Overland Travel in Transylvania

by Paul White

Overlanding is the self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries. (Wikipedia)

.....and we have hosted several of these cool people in Transylvania.

Overland travel with dogs

John and Emma were on their shakedown trip of Europe before taking on the African continent! They were exploring Eastern Europe before travelling down through the Balkans to the coast of Croatia. From there they made their way back to the UK to work for a few months to build up their finances for their big overland adventure later this year!

Emma, John & dogs relaxing in garden

Emma catching up on her emails

Travelling with dogs is a lot of fun and Mutley and Charlie make excellent companions and good guard dogs. However, they had to keep the dogs with them most of the time as it was far too hot to leave them inside the Land Rover and there was not always enough shade to keep them tied up outside. Due to the obvious restrictions Emma and John have decided not to take Charlie and Mutley with them to Africa. Their main concern is that they both might end up as lunch on the African plains! Anyway, Foxy enjoyed their company and we had some great evening walks when it was cooler.

Dog walking above Ojdula

One of our walks took us down into an extinct volcanic crater of St Anna's lake. This is a spectacular location with great views across the crater and forest beyond. Our walk zigzagged down through the forest to the waters edge giving the dogs a great run with a refreshing drink from the lake, reputed to be one of the cleanest in Europe. This usually quiet place was the scene of an annual festival when we arrived, so there were far more people than we were expecting.

St Anna's Lake - Dog walking

Mutley with his long hair was suffering somewhat in the heat so it was decided that he needed a haircut! He was a little restless at first, but with a little sweet talking from Emma he soon settled down and appeared to enjoy the massage like experience!

Emma giving Mutley a haircut

This was before.

Mutley before hair cut

And this is Mutley's stealth like appearance after!

Mutley after his hair cut!

John noticed an oil leak from one of the front swivel housings. He is not a mechanic by trade but has a good understanding of his vehicle, so ordered the parts in advance of his arrival and set about fixing the problem himself. He did a great job and his Land Rover was soon back on the road.

John replacing hub seal

John replacing hub seal

Fortunately for John and Emma, they came at the time of the annual village summer festival. There were local bands playing, lots of food and drinks to choose from, mingling with the villagers, all concluded with a wonderful firework display!

Emma & Laura

Emma and John worked in the restaurant trade in Spain, so were used to cooking outdoors in fine weather! Here John was cooking the biggest local sausages I have seen in a very long time. All nicely prepared with salad and jacket potatoes wrapped in tin foil, also cooked on the open fire.

John cooking

Emma & Laura


Travelling overland from the UK to Australia

Ollie and Jenny were on-route from the UK to Australia, travelling in a well equipped Land Rover Defender 200Tdi. They are part of a growing band of people taking a career break, escaping the rat race and travelling huge distances from one side of the planet to the other. There is a real sense of freedom travelling and living from a vehicle that offers both transport and accommodation. Ollie and Jenny joined us for three days camping in our garden for some relaxation, sightseeing, wildlife watching; and to meet some of the locals. We had a BBQ the first evening which was a great opportunity to hear about their plans and route for their remarkable journey.

Ollie & Jenny relaxing in garden

Garden BBQ in Ojdula

Ollie enjoying a drink!

The Vrancea is an ideal introduction to the vast forests and mountain ranges of the Eastern Carpathians within Transylvania. The weather was wonderful and the views endless. This also gave Ollie and Jenny an ideal opportunity to test their Land Rover off tarmac and give their winch a dusting off too!

Dave giving Ollie a refresher on recovery techniques

Ollie winching out

Ollie & Jenny driving through the Vrancea

No trip here seems complete without looking out for wildlife. Where else in Europe can you drive into the mountains settle into a hide and watch wild bears! Ollie and Jenny decided on an overnight stay in a bear hide with makeshift beds, and with a full moon this meant that viewing could go on round the clock throughout night.

We could never have wished to see so much and were treated to viewings of two bears, five wild boar and a fox. At one point during the night four wild boar grouped together and charged a bear at speed. The bear sensibly decided that making a run for cover was the best option. Unfortunately, with only moonlight available we couldn't catch much of the action on camera.

Ollie wildlife watching in the Vrancea

Ollie was determined not to fall asleep before seeing a bear and his patience paid off. The job of the person on watch was to wake and tell the others when something interesting was happening!

Jenny wildlife watching from hide in the Vrancea

Wildlife watching in the Vrancea

It was fascinating to see how much equipment could be packed into one Defender. Ollie and Jenny's journey could take up to two years to complete, so everything was designed for compact and long term living. A roof tent, cooker and kitchen utensils, a lot of spare parts and numerous boxes that contained just about everything required day to day. They even had an on-board shower connected to their own water supply.

Overland Adventures with Ollie & Jenny

Ollie demonstrating inbuilt shower unit

Jenny in Land Rover

One of the highlights of travelling is to meet local people to see how they live and to exchange experiences. Ollie and Jenny were welcomed by my neighbour Pista bacsi (R.I.P). He was on good form and Ollie and Jenny had a great time meeting his animals and sampling home made wine and Palinka.

Jenny, Ollie, Dave, Pista & Laura

Jenny with lamb

They even had the good luck to witness a wedding procession passing in front of our gates!

Ollie and Jenny have completed approximately 3000 miles before staying with us, so before leaving David (my nephew and a good vehicle mechanic) gave their Defender a thorough inspection.

Dave performing maintenance work on Ollie & Jenny's Defender

Ollie and Jenny continue their journey to Australia!

Travelling overland on motorbikes to raise funds for charity

Jon and Angharad (known as Harry for those like me that have difficulty pronouncing Welsh names) were on a six week tour around Europe for charity. They contacted me in advance and asked if they could camp in our garden for a few days and then explore the village surrounding countryside. Of course we said yes and they were a pleasure to host.

Jon & Angharad

Angharad & Jon with Pista's sow and piglets

Piglets in Ojdula

Pista's goats with Angharad

Iren makes wonderful Vinete, a traditional sandwich spread made from aubergines. First they are cooked on coals, then the skin is stripped off and the inner contents are prepared with onion, salt, egg yolk, mustard and oil to make a delicious paste, ideal on local potato bread.

Cooking Vinete

Angharad & Jon riding to Icafalau

Jon is a mechanic by trade with years of experience fabricating expedition equipment for long motorbike tours. The frames that he made to support their panniers looked very robust.

Angharad & Jon

Jon and Angharad along with their motorbikes were a constant source of amusement for the neighbours and their children.

Pista, Szilvike & Jon

On the morning of their departure they cooked breakfast on a small petrol stove, supplemented with fresh tomatoes brought straight from the garden by our neighbour Zsolt. They then departed for Cheile Bicazului a spectacular gorge further north.

Angharad, Zsolt & Jon

Angharad & Jon

Overland to China and back on bicycles

I was driving along a mountain pass when I saw two cyclists negotiating the many ruts and holes that made up the unsurfaced road over the Vrancea mountains. I hesitated before stopping, not wishing to hinder their slow progress. However, curiosity got the better of me and I pulled over.

Dieter Roth & Si Wall

Brigitte Muench and Dieter Roth had been on the road for more than a year and had cycled from their home in Switzerland to China and were now on their way home. Their journey was so interesting that we stood transfixed by the side of the road listening to their stories for about an hour. We were already late for a film shoot so I asked them both to stay at our place for the night. They agreed and we met up again later that day.

Brigitte Muench & Dieter Roth

Brigitte and Dieter told me that they had quite a strict daily routine to maximise their distance travelled. Each evening they set up camp off road, cooked, ate, then went to sleep early. They then got up early, had breakfast, packed and started cycling again, averaging about eighty kilometres a day!

They were relaxed and friendly and the human element to their journey grabbed hold of my interest. They said the best part of their trip were the wonderful and hospitable people they met. The generosity and warmth they received wherever they went and never having felt in any danger. We so  often hear of robbing and muggings on the news which must put many off from undertaking such adventures. Maybe these kinds of crimes and dangers are much more isolated than we think and not all people we meet on the road are opportunists with negative intentions.

One great story they told me was about a young man they met participating in the Mongol Rally. He had a film crew with him and a personal Doctor! He was so interested in Brigitte and Dieter's journey that he decided to film them. They didn't have a clue who he was and what all the fuss was about with his big entourage, so Dieter asked the Doctor who he was. She was apparently amazed that they didn't recognise him, Jack Osbourne: Adrenaline junkie!

Brigitte and Dieter were exhausted as they hadn't slept much the night before. They were very aware that they had entered bear country and were concerned a bear would smell their food whilst wild camping. Fortunately they didn't have any encounters but were now looking forward to a peaceful nights sleep in our summer house with solid walls around them.

Brigitte Muench & Dieter Roth

The following morning after a quick breakfast on the summer house doorstep, they packed and were gone within an hour. I was sad to see them go as they were such an interesting couple, with a great attitude to life.


Visit the HUBB for lots more information about Overland travel