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O tura de placere/ Romanian Joyride

Su Shi

472 vizualizări

Romania 02 - 31/08

A durat ceva sa ne dam seama de asta, dar acum e clar: traversarea Zairului a fost momentul in care ne-am ‘shiftat’. Depanand amintiri din Congo cu Alper in Curtea de Arges, ne-am dat seama ca experienta asta continua sa dospeasca.

It took a while to see this, and now we do: the Zaïre crossing was the pivotal event that springboarded us to the next level. Sharing our various memories of Zaïre and of what happened after that with Alper in Curtea de Argeş, we realised that the whole experience continues to simmer on. 


Stai asa… am zis ca Alper e in Romania? Nu e vorba de tipul din Germania cu care am traversat celalalt Congo in decembrie trecut? Chiar el, si tare ne mai bucuram! Sa recapitulam deci ce s-a mai intamplat cu el de cand ne-am vazut ultima oara… in Congo. Era decembrie 2011 cand eu, Ana si cei patru Vidal din Toulouse ne aflam intr-o situatie cam… dificila in Kinshasa, in vreme de Alper si iubita lui de atunci ne impartaseau soarta, numai ca in Matadi. Era limpede ca nu vom putea nici unul dintre noi intra pe roti in Angola, asa ca aveam de luat o decizie importanta. Renuntam la calatorie, zburam peste tara ‘interzisa’, trimitem vehiculele cu vaporul sau mergem inainte pe unde harta nu-i. Adica laie or balaie. Fiecare dintre cele trei echipe avea alte atuuri si alte slabiciuni, precum si propriile obiective, dar au sfarsit prin a alege aceeasi solutie la problema. Astfel, Alper si Esther au purces intaii la drum, si SMS-urile care au sosit de la ei pe satelitul francezilor ne-au facut sa o luam pe o alta cale. Alegerea s-a dovedit paguboasa: a fost singura data cand nu am dat crezare camionagiilor, si am regretat, pentru ca drumul pe care am mers noi si francezii a fost si mai greu. Nemtii si Toyota lor au suferit si ei din plin. Au traversat in aproape patru saptamani, iar suspensia pe lame a cedat mai ca pe linia de sosire. In Namibia au dat insa de un obstacol insurmontabil: Esther s-a imbolnavit de malarie si a suferit o complicatie severa (insuficienta renala). Aventura germanilor se incheia abrupt, cu repatrierea lui Esther si vanzarea masinii, nu inainte ca Alper sa o conduca pana la Capul Bunei Sperante. Iata articolul despre ei din revista Mororrad.

Wait wait… Did I say Alper was in Romania with us? Wasn’t him the German dude who joined us on a race across Congo Brazaville in December? Hell, yeah, he is back in our life, and boy, are we glad! First, I’ll give you a recap of what he’d been up to since we split. It was December 2011, and me, Ana and the four Vidals from Toulouse were stuck in Kinshasa, while Alper and his then-girlfriend were sharing our faith, but in Matadi. There was no way any of us would be allowed to enter Angola overland, and we had all the same big decision to make. Give up, fly over, or push forward on routes that aren’t on any map. Do or die. Each of the three teams had a different set up, different strengths and weaknesses and different objectives, but we all ended up choosing the same way out. Alper and Esther left first, and based on their initial SMS we decided to take a different route, which in the end proved even more treacherous. The Germans suffered a lot, so did the Toyo. They crossed in a little under four weeks, breaking the suspension just on the finish line. Then in Namibia disaster hit: Esther was taken down by malaria and kidney failure, which abruptly ended their adventure. After accompanying Esther home, Alper returned to sell the Toyo, not before driving it all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. Here is their story in Motorrad magazine.


Odata intorsi in Germania, cei doi si-au reluat joburile. Alper este ghid moto si organizeaza tururi in Europa si Turcia. De doua ori pe an traverseaza Romania, iar unul dintre tururi este dedicat chiar tarii noastre. Cum Alper ne-a anuntat sa vine pe Transalpina, nu am stat pe ganduri si am stabilit sa ne gasim in Curtea de Arges. La iesirea din Bucuresti am alimentat pentru prima data intr-o benzinarie romaneasca. Pretul ne-a ars la buzunar!

Back in Germany, they got back to work. Alper is a motorcycling tour guide. If you are a biker and want to head out to the best roads of Europe and Turkey, he’s your guy. Twice a year Alper takes his clients across Romania, so we jumped at the opportunity to get together. Exiting Bucharest I was filling up the tank with Romanian petrol (well… that’s a bit of a stretch, it was just a Romanian gas station) for the first time in quite a heck of a while. The price of petrol: 1,40 Euro/l. Ouch!


Mobra avea pofta de drum. Cum s-a deschis zarea, parca a devenit alta. Aveam intalnire cu Alper in cateva ore, si cand in sfarsit am zarit KTM-ul 690 Enduro, am simtit fluturi in stomac: gasca se reunea!

Ne-am ospatat cu ceafa la gratar si vinul casei, dupa ce am parcat langa 1200 GS-urile nemtilor, in garajul care putea a varza murata. Oricate aveam de povestit, un cuvant domina conversatia: CONGO.

Fusese cea mai dificila etapa din viata noastra. Vremea nu ne-a crutat: ploi torentiale, noroi ‘de bumbac’, mlastini ascunse sub stratul gros de nisip si lut. Am purtat aceleasi haine ude leoarca si pline de noroi zi dupa zi, am dardait in cortul jilav si in sacul asisderea. Mai toata ziua eram la verificat adancimea baltilor si orientare. Asta cat am fost zdraveni la minte. Odata ce oboseala, lipsurile si stresul si-au spus cuvantul, am inceput sa pierdem din concentrare si sa facem greseli. Asa ca in transee cu noi: la sapa, la impins, la pus troliul si alte manevre de gen. Hrana a fost cam panica: prin sate se gasea cate o mana de rosii, cate un avocado, si de fiecare data cumparam (cu remuscari si rusine) tot ce era pe taraba. Am bagat insecte, porumb luat cu rugaminti de la taranci… de cateva ori am luat paste, orez si paine. In Mbuji Mayi si Kamina am fost rasfatati cu adevarate festinuri: nu ne lipsisera nutrientii, cu diversitatea. Insa chiar daca toti am descris etapa respectiva a calatoriilor noastre ca ‘teribila’ si ‘nebuneasca’, tuturor ne-a adus satisfactii sa ne confruntam si depasim limitele. Congo ne-a calit, ne-a facut mai buni, chiar daca si mai putin re-adaptabili la ‘civilizatie’. Din Zambia nu a mai fost vorba de mancat lacuste si sapat cu orele in mocirla, nici de campat in plina furtuna. Ok, cu exceptia fenomenului bizar din Sudan, pe care poate doar un Stie-Tot sa ni-l lamureasca. Suntem dara noi si Alper nebuni ca mult dupa miezul noptii inca mai vorbim despre aventura din Congo? 

My Tenere was thirsty and it showed. As soon as the horizon opened, the race was on. We were meeting Alper in Curtea in a couple of hours. When we saw the KTM 690 Enduro we felt a tingle in the heart: the gang was reunited!

We had Romanian wine with pork steak, while the garage reeked of pickled cabbage. That’s what Romanian folk does with cabbage in autumn, making our neighbours suspect the biological war has started. No matter how many things we had to chat about, there was one word that kept creeping into our conversation: CONGO. 

It had been the most difficult mental and physical challenge of our lives. It demanded everything. Weatherwise it was no joke: downpours, cotton mud, pockets of swampy water under layers of moving sand. Wearing the same damp muddy clothes and sleeping in a wet tent day in and day out. Most of the day was usually spent with orientation and assessing the terrain. When we were still reasonably sane. Once fatigue and stress took over, we become disorganized, less focused. We started to make mistakes. Then it was digging and operating whatever tool we could harvest to extract us from random swamps, trenches and holes. Finding food was a bit challenging. We subsisted on fruit & veg, insects, scavenged corn or nothing at all for parts of the journey, which was fine with us, but less fine for the kids. We bought pasta and rice three or four times and bread about 5 times during those 4 weeks. I remember the feasts we had in Mbuji Mayi and Kamina: it was not the nutrition, it was the diversity that lacked and that we were cheering back into our lives. But even though we have all described the trip on our respective blogs as ‘horrible’ and ‘crazy’, we enjoyed stretching our limits to new extremes. Congo made us stronger, more focused, albeit less prone to luxuriate in the modern amenities of ‘civilization’. Since Zambia there have been no more bug eating, no more digging for hours in swamps, no more sleeping in rainstorms. Ok, except for that weird Sudan storm, which maybe a brainiac out there could sometime explain to us. Is it crazy then that the two of us and Alper were still talking Congo hours past midnight?


Cu opt luni in urma sase adulti si doi copii dadeau nas in nas cu Africa secreta. Noi, calatorii speram ca Vrajitorul acelui Oz ne va elibera din latul prejudecatilor, ne va sterge ‘rugina’ din oase, ne va incuraja sa radem de imposibil, ne va mijloci redescoperirea inimii si a curajului. Am gasit intr-adevar aventura, si am depasit multe obstacole acolo, atat impreuna, cat si separat, dar mai ales i-am descoperit pe congolezi. Acest neam aparte, despre care nu stiam mai nimic. Vulcanic, rezistent, adaptabil, neobosit. Odata ce ai facut o baie de multime si de pasiune congoleza, nimic nu mai e la fel. La opt luni dupa ce parasisem Oz-ul African, acesta continua sa ne obsedeze. 

Eight months ago our party of six adult and two kids had had an intimate encounter with the unseen Africa. All of us travellers secretly believed that the Wizard of that Oz could free us from our pole of prejudice, remove that routine rust, encourage us to disregard limits, help us rediscover our heart and our courage. We found indeed many adventures and overcame many obstacles on our journey together, just as we did on our separate ways, but most of all we found the Congolese, these special breed of people we knew next to nothing about. The Congolese are volcanic, resilient, relentless, and once you’ve showered in this, you’re hooked. Eight months after returning from the African Land of Oz, we realised that the two of us and Alper are obsessed with our memories of it. 


In zori ne-am luat la revedere. Aveam o idee fixa pentru ziua in curs: sa facem Transfagarasanul.

In the morning we said our goodbyes till next next time.We had a simple plan to make the best of our day: ride the Transfagarasan, arguably one of the best drives in Europe. 


Adica paduri de pin, curbe stranse, grohotisuri, poate o cascada sau doua, un izvor, un lac alpin, stii cum e. Dar drumul asta construit cu atatea sacrificii inseamna mult mai mult. Cand eram pici, aici ne petreceam cam toate vacantele. Imi amintesc cum urcam spre Capra de revelion, prin zapada pana la brau, incarcati cu oale de sarmale. Eram nebuni, era grozav. Eu si Ana am continuat traditia: aici fugeam de la birou pentru o zi sau doua de dat pe serpentine, sau la un gratar, sau in umbra micii cascade, ‘locul nostru’. Aici e lacul care in anumite dimineti luceste misterios si metalic, si de aici am inceput si de asta data urcusul. Am facut insa prima la dreapta din asphalt, in padure.

Hairpins, pine forests, naked rock, maybe a waterfall, a spring or a glacier lake. The staple on this infamous road built in the 70s. But there’s more to Transfagarasan than the call of the bends. 

When I was a kid that’s where I was spending most holidays. I remember climbing it on new year’s eves, loaded with pots of Romanian dishes, snow up to my waist. It was crazy, it was fun. Me and Ana also have a thing with Transfagarasan, where we would escape during our busy years. There’s this small waterfall we love, the weekends we would come braai, the full-throttle drives we pulled just for the sake of it, the sparrow-infested lake at the 166 m high dam. That’s where we started our climb, taking a right turn off the tar, into the forest.  




Plecasem din Bucuresti fara harta, doar cu o vaga idee sa o taiem printre brazi, haituind o culme golasa pe care o tot zaream printre arbori. Am decis sa lasam drumul sa ne duca unde o vrea el, si sa lasam ziua sa se intample.

We had left Bucharest without a map, with just a rough idea of how we would cut across, and chased this barren peak we would occasionally spot through the pines. We gave up control to the journey and let experiences materialize. 


La o cotitura am dat peste acest grup de overlanderi. Nici ei nu pareau sa aiba GPS.

Coursing through we met this team of overlanders. They didn’t appear to own a GPS either.



Intraram pe teritoriul ursilor.

We crossed into bear country. 


Care ursi recoltasera deja zmeura si murele de pe munte, dupa cum se vede din poza. Frecventa si aspectul ‚urmelor’ spun ca din fericire ursii sunt inca pe zona, si ca o duc binisor.

The bears had finished harvesting the season’s berries, which can be clearly seen in the photo below. That means that in spite of the overzealous poachers, our bears are still hanging in there.



Pe astfel de drumuri zambesc intruna. Numai mirosul tare de pini si buruieni de munte strivite sub roata sunt indeajuns.

You’d never see me without a smile on my face on these empty roads. The smell of pine leaves and wild herbs crushed under the wheels give a soul tingling joy. 



Like that.


Si asa.

And like that.


Sau asa.

Or like that.


Dar un om trebuie sa mai faca si o pauza…

But a man’s gotta take a break at some point…


Mai ales inainte sa urce dealul

Especially before a climb


Cand panta a sarit de 45 de grade, deja nu mai tineau cauciucurile si mi-ar fi trebuit alta mobra ca sa-I dau de cap. Alta data!

When the slope jumped the 45 degrees limit, my tires gave up and I needed a different bike for the task. Next time!



Muntele nu doar hraneste sufletul, ci si poteleste setea. Ne-am abatut la un parau langa care era parcata o rulota, si unde erau asternute niste scaune si o masa, taman bune pentru popas. Stapanul micii tabere trebuie ca era pe undeva cu treaba. In fata unei atat de modeste gospodarii, insatietatea si tendinta noastra de oraseni de a abuza de resurse limitate sunt de-a dreptul vulgare. Ne-am baut apa, am zis bodgaproste gazdei anonime si ne-am bucurat de viata.

The mountain doesn’t only feed the soul, it also quenches the thirst. We stopped by a spring where a trailer had been parked. The owner must have been out with work. Our city-folk tendencies for inequity, waste and abuse of finite resources always seem vulgar in the face of such humble set-ups. We drank our water in the sun, thankful to the anonymous host and enjoyed being alive. 



Aproape ca era ora pranzului, si am facut cale intoarsa in Transfagarasan, cu tinta Balea. Un drum pe care nu il pot rezuma in cateva cuvinte, o sa zic doar ca ajunge sa il faci o data, ca sa vrei sa repeti experienta.

It was almost lunch time, so we turned back to Transfagarasan. The climb never fails to deliver. It’s not a road you can easily summarize, except to say you’ll invariably want seconds.






La 2040 de metri altitudine sunt lacul glaciar si Cabana Balea. Iarna poti sa ajungi aici numai din Brasov, dar fiind vara, ne-am luat masa pe terasa. Pastrav in folie, ciorba de burta, placinta de mere… de-ale romanilor. Cum episodul din Top Gear a facut mai multe pentru turism decat toata balbaiala ministerului cu pricina, deja strainii se inghesuie si ei sa guste din aceste bucate si adrenalina pe Transfagarasan si Transalpina.

At 2040 m altitude there’s a glacier lake and a chalet. In winter it is only accessible from Brasov, but as the sun was up we enjoyed our meal on the terrace. Fresh trout, tripe soup, apple pie… Romanian stuff. Nothing too fancy, but if cooked with fresh ingredients and love, can be a welcome discovery. So if you’ve seen the Top Gear episode and you’ve perused the magazines, here’s another reason why you should not exclude Romania from your to-ride-list. Of course give us a shout out, ‘cause even if we’re not around, we can assist with a friendly couch and more.




Multe s-au schimbat de cand nu am mai fost pe aici. S-a umplut de tarabe cu ‚taranisme’ (gemuri, branza, afumaturi diverse). Si e full de turisti (noi am fost intr-o miercuri).

Lots have changed within the year. There’s a heap of tourist activities being developed and the denizens and their traditional produce stalls have multiplied. Smoked bacon, sausages, cheeses, preserves etc. And no, this article has not been sponsored by the inept Romanian ministry of tourism.


Am ridicat din umeri la gandul ca poate toate astea o sa stirbeasca farmecul locului – si am pornit inspre de unde venisem.

Worrying a bit about the potential boom of the industry and of how it could bring down the charm of Transfagarasan – still a lonely road in my book – we started the descent back. 


Nimic nu e mai fain ca abisul verde al vaii brazdate de curbe, unde vantul mai sa te doboare si unde norii intuneca cerul. Am facut drumul asta in toate anotimpurile, si cel mai mult imi place la inceput de iunie, cand zapezile inca nu s-au dus, iar cascadele sunt pline de apa. 

Nothing beats the views, the smell of wind threatening to take you down, the open valley where cloudscapes conglomerate. I’ve driven this road in all seasons and I think early June is best, when snow caps aren’t yet melted and the waterfalls are in full swing.




Am aruncat un ochi in mina abandonata.

We took a peek at the abandoned mine


Ne-am oprit si la Capra, unde cea mai aratoasa militie canina se ocupa cu manatul oilor in stana.

We stopped by our ‘place’, the Goat Falls. The sheep were being herded home by the handsomest canine militia. 


Drumul inapoi in Bucuresti a fost intins si lung, dar a fost bine sa stim unde o sa punem capul jos la noapte. Acasa ne putem odihni alaturi de cei dragi. Am umblat multa vreme prin Africa am vazut multe locuri extrordinare si am intalnit multi oameni buni, iar acum, dupa ce ne-am incarcat putin cu natura, parca avem si mai mare dor de duca. Cum sunt multe de facut si de lamurit, ne suflecam manecile si ne punem pe treaba!

It was a long ride to Bucharest, but we were glad to have such a tangible target to aim at. Home is a place of great meaning, where we can rest and where we can be near to people we care about. We have been away in the wilds of Africa for many months, we’ve seen a lot of amazing places and met many incredibly kind people, and now, after recharging with nature, we are hungry for more. There’s just a lot to sort out. I wonder if I can roll up my sleeves and make all the administrative bullshit that comes with it my bitch.


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