Hospitality in Maramures, Romania.

We enjoyed riding through the small villages of Maramures. This is one of the most untouched traditional rural regions in Romania and Europe, largely unchanged for hundreds of years.

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Traditional covered gate.

People are very friendly and religious. There are many and varied churches, ancient and new, but all ornately decorated with paintings and high spiresimage

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Many of the village houses are large wood slab construction, with newer versions being clay brick constructions, but each province adds its own style and touches.

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Wooden house with plenty to keep the devil at bay.

Most houses are close to the road and have fences and some have large carved wooden gates with a small roof. People sit on benches outside the fences watching their world go by and talking to neighbours. There are many old faces full of character and cheerfulness that nod to us as we pass by.

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Ready for church.

Women in this region wear headscarves and short full skirts with colourful blouses. Men sport short brimmed hats turned up at the back and some with a feather on the side. image

There is always the clatter of the horse and carts plodding down the road or the tinkle of the dairy cow grazing near by.

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The Perta family.

We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friendly family in their tiny cottage near Botitsa. They made us very welcome insisting on cooking for us and sharing their potent plum brandy or rakia.

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Our bungalow.

We slept in a bungalow adjoining the barn that housed 6 pigs, several cows, chickens, turkeys and a cat.

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Learning about the water wheels.

A small stream powered a waterwheel that drove a corn grinding mill and stirred the rakia still. The rest of the Perta family lived in several houses close by, when it was time to go to church we met them as well.

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Andy equipped with headscarf for church.

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Preparing Sunday lunch was an all in affair.

After a great Sundays lunch we bid our kind hosts fairwell and continued on our way, but they managed to sneak one bottle of plum rakia into our bag.

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Ceahlau National Park, Romania

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Izvoru Muntui to Ceahlau National Park

Rode 4km from our camp up to the Ceahlau National Park. At the gate we were greeted by a friendly and helpful ranger who showed us a little Campground and informed us about the routes we could walk. Not long into the walk we caught up with two men, a young Romanian and an older British guy. We ended up walking and talking to them all the way to the chalet at the top, about 3 hours uphill. The British guy owned a dairy farm and the Romanian worked for him. They had come to Romania for a break and they were both organising to build houses. They were fun to talk to. The views from the top over the strange pillars and haystack shapes lining the cliffs, with the forest and lake below was quite a sight, worth the effort. We had some lunch with our new friends in the chalet and then we took a different more circuitous route back down. This route went through lots of different forest and took us across and down some interesting cliff formations. There were interpretation boards explaining the local folklore about each site. We were totally pooped after 8 hours of walking when we got back to the little Campground. Not long after we had set up a nice old Romanian man delivered a plastic vase of flowers, we think for Andy.

Riding the Transfăgărășan

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Lake Vidraru.

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Nearing the tunnel to the top of the pass

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Looking down the northern side.

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Riders on the southern side.

Capatanenii to Cartisoara 95km
We got an early start as the sky was clear but thunderstorms were predicted for late afternoon on the Transfăgărășan. The first 45km was a nice gradient up through very dense conifer and beech forests, much of the time following the tributaries of a large dam. The light playing between the openings in the forest made it very picturesque. There were many small streams with waterfalls flowing into the massive dam. Eventually we left the treeline and the road began to switchback madly, climbing to a cloudy, snow covered pass. Just before the pass we entered the 5th and longest tunnel that led to the top of the pass and lake Balea. The top of the pass which was clouded in was a bit of a retail circus, lined with stalls selling food, drinks and souvenirs. We put on warm clothes and continued down the mountain. Within 100mts the view opened up on the amazing valley down the other side. The road switchbacks were even more extreme winding quickly down a steep valley. We flew down shivering all the way until we hit the sunshine. It was a truely amazing ride with great views. It was not as steep as roads in Laos, Japan, Thailand and Turkey as the twisty switchbacks ensured a nice gradient. But the forests, waterfalls and rivers made it much more dramatic. We camped about 30km down the other side beside the same river that runs from the lake at the pass, with a great view back up the mountains.

Ruce (Bulgaria) to Draganesti-Vlaşca (Romania) 65km

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Mark the Yorkshireman (right) and Nicoli (local) outside the Romanian UK embassy!

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Traffic jam at Romanian border.

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Romanian Tardis

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First nights camp in Romania.

We got going late morning partly due to a late night learning about cage fighting from Mark our hostel host and partly due to the comfortable hostel. Mark the Yorkshireman cooked us great double yoke poached eggs and was genuinely entertaining. We stocked up on groceries, changed our remaining Bulgarian Leiv into Romanian Lei and headed for the border. It was a pretty simple crossing; 2km bridge over the Danube, hand the passports in at a small booth that had both the Bulgarian and Romanian immigration officials processing passports. The Bulgarian stamped us out, passed the passports to the Romanian who stamped us in, cooperation at its best. We stopped off in Giurgiu to purchase Romanian sim cards for our phones. $9 for unlimited internet (4g) for one month plus 300 min calls, and $9 credit for recharge next month?? We are being ripped off in Australia! It was a nice flat ride through long fields of wheat, corn and vast fields of sunflowers. We took a backroad which passed through small poor looking villages with friendly people, a bit like Turkey again but different looking buildings. Many houses have weird ornate roof shapes, fashioned out of metal. There were also many crumbling mud construction dwellings. Again the housing looks terrible, but there seemed to be some investment in agricultural infrastructure. We stopped at a small store in one small village and the people were very friendly. One old man, a little drunk was concerned that we were riding down a rough backroad, in Romanian he gave us directions to the main road. This led to a long discussion with a bigger group of mixed ages about our route. We dragged out our map and gps and had fun watching them trying to work it out. Like Turkish and Bulgarians, Romanians can’t read maps. We continued on our planned route that had a few km of rough dirt but was fine. We stopped in a larger village that the main road passed through so we found a truck stop restaurant and attempted to order ourselves a meal and struggled with the new language. Whatever we chose the young waitress said no to! Eventually i thought i hit the jackpot and ordered what the waitress agreed was a hamburger, but what i got was a small plate of soggy chips! We ended up with a very boring meal. We bought some more groceries and found a nice oak forest to camp in and ate cheese and bread. There are lots of birds, mosquitos and other insects.

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