Ceahlău National Park

May 19, 2015

This morning we had the kitchen to ourselves as we finished up the muesli and milk. And now we were on the road again, this time to Durău, a mountain resort in one of the many Carpathian ranges. Daniel gave us instructions on how to get out of Brașov and away we went.

Pretty soon we turned off onto DN12, which we would follow for most of the day. Our journey took us through farming regions with the village signs in both Romanian and Hungarian. We travelled slowly because there were so many villages where the speed limit was 50 km/h. As soon as we left one village and sped up, we would come to another village and slow down again. And besides that we had to watch out for pedestrians, horses and carts, and bicycles.

In Miercurea Ciuc (aka Csíkszereda) we stopped for gas; the cashier asked Paul something in Hungarian but saying “number 3” in bad Romanian and gesturing at the gas pumps was a satisfactory answer. We stopped at a supermarket for some food and then, munching on pretzels and a chocolate bar, we carried on.

After Gheorgheni (aka Gyergyószentmiklós) we noticed that our Google Map directions wanted to send us on a shortcut along a county road, DJ127, instead of going the long way around on the national roads. We were tired of going through village after village so we decided to go along with that recommendation. Well, the DJ127 didn’t go through any villages, but after a couple of kilometers it turned into a dirt road full of potholes, so we had to slow down enormously. But the mountain views were good and it was interesting to see the different farms and ranches.

Ceahlău Massif

Ceahlău Massif

Back on DN15 it didn’t take us long to reach Durău, which is almost entirely made up of pensions and hotels. Our pension, Vila Maria, was high up in the village and luckily it had signs on the road which we followed. Nobody spoke English there, but we had a printout of our reservation so we were shown to our room. The view from our balcony was of the Ceahlău Massif, which was very impressive. We put our bags in the room and then went out to explore and find a place to have dinner.

Durău Monastery

Durău Monastery

It was definitely low season here, with not many tourists and a lot of places closed. We found the National Park headquarters, where there was an English-speaking staffer who told us about the trails. Then we found that the Hotel Bradul had a restaurant, so we went there for dinner. It was quite strange to be the only customers in a restaurant which could hold about 200 people! Still the food was good.

Fieldfare

Fieldfare

May 20, 2015

Vila Maria didn’t provide breakfast, nor did they have a kitchen we could use as far as we could tell, so we were on our own for breakfast here. Having breakfast at Hotel Bradul seemed silly, so bread and Nutella was our meal!

Our plan for today was to hike up to Cabana Fântânele and then to continue up until we hopefully got some good views. We stopped at the national park office to pay our 5-lei entrance fee and then started off. We followed the red-banded waymarks along a road for a while and then they veered off, straight up the ridge line. This was our first real hike this year and we were quite out of shape, so we went up the trail very slowly. Along the trail were a lot of wild flowers, and we saw a Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker.

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker

After about an hour we reached the cabana and stopped for a rest. There were a couple of horses here, something which we hadn’t ever seen at a mountain hut before, and there was a man cutting up a fallen tree with a chain saw. The views down the hillside toward Durău were really good, and we could even see Vila Maria!

Cabana Fântânele

Cabana Fântânele

Horse at Cabana Fântânele

Horse at Cabana Fântânele

We decided we didn’t need a cup of tea at this point, so we continued on. After leaving the hut the trail didn’t seem quite as steep, and at about 12:30 pm we arrived at a pass named Curmătură La Morminte where, as luck would have it, there was a picnic table! So we sat down and ate our lunch. But the views still weren’t that good so we decided to continue up the trail. By the picnic table there was a trail warning us to stay on the trail because of vipers; we didn’t see any snakes but it was good to be reminded of them.

Yellow wild flower

Yellow wild flower

Staggering up the trail we finally came to an open area on the ridge called Cușma Dorobanțului, from which we had a good view over Durău in one direction and a good view over the lake in the other direction. This was what we had hoped to achieve on our walk, good views! We decided that continuing on to the Dochia hut would take too long, and since there were some sinister-looking grey clouds gathering over the mountains we turned around and headed back to Durău.

Căciula Dorobanțului

Căciula Dorobanțului

Durău view

Durău view

The clouds didn’t amount to much except for about 25 raindrops landing on us, and back in Durău we walked down to one of the tiny grocery stores and bought ice creams, a bag of chips, and a bottle of Nestea peach iced tea. The ice cream was a welcome treat.

Bladder gentian (Gentiana utriculosa)

Bladder gentian (Gentiana utriculosa)

We went down to the Hotel Bradul for dinner again, which was like yesterday except that today there were two other customers there. Tonight at Vila Maria there were other people there, with kids running around outside and loud music thumping and a big fire in the back yard. Quiet time is supposed to be at 11 pm…

… and at 10:55 pm the kids were sent to bed and the music turned down.

Next: Lacul Roșu