Battling the elements, Cycling through the Romanian Carpathians (pt 1)

Battling the elements, Cycling through the Romanian Carpathians (pt 1)

By Chris Marton>

Chris Marton has kitted out his Sonder Santiago Grand Tourer and is pedalling East through Europe.

"Romania was never really on my radar as a destination for this trip but I took a week long detour through the Romanian Carpathians and I am so glad I did. I’m cycle touring across Europe towards Central Asia and arrived in Bratislava ahead of schedule and realised I could visit Romania too before heading through to Serbia and back onto my original route.

Chris Marton 1
Chris Marton 4
While in theory it was already the beginning of spring, the weather forecast forced my hand when deciding a route. I wasn’t prepared for the deep winter conditions (by UK standards) I knew were still present in the Transylvanian Alps in the centre of Romania where some of the peaks reach over 2500m. Instead I hugged their western edge and followed the curved spine of their foothills from the Hungarian border in the north to the Serbian border in the south west but I still had my fair share of winter weather.My first day riding into Romania included a very wet border crossing from Hungary with trucks queued along the dual carriageway on both sides of the barriers. I cycled by them to the pedestrian entrance, received a stamp and left with a glare from the guard which asked the same question I was asking myself, why was I riding there in such bad weather?I arrived at my hostel in Oradea with shoes and pockets full of rain and parked the bike safely in the common room before anyone could protest. By the time I’d had a quick shower to dry off, a huge bowl of Ciorba and a beer and I was ready for bed.

Chris Marton 3
Chris Marton 6

Snow fell overnight but the roads and sky were clear when I woke. As I left the city I could already see the mountains ahead of me on the south horizon, their tops covered in snow.I climbed a couple of small passes up to around 400m to enter the valley of the Untu River. The sweeping road climbed with a forest on one side and the wide open plain on the other. The gradients were manageable and the weather stayed fine most of the day. I stopped a few times for stove top coffee and pastries but was enjoying a longer day in the saddle.By the late afternoon the snow clouds were building ahead so I started to look for a place to pitch my tent. This was when I had my first encounter with a famed Carpathian Shepherd dog. I turned off the road and down a rough track leading to what I hoped would be a comfy flat, patch of grass I could hide away in for the night. The dog must have heard me rattling along the track and appeared in an instant to block my way, barking and braying but standing its ground. I wasn’t going to argue with this guy or his feisty beagle friend that was a fifth of his size but almost as loud.I retreated back the way I came and found a less well guarded patch to pitch up instead. Happily, I managed to cook up some noodles and get into the tent before the snow hit and the dog didn’t follow me beyond it’s territory.Waking early to a thick covering of snow. My bidons had frozen in the night. I’d filled them with sparkling water i’d mistakenly bought the previous evening so the pressure had built, opened the mouth piece and leaked an icicle which sealed down the lid. I packed up as fast as I could manage and didn’t even try boil a coffee. Within a few kilometres I was warm and climbing a pass up to 660m with the mountains all around me looking even more imposing with their fresh covering of snow. On the descent I was cold again and my water was still frozen, so I pulled into a petrol station cafe to defrost."

Part two of Chris's Adventure coming soon. Follow his progress on his instagram, @ChrisMarton

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