I remember driving to Romania from Bulgaria and arriving around noon to a really cool road that went up the mountains. Even if I didn´t have time I stopped and took pictures anyway. I was already late, as always…
I parked my car on the side of the road, packed my backpack with some snacks, made sure I had enough water. I knew todays climb was going to be a long one. “Do no underestimate the highest mountain in Romania” I got warned by a man who is doing the same project as me but over a few years that I met in Bulgaria. He said it takes more time then you think. In my research I was thinking around 12 hours. That would mean I would be back at the car around midnight. I knew there might be bears here. And sheep dogs. I texted a friend and told him that I was taking off, would be back late and where I was. Just in case…
The hike started off over a sheep farm and then up the mountain. There was a trail to follow that was pretty well marked. Up on the col you take right, scrambling over the ridge. I liked that part of the climb.
To the right you can see the ridge I followed. Nothing too complicated but a lot of fun! When I climb mountains alone I´m always very careful. I also have to be really sure of navigation. I don´t want to get lost up there. It was late in the season, october 3 when I climbed and there was no other people on the mountain at all.
The views were stunning! I loved the landscape, so beautiful! The summit is really far away. You have to hike over six mountains to get to it. It just never ends. You can´t even see the summit half way there, you just have to keep going. And when you are all alone on the mountain, a little bit stressed about getting back not too late. I was never scared. But I remember enjoying it a lot but also feeling a little bit worried. I did not want to run in to a bear or get stucked in the dark somewhere.
Keep walking. Over the next mountain. Then the next…
Here you can finally see the summit over there! Like 2 hours away…
Almost there… Sun is starting to go down now.
But that also gives me this view from the summit! How beautiful? It was pure magic to stand on the top all by myself looking out over this! One of the best moments so far in this project!
This is how the summit looks like. Summit-selfie on top!
I started hiking down pretty fast, no time to loose! It took me 5,5 hours to get to the summit. Not too bad! But I remember I was walking pretty fast. I never even stopped for a break, I just kept walking all the time.
While I was hiking back down, over those six mountains it soon became dark. Halfway back it was completely dark. I had forgotten to eat anything during the whole day so I ran out of energy. I had gotten to that place where you can´t really get something down because you feel sick. But I knew I had to get some energy. Still had 2,5 hours left to walk. So I ate some M&M and nuts. Drank some water. And slowed down my pace a little bit. The way back was as hard as the way up since you just walk up and down over mountains all the time.
When I got to the last part I still have not seen any sheep dogs (thanks for that! The man I met in Bulgaria got stuck for an hour because a dog didn´t let him pass). And when I finally got back to the car around 10 pm I was so happy! Not too tired but mostly happy over that I had made it. I started driving and two minutes later there was 3 bears on the road! A mom with two kids. I was really happy I didn´t meet them while hiking…
I remember I had to drive for 3 hours before I got to my hotel. That was a hard drive. I got really tired. 10 hours of climbing mountains without eating almost nothing and then have to drive for 3 hours? I told myself to stop being so crazy and start to plan better for the future. Now I had a deadline for this mountain tour. Oct 9 I had to be in Milan and before that I had to climb as many mountains as possible. But after that I should plan different. Have more time to enjoy it.
When I left I was filled with a good feeling. It had been such an amazing day and I had this incredible experience. But then over the next days I would experience something totally different.
The day after I started driving to Moldavia. The roads in Romania is pretty small and often 50 or 60 in speed, goes through small villages and there is no highways so it takes time to drive in this country. It´s also pretty poor out there so when you drive on the countryside there is lot´s of people standing along the roads selling things to you. The two main things people sell is onions and mushrooms. As always my heart filled with sadness. I come from a wealthy country so I never had to fight for surviving like many people here have to. It´s not fair. I wished so much there was something I could do. And again I felt ashamed for being born in Sweden, even if I don´t come from money. My family were never rich. I´m from working class and have worked so hard all my life for everything. But at the same time thankful that I got to see this part of the world to. It makes you humble and I will never take anything for granted in life.
After driving the whole day until dark I finally got to the border to Moldavia only to learn I was not aloud into the country! I could not take my rental car from Italia with me because I didn´t have the original documents (the rental car company have them I only had a copy). I tried talking to them, but there was nothing they could do. And they barley spoke english. It was just not possible. I have been roadtripping all over Europe for weeks with no problems at any borders but here it was a no. I was really sad about it because I felt like I had come this far east and now what? I can´t come in to Moldavia? I have to turn around? They said it was because it was not EU. They told me I could park my car and take the bus over. But that would not help me because I needed to get to Moldavias highest mountain and I could not take the bus there. I had no choice then to try to find a hotel and make a new plan the day after.
What happened next was I decided to go to Ukraine instead. I drove 12 hours to the border only to have the same thing happening to me there. I started getting this hopeless feeling. I was tired from all the driving for many days. Exhausted from the climbing, no sleeping, just eating snacks from a gas station for a week. My plan for the next day was to go to Hungary instead. That is EU, that must work.
So I drove another 12 hours to the border and it still was the same thing! I could not get in to the country with my rental car! I started crying. Broke down. I could not belive this. They told me I could rent a truck that transported the car over the border the day after. And the frustration of not being able to talk to anyone because the spoke almost no english. I felt like I was stuck in Romania. I could not get out of the country. Then I wanted to slap myself in the face because who am I to complain? I thought about all the refugees that are on the run for their lives that can´t pass the borders and here I am crying over that I can´t come in to a country to climb a mountain.
I decided to go back to Serbia. That was the only way out of Romania for me unless I drove back to Bulgaria but that would be a 2 days drive to get to Italy in time for my deadline. I was so broken down at this point that I just wanted to leave. I didn´t want to be in Romania anymore. So the next day I drove another 12 hours to the border to Serbia. I just hoped they would let me out here.
At the border a woman came up to me asking for lift. I decided to help her. After some discussions about my rental car they decided to let me in! I was so happy to be out of Romania and on my way back to Italy. You have no idea… I got new energy and made a new plan. I still had some time before my deadline so I could do one more mountain and then go to Italy and do San Marino and The Vatican before having to be back in Milan. I was talking to a guide in Slovenia a few weeks earlier who said they had a lot of snow on Triglav but if I went with a guide it would be alright. So I texted him and he told me his friend would take a group up tomorrow and I could join in if I wanted to. I said yes to that and drove to Bled in Slovenia to stay a night at a hotel before the climb!
Mountain no 18