Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Not Afraid of Transylvania

Leaving Piatra-Neamt again, this time very sure that our envelope/key to Ukraine was not coming to bail us out until after the weekend (5 days), we scoured the Transylvanian countryside for adventure and found some, including more roads leading to campfires and mountains. We found an NGO for Jono (YAY!) and I talked to an American Peace Corps Volunteer about his work in Transylvania, meaning he had to use both the romantic Romanian and more often the cryptic Hungarian tongue to communicate. He had done a lot of work with ecotourism, even getting a grant to build small Nepalese Biogas Plants which harness farm waste to heat houses. I was impressed and inspired by the work being done there, getting the itch to keep talking to people along the way, particularly as our coming countries could use plent of help. With his recommendation of Transylvanian pizza ("not great, but they make a lot of it") backing our decision, we drove off to the next town past Odorhei Secuiesc (don't ask how to spell the names in Hungarian unless you want to faint) and sat in a restaurant (Thats right!), ate some delicious pizza and tried to finish the local alcoholic beverage, Tuica: a so-called plum brandy that no one could stomach without the addition of seltzer water and some lemon.

Continuing on, we wound up the most beautiful road in... Romania? Europe? Planet Earth? It was awe-inspiring, designed to allow troops to escape a potential German infiltration, but for us serving primarily to get us half way up the mountain before we started trekking toward the tallest peak in Romania: Mount Moldeavu. Intense hiking, with ropes and no shortage of hand-holds, was interrupted once for the best lunch we had ever had on a windy ridge. We ran out of water before reaching what James' watch reported to be a higher peak than Moldeavu and turned around, but not before Chris extended the invitation for me to go at it alone, up that high peak, still three hours out, returning to Chris and James, who would wait back at the car with dinner ready. I grabbed a water bottle (already empty) and fought the rational thoughts holding me back only to crap out on account of my two friends who would be lost without my wit and eating abilities. We turned back and at the car watched jealously as one chubby kid zipped down a wire line at least five times, hoping our Romanian Nutella (too much sugar) was sweeter than the wind blowing past his ears while he descended. Finetti (chocolate-hazelnut spread) finished, we drove through the mountain tunnel, finding it ugly but scary, turned around and after driving through it again, descended the mountain, apalled that bikers would attempt the same windy road powered by zero petroleum products (unless, what was that in their water bottles?). We camped that night with a medium fire, collected in the poopy woods behind the campsite (Romanians use pink toilet paper, making it easier to spot, thankfully).
Next day found us wandering Brasov in the rain, grabbing a few needed items (groceries, postcards) and heading out before we knew it, towards Zarnesti, a fine national park of rocky mountains. We stayed there, met some Austians (who shared their extra bratwurst - perfect dessert for a rice and beans dinner) and, as I speed through the last of our adventures, losing steam as I go, hiked up some more steep steep mountains, guided by cables and our hands as we lugged salami, cheese, and bread up to an incredible view of the town and plateaued mountain peaks. Before returning to Piatra-Neamt to wait, with hope, upon our car registration and letter to allow our entry into Ukraine, we stopped at a river, bathed, washed some clothes, and made a tremendous fire late into the night (that means 10:15 these days), sleeping incredibly well in the warmth of lower atmospheres. Driving in to town this morning, we all almost died instantly of fear when our road turned from paved to pot-holey gravel despite our 80 km/hr velocity. We survived, got back on a paved road, and learned how nice it is to have asphault, something we can only really count on until our last 2,000 kilometers or so in Mongolia. And with that, and the overshortened story that we got pulled over but only with a warning that we were going too fast(on paper) and a warning that we hadn't paid the road tax (wagged finger), we are (should be) off, aspring to the heights of 1,000 kilometers a day, getting us into our destination country with enough time to lose, break, eat, and see something before the ever foreboding Kelly-Lieb bros' flight back draws the last chapter of this adventure to a close.

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