My German language skills are quite limited, especially if the Austrian accent is also involved. However, sometimes translation is simply not needed. “Brutal” and “total” were the most used words by our four guests during our seven-day mountain biking tour across the Carpathians.
Day one – warm up in Ciucaș Mountains
Day two – Ciucaș Mountain round tour
A local vintage WW bus took us up to Bratocea pass, in a morning that started with sunshine and continued with an unexpected shower. Then it looked promising once we started the climb towards Colții Bratocei, the good weather staying with us all along the nice trail towards Ciucaș peak, and then down towards Ciucaș Mountain Hut.
The rain started after we left Ciucaș Mountain Hut, going around Zăganu. This time we were assaulted by water coming from all directions, making the descent to Boncuța pass seem more like a skiing experience. We survived the adventure with a muddy smile on our faces, but things got uglier and messier when a piece of wood totally compromised one rear derailleur. Manfred had to do the rest of the trail on foot, luckily we weren’t too far away from our destination and the very slippery surface was keeping all of us at a reasonable speed anyway.
After a conference-call with a bike service the broken bike was declared officially out of order for the rest of the tour. We were able to get a rental bike in place for the next morning (thanks to our friends at Probike Brașov), so Manfred was able to continue the journey.
Day three – From Bratocea to Azuga
The same vintage WW bus took us up to Bratocea pass and this time we headed on the opposite direction, westwards towards Doftana Valley and then over Baiului Mountains, to Azuga. A day of vast landscapes, good weather (although rain showers were visible all around us), and good trails. A good number of sheep and dog encounters, the usual barking, the usual shouting. I had to throw a rock at one particularly annoying dog, and surprisingly I hit the target. The poor dog was already running away when the rock was flying towards him, he didn’t see it coming. No big harm done, I kind of felt sorry for the bastard, but sometimes you just need to show them who’s the boss.
Day four – Bucegi East side, Azuga to Bușteni
We spent our first three days an almost deserted trails – I don’t think we’ve met more than ten trekkers and the only biker we saw was at La Rosa hotel in Cheia. He was there for an upcoming mtb enduro event. In contrast, the trails around Predeal and Bușteni were roaming with trekkers (but not mountain bikers). The level of understanding between fellow users of the trails was really impressive: a situation our Austrian friends aren’t used with, back home they have big problems convincing the big trekking community that mountain bikers should be allowed to use at least some of the available trails.
Day five – up on Bucegi Plateau, 2000+
We decided to arrange a bus transfer in the morning up to Piatra Arsă high up on Bucegi Plateau, avoiding the mighty queue at the Bușteni – Babele cable car. It was supposed to be mayhem, being a Sunday morning, and the wind that kept the cable car at bay in the previous days was still something of a bother.
There were, sadly, some motor bikers. They are not allowed to come up in the National Park with their engines. These guys will not hear a friendly word coming from my part too soon.
Day six – Strunga Pass descent, into the Bran Country
With the weekend behind us, and wanting to offer Simon a taste of what he missed in the previous day, we started the day with a cable car run up to Babele and then a nice descent to Peștera Hotel, about 700m altitude drop on tricky, technical trails starting on alpine pastures and ending in the pine woods.
Day seven – Piatra Craiului National Park
The last day was dedicated to the unique landscape of the Piatra Craiului National Park and the scenic villages of Măgura and Peștera. The uphill through the Zărnești Gorges offers both impressive sights and natural air conditioning, more than welcome after the rain and mud turned into a warm, summer weather. We thoroughly enjoyed some cool air while sweating our way up towards La Table, and Joaca, then up to Curmătura Hut.
The last day was dedicated to a visit to Bran Castle (“nice, but not as nice as mountain biking”) and the transfer to the airport. Manfred, Dominik, Fabian and Simon are now back home, close to their home trails near Lake Constance, spreading (we hope) good words around about their mountain biking experience in Romania.