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2008 Romania Carpathian Circuit


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.


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…  



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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



Scrambled eggs with bacon, cheese, compote and vegetables for breakfast. Coffee and tea and a salty bill. The German woman who owns the farm is a nun, and this beautifully situated and modern farm is part of a retirement home project run by the order to which the nun belongs. In any case, she gave the caretaker clear instructions on what to charge travelers, 40 euros per person, with or without a room. She then simply registered the four of us as three. We could live with that, as it was for the retirement home. The route takes us pretty much straight south and we stop for a break in a small wood. The horses aren't hungry and after 20 minutes Flash decides to go into the forest and the other three follow him. Pach goes through the undergrowth and the other three get spooked and the four of them trot up a forest path. Pat and Olivia follow the horses while Szolt and I cut off the path. Szolt, however, has no socks on and doesn't get far. The horses are brought back and have to stop. After a nap, we ride up the forest path, pursued by swarms of flies and mosquitoes. We leave the forest and see the Southern Carpathians and the village of Mercurea Sibiului in front of us. We water the horses, drink a shandy, meet some German locals and decide to ride up into the mountains and spend the night at a lake. We climb up the 400 meters and swim in the lake, grill the chicken legs we brought with us and go to sleep in a forest clearing. The stars twinkle in the sky.



We leave our clearing and head up to the village. It's like a different world. Whereas between Dej and Sibiului the villages were mostly at the lowest point of the valley, now the villages are all built on the ridges. Early in the morning, there is a hive of activity and the houses are in good repair. We drink coffee in the first village and do some shopping. There are fresh vegetables and people greet us and come up to us. They ask us where we are going and why we are not taking the tarred road, as it is much less bumpy. Further up in the village, sheep's wool is being weighed out on the road. A schoolboy asks if he can accompany us for a while and show us the way. Szolt agrees and accompanies us to the next village. Here, too, the basic facades are made of granite and broken marble, the wooden doors beautifully designed. A woman sweeps the sidewalk, the sewage system is capped and the streets are concreted. There is a car wash in a garage, another woman (probably 70 years old) fetches wood from the forest every other day and carries it home in bundles to light the stove. The GPS no longer shows any paths and we ask the shepherds for directions. We follow the ridge and trot southeast on sandy paths at an altitude of 1000 to 1400 meters. We meet Transylvanians who have emigrated from Dachau and are on vacation here. It's a little cooler up here, the temperatures are still around 30 degrees. We make good progress in the shade of the woods, but today's route is long. The paths are sandy with loose gravel, which is sometimes difficult for the horses. As a result, our pace is increasingly reduced to a walk and the route becomes longer and longer. By 7 a.m. we have covered 52 km and 2500 m in altitude. Szolt organizes an overnight stay, but it is 4 km in the wrong direction. We march down the track and come to a restaurant. Our first restaurant after 6 days, with beer schnitzel, chips and salad. A shower that doesn't consist of a hose without water or water without a hose and really warm water. Tomorrow we will wash our sweaty clothes.



At Villa Anna, which is run by Mirca and his cousin, we found a very nice place to stay, with hot and cold running water and a one-hectare pasture next door where we could stable the horses. About 200 meters further on we were able to eat in the Perla restaurant, the most expensive menu at 12 francs (8 E). Schnapps on the house. We didn't get to bed until late and the next morning we discovered that Anja had grabbed Flash, who had previously succumbed to Shavina's advances, and that Shavina had suffered a few scratches. The visually much more serious problem, however, was an injury to her anus, which we could speculate on how it might have occurred. To be on the safe side, we called a vet via the riding stables and after his arrival 1.5 hours later, we received the good news that it was probably nothing more serious. The 3-hour drive and 30-minute treatment cost 60 euros. Laundry was done and the blankets and sleeping bags were aired. In the afternoon, two of us drove to Sibiu to do some shopping and change money. The bus runs every two hours and there is no Alimentari in Palantris. Unfortunately, none of the ATMs worked, so we could only change euros that we had brought with us. We sat together with our hostel father and his friend Victor, called Tony, and chatted over the obligatory schnapps and beer until dinner, after which we were invited back for a glass of wine. These breaks are more exhausting than riding, at least you get to bed much later.



We get up quite early to feed the horses. A gelding and his mare and her foal are standing at Flash and Pachlavan's fence, eyeing them with interest. Later I hear that both Olivia and Szolt have tried to chase them away. Obviously without success. We have breakfast. The food we bought from the restaurant yesterday is far too rich, so we give the rest to Victor and Mirca. The path leads up to the ridge and then down the mountain for ages. We meet two trucks and a cart and at the bottom of the valley we come across a lonely alimentari. Just like in trapper times, you can buy everything, only one type of drink and one type of cigarette. Shavina is feeling better, the swelling is going down, only Pachlavan hasn't had a good day's rest. He is slightly lame at the back right and we decide to head for the next village instead of taking the planned route towards Fagarash. In the village, we meet a friendly elderly gentleman who is happy to let us spend the night in his barn in the field if we ask. However, he has to ask his wife first. She obviously agrees. We lead the horses to the river while Szolt goes shopping and gives them a thorough wash. Our horses spend the night in a fenced-off part of the pasture and we spend the night in front of the barn, where fresh, fragrant hay is stored. Even Olivia is too warm in the barn.



The sleeping bags are wet in the morning, the temperatures have dropped noticeably this night. The horses in a large shared pasture were very restless, tomorrow we will make two paddocks again. George, the owner of Pension Maria, on whose pasture we had spent the night, invited us for coffee in his yard. Previously, his mother-in-law had tried several times to find out from Szolt what we would pay George. When it came to paying, George quickly made the money disappear. I charge my cell phone and after a heartfelt thank you, we set off. The path leads down the valley to the village of Raul where, according to the map, there should be a path to Lazaret. None of the residents we asked knew their way around, but the path was where it should be, so we followed it into the mountain. For the sake of his reputation, I'd rather not tell you what follows. To our credit, there was a path marked on the 300,000 map, but it could not be found on the GPS or the 100,000 map. The fact is, the first path led back down into the valley, the second, like the third, simply ended in the middle of the forest. We took a break and I climbed up the ridge and discovered a track on the other side of the valley. I tried to get up the crest path, but it was too difficult in the rough terrain. Once back, we tried to lead the horses along the contour line over a cleared area of forest. There were tree trunks lying criss-cross in the meter-high grass, which made walking very difficult. We finally saw the path, but the descent into the valley was too much even for our horses and especially for our frayed nerves, so we turned back once more and I climbed down to the road. It would have been impossible to get through here with the horses and following the road uphill, it ended in a rut after just 50 meters. Just at that moment, a lumberjack and his horse were leading a load of trees down the steep slope towards the path we had all just laboriously climbed. Nevertheless, he kindly explained to us where we were and how to get up the ridge. 40 minutes later, a cabana appeared in front of us. The friendly people cooked rice soup for us and then schnitzel and chips, followed by... No, this time it wasn't schnapps, but blueberry compote and blueberry tea. A campfire was lit and we sat together until dark.


We receive a map at a scale of 1:100000, old but much more detailed than the 300,000-metre maps we were using. These maps are no longer available to buy, they are copied and passed on by the mountain rescue service. This map finally shows why we couldn't make it yesterday. There is no way up from the valley. Good that we made it anyway. As a consequence of this story, we will only take paths that are marked on both the map and the GPS whenever possible, as long as we are here in the mountains. I ask George about the trail markings for our route, he shrugs his shoulders and says that the markings we see here are just for decoration. He would have liked to have all the paths in the area properly marked, but neither the mountain rescue service nor the tourist office wanted to pay for anything. We say goodbye to our new friends and return to the path. This leads us through sparse forests into the other valley, where we want to reach the path down to the entrance to the Fagarash. The forest path leads down along the river and we lead the horses for the next 15 km. At the bottom of the valley we find renovated modern vacation homes and stop at a bar. A ranger speaks some English and is happy to tell us about his experiences with wild boar, deer and bears. We ride to the village of Lazaret where we meet the main road, which runs parallel here and is one of the busiest roads in Romania. Luckily it is Sunday, the trucks are not driving today. As we can't ford the Molt and we need fuel, we have to drive 5 km up this road to the next village. A green truck roars past us just a hand's breadth away and the police grumble at us twice. I'm annoyed and want to get off this road. We water the horses at a parking lot with a sausage stand. We have to cross the road to do this. A van comes roaring along and instead of slowing down, he hits the horn. This doesn't exactly lift my spirits and we continue along the road. We turn off at the first bridge and ask a fisherman for directions. He tells us to cross the bridge and then follow the left bank of the Molt. Which we do, with the consequence that we don't reach the village where we actually wanted to get some concentrated food because there is no bridge. Frustrated, we realize that there would have been a path on the side of the river facing the village. Anyway, we ride on for 5 km and come to a small village where half the village population seems to be gathered around the two Alimentaris. Dozens of questions come at us at the same time, even though we have burning questions on our lips. Szolt and I shop in the alimentari and choose the most trustworthy of the many men on offer to take us to a place to spend the night. He takes us to a second alimentari, where we pick up the rest of the drinks, vegetables and fruit we need and then walk up the path towards Fagarash to the last house in the village. This is where Michael lives, a pensioner living separately from his wife, 64 years old, a forestry worker, and a haymaker on the side. He lives in a 16 square meter hut made of wooden branches and mud, the ceiling so low that I can only move around bent over. There is running water on the other side of the road by the stream and he has to bring drinking water up from the village in a canister. A table, two plastic chairs, a gas stove and a TV with one channel, as well as two beds make up the entire furnishings. We are allowed to let our four-legged friends graze in front of and behind the bee houses. A fence is quickly erected and we lie down next to the hut under the roof of the barn. A thunderstorm rolls in and it pours for a quarter of an hour. Then the sun shines again. We sit together in the only room in the house and watch the Romanian folk singers perform. When I get up, I bang my head against the ceiling. A piece of plaster falls off. We go to sleep.


In the morning we follow the path up the mountain. This time the map and GPS are identical and we find the turn-off that takes us up to the hiking trail to Fagarash almost straight away and finally we are on the way up to the highest mountain in the Southern Carpathians and therefore in Romania. The hiking trail leads us along the mountain ridge over and over saddles to the next summit. The path is well marked and easy to follow. I wonder what the path will be like. I sincerely hope for a hiker who can give us more information. According to the description of the path, it is supposed to get worse further east. What is bad? The view from the ridge is wonderful. To the north it is always overcast from time to time, to the south slightly hazy. Nevertheless, we always catch a glimpse of the Molt plain and the villages at the foot of the Northern Carpathians. We meet a shepherd who has loaded his summer household goods from the mountain hut onto his horse and is carrying them down into the valley. Finally, in the afternoon, the hiker. A man from Frankfurt. He says that the paths marked in red and white are difficult for him as a hiker, but there should be a path marked in yellow that is better. We carry on, as we can only descend into the valley at the lake anyway. Shortly before we reach the lake, we meet a shepherd who willingly gives Szolt some information. He knows nothing about a yellow-marked path, only that no matter which path we take, the horses won't get through. We could only take the easier path down to the Barcaciu hut and spend the night there. There would also be horses down there. We descend, the crystal-clear lake sparkling below us. The path is a tough one and if this is the easier route, then the decision to descend here was the right one. We take another break at the lake, but we can't linger too long because the path is still long and the fog is descending. We follow the path further down into the valley and the demands on people and animals are extremely high. We manage the descent and arrive at the bottom of the valley, where the shepherds are amazed that our horses can do this. The disappointment is great when we finally arrive at the hut, not a blade of grass for miles around. We decide to descend completely, as we have to feed the horses and, according to the hut warden, it would be irresponsible to continue up the mountain. The path behind into the valley leads down along the ridge of the mountain and it is almost 8 p.m. by the time we reach the bottom. The cabana is run by a cantonal councillor. It has its own trout pond and a fallow deer enclosure. We receive a rather cool welcome, the warmth we have experienced in recent weeks gives way to calculating capitalism. What a pity. We can only keep the horses in a pigsty, but at least we get good hay for the horses. The stable boy is very helpful and nice. We were on the road for 12 hours today. 



We discuss the rest of the ride. We decide to ride to Sinca Nuoa and then decide on the route from there. Flash jumped on a tree stump on the last descent and got a bruise in front of his abdominal belt. We treat him and also the scratches on the legs of the other four-legged companions. The trail leads down the valley and then eastwards along the foot of the Fagarash Mountains. We ride by compass across seemingly endless meadows. As long as we can use paths and wagon tracks, we make good progress. In places where the ground has not been cultivated for a long time, we can only walk at a pace, as the molehills here are about a step's length apart. As in earlier times, we have to keep looking for paths through dry valleys and over bushy ridges. The ground is completely dry, except for the small rivulets that fill the whole valley with their masses of water when the snow melts. The grass is brown and most of the crops have dried up. In the afternoon, just when we were hoping to get a good cut today, Anja loses an iron. We go back, but we can't find it. Not much later, we come to a sign for a fish farm where horse rides are also offered. We lead the horses there along dusty country roads and buy schnitzel, chips, bread and drinks. Here we also find out the address of a farrier in the next village. We can spend the night in the garden of the next house and the blacksmith's wife lights a barbecue for us. We reheat the chips in the grill pan, grill sausages and tomatoes and enjoy the now not-so-cool drinks. The farrier arrives and rummages in his bag for a suitable shoe. They are still hand-forged steel parts with bent ends and studs welded to the front. The nails are also hand-forged, so he is all the more pleased when we offer him ours. The price? We should pay him what it's worth to us. He is overjoyed with his 25 SFR (50 lei). The iron sticks out 2 cm at the back but with a bell from Shavina it could be done. Hope dies last.



Shavina's leg is a little swollen in the morning, but it gets better with exercise. We trot eastwards on grass and dirt tracks and come to a monastery next to which a tourist complex has developed. There is even a restaurant. We order mitsch, which is like meatballs, except that they are shaped like a straight sausage. In the afternoon, the road gets worse and we walk most of the way. There is a herd of horses down in the valley; they graze quietly and only raise their heads briefly as we pass by. We ride to the next village. Tomorrow we should make it to Sinca Nuoa. Here we ask for accommodation at the Alimentari and the sales clerk spontaneously offers us her own large garden. We ask for a farrier and are told that one lives just around the corner. Szolt fetches him and we order 6 shoes from him. They will be ready the day after tomorrow at 7 a.m. We are told to go and get them and he will nail them on. The sales clerk's family are super nice. We bathe in the plastic swimming pool and later, when the water in the hot water boiler has warmed up, we can even wash our hair. We get oats for the hay bellies, which are otherwise happily gnawing on the green grass, and are allowed to cook the polenta we bought for the horses in the kitchen. We eat the schnitzels we bought the day before together with the polenta, cheese and tomatoes.



At feeding time in the morning, Shavina is standing there with a fat leg. It doesn't look good. Luckily it's only 32 km to Sinca Nuoa and the, where we'll take a break. We split the group and Pat and I reach our destination at lunchtime. Szolt and Olivia are walking and as their phlegmon is not improving, they ask to be picked up. Christoph and Barbara, the two biologists who run the Equus Silvania, are extremely helpful, even though they are pressed for time. I drive back in their car and trailer to pick up Szolt and Olivia. Back at the ranch, the horses and we are pampered with luxury. We discuss the situation, have lunch and wash the horses, ourselves and our clothes. In the afternoon, people from a foundation come to support one of their conservation projects. We eat dinner together with lamb and potatoes. Delicious.



At 6.30 a.m. the cab picks up Szolt, who drives back to pick up the blacksmith. One of the two parcels I sent to Sinca Nuoa by air freight (55.- E) has even arrived after 4 weeks. Fortunately, it contains replacement Duplos (our plastic horseshoes) and mineral feed. The farrier arrives at 8 a.m. and starts to remove Anja's front shoes. Somewhere along the way Szolt had found a suitable shoe (man must be lucky) and so Anja, Pach and Flash can be shod all over again. The blacksmith, who must have been 60 years old, did a very good job, the only thing that took some getting used to was the way the shoes were cut out with a chisel. Especially for the person who was allowed to hold the hoof and on whose arm the blade was passed skillfully but only cm away. He was very interested in the plastic horseshoes and nailed them on professionally with great enthusiasm. We paid the equivalent of €28 or 40 francs for the 2.5 fittings. For that money we could fly him to Switzerland to have them shod. After I had driven him back in a car, we took a cab to Zernesti and Bran, to the castle that the author of Dracula had used as the subject for his novel. We were part of a herd of tourists pushing through the narrow corridors. It's a nice little castle that belonged to a woman with a daughter and you're only confronted with the whole Dracula magic again when you enter the souvenir mile. Szolt buys a flute for €1 and Pat a straw hat. We get money from the bank and shop for the next few days. Olivia suggests that we travel on in two groups, Pat and I take the longer route, east and then north, while Szolt and Olivia see how things are developing at Shavina and then take the Medias Trail, which will lead them directly towards Dej and Cluj-Napoca. We redistribute the luggage and some goods are entrusted to the Romanian postal service, which will hopefully be a little more reliable this time.



Last night we were shocked to discover that we had lost the 1:300,000 detailed map. In the morning we try to find alternatives but the girls can't help us. Szolt says he will get a map organized, so I take the remaining 800,000 map. We saddle up and say goodbye to Olivia and Szolt and set off in a light drizzle. We walk back the way we came. We ask for directions to the railroad line and get contradictory information. As it had rained the night before, the paths are very soggy and it is difficult to motivate the horses to wade through the endless mud puddles. As the Sinca repeatedly crosses our path and the ground is so dry that it cannot absorb the water, the path is flooded over a large area. Despite this, the horse-drawn vehicles seem to have already passed through here. In any case, deep furrows can be seen in the wet mud. Finally we come to the railroad line and lo and behold, there is no railroad at all, but a nicely developed path that we follow without any problems until it suddenly ends in the middle of the forest. The cart tracks show us the way and we reach the road. On the way, we find fresh bear tracks in the softened path. We followed the new road for a while and had to keep crossing the various streams, which could actually only be crossed on the road. However, as a wide canal separated the meadow from the road, we had to keep presenting the horses with new challenges. Finally we were able to leave the road and take a gravel track into a nature reserve. 14 lakes are lined up here like pearls on a string. They serve as overnight stops for migratory birds on their flight north. There was a traffic jam in the middle of a village on this route. As we meandered past the cars and came to the crossroads, people were dancing in a large circle. A band consisting of a. clarinet, a bass and a violin were playing. A wedding. The music came to an end, the circle broke up and the traffic moved on. The village was only two houses wide and stretched along the street, where the fountains were equipped with rollers and handwheels and stood in niches in front of every house. A car stops, the driver greets us in English and wants to know where to and from. He invites us for a beer, he has a house at the end of the village. He is a 72-year-old ex-army man and married to a 30-year-old Romanian woman. They live in a big house and move to Spain every winter. The house is currently being extended into a pizzeria, and when this is finished they will stay here. The houses are painted in bright yellow or green, but also purple colors. We come to Haghati ( Halchiu)??? and are approached by two men who belong to the upper class. We explain where we are coming from and where we are going and that we need a place to camp our horses for the night. One of them, who only speaks a few words of German, explains that we have to spend the night at his place. He is an inspector for the local police and a passionate hunter. He also has horses, but they are in a pasture somewhere else. We are given a piece of garden where we fence in the horses. Right next to it is a three-year-old deer buck that has been raised here since birth. He was badly injured by wolves when he was young and was rescued by a hunter. It now serves as an exhibit for foresters and hunters. Next to it is a fawn and a wild sow named Pamela Anderson. Three large bales of alfalfa are dragged in and we are served bear sausage, smoked venison and wild boar salami as well as schnapps from a 1-liter water bottle. After the meal, we accompany him to a partridge farm. The young manager comes with us and his washing machine is also loaded. On the farm with over 1000 partridges, the manager shows us his dog kennel. 42 dogs are kept here in a free run, only some are locked up in large kennels. There are also 20 cats, an eagle owl whose wings are broken and have not grown back together correctly, and a brood of partridges that have been crossed with domestic chickens. Ikken the hunter's horse is completely emaciated, next to it is a magnificent foal. Ikken wants to know what he should do? On the way back we buy a new map. We look after the horses again and Ikken gives us a hare skin for Pachlavan's saddle print.


We ride along the road and then turn off towards the north and the mountains. The path leads up the mountain on a gravel track, later crossing grassy clearings interspersed with stately oak trees. Over sheep pastures, past tiny huts where sheep's cheese is made, we come to hilly terrain and are no longer on the path marked on the map, but only follow the compass needle and the mountain ridges. The horses are thirsty, but there is no water for miles around. A shepherd we ask explains something eloquently, but whether it has anything to do with my question about APA por les Caii is not for me to judge. A lake is marked on the GPS, we ride there, but only find a few pools whose water we don't want to offer to the horses. A little further north, I find the path marked on the map again and there is also a lonely house here. Gypsies are sitting at the entrance to the property, I ask them for water (Apa) and they send me through the gate. At the same time, a family appears on the road, carrying baskets full of raspberries to the house. I ask them for water and they willingly give it to me from the draw well. The girl, who speaks a little English, explains that this is a scout home, the Hungarian Scouts in Romania. We ask for the specific route that should take us to our destination, but in Romania they don't explain routes, only directions, and then you just take any path or route that leads roughly in that direction. If it doesn't fit, you cross the field. We learn something new. That's exactly what we do, and march down the mountain through the forest, following some horses that once walked down here. Again and again we find bear holes and when we happily come out at the bottom, we are standing next to a charcoal pile. It must be 15 m in diameter and up to 3 m high. Stacks of wood, which are later covered with straw and earth so that the stacked wood can char. We water the horses and ride to the next village. The cultivated areas are very tidy and it looks like very tidy people must live here. However, we are eyed quite skeptically and we decide to go to the next larger village. The people are all dressed for Sunday, with big straw hats and pink ribbons. We leave the village and a few kilometers further on the tarred road to the next village begins. Cyclists come towards us, they also greet us but avoid eye contact. We lead the horses further down the hill and the cyclists overtake us from behind. This time I ask if anyone speaks English and the man takes heart and looks at me. I briefly introduce myself and explain my wish for a pasture for the horses and us. He is obviously happy to be able to speak English with someone and spontaneously explains that we can keep the horses at the neighbor's house. He sends his sister and girlfriend ahead to inform the neighbor. After a few minutes, they return. The neighbor wasn't there, but we could keep the horses in their parents' garden until he came back. No sooner said than done, as we pass through the village, I see a restaurant and invite the three of them for dinner. We fence in about 15 square meters for the horses and give them as much hay as they want. We don't even need the neighbor anymore. After meeting the parents, we went back to the restaurant, ordered beer and all three dishes that were available. The two women were history teachers and Bobe is an employee at a historical institute in Georgheni. Bobe explains that they are Calvinists and that we must be like aliens to the people here. He, too, had actually shied away from contact at first. The village is Hungarian, which means that no Romanian is spoken here and my few bits of Romanian are of no use at all. We lie down to sleep next to the horses, the sky is dotted with stars. It's going to be cold tonight.



Despite the horse blanket and poncho, the cold creeps into my sleeping bag and I'm glad when it's finally 6 a.m. and we can get up. Coffee is soon on the table and there's a tempting smell of scrambled eggs and bacon. We reach Banii Mica and follow the wagon track up the mountain. On the way we meet a team of oxen. Soon the path splits and I decide to follow the path along the stream according to the map. Serious mistake! We should have followed the lorry track, but you're always smarter afterwards. The path leads in the right direction, but increasingly becomes a beaten track. I let Flash take the lead for the most part and just make sure we're heading in the right direction. At the highest point up there at an altitude of 1520 m, the cantonal border intersects with our path, and then we should be back on the right track. Flash follows some horse scent marks up the mountain, finds a drinking trough and leads us purposefully up. We take a break below the summit, the whole valley and ridges at our feet. I study the map and GPS again and decide to go back another 500 m and take a path that Flash had ignored to climb the summit on its eastern side. Later I realized that it was unnecessary, if we had continued on the path we would have come out at the same place. In any case, we had it again, the path that was marked as a thin gray line on my 300,000 map. Now we just had to follow it, descend the 1000 m and then we would be back in civilization. Something was rumbling in my guts. Shortly after midday, everything sounded the alarm. Stomach grumbling and a continuous feeling of thin stomach. The descent is interspersed with short interruptions to the next toilet. Fortunately, there is a toilet behind every tree. The way down into the valley is endlessly long and I'm really exhausted. I nod off at every food break and have to persuade Pat not to let me doze for more than 20 minutes. The path leads through meters of tall grass and then continues into a stream bed. The GTA sends its regards. We decide to leave the path and ride across the meadow to the next village. A shepherd drives his flock with whistles so that they don't block our path and further down we meet a family making hay. I approach them, but they want nothing to do with us. So we carry on. We ride across the freshly mown meadows and come across another family with a daughter. The mother comes up to us and speaks to us. I don't understand a word and the mother fetches her daughter. She is a physics and chemistry student and speaks a little English. I explain to her what we are looking for and the family spontaneously decides to leave work and accompany us to their home. The horse is harnessed and the bar mower is loaded onto the flatbed trailer. The wife gets on Flash and I am allowed to sit next to the coachman. The horse obeys the coachman at his word, brakes the carriage on command and accelerates to the second. The ride on the bumpy track, where the coachman has to keep checking that the wheels avoid the worst boulders and the horse takes the easiest route for the carriage. path. The horse is led over a long S-curb, but this is hardly needed. We arrive at the farm and the horses are given a whole wagonload of fresh alfalfa. I lie down in the allocated bed with a schnapps and only get up to visit the toilet.



After a mixed night (Pat made quite interesting noises several times to leave the room in a hurry) I feel much better. But Pat is now in full control. After a breakfast of toast, salt and garlic, we set off at 9:30 and stroll along the road to Mercurea Ciuic, where beer is brewed. We will probably postpone the beer tasting. The traffic flows at a leisurely pace and we ride right through the town. Pach no longer fusses about trucks and tarpaulins and Pat rides him carefree on a Parelli halter. Back on the main road, we stop every now and then so that Pat can take a break while the horses graze. In the afternoon we find a guesthouse and after some persuasion I manage to convince the landlady that we can spend the night here, even if we haven't come by car but by horse. I find a piece of meadow next to the guesthouse, bordered on all sides by a stream, where I place the fence so that the horses can't be seen. The two of them pounce on the fresh grass and I go back to stow our stuff away completely. Later, over dinner, the landlady tells me that she would sleep better if I brought the horses into the yard. What will you do for the weaker sex? So I take the fence down again, lead the horses through the stream into the yard and fence them in. I'm allowed to take as much hay as I want from a pasture where a professor of geography is pulling the hay together by hand in exchange for the information that I'm from Zurich and Helvetia. I bring the hay to the horses in a wheelbarrow I borrowed at short notice and find out that I have to rebuild the fence so that people from the surrounding area can fetch water here. What kind of people have to fetch water here in the evening, I ask myself, and what's all this talk about gypsies fetching water next to the horses? Before I can get angry, the landlady comes and explains that her husband will check on the horses until 10 o'clock at night and then close the gate. So I rebuild the fence again and then go to sleep.



We eat late and don't leave until 9am. We cross the road we came on yesterday and ride into the mountains. The road runs through a long village, but the houses are not lined up in a row, but scattered along the road. It's a completely new village that looks more French or German, even though we're still in the Hungarian-speaking part. Pat takes a painkiller and from then on she feels better. A herd of cows and excited geese block the road, which crosses a stream that the cows use as a drinking trough. I don't know if I've misinterpreted the shepherd's demonstrative obstruction, but as I ride slowly past him through the herd without comment, he makes no move to do anything about it. Once again, I ask for the specific route marked on the map, but all 3 respondents point to a route that is neither marked on the map nor on the GPS, along the railroad line. I don't like having to overturn my own principles, but sometimes you just have to roll the dice. So here we are again on the way over a pass that wasn't marked on the map or the GPS. At least there were always people herding cows or mowing meadows to ask about. But this time the path was no trouble and we reached the top of the pass and entered a different world. Hills, wooded and unwooded, individual huts, fences and gates. Later, the hills were cultivated in a checkerboard pattern right over the ridge, with vertical trails of logging horses. The slopes were dotted with individual trees that dotted the hillsides in dark green like individual triangles.

Pat is still no better. We find a guesthouse, actually a hotel, which serves as a ski lodge in winter. However, the ski lift with floodlights is only 300 m long. The three ladies at reception could only see work coming their way and fled behind the bar, important-looking business journals and the telephone. Only the youngest took heart when I asked her if anyone spoke English. A little, she said, but all her translations into Hungarian were always met with the same negative faces and answers. This prompted me to follow up all the more persistently when a young man from a Hungarian film crew suddenly stood next to me and offered to help. He asked the ladies the same thing again and then turned to me and said: the three of them can't help, but he knows the neighbor and he will certainly help. We went to the neighbor and he immediately took matters into his own hands, explaining that his brother lived across the street and had a horse. We could get everything there. So off we went and half an hour later the horses were unsaddled, fenced in under the apple trees, watered and fed with hay, wheat bran and oats. Our attempts to talk to the neighbor fail miserably, as I don't speak Hungarian at all, especially as he wants to express himself in sign language. The friendly helper also disappears and we are left to the Hungarian, who is obviously trying to explain to us that he wants to convert his house into a guesthouse. He already has two attached rooms without foundations or floors, tiles for the walls and a shower hose. He also knows that a room in his house will be 15 lei cheaper than in the guesthouse. Until he showed us the incomplete building, we assumed that he had invited us to his home. So we went back to the guesthouse, reserved a room and wanted to order dinner from the English-speaking girl, but she obviously had instructions to get my ID or the money for the overnight stay. I explained to her that I would pay after dinner and that I didn't have any ID with me, but would be happy to write down my address for her. After a while she arrived with a piece of paper on which I wrote down my Swiss address. The food was adapted to the intestinal problems and we had a great chat with the horse host's brother. During the meal, the horse-drawn carts drove past us. One of them started to overtake a slower cart, both of them trotting with a 3 m high load of hay on the flatbed, when the faster one realized that a car was coming towards him. Without further ado, he put his horse into a gallop and turned back just before the car. Movie-worthy. The room above the dining room of the ski lift station, which was supported by mighty oak trunks, was comfortably furnished with a beautiful bathroom and beds made of 15 cm thick oak, a TV with 10 channels with no reception anywhere and no hot water in the shower. At 0:35 the alarm system in the hallway suddenly went off. All the residents on the floor gathered in the hallway. But nobody knew what to do, so I kept pressing the alarm system keypad until it finally stopped. I can't say whether it was my pressing or whether the thing ran out of breath on its own, but it was always nice when peace returned. Early in the morning, our host is already up as we are tending to the horses, he has already put fresh water in for them. We saddle up and go to the guesthouse for breakfast, but Pat has even more intestinal problems today than the day before and only drinks a cup of milk in which she dissolves bitter chocolate and honey.


We follow the valley, the mountain ranges are partly cultivated, the rest forested, and meet a group of Hungarian mountain bikers who are having breakfast. They are on a 14-day tour of the Carpathian Mountains and are really excited about our adventure. We swap addresses and Pat gets some medicine for her intestines. The route takes us over a pass at an altitude of 1000 m and at the top we meet a forestry team hauling trees with a heavy tractor. We reach the valley and come across what is probably the longest wooden fence in the world. To the right and left of the gravel road, on which trucks transport the wood from the local timber industry (each small farm has its own special production) into the valley, a wooden fence has been erected that continues seamlessly from plot to plot. Not a square meter of grass is left out and we ride and trot for three hours between the two dusty fences, looking for a hole in the fence where the horses can find something green. At some point the stream is right next to the road and on the other bank there are 10 square meters of grass that has already been grazed once. We ford and sit down in the shade of a weeping willow when an elderly gentleman speaks to us in Romanian and asks us where we are going and where we are going. We can at least answer the standard questions with standard sentences. He disappears and then returns with boots on his feet, a bottle of cold well water and two pieces of pastry, which he offers us. We gratefully accept and he asks about the missing curb bit, and we explain that we don't need it. The pastries taste like doughnuts without jam or powdered sugar and are flat. It tastes very good. We trot along behind a hay rack, Flash takes a mouthful of hay again and again and chews it with relish. Finally we reach the end of the valley and Pat is pretty exhausted. We have a drink and ask for concentrated feed for the horses. A farmer with his team offers to take us to a dealer, we find him and I ask the woman for oats or corn. She nods enthusiastically each time and leads me to her store, where there are several sacks piled up and she weighs out 2 x 3 kg of maize. When I ask her for oats, she suddenly has no more and opens one of the other sacks. It's barley. Also good. We fill 2x2 kg and the farmer takes one of the two sacks. When we get to the cart, the boy wants to ride Flash, so I sit on the board that is laid across the front of the flatbed and Pat climbs into the back of the cart to let Pach follow. And so we trot up the tarmac road. The farmer offers us a place to sleep. I ask him if he doesn't have to ask his wife first, and he laughs and explains that the girl I thought was his daughter is his wife and that she's very agreeable. We gladly accept. We stop at a small farm with two buildings right next to the road and feed the horses there. Later, we cross the road and climb up a small slope. Up here is his little house, painted a bright blue. We are served salami and fried eggs and after the meal the men go to the pub to drink beer, because there was nothing during the meal, while the women (ex Pat) disappear to do the dishes, look after the children and eat a little something themselves and look after the cows, whose arrival unaccompanied, the wife was informed by cell phone by the husband hurrying to the pub. The pub is run by a lady who learned Russian at school but now speaks English because the movies are all broadcast in English with Romanian subtitles. The walls of the pub are decorated with pictures from Canada, Hawaii and Australia. With the help of the landlady, Julian can finally get all the questions answered about how much the horses cost, where we got the shoes, why we are traveling in Romania and why our horses don't have bridles. I also find out that the boy, who is actually his brother's son, dropped out of school after the 10th grade and has no interests other than his love of animals. When I suggest that he could accompany us in the flatbed truck, the whole company unanimously refuses. His father would definitely be against it. I withdraw from the cozy group by explaining that I have to take the Coke I bought to my companion and everyone wishes me a good journey. Bun drum. The bedroom is cleared for us and Julian takes the opportunity to show us all the channels on his TV despite my objections. It's obviously his pride and joy. He wants my passport and we make a deal that he can watch mine if I get his. But he doesn't agree, because he was in Bucharest and the hotel wanted his passport. And now he is a hotel for us and we should give him our passport too. After some back and forth, the situation was clarified. He was afraid we would run off with his TV set during the night. We sleep in the double bed, the couple on the couch and on the living room floor.


In the morning, Julian is standing at the table in cloth trousers and a fresh T-shirt and explains that he has to go to the service. Later it turns out that he is a machinist and has a job. He pours me a glass of beer and grins broadly, alluding to the incomprehension I caused in the pub when I diluted my beer with lemonade. He toasts me, empties the glass and says goodbye. We get the obligatory fried eggs for breakfast, tea for Pat, coffee for me and then she cooks us pudding with noodles. As we are about to leave, a van arrives with a load of wood. The 7-year-old girl, the young mother and her father start unloading the truck while the driver disappears into the pub. I help unload, Pat gets the horses ready. Later, the whole family joins us and we exchange addresses. The route takes us through the Bisac Gorge, a ravine carved out of the Carpathian Mountains by the Bisac River. The second attraction of the north-eastern Carpathians is Lacu Rosu, a lake formed by a landslide, in which the dead trees are still standing. We meet up with our cycling group again and continue up the pass on the tarred road. At the top, we water the horses and turn off the main road towards Hogato. On the way, we are overtaken by two motorcycles with a passenger car from Poland, the motorcycles were built in 1960. They are accompanied by an escort vehicle with tired-looking people. We pull down the valley on the gravel road, which means I lead the two horses and Pat sits on Flash. We pass forest workers and their beautiful cold-blooded horses and come to a broad green valley stretching northwards. Here the road is less dusty than yesterday and the road is newly widened and graveled. We come to the obligatory alimentari and get some drinks. Again, nobody speaks any language we are familiar with, so we continue down the valley. Compared to yesterday, the people here have huge properties and some of them are elevated or at least at a reasonable distance from the road. We hope to be approached or to find a situation, but the end of the village is approaching and we haven't caught anyone yet. I turn back to a house that stands above a large green meadow, walk through the gate, up the meadow to the fence of the house. Workmen ignore me, but one of the people comes up to me, listens to two words of my Romanian skills and calls for someone. A woman appears and she tries a quiet hello. English, how nice to communicate in a less strenuous way again. Of course we can spend the night, she just has to ask her mother. The 84-year-old obviously agrees and her husband tells us where we can let the horses graze. It's a forestry business with its own sawmill, 2 cows and sheep. We are served soup and then the woman says goodbye with the words that she has to take care of the horses. She says she has to look after her sick mother. The workmen are obviously laying tiles and painting. The work is finished at 7 pm. The forest workers return home around 8 p.m., wash themselves at the stream, are paid and bid farewell with a schnapps. They drive home for the weekend. Another woman turns up with a disabled child. Two boys are running around, one about 10 speaks some English, the younger one is a whirlwind. The woman's name is Maria and she is the nurse who attended the birth of the baby girl. She helps the family out wherever she can, perhaps because she feels partly responsible for the lack of oxygen the child suffered during the birth. There were three caesarean sections at the same time, she explains. Maria earns 400 euros a month and has a 12-15 hour day.



We sleep in a garage that is normally used by the forest workers. Unfortunately, we would have preferred to sleep outside, but after our hosts looked so horrified when we suggested sleeping outside and went to so much trouble, we decided to use the beds. (Luckily no one saw our horrified faces) After breakfast, the two boys are allowed to go for a ride on the horses and the girl with her older brother too. We return to the road and continue down the valley until we come to a national road again. Once again we have to pound tar and I ask where we can buy oats on the way. Flash, who has hardly lost any weight so far and has always mastered the route without any problems, suddenly stops trotting smoothly. We decide to take a day off. Pach is doing well, he has got used to Flash's 10 trot pace, but understandably he still has trouble keeping up with Flash at the walk. We put the horses in the stream and let them cool their fetlocks to see if they have warmed up anywhere, but nothing is noticeable. When we return to the bridge, there is a young man sitting there who speaks English. We ask him to find out where we can buy concentrated feed here and he gets the information from the nearest farmer, which he then brings with him. Another 2 km after the schoolhouse on the right is a feed store. We lead the horses there and in the store the 15-year-old girl understands my English to some extent. We buy 12 kg of oats and as more customers arrive, I ask them about grazing options for the horses. An older gentleman in a bordeaux shirt and suit trousers appears in the doorway and responds to my questions about his English by asking about my French. Fine, I say to myself and continue speaking in French, but always fall back into English or Italian. Yes, we can stay with him with the horses, we should just follow him a few meters back down the road. He leads us to a freshly painted house between the town hall and the police station and shows us a meadow about an hour long with good grass where we can let the horses graze. It is the mayor of the village, who has been keeping an eye on all events, has seen us go into the store and is now acting as our host. We were able to take a shower, albeit a cold one. His wife cooked polenta with cheese and meat and the neighbor brought a piece of cake for dessert. We are allowed to do our laundry and in the afternoon the primar, as he is called here, drives us to Borsec, the next largest town and one of the three largest mineral water producers in the country. We taste the water from the first 3 springs and then decide that the water from the Borsec bottles somehow tastes better. We buy something to drink and return to the house, where we speak French with the neighbor and the mayor's wife and have a great chat. Later, the hostess showed us the guest room with its woollen carpet, deer antlers and bearskin on the wall. We fed the horses again and then ate dinner while the Primar was away on political business.



We leave the mayor and his wife and take the road to Borsec as far as the turn-off to Bilbor. A beautiful gravel road leads up the pass. All you can hear is the chirping of crickets and the rushing of the stream. The road forks several times and without a map or GPS you would be at a loss, because although this is an official road to Vatra Dornei, there is not a single signpost. There is only one mountain hut at the top of the pass and various paths lead down into the valley. The shepherd shows us a shortcut and we reach a wide valley at an altitude of 1000 m, with individual houses and countless plots of grassland, fenced in and equipped with horizontal poles for drying the cut grass. We come to the village center consisting of three churches standing side by side and an alimentari where beer is also served. There is a lamp, but no fridge and apart from the beer, there doesn't really seem to be a chilled drink available. We walk through an area where lime marl is quarried and come to another crossroads with an alimentari. The woman there organizes her mother to go up to another house in the village and fetch her son. We stay with him for the night. This time we actually sleep outside, although we could stay in the guest room. But it's nice and cool after the 33 degrees during the day.



The stars seem to be closer here. In any case, there are many more of them to be seen. The farmer comes and makes us coffee and tea from home-dried peppermint. He is very happy about my address card and the lighter and writes down his address for me. We move on early, but Pat reports stomach cramps so we slow down again. Flash is running as usual again, only the heat is getting to him and us. The thermometer rises to 33 degrees, and the dust of the gravel roads adds to this - the wild west wasn't just romantic either. We decide to give it another try, as we've been lucky so far, and ride a shortcut according to the map instead of following the highway. The trail starts promisingly and leads us through a valley, following the course of a stream pretty much to the southwest. We keep meeting people who confirm that we are on the right track, or so we think, until I pull the emergency brake at an altitude of 1400 m and decide that we are now far enough west and that we have to head north again from now on. According to the map, the entire route should have been a maximum of 15 km, but we had already covered 22 km on the hiking trail. A group of women are picking blueberries and cranberries, which grow here in abundance as far as the eye can see. We climb down the slope, through the forest, until we come to a stream that is marked on my GPS and follow it until we reach the road again. We finally reach Poiana Negrii. We find a feed store and stock up on oats. The sales clerk explains that in 2 km a path branches off to the right, which should lead us to Pojana Stompaj. After 2 km there is no path, but a cyclist who says just keep going, my GPS says urgent right, but after the last fenced property there is only forest and no turn-off to the right. We stop a car and the English-speaking Romanian explains that it's another 2 km straight ahead, then right and then right again. In the meantime, the linear distance of 5.3 km has turned into a path of 8 km in the wrong direction. We meet a car that shows us the fork in the road, we follow it and then we are faced with another fork. We take the more northerly of the two and come to a cleared area behind which a few huts and green grass can be seen. We ride there and perfect. A rick can be opened, hay covers the ground, part of the grassland has been mown, but there is plenty of overhanging grass available, hay on a stick, so to speak. We set up our overnight quarters in the barn and fence in the horses. It starts to rain and thunder rolls in the distance.



Our overnight stay in the Schober was first class. I wake up at 6 a.m. dry and rested, everything outside is soaking wet but relatively warm. We are at an altitude of 1200 m and the horses are standing under a fir tree and are already dry again. It poured heavily last night. We each have a muesli bar for breakfast and leave our mountain farm. We go back the way we came yesterday and take the other turn-off, hoping that it will take us in the right direction. The path gives reason for hope, as far as you can take a road railing for cars as a positive sign, but while I have just finally made contact with Tibi, our friend in Dej, the path comes to an abrupt end in the middle of the forest. Frustrated, we turn around and walk the 6km back and Pat persuades me to try the road we took last night again. We pass our rick again when suddenly a cold-blooded gelding comes galloping towards us. The horses sniff at each other and we push him away so that we can continue on our way. Pat fetches her whip, which she had forgotten here this morning, and the gelding follows her with a delay after he and Flash have played their stallion games. Pat returns with Pach and the gelding follows. The path now leads down along the stream and is completely soaked by the rain. A tractor spurs up the path and blocks the gelding's way. We didn't want to take this souvenir with us after all. Finally, the path turns in the desired direction and our 18 km detour for a linear distance of 5.3 km comes to an end. The people meant well, they recommended the best possible route, but overlooked the fact that, firstly, we have 4-wheel drive and, secondly, we are not towing a flatbed truck. We are back on the GPS route and follow an inactive railroad track up a valley. A stream runs to the left, its water brown and murky. We come to the village, it is a large sawmill and something used to be mined here. There are huge holes in the slopes and old installations are still standing. The path leads through the forest on a freshly leveled gravel road and we make good progress. Time and again, 40-ton trucks overtake us and then crawl up the pass road in front of us. Once we reach the top, it's like Toggenburg back home, only without all the fences. We celebrate our 1000th kilometer and drink a liqueur. Down there is the future highway, which will also take us to Dej. We pass the glamorous Dracula Castle Hotel and follow the road through pre-alpine terrain. It is a 10 km long construction site. In the valley, we turn off and take a route parallel to the road heading south to Lake Lacu Colibita. On the way we ask about grazing possibilities, but the people are only interested in the value of our things and the plastic fittings. Without being asked, one of them lifts Flash's left front foot to inspect the shoeing. I can forbid the second one to do so and we move on. At the top of the pass, a long valley opens up in front of us, with individual trees and woods as well as a few houses and a glittering blue lake in the middle. A signpost indicates 1.5 km to the cabana. The horses are fenced in on waist-high green grass and we move into a room and take another shower. Today was a long day with over 56 km. Pachlavan has developed well. He keeps up the trotting pace flawlessly and manages 10-15 km at a stretch without breathing noticeably faster. He sweats considerably less than Flash and has definitely not put on any weight. Flash is so well that my vet would be very pleased. We enjoy grilled trout with polenta, garlic and tomato salad.



The penultimate day. Another fresh T-shirt, fresh socks and then off to breakfast, which is served from 8am. The trout has caused diarrhea again, but this time it is limited. We saddle up and our little helper, a 10-year-old boy who has already had 6 years of English lessons and can speak English well, is taken for a walk. Then the landlord shows us photos of his German ancestors, who still sat on the horse with a cavalry saddle, and we say goodbye, not without having taken half a dozen photos for the family album first. The path leads to the dam wall of the lake and then down into the valley, which takes us back to the highway. One village before the highway, we turn off again, into the mountains, to reach Bistrita on a parallel forest road, with a detour via a few mountain villages. On the way, we finally reach Szolt and Olivia, who are already on their way to Hevesh so that Shavina can rest there for another day before heading back. It is eerily quiet up here, far away from the noise of the highway, only the chewing of the horses and the occasional clanging of a cowbell can be heard. We lead the horses up the pass along gravel paths and forest tracks. You could walk across fields here for days without coming across a paved road. At the top of the pass, a path leads along the stream down into the valley, past a guesthouse that is currently being renovated. We reach the village and there doesn't seem to be anyone around. A lone man is shoveling around the sewer, a hunter stops and asks where we are from and where we are going. We ride over meadows and gravel paths to Satu Noue and are just shopping in the Alimentari when a German-speaking football coach from a 4-league team approaches me and asks if he can help. He gets us a fenced pasture, actually the garden behind the building, and explains to the owner that we will sleep in front of the garden. I get wheat bran and hay from another neighbor and give him two carabiners for it. There is a bar behind the Alimentari, the woman cooks us a steak without oil on an electric grill and we are served pickles and bread. Tomorrow Tibi and Gyula will come and get us. We meet somewhere on the highway between Bistrita and Dej.



Last day before the journey home. We feed the wheat bran with bread and saddle up. The landlady had promised to make breakfast at 8 a.m., but after she only closed at 2 a.m. instead of 9 p.m. yesterday, I have my doubts about her punctuality. We'll just leave the dinner we owe her at the Alimentari. The sky is cloudy today and the sleeping bags didn't want to get dry this morning. We will probably have to unpack again to dry them. Shortly after 8 a.m., the landlady is there and serves us a hello awake coffee after five hours of sleep. We enjoy the coolness of the morning and stay as far away from the gravel road as possible. Side roads, grassy and without gravel, lead across the meadows parallel to the road towards the highway. Enjoy the cowboy feeling one last time, then the road has us back. We ride through the village with its familiar streetscape, more or less green between gravel and canal and then the wooden picket fences, so high that you can only see the yard as a rider, and between every two houses of a farmstead the wooden or iron gate, double-leafed, so that the flatbed truck loaded with hay can fit through 3 m wide, in the wooden gate another door through which people my size can only get through bent over. And an unusually large number of free-range geese and turkeys. We are in the last village before the highway. The Dej table 53 km, without intestinal flu we might have made it to Dej. We lead Flash and Pach on the 4-lane road. The trucks thunder past us without slowing down a bit, and we are often overtaken by two vehicles side by side. We decide to take the next opportunity to unsaddle and wait for the truck. 6 km further on in the next village there is a motel, where we put the horses on the sparse meadow and wait. The truck will arrive sometime today. It arrives at 18.30 in the evening. We drive back to Dej, where Tibi puts our horses back with his friends. This time Flash goes down the ramp backwards without any problems and Pach then forwards. Tibi's mother has once again prepared food for a whole army and we sit at the table with Tibi as guests, while his mother and grandmother sit in a chair against the wall or on a stool between serving food and drinks. We talk about our journey and Tibi translates into Hungarian. Tomorrow we want to load at 6 o'clock.


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