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2008 Romania Carpathian Circuit

07/04/2008

Last week we met at Pat's for spaghetti to get to know each other and to take the first steps in planning. We, that is Szolt Szabo senior, my friend from Hevesh Hungary, with whom I was able to take part in the first trail ride from Budapest to Offenburg in 2004, Pat and a new addition, Olivia from Frauenfeld, who also rides a Shagya-Arabian. Szolt tells us about his home country, Romania, where he grew up and where his mother still lives. He also tells us about the Danube plain and the conditions there. Reason enough for me to suggest that we leave the Black Sea behind and take something more from the Carpathians instead. 45°C in the shade, and according to the farmers it's going to be a hot summer, is just a few degrees too hot for me.

We discuss the travel time, means of transportation, border problems and clarify what this ride means for us and our horses. Pat clarifies the travel dates, Olivia the veterinary regulations, Szolt and I will clarify the border regulations on site and via the Internet and I will take care of the transporter. After a few more emails among us Carpathian riders, it is now clear:

We are no longer riding Black Sea - Budapest, but are doing a Carpathian round trip. We start in the north of the Eastern Carpathians - head south and ride west along the Southern Carpathians. We then ride back up the Western Carpathians until we reach the end of time or Hevesh. It's probably 1400 km as the crow flies. I spend hours browsing the Romanian websites and studying customs regulations. Romania is definitely more exciting. But nevertheless, we find all the information we need and also a station where we can send replacement equipment. So much for today.

13.7.2008

Yeppee, the map material is there.... also a GPS map for the Garmin. Now we're ready to go. A part of the ride that I always look forward to. The route selection, but... unfortunately the map overview and the reality don't quite match. I ordered contiguous map sections, but I ended up with sections with gaps of up to 50 km or more. Well, not everything can be perfect. So once again I'm working with Google Earth, a 300,000 km map and the Mapsource product. The route will be exciting. 10 cm is 30 km, which reduces the map material considerably and the route will be 1500 km long with around 20,000 meters of elevation gain. No idea what kind of paths await us. But it will certainly be more rideable than last year.

The new saddlebags are almost ready and the equipment is starting to fit. New fence poles (signal yellow), the tent poles doubled so that the BW tarpaulins can be erected to form a half-round tent. The ATA carnet still has to be organized and we spend the longest time discussing whether or not to take Domingo with us as a replacement horse. In the USA, new anti-braking agents are ordered (one that should really last a week) and the appointments for shoeing and vet care are made. A final test ride with all our luggage and then the adventure can begin.

We will drive to Hevesh in Hungary with a 4-seater trailer, and then load up there to Baia Mare in the north of Romania. Klaus, my friend from Altensteig, will drive to Hevesh at the same time and spend 14 days there at Szolt's ranch. I'm looking forward to that time. However, there is still a lot to do.

Here is the map of our trip.... Some abbreviations are still in progress...... If you want to know more about Romania… http://www.karpatenwilli.de  

   




11.8.

The last day before our departure. It's almost a good omen. The annual horror story just before we leave. No, it's not the horses this time. They're fine so far. This time it's me, ten days before departure I fall ill and the dotore thinks it might take longer. Shingles. Today is the first day without medication and I'm doing quite well. I'm not so fit yet, but I had no problem reaching my fighting weight.

12.8.

The time has come. Pat is at my place at 4 o'clock. We load the horses and at 5 we meet Pete at Winterthur. A luxury liner in a class of its own is attached to his diesel-powered Nissan. An hour later we're at Olivia's Heldhof, where our horses are stabled. The horses are standing diagonally to the direction of travel and Pete has also brought a milk jug full of Central Swiss mountain water. We set off in the drizzle and drive towards Innsbruck, where we are served a great lunch at Stefan Streit's. The journey is quiet and the air conditioning is turned up to full. The horses are comfortable and completely relaxed in the trailer and are supplied with water and hay every two hours. Shortly before Vienna, we hit a traffic jam. We decide to look for a rest stop.




13.8.

The break has done the horses good and we tackle the rest of the route. We buy a vignette in Hungary and reach our destination in Boconat. Szolt's 4 Horseshoes cloverleaf ranch is a riding stables that he has been expanding step by step in recent years. We unload the horses, they are greeted happily by swarms of stinging insects and we are served Hungarian goulash with noodles and a welcome schnapps. Pete says goodbye and drives back. While we prepare the horses for a short ride. The sandy paths are perfect for galloping and the horses are surprisingly fresh. We go shopping and meet Klaus from Altensteig with his family, who will be looking after the farm for the next two weeks while on vacation. Klaus is a riding enthusiast whose experiences would be worth writing their own blog about. We end the evening with a Hungarian specialty, a hand-rolled puff pastry dessert and.... a schnapps.

 




14.8.

Much to Szolt's chagrin, Gyula our chauffeur is at the ranch gate a quarter to six. Flash and Sir Pachlavan are loaded onto the truck, while Lady Shavina and Anja are allowed to sit in Szolt's trailer. We set off and after leaving Szolt's pothole-ridden racetrack, we drive swiftly towards the border. There is no air conditioning in the car and the mercury rises and rises. There are border guards at the border with Romania, but they are more interested in the length of my dagger blade than the medical certificates or even the Carnet ATA. So we drive on and stop at the next petrol station to get a vignette for the highway, among other things. Although there are no highways yet, it can be expensive to be caught without a vignette. But there haven't been any vignettes for three months. Ce la vie. The thermometer reads 36°C and the journey on the bumpy country roads never ends. We arrive at six in the evening instead of three. Szolt's friends are great hosts and feed us as if they knew we wouldn't get anything to eat for the next four weeks.




14.8.

Much to Szolt's chagrin, Gyula our chauffeur is at the ranch gate a quarter to six. Flash and Sir Pachlavan are loaded onto the truck, while Lady Shavina and Anja are allowed to sit in Szolt's trailer. We set off and after leaving Szolt's pothole-ridden racetrack, we drive swiftly towards the border. There is no air conditioning in the car and the mercury rises and rises. There are border guards at the border with Romania, but they are more interested in the length of my dagger blade than the medical certificates or even the Carnet ATA. So we drive on and stop at the next petrol station to get a vignette for the highway, among other things. Although there are no highways yet, it can be expensive to be caught without a vignette. But there haven't been any vignettes for three months. Ce la vie. The thermometer reads 36°C and the journey on the bumpy country roads never ends. We arrive at six in the evening instead of three. Szolt's friends are great hosts and feed us as if they knew we wouldn't get anything to eat for the next four weeks.

 



16.8. 

To escape the heat of the day, we get up early and look after the horses. The dreaded horsefly plague has so far failed to materialize, but the mosquitoes are eating us up. We cross the first ridge when Pat decides to dismount and lead Pachlavan, who is walking stiffly. After a while, when things are still no better, she mounts and we follow her at a gentle trot. We ride stubbornly south across meadows and pastures, always following the ridges of the hills. No fence hinders us as far as the eye can see. We trot and canter for hours on grass and gravel paths and take a break in the shade of a few trees. There is a steady wind, but it doesn't really cool us down. It's around 35 degrees. An old farmer comes and asks where we are going and tells Szolt his life story. Again and again we pass lonely wooden and plastic sheds, which claim an entire valley for themselves and call a cow, a horse and a handful of sheep their own. There are cistern wells in every valley, where we also fetch water from the depths with a bucket and tip it into the drinking trough next to it. We reach Turda where we ride across the river, shop in the village on the main road in an Alimentari and have the name and location of the nearest LPG explained to us. Paul is already waiting for us, but retreats behind his fence as we approach. He greets us a little skeptically, but when Szolt explains our request to him, he opens up and leads us into his yard. He has trouble accepting that it is more important for us to be able to let the horses graze, even though they are not inside the fence. Later, we all have to taste his schnapps, in return for which we are allowed to use his bathroom. The sky closes in and it promises to rain. Three of us sleep in the bivouac tent, only Szolt lies down on a haystack with his tarpaulin. It's only raining lightly, but it doesn't stop the mosquitoes from attacking us.

 



17/08/2008

Some dogs came to inspect our camp during the night, but otherwise it was only the buzzing of the mosquitoes that was annoying. Paul offered us breakfast, coffee was what we heard, we got schnapps and coffee. The different strategies with the hospitality in terms of booze to go were not universally successful, with more or less alcohol in our blood we climbed and rode south. We climbed the first ridge and rode past cornflower fields into the next valley. At the top of the ridge, a huge valley stretched across the entire horizon. By midday we had crossed the valley and reached the river Mures. We tried to ford it, but the water was too deep, only Olivia decided to take a dip. We stopped for a rest, soon surrounded by curious campers. They offered us beer and schnapps and Szolt arranged the lunch program for the whole section of the river while the horses grazed peacefully. We cross the Mures on the railroad bridge and are back in a completely different world just one hill train later. The valleys and hills are sparsely farmed, just like 200 years ago. Towards evening we find another LPG, where we treat ourselves to a tuna salad and spend the first night without the company of mosquitoes.

 





18/08/2008

Sibos, the boss of the LPG in Lunca Nuoe, brought us wine and cookies which we ate for breakfast together with yoghurt and pineapple chunks. The attempt to mix Capuccino powder with milk ended up being interesting in two ways. After shaking it in the thermos flask, you have a foamy mass that tries to spread in every direction, preferably towards the shaker's shirt, and later you realize that the amount of milk is not enough to completely dissolve the powder, which can actually lead to the formation of lumps. I was then allowed to swallow the stuff. We head for the nearest bar to have a coffee and are sent on our way. Although we get coffee here, we are now too far east to find our way over the next hill and ride back a bit. Following the cart track, we climb up the slope until we can see the village at the top of the valley and march along the ridge towards it. At the highest point, we meet two farmers harvesting hay by hand and let them show us the way following the contour line. Unfortunately, we then have to descend into the valley and climb up again on the other side of the valley until we reach a path again. The GPS has worked well so far, many forest and connecting paths (field and meadow paths) are marked in the GPS as connecting paths to be upgraded, so we can follow them as far as possible and only have to cut through the bushes if necessary. The grass is not very high, lots of different grasses and herbs, interspersed with many thistles and every now and then we come across thorny bushes. The hills are generally quite flat and only slope more steeply on the south side. It was cloudy in the morning but now only a few clouds adorn the azure sky and the temperature is back up towards 34 degrees. We cross another ridge and then follow the valley to its end and then gently ascend towards the next crossing. The village of Ohama lies in the valley below us. We water the horses at a well, but the water doesn't taste good to the men and so we move further into the village. Szolt has a bit of trouble with the cool enthusiasm of the villagers, but in the end we have almost everything we need! Including a shepherd who can help us. He sells us 1 kg of cheese and tells us where we can spend the night outside if we don't want to go up to the Germans' farm, which we do! The Romanian caretakers let us spend the night. We only find out in the morning at what price, but they have to go shopping. The farm itself is beautifully situated on a hill, from where you have a view of the whole area. We fence in the two geldings outside the farmyard walls and prepare our camp for the night, although the manager has offered to let us sleep in the room. We forgo the bed, look forward to the shower and eat our cheese, bread and sausage. 2 hours later, the two caretakers return. They were on their way with the horse-drawn cart and bring alfalfa for the horses and invite us in for cookies and tea. Unfortunately, the long-awaited shower has to be canceled because there is no water. So, sticky as we are, we go to our sleeping bags and go to sleep under the starry sky by the light of the full moon.