Right then, between moving to a new place, work and studying for the upcoming exam, I haven't been able to post updates as often as I'd have liked, and I expect the frequency of my posts will remain low until November. I have, however, been able to escape the torrid weather that's beset pretty much every city in Romania this past week by going on a short week-end trip to the Parâng Mountains, so here's a brief story of how that went, with plenty of photos:
After a rather hectic few weeks topped by the unrelenting heatwave that was sure to keep only the most enduring people (and the Untold festival-goers) in the city, the idea of going to the mountains for a couple of days appealed to me instantly. The team, consisting of Andra, Călin and Tudor, after researching the weather forecasts, which predicted somewhat undesirable thunderstorms in most of the Carpathian mountains, suggested we go to the fairly easily accessible Parâng massif (one of my more adventurous destinations).
The city of Petroşani lies at the base of the Parâng mountains, a roughly 4 hour drive from Cluj-Napoca, with a high ski resort (at roughly 1800 m altitude) easily reachable via chairlift, which we took advantage of, after having left Cluj rather lazily late morning. We arrived at the resorts around 14:00, just in time to enjoy lunch and a cold beer. Afterwards, in full weekend-relaxation mood, we all took a quick nap before starting the short climb towards the Parângul Mic (Little Parâng) peak, roughly 1 hour away, whence we would enjoy the sunset (and I the night).
|The resort before heading up towards the peak; not an impressive shot, but I like the sun rays|
As I stepped over the last few meters of the gentle incline that had led to the peak, panting and aching all over, it dawned upon me how long it had been since my last serious mountain trek and how quickly I'd lost any semblance of endurance gained in Nepal or elsewhere. While still a great year for me as far as trips go, 2017 still has room for improvement.
Whatever momentary discomfort the climb may have caused either of us, we were quickly rewarded by a wonderful view of the setting sun, which I'll now go over in excessively numerous shots:
|The team just about the reach the peak; left to right: Tudor, Andra, Călin|
|The rolling hills behind Petroşani under the twilight sun|
|And a wide view of them|
|Behind us, towards the south-east, the moon was rising.|
|Group shot, basking in the dusk; Călin slightly less impressed|
|Tudor, Andra and a gazillion flies.|
|The sun, just as it's about to set, in all its glory.|
Our enjoyment of the sunset was perturbed somewhat by the billions of little flies buzzing silently, yet annoyingly around us, only to be replaced, as dusk was falling, by the far more aggravating, giant, mutant, freak fucking mosquitoes which we could hear homing in on our sweet sweet skin from meters away and which succeeded in driving away, by 21:30, the rest of my companions, leaving me to enjoy the starry night in solitude.
Ah yes, I forgot to mention, my plan from the beginning was to sleep atop Parângul Mic, taking full advantage of the warm temperature and fairly benign weather forecast to fulfill one of my long-time ambitions - sleeping alone under the stars. Now, for a guy who talks so much about travel this and mountains that and adventure the other, I have a pretty long list of fears of doubtful compatibility with the above-mentioned lifestyle (such as, if you'll remember, my fear of steep descents). Two of them were about to be crossed out tonight: sleeping alone in the wilderness (well, that's debatable, seeing as how the resort was about an hour's walk away and I could still see the lights and hear the shouts - happy birthday, by the way, whoever celebrated August 5th in Parâng!) and, irrational as it may seem, bugs of all sorts, spiders in particular.
I spent the 3 or so hours between my friends' departure and getting into my sleeping bag doing a combination of stargazing, resort-gazing, adjusting the sleeping bag's position, taking photos, reevaluating my life's choices and contemplating its meaning and sense, and just walking around checking stuff out. The firmament was dominated by a very bright, very nearly full moon and the only time I used my head torch was when adjusting camera settings.
|A late-evening view of the Parâng ski resort and the city of Petroşani behind it|
|Final position of my sleeping bag, away from the metal-lightning-deathtrap I hoped to avoid|
|Metal deathtrap, with city lights around it and star lights above.|
|Yet another moon shot|
Time went by more quickly than I anticipated (I was worried I'd get bored just standing around by myself like a twerp) and before long I was confronted with the very important decision of gritting my teeth and tucking myself the insufficiently bug-proof sleeping bag minutes after seeing two medium-sized spiders crawling nonchalantly some three meters away (a perimeter sweep was mandatory before bedtime, you understand) or else packing everything up and heading back down to enjoy a beer at the resort.
Already itchy in several places from those fucking mosquitoes (who had, thankfully and surprisingly, receded in their menacing buzzing), I decided the damage was already done so I wormed my way inside the sleeping bag. As a side-note, I'd made a seemingly wise decision at the time to move my mat several meters away from the large, metal, pyramidal.. pole type structure marking the peak, having taken into consideration the slight chance of thunderstorms the weather forecast had predicted. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any suitable area of perfectly flat terrain, so I ended up sleeping at a very slight inclination, which led to my bag sliding very slightly off the mat throughout the night. Not too annoyingly so, certainly not enough to make me sleep on the cold earth, but enough to have to slide back every time I woke up. Which, predictably enough, happened quite often (not being used to sleeping in such conditions), but in the end I slept better than I'd feared I would and woke up certainly better rested than I had that night before Thorong La.
When morning came, I was awakened by both dawn's light and the fluttering of small wings and sparrow-like little birds were frantically flying around and above me. And truly, what a great feeling it was to wake up in nature, naught but birds making noise around me. I took a deep, satisfying breath of fresh mountain air before getting out of the bag, packing things and then just sitting around enjoying the sunrise for another hour or so.
|Not a bad view to wake up to.|
|The sun rising with a sea of mist low above the forest.|
|And a close up of that misty sea.|
|Lacking a bike or a dog, I had to come up with a different way of taking self-proclaimed creative shots; Sleeping Gear Drying in the Sun makes for a good tableau name, no?|
|The resort, more quite than it had been when I went to bed.|
|Once again, the creativity, originality and sheer awesomeness of Stuff Laid Out in the Sun|
|I'd say the little guy was basking the morning's sun, but the buggers were so frantic in flying around, I doubt he stayed there for more than 5 seconds|
|Some plantlife to go with the bird.|
|How this guy managed not to die of thirst in that heat is beyond me|
I headed back to the resort to regroup with the others and, after a nice breakfast with plenty of tea, we all headed out, around 9:30 o'clock, towards the Mija Lake, a 3 or so hour walk going around the Parângul Mic peak, which we performed uneventfully. The weather, which had started out clear skied, took a slight turn for the worse, with clouds starting to gather above us (not that we were complaining, they brought welcome respite from the heat).
At the lake we spent the noon break eating snacks we'd brought, as well as delicious, freshly picked blueberries, and cooling our feet in the crystal clear water. We also had some fun making splashes for the camera, hopefully without disturbing the aquatic wildlife too much.
|Not a great shot, but once again, I like the subtle sun rays, especially from an angle you don't normally see them|
|Small mountain stream with flowers on both sides.|
|Reaching the clearing with Mija Lake|
|Clear water reflecting the mountains above|
|Abundant vegetation around the lake; Tudor and Andra in the background, to the right|
On the way back the weather became decidedly worse, and the clouds which had been gathering since late morning finally let loose a summer rain - not a terrible deluge or anything, but enough to warrant taking out the rain coats and hurrying back to the resort. Although we weren't quite on the ridge and the Parângul Mic peak provided a more tempting target than us for any stray bolts of lightning, it's still never the most reassuring of experiences to hear rumbling thunder when you're in the mountains.
But we made it back safely and, sooner than any of us would have liked, we were on the chairlift back down, then in the car back towards the city and the busy week that follows.