Bucharest, the capital of Romania - late May, 2018. I was here for a solo hike across the Maramures region in the far north of the country. Before my regional flight later in the day, I took a few pictures of the main sites in the city that interested me.
Maramures is on the border with Ukraine. It's a 400-mile flight from Bucharest to Satu Mare and then two mini-bus trips with an overnight stay before finally getting into Maramures.
The taxi driver stopped outside of Satu Mare to do some errands. I got out and walked the rest of the way.
Gutter Wall, Satu Mare.
Bus Ride #1, Satu Mare.
Five days, ninety-plus miles. I picked Maramures because it's almost medieval in some sections and I knew I'd have it to myself. No trail markers, no sag wagons. It's surrounded by mountains and far enough away from Bucharest that it wasn't as impacted by the former Communist government that made a mess of everything else. Normally, I do some kind of Point-A to Point-B hike but I wanted to be in the general vicinity of the older villages, especially the ones away from the main roads. Hence, this journey ended up resembling the steps of a lousy dancer.
In the morning, the second bus dropped me off on the side of the road. I climbed over a barbed-wire fence and began my hike. As always, this was open-country work - weeds, riverbeds, animal trails, farm tracks and ancient footpaths. A few unpleasant but necessary miles on pavement. The Eastern Carpathians are in the distance, I'd get there in a couple of days. My first destination is the tiny village of Văleni, about 18-19 miles straight ahead.
I keep places like this in my back pocket, just in case.
Romania in three seconds.
This is the Carpathian Sheepdog. He is not posing for me. I pulled the picture off the internet. This variant of the sheepdog is not as fast as the Tatra assassins I encountered in Poland but he is every bit as business-like and then some. He is trained to defend the herd from marauding bears, wolves and the occasional lynx that lives a secret life in the woods. I didn't stop to take any pictures because these dogs were usually in linebacker-mode, fourth down and long. I only incurred two incidents that caused me to pass any gas and both times I was bailed out by a grinning shepherd who would magically appear from the ground. The fact is that these dogs are highly territorial but well trained. As long as I didn't do something stupid like run away, or pet one of the baby lambs, the confrontations were eminently survivable. I quickly learned how to sense a nearby herd of sheep and became quite adept at negotiating detours around any danger. Fantastic dogs.
Over the years, I have found that the easiest way to enter an unknown village from the woods is to locate the church and arrive from there. The dogs are usually out by the main road or the bridge. Șieu, Romania.
Better than the shed.
The Trail of Tears and Wild Boars.
The Trail of Bare Feet.
The Trail of Black Feet.
Descending into Poienile Izei in search of an ice cream.
It is 1 am and I am standing in my doorway above the bar. Apparently, one of the young ladies just turned eighteen. Tomorrow I have to pull a 17-miler over some pretty big hills.
The proper way to ford a river is in shoes. Not the Zamberlans, of course. Those went around my neck. I always carry a pair of running shoes for asphalt and river crossings. Otherwise, one sharp rock or piece of glass and the pack goes downstream.
Mara Valley, 21:18 hrs. I've breached the perimeter defenses which consisted of the usual groupings of chickens, a pig and six-inch yappers. From this point forward, I only had to deal with cats.
The Mara Valley. I followed the river towards Ukraine for about forty-five miles, heading into the hills every so often when the need came.
Outside Oncești, Romania. As soon as I stepped onto the bridge, the mutts started up. I was tired, hungry and had grown accustomed to the welcoming committees.
In the morning, I departed Oncești for the climb into the Carpathians. This was the final day of my journey.
This is not as hard as it looks but it wasn't as easy, either. There were no trails on this side of the mountain so I improvised.
On the other side of the mountain, I located the church and entered the village of Valea Stejarului. Then it was up and over the next mountain before the final long descent into Sighetu Marmației, my finishing point. Other than an encounter with a pack of junkyard mutts on the outskirts of SM, I passed through unnoticed.
Sighetu Marmației, near the Ukraine Border.
My snazzy ride out of Maramures, the first of three buses and four flights to get me back home.