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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.

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Old 1 Sep 2023
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After my dusty day in the Ceahlau I was in need of a good night's sleep. No such luck. Ten or so mosquitos decided to keep me awake all through the night. I valiantly tried to fight them off with the Georgheni tourist magazine (take a selfie with your favourite pothole!), but it was to no avail. I finally gave up and fell into a coma. It took a full pot of the Aurelia's best coffee to bring me back to a somewhat conscious state in the morning.

Which was necessary, because I had to make my way south. This was to be my last day in the mountains: tomorrow I'd make my way to Bucharest, to meet up with my wife and daughter. So after a last coffee injection I saddled up the iron horse and rode out. Jenni and family waived goodbye from the door. They have been so kind. When you travel, you always hope that you'll meet decent people like them. Thank you everybody at Penziuna Aurelia!

I'd decided on a route over the Tarcau mountains, as it would take me south quicker. It turned out to be another beautiful road through small villages with friendly, smily inhabitants. Those mountain villages may be far from the center of things, but they definitely have a strong and vital culture, evidenced by the well-kept houses and gardens. The roads are mostly paved now, but I was still the only foreign visitor, as far as I could see.

Mostly paved, I said. With one, pretty huge, exception. To get to the other side of the mountain range I had to take on a gravel road that soon turned out to be, well, without hardly any gravel left at all. Up to the mountain pass it was mostly sand, which the morning rain had turned into a soft mud. I like a challenge, but now the GSA was fully packed. This would take some effort and control.

So the GSA and I went for it, with that strange mix of caution and boldness that seems to be necessary for these kinds of things. We slowly progressed through the mud and then came up to some rocky sections, which were doable enough.
Of course it all got a bit hairy when the road became steeper towards the mountain pass. The hardest part came when I had to cross the steep muddy path on the rain side of the mountain. A tough game of keeping up the speed without losing traction on the loose wet surface. I managed to pull it off by focusing sharply on where the stony, least slippery parts were. But only just.

After that came the descent, a challenge in itself because the back was constantly on the verge of breaking out. The fact that we were now fully in bear country added to the ... uh ... excitement. I spontaneously broke out in song, something along the lines of a Beethoven opera (if such a thing exists). Bears don't like horrible noises, so I estimated that my vocal talents would guarantee to scare them off. And indeed, no bears were seen. We did meet a very startled farmer though; he's probaby still getting over it.

Then it was on to Miercuria Ciuc, a dusty town in the same vein as Georgheni, minus the potholes though (there can only be one champion!). Leaving the mountains behind, I'd entered the Transsylvanian plain. This is the region of the Szekely or Secui, an ethnic group related to the Hungarians, and possibly to Attila the Hun. I had lunch in Miercuria Ciuc, after working out the menu in both Romanian and Hungarian; luckily I know a bit of both.

In the meanwhile the sky had darkened and the temperature had risen dramatically. That could mean only one thing; a thunderstorm was coming. One look at the rain radar app (very useful while travelling!) confirmed this, so I rushed to the bike and sped out of town. If I was quick, I could make it to the town of Predeal before the storm would hit.

As I rode south, I could see the storm gathering to the right of me. The sky became black and strong winds started to push in from the west. Close to Brasov, I was almost blown off the road. But the storm itself didn't catch up with me just yet.

I made a short pitstop, and was accosted by a guy who came driving up in a battered Subaru. He was an engineer, he said, and very interested in boxer engines (which the GSA of course has, and the Subaru as well). We chatted for a while and exchanged some technical advice. Then he rode off, shouting out of the window that I would always have a friend in Romania.

I rushed on past Brasov (nice city, but no time) and into the Carpathian mountains once again, upwards to Predeal. And in the final 15 km's or so, I ran into roadworks. Dangerous roadworks, at least for a motorcycle. They had scraped off the top layer of the asphalt, leaving behind a grated, slick surface that motorcycle tires can hardly handle. Extremely difficult to ride up a steep mountain road in such a situation. So I took it very slowly, with a long line of honking, impatient cars behind me. After half an hour of this I arrived in Predeal as the impromptu leader of a very frustrated caravan. Well, safety first.
Moreover, I had managed to stay just ahead of the thunderstorm. It broke over the mountains when I arrived at the Brad hotel.

So here I am, in my hotel room, sitting by the window and looking at all the lightning and thunder going on. It's the same destructive storm that hit northern Italy the day before, they say. I'm relieved it didn't hit me.
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Old 2 Sep 2023
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Must have been stressed being the impromptu leader of a caravan!

How long did all the cars follow you?

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Old 2 Sep 2023
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Originally Posted by 9w6vx View Post
Must have been stressed being the impromptu leader of a caravan!

How long did all the cars follow you?

For about half an hour. I tried to let a few cars pass by, but the road was too narrow because of the roadworks. Yeah, it was a bit stressful, but mostly because of the slippery road surface and the uncoming storm. It may have been a bit too slow for the cars, but they were safe and sound, while I had to be verrrrrry careful. So safety first, comfort later
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I hear you bud!

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Old 6 Sep 2023
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DAY 13/20, BUCURESTI, Spirit of Bucharest

I've just come in from an exhausting ride down the Walachian plain, to the town of Ramnicu Valcea, in the foothills of the southern Carpathians. I'd started out in the early afternoon from Bucharest Airport (Otopeni), where I had said goodbye to my wife and daughter after a week's stay in the Romanian capital. I'd picked up the GSA at ParkingBlue, where the manager had kindly offered to have the bike parked in his garden (!) for the week - great service and the bike was in pristine condition.

When I'd left the dusty outskirts of the city behind me, it was already 40 degrees Celsius. Then I'd spend an hour trying to find the exit to the northwest and some wind to cool me down. No such luck, traffic jams ruled the streets. It had taken me another hour to find my way around the roadworks which are endemic to the Bucharest ringroad. The temperature had reached 43 degrees Celsius. In the shade.

Racing through the plains, I'd found a groove dealing with the heat and the blowdrying breeze. Only to find new roadworks and a long line of trucks all the way to my destination. After 70 km of traffic jams, I was well and truly cooked. Marinated chicken on wheels, anyone?

Well, I've survived to tell the tale, obviously. I think I have Bucuresti/Bucharest to thank for that. Since I'd arrived in the city a week ago, it had been 35 degrees C and up. Mild summer weather, as the locals would call it. That continued all through the week, so I suppose I got used to it, being marinated an 'all.

Having sone decent summer vibes was okay anyway, because I was there to meet up with my wife Monica and my daughter Ava, so we could have some time to relax. Bucharest certainly provides for that, with all the wonderful (outdoor) restaurants and cafe's. Our friends Adi and Vlad and their parents had generously provided a great place to stay, for which they have our eternal thanks. As we slided into a rhythm of spending warm evenings in the old city and meeting up with old friends, I was glad to finally have made it all this way after 4000 km's - those mountain roads sure do sure make you work for it.

I've been coming to Bucharest regularly for 9 years now, mainly because it's Monica's hometown but also because I love its spirit. Newcomers might find the place to be a bit disorderly and 'intense', but if you stick around, you'll soon find out that there is a warm heart beating under it all. Humanity shines through the cracks. Moreover, it has the energy of a city in transformation. In those 9 years I've seen a steady renewal of the city's face, first in separate buildings, now in streets and avenues. Formerly know as the Paris of the East, now the old lady is slowly revealing a new look, mostly in evidence on the Calea Victioriei. It's lively, chic and exciting. I love it.

On that particular avenue, we revisited Capsa, the legendary bistro pattissier. Founded in the second half of the 19th century and staunch survivor of two world wars and the communist era, it still provides the best cakes in town and the genteel ambiance to best munch on them. We were glad to see it has survived the covid pandemic as well, though they don't serve dinner anymore.

One other thing that had changed, to our surprise, was the name of Bucharest's most famous hotel. The Intercontinental has now been turned into - The Grand. That may sound, well, grand, but I feel it hardly does justice to the importance of the place. It was here that the news of the people's revolution of 1989 really found its way to the rest of the world. While outside demonstrators were fighting the Ceausescu regime, the international journalists who were cooped up in the Intercontinental, witnessed it all and duly reported it all over the globe. We spent some time in the old hotel bar, all green marble and late modernist suave. The name change apparently has been a result of (what else?) the covid pandemic; the mother company has reorganised because of financial trouble. Hmm. It doesn't seem like the best of ideas. I don't know of a place that more truly lived up to its original name.

There's so much more to say about Bucharest and I don't want to dwell on the old tropes. For something new and energetic, visit the revitalized bar district of Lipscani. Or enjoy a summer's evening at one of the new sidewalk cafe's behind the Atheneum. Go find out for yourself, dammit!

For now, I've left the hustle and bustle of Bucuresti behind me again. Sitting here at sundown in the garden of my hotel in Ramnicu Valcea, I'm sipping my while gazing at the purple and orange peaks of the Cozia mountain range. I'm planning to spend a few more days in the Carpathian mountains. It will be the final leg of my Carpathian Tour, and I'm going to enjoy it!
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Old 10 Sep 2023
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DAY 21/22: RAMNICU VALCEA - DEVA, Call of the Crickets

It has been good to be back in the mountains, even though it was for a short while. Not only because it brings the heat down for a bit, but also because of the rhythm. The rhythm of searching my way through the valleys, climbing up to the passes, swaying down through the curves and repeating it all again, if so desired. Riding through seldomly visited villages, being waved and smiled at by the elderly who sit by their house, being ran after and cajoled by the village youth and being given a stern stare by the local police officer. Seeing grandma with her pink headscarf leading the cow out the gate for a walk, swerving around horse carts that carry whole families or entire seasons of hay, greeting the village priest who is cleaning the porch of his modest church.

I spent a few more days like this in and around the Candrel mountains, between Valachia and Transylvania. I could tell you about the Olt Valley, where the green river Olt meanders through high cliffs between the mountain giants of the southern Carparthians. Or I could tell you about the Transalpina, the highest paved mountain road in Romania which snakes through the narrow valley carved out by the Sebes river in 1001 curves. I won't though. Look it up on the Interweb or, better, just go visit. I'm definitely happy to have been there, and I don't rule out returning there if I can.

I knew these were to be my final km's in the Carpathian mountains. So I took my time exploring the valleys. No particular place to go. I was already where I wanted to be, and I was not in a hurry to leave.

When my wild wanderings were done, I wanted to close the day in style, admiring the views with a cold . But when I came down from the Transalpina to the plain of lower Transylvania, the heat returned. No use hanging around in 42 degrees C, so I took the newly built highway to the town of Deva, where I would be staying for the night. I didn't factor in that the highway was in fact so newly built, that they hadn't gotten around to making an exit to Deva yet. So my rush turned into a trawl though the foothills, while being slowly cooked. Yet again.

When I reached Deva, I was pleasantly surprised to find, between the cracks and the rubble of the old town, a small palace of a penziuna. The Casa Mora turned out to be a luxury accomodation, where I could rest my weary bones on a heavily cushioned bed and enjoy the view towards the castle on the hill opposite the old town. After having managed to bring myself to an acceptable temperature again, I spent the evening on the balcony, cold in hand and feet resting firmly on the marble tiles.

It was a warm night. The crickets from the neighbouring gardens were chirping like it was their last day on earth. In the distance dogs were barking away without sense. Bugs were dancing around the balcony lights. The cargo trains were sounding their horns while passing through the valley.

The crickets asked me: what's it all good for?
What good is asking a question like that, I replied.
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Old 13 Sep 2023
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DAY 23/25: DEVA - SZEGED - WIEN - FRANKFURT - EDAM, The final run

I left Deva safe in the knowledge that I had done what I had originally set out to do. My tour of the Carpathians was complete and It had been a riveting and satisfying journey. It was time to go home. That would take me about 4 days, 2400 km's in total.

The trip homeward started off easy enough. I took a swerving road out of the Carpathian foothillls. I waived a final goodbye to the mountains and took the turnpike towards the highway to Timisoara. I made ready for a good few hundred kilometers of touring and then rode off on my way to ... well, nowhere. The highway turned out to be broken. As in: not there. Somewhere halfway the asphalt literally ran into a hillside and we (me, some other travellers and plenty of big cargo rigs) were all directed unto a small, banged-up B-road through some seemingly abandoned villages. Everything soon came to a grinding halt. For 20 km's or so we were crawling centimeter-by-centimeter. Which gave me plenty of time to fully appreciate the increasing heat. Hello 40 degrees C, here you are again. Welcome back, burning sun. The back of my neck surely missed you.

After what seemed like ages, we were unceremoniously dumped back on another highway. Well, it actually turned out to be the same highway, that simply continued on the other side of the hills. Apparently those hills are so difficult to overcome for the road-builders that they left a 500 km highway broken up right in the middle because of it. Or maybe the money wasn't available yet to finish it. In any case, the highway on either side is pristine, so the time seems right to 'heal the highway', with a nice tunnel or something. I'm certain it would be much appreciated by many in multiple ways anytime.

I pursued my way unto the border with Hungary. The Carpathian mountains were now well behind me and the puszta was opening up in front of me, the great Pannonian plain. It's a wide, dry landscape, a precursor to the Asian steppe that stretches all the way into Asia. Its golden waves of dry grass and yellow earth brought me in a meditative state. Visions of riding to the Stans and Mongolia. Unlimited horizons

My meditation was suddenly broken up by a generous amount of honking and tooting. About 15 km's before the border, a massive traffic jam had formed. Clearly nothing had moved much in the last few hours. People had started to put up camp next to the road, tradesmen were hawking bottles of water and cheap souvenirs. I was able to make my way to the front through the narrow line of cars and trucks. A lot of people were kind enough to make room for me. Though they must have been waiting in line for hours, I didn't discern any jealousy or ill will.

The line was a truly international phenomenon. License plates were ranging from Mongolia and the Stans of Central Asia to Finland and the Baltic states, through to Saudi Arabia and even Ethiopia. When coming from Asia or the Middle East, this route is arguably the main entry point to Western Europe. And clearly there are a lot of people trying to get through. This endlessly replenished caravan from east to west and back again must be one of the great modern migrations. The ancient silk road was a marvel, but pales in comparison when you think about the numbers of people and goods that travel this route nowadays.

The Hungarian border police are well aware of the significance of their position. They do not choose to be especially welcoming. Dozens of holding cells, with steel bars on the windows, were lined up next to the border post. When I was called up for inspection, the border patrol agent looked me over and shook his head in disapprovement. Then he checked my (EU) passport, sighed and waived me on with a very stern 'Go! Move!'. Fine by me.

The highway to Budapest turned out to be a well-maintained but nevertheless somewhat grim affair. There was hardly any place to stop over. The few places that were available carried the same unwelcoming atmosphere that I had experienced at the border. Overcrowded and dirty, the petrol stations looked like they were barely coping with the pressure. The personnel behaved rude and unpleasant. There were few facilities and what was there, seemed to have broken down long ago.When I'll come over this way again, I'll be sure to take another route. Then again, that probably was the point.

After Budapest, the weather changed dramatically. Out went the heat, in came rain and cold. In a few hours the temperature dropped from 40 C to 12 C. Crossing the border with Austria (which you would hardly notice except for the rusting customs cabins), the situation became worse, with strong gales, rain and hail. I hurried to my hotel near Vienna and was glad to quickly get myself a (very) hot shower. I thought of all the people I met earlier on the border post in the south and wondered how they had gotten on.

The next day I tried to make my way through Austria and then Germany, 700 km's all the way to Frankfurt. It turned out to be one particularly tough ride. First a long line at the German border near Passau. No incoming travellers from the Orient this time, but tourists from Western Europe. It was Black Saturday, the busiest day of the year on the European roads. Chaotic scenes near the border control and at the petrol stations. But with a lot of ill will this time. People blocking each other, shouting and cursing. I was barely able to get out.

After this, the weather turned downright ugly. Rain, cold and hail pestered me all the way to Frankfurt. At one point, near Wurzburg, it started to snow. In high summer! Luckily that cleared soon, but I couldn't go on much longer. In the pouring rain, I searched for a petrol station. I had to urgently top up the petrol, and the engine oil as well. A look on the dashboard told me that I had 15 km's of petrol left. Damn!

I found a petrol station allright, but it turned out the bad weather had cut off all electricity, so no petrol. I quickly put in the necessary oil (in the pouring rain off course) and then rode off into the countryside, searching desperately for petrol. Salvation came in the form of a hamburger restaurant with additional pump. When I had somewhat dried up and recovered, I set off again. Another 100 km's through sleet and rain, slow progress, hands shivering on the grips. It was getting dark when I finally reached the hotel.

I slept it all off in a good night's sleep. And when I woke up, there it was, my final day on the road. The weather still wasn't what it should be (where's that bloody summer gone off to?). But I figured out a way to get around some of the worst of it. A hearty breakfast and then it was off to the Netherlands, where I live.

As I write this, the Dutch border is not too far away. It's time to go home, to my lovely Monica and Ava.

I've got to say, this trip has been a wonderful experience. Through all the dust, sleet and mountain roads, it's been good to be out there again. Oh, I'm missing those mountain roads already! And Slovakia and Romania have shown me so much beauty, friendship and hospitality. I wholeheartedly recommend.

Now it's time to say goodbye. It's been a long looooong road. I can honestly say that I enjoyed it to the full. I hope I was able to share a bit of that with you.

La revedere, Zbohom, Tot ziens, Goodbye!
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Old 14 Sep 2023
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I enjoyed it
Thanks for sharing

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Old 9 Nov 2023
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Hi people,

Hope you enjoyed my travels in Carpathia. Thanks for all the support!

I'd you like to know more about my other travels, check out my tour in Scandinavia: https://new.horizonsunlimited.com/ts...-2022-10000-km

This trip has been part my Travels in the Arctic Circle project. I'm exploring and researching several lands and regions in this unique part of the world, such as Iceland, Yukon, Labrador and Greenland. Learn more about it on: https://gofund.me/23cc3bc0

See you around, hereabouts or out on the road!
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