Two Days Exploring Romanian Backcountry

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eatpasta
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Two Days Exploring Romanian Backcountry

Post by eatpasta » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:33 pm

My work gave me the chance to travel to Cluj, Romania.
I had only been in the company a few months and didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t up for the challenge. So I gave them a half-enthusiastic yes and made travel plans not knowing anything about the country.
I’m no stranger to travel having spent two months in Vietnam for honeymoon, a month in Baja on a GS with my wife as well as numerous shoter trips.
Once I started doing research, I quickly got excited about the prospect of riding there but finding a bike to rent would be tricky and finding a guide would be harder. I did finally find both, and both of them were perfect for my visit.

The Airbus A380 was about as comfortable as you can be on a 12 hour flight. The smaller plane to Cluj was significantly less comfortable.

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Cluj is charming even from the air

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Off the plane and into the hotel – the view reveals the mash up of two very different time periods. This house looks like it’s been built around for the past 100 years

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There is lots of street art and tagging all over the city which visually exposes a frustrated younger generation

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There are tons of cafes so I sat down at O’Peters…. And had a Guinness and a steak pie

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I spent 4 days in the office getting to know our teams in Cluj and they were all great people. The view from the office isn’t bad either

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There were some things around that were comically huge. For instance 2.5 liter beers!

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Or perhaps a wafer the size of a floor tile?

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Monster has Rossi drink out there. I guess the idea is that it makes you rider better….?

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I went out and found a typical Romanian Tshirt

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The beer in Romania was very good. I sampled a few

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My 5 year old son is obsessed with trains. Whenever im out of town I always try and find something and take a picture for him. So one day I walked over the the train station to take pictures.
Clearly there was some communist infrastructure existing here

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So after spending a week in the office, I was chomping at the bit to go ride. My guide would be meeting me at the hotel at 6am so I didn’t want to stay out too late.
Of course the guys from my office took us out for our last night. We were in the bar from 7pm till midnight and then went out for schwarma….

They took us to a steampunk bar

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This local stout was very good
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So after being out most of the night and catching about two hours sleep, there I was gearing up, bleary eyed but super excited.
Mihai has a Transalp with about 100k on it. Its his favorite bike

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I rented his 650GS which I had never ridden before but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well it handled this trip. Comfortable and capable bike

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Geared up and ready to go

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Riding in Europe, let alone Eastern Europe I would imagine, is a bucket list ride for nearly any ADV’er.
Certainly for me, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to ride this far east ever in my life now that I have young kids so this for me was absolutely bucket list material.
I brought with me, my hiking boots because it rains quite a lot up there. I brought some summer gloves just in case I got a rental but needed a jacket and a helmet.
Mihai had a jacket I could borrow but had to get a helmet from a friend and it was the only thing he could get.
The helmet was like a torture device. If worn correctly, it pinched my ears like binder clips. It was one size too small as well so the hard shell on the top of my head was painful.
The only way the helmet was tolerable was slightly sideways and sometimes, really sideways.
This lead to many ‘hilarious’ pictures like this one:
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But How could I really complain? I was about to strike out into the Romanian wilderness

Checking tire pressure and getting fuel

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While getting gas I noticed a pair of side-by-sides – street legal - were getting ready to head out. How much fun would that be?!

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Within minutes the city melted away and we were half way to the countryside

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10 minutes outside Cluj and we are already in the countryside


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The countryside in Romania, all of the countryside that I saw anyways, was almost untouched. Everywhere you look, it was beautiful.

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Riding on grass was actually a first for me and it was harder than I thought! Slippery and like snow, it masks the terrain. I tried to adapt while taking it all in.

Shortly after that, the green gave way to lots of mud and steep(ish) climbs

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eventually it gave way to an intersection where a WWII battle had taken place and there was a small graveyard

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We ran into another group here that were passing through

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Yet another beautiful spot
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And we pushed on

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Sometimes there was hardly any track at all…

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We climbed a big hill with some radio towers and stopped for a snack after a few hours.

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Looking down the hill at a 12th century citadel….

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After a short break, we got moving again

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Slowly the green started to give way to dirt and Mihai pulled over and said to me “now we see the acid lake”
Acid lake… what acid lake…?
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As we got closer he stopped me and showed me what looked to be a grey lake. So what’s the big deal I thought?
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Then he showed me the pipe that was flowing into the lake – spewing dark grey crap that stank

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Then we rode past the red creek – where everything was dead

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And he stopped again and showed me this amazing view of the lake

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As I was sitting there looking, I asked him what the spikey thing was sticking out of the lake. He told me to look carefully.

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IS THAT A CHURCH?

Geamana was the name of the town. In the 70’s the communist Romanian government decided to tap their copper mine above this little town. But what to do with the toxic runoff? Just dam the valley and fill it with toxic waste!

Here is what the town looked life before

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You can google it all day – there are tons of terrible pictures of the church in varying states of being suburged

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Well that exactly what they did

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These signs are up in an attempt to keep people from sharing their experience here….

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The entire visit here was surreal

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Further around the back of the lake, the water gets to be a crazy almost teal blue – the really toxic part and there are still people living down there.
There’s also another church that is slowly being swallowed by the toxic runoff

You can see the graveyard that is half submerged

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From the other side.

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I wanted to get closer to document what we saw but out of respect for the people living on that side, we wouldn’t bother them.

After travelling through so much untouched countryside, this was a lot to take in. It was jarring and almost moved me to tears. How could anyone do that to a whole town? It just boggles the mind.

The area immediately surrounding the town was abandoned and overgrown as lots of people had left their homes, not like they really had an option.

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As we started to ascend the canyon wall on the other side, you can see the blue water very clearly

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Climbing out of that valley turned out to be harder than it looked. Im not used to riding on grass and it reminded me of riding in snow a little in that its slippery and hides the terrain beneath it.
Either way, we made it up and out with a little extra effort from a bike I was totally unfamiliar with. This track lead to some absolutely pristine and totally untouched back country.

Of course I don’t have any pics of the hard bits because its nearly impossible to take pics or video of that without a helmet cam….but I digress

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Mihai knows the area well enough to know what gates/ropes can be taken down

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On our way out, Mihai stopped to chat with a local who turned out to have worked in the mine that ruined Geamana. He also had some kind of problem with sediment in his lungs. He was very friendly and wanted to chat for a while! This is his home
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As we came down off the mountain we stopped for a snack and to relax a little

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We ate some wild strawberries – soooo good

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Coming down the mountain we stopped for a nice polenta lunch and a beer

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We went through many small villages – all of which were very charming. As a photographer it was very frustrating to not be able to stop in many of these places to take more pictures

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The only pictures that I got we literally, in passing

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The villages gave way to a nice sweeping road with a deleted railway line off to the side. I don’t know why but old infrastructure always captures my imagination. Old train rails and tunnels…more things that I didn’t get to take pictures of!

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There were a bunch of these kind of home made suspension bridges across this river and people were working the fields on the other side

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There was also this convenient waterfall-drinking system in place

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We finally had to stop for fuel on our way up to the Transalpina

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Which turned out to be a pretty amazing road…

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couple of randoms taken my Miahi

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The remote dirt roads and tiny villages gave way to this gloriousness…

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I just kept taking pictures because the view just got better and better

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The higher we got, the closer we were to the rain. We stopped for a few minutes on top of this huge dam so Mihai could make a call

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We finally made it to our $20 a night hotel that was filled with bikers from all over Europe but mostly Germans from what I could see/hear

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A whole bunch of garage queen BMW’s too

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KTM1290 sidehack anyone?

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My view from my room

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Believe it or not, that is the end of DAY 1. Day 2 was even more incredible…. Stay tuned
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We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot
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offRoadventure srl
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Re: Two Days Exploring Romanian Backcountry

Post by offRoadventure srl » Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:32 am

Hi,
Great pics, I'm pleased to see that you had a great time and I hope to meet you the next time you're in Romania. There are lots of fantastic places to visit here.
Best offroad regards,
Bouke
SC offRoadventure srl
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