges on one side and the city of Brasov on the other. It had taken several hours to get to the top but the route down was different and much easier. We then made our way to the second party of climbers to watch them for a couple of hours climbing up what seemed to me impossible rock faces!
We then made our way to the ‘Seven Ladders’ a cave complex with several waterfalls. The reason it was given its name was the construction of walkways made from metal and wood. Each of these platforms was reached by climbing a series of ladders. Not for the faint hearted as one of the ladders must have been 30 metres high with cascading waterfall only centimetres away. The cave complex then opened out into a steep valley. Most of the party then returned the same way, but another group member and I opted for different route back by walking around and over the top of the caves rejoining our group further down the valley. The forest canopy was dense with only twilight at ground level.
A great day, but my muscles are feeling the strain!